Yesterday was American Thanksgiving but in Canada, we celebrated over a month ago. This works out perfectly for me because I have a tendency to be late. So this is my Canadian Thanksgiving post just in time to coincide with American Thanksgiving. So depending on which country you are in, I am either tardy or timely.
Cooking has always been a passion of mine. Through my teen years I loved to cook and did a lot of it to help out my single, working mother. Holiday dinners and cooking turkeys, though, were ultimately the responsibility of my mother even though I helped her with every step of the process.
I was around twenty when I was setting up my first household and decided that I should invite everyone over to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. I was going to make the best Thanksgiving dinner any of us had ever had. There would be turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie from scratch. If they did not know that my middle name was Susie, as in Homemaker, they would surely find out soon.
I made the stuffing the way my mother always had: tear the bread, chop the onions, add the seasonings and the melted butter, and then stuff the cavity of the bird. While chopping the onions, I had a little accident that involved my finger and the knife and had to find a band-aid to quell the flow from my bleeding digit. No big deal, it was just one more incident in a series of kitchen mishaps. Carry on. I proceeded to stuff the bird using my hands to press the moist bread mixture as far into the cavity as I could. Next I seasoned the bird with poultry seasoning and other spices, laid sliced onions over top and put it in the roasting pan. I stood back to admire my work, proud of my accomplishment.
This feeling of pride was short lived because it was then that I realized that my band-aid was missing. I did not want to consider the possibilities of where it might be and, frantically, I searched everywhere – the counter, the floor, the garbage can– but it was nowhere to be found. I had no choice but to “unstuff” the bird. How many of you have “unstuffed” a bird before it was cooked? I emptied the contents of the bird’s cavern into a bowl and then moved it, piece by piece, to another bowl in an attempt to find the missing band-aid. Did I find it? No, but I felt fairly satisfied that it was not in the stuffing so I re-stuffed the turkey and placed it in the oven.
Before dinner, I did end up finding the elusive band-aid hiding in a corner on the floor where the baseboard and the wall met. I can’t tell you how relieved I was because even though I went through every single piece of stuffing and was fairly satisfied that the band-aid was not there, I still had visions of someone taking a bite and getting that odd look on their face. You know the look. The one that says, “I am not exactly sure what I just put in my mouth combined with how am I going to get it out of here as fast as I can without anyone noticing.”
The rest of the dinner went well. The mashed potatoes were buttery and creamy and the turkey moist and delicious. And then there was the stuffing. Well, the stuffing was superb, if I do say so myself, and only the beginning of what was to become known as my signature holiday dish. Everyone loves my stuffing. It is probably the one thing that my ex-husband misses about me so I often save some for him to send via my daughter.
It was only after dinner when we were all sated and languishing, in that comatose state that is only brought on by eating a turkey dinner, that I decided to share the story of my twice-stuffed turkey with my guests. We had a good laugh. Occasionally, over the years, this story has been retold and then we laugh again. I am grateful for this laughter.
This year I invited Giada to join us, teeth and all. She wanted to add lemon rind to my stuffing but I wouldn’t let her. I don’t thing she really “got” us but we did enjoy her mashed potato dish.
Baked Mashed Potatoes
with Parmesan Cheese and Bread Crumbs
from Giada’s Family Dinners, by Giada de Laurentiis
1 tablespoon butter
4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter and set aside.
Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until they are very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; return the potatoes to the same pot and mash well. Mix in the milk and melted butter. Mix in the mozzarella and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish. Stir the bread crumbs and remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the mashed potatoes. Recipe can be prepared up to this point 6 hours ahead of time; cover and chill.
Bake, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.