Thursday, June 21, 2018
Cooking

Help for first-time Thanksgiving hosts

The potatoes are wrong. The football game's too loud. The kids aren't dressed right. Thanksgiving can, of course, be a great joy, but with so many beloved traditions on the line it can also be prime ground for sniping and griping the first time the torch has been passed. • Your mother, mother-in-law, father or father-in-law might be thrilled to give up hosting after many decades, but that doesn't mean they'll behave themselves once sidelined, said Ruth Nemzoff, author of Don't Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships With Your Adult Children. • Before you find yourself wrapping yellow crime scene tape around the kitchen as you slurp white wine from the bottle with a crazy straw, just listen to what Nemzoff has to say:

• Give them a role, whether it's asking Mom to make her famous pumpkin pie or contribute a favorite family tablecloth, platter or candlesticks.

• Don't implode. There's no need to convince yourself you couldn't possibly measure up. Rather than get crazy with comparisons, let the elders know you hope to emulate them.

• Make new foods but keep the old. Thanksgiving is about the familiar. Families expect to see the same dishes each year. Introduce menu changes slowly.

• Don't feel you have to make everything yourself like your predecessors. It's fine to reach out for side dishes or — gasp — cater. Secretly or otherwise.

Andrew Royce Bauer, 21, of Neptune, N.J., and his 21-year-old cousin, Alexandra, are doing all the cooking this year but sticking to the usual place, the upper Manhattan apartment of Alexandra's mother.

And they're doing something else: providing a la carte side dishes and other menu tweaks to accommodate the Atkins groupies, Paleo followers and gluten-free folks among the 15 to 25 people expected — something that hasn't consciously happened in the past.

"We're a little apprehensive," he said. "It's one of our family's favorite holidays. They're going to be watching over our backs to make sure we don't start any fires."

The mother and stepfather of Gabriel Constans, who lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., are 80 and 86. They've hosted the large family for Thanksgiving for more than 40 years at their house in Northern California but are no longer up to the task.

So Constans, 60, and his wife decided to rent a large house near the elders for three days as a haven for themselves and other out-of-town loved ones. They'll throw Thanksgiving there, for 40 people. He and others in the family know it would be too difficult for his parents to watch them take over their kitchen.

They wanted to carry on some menu traditions, so Constans' sister took their frozen cranberry salad with marshmallows out for a test run last year to rave reviews. She'll make it again this year. And they've asked Constans' stepdad to do what he does best: gravy.

Somebody else in the family has already successfully duplicated the family's favorite stuffing. Covering one of the tables will be his parents' go-to Thanksgiving cloth of purple and green with tassels and a design of squares.

Constans heads into hosting knowing some of the pitfalls. One is not allowing his nephew, who hunts and is in charge of the bird, to use one that he shot himself.

"He tried it once and my stepdad said no way. He thought he could catch something from it. He wouldn't come out of his room for hours, until my nephew promised that he would go to the store and cook a different turkey."

Newbie Annalisa Parent in Colchester, Vt., is sweating some "what ifs" as she heads into hosting her first Thanksgiving, for 22 people.

"Not only is my large French Canadian family gathering, but I've also invited my boyfriend's family to meet mine for the first time," she said.

One of her biggest stresses is pulling off the tourtiere, a minced meat pie handed down from her great-great-grandmother. The meat filling is also used as a stuffing and the men in her family can't get enough.

"If I fail, Memere will probably let me know and then help me make another batch," Parent said.

And that's as it should be, said Taryn Mohrman, senior editor at Woman's Day magazine. She agreed that the first year can be challenging all around.

"When you're a parent going to your child's house for the first time, the thing to remember is that hosting can be overwhelming. People who have done it for years tend to forget how stressful it can be," she said.

But some things aren't as difficult as they might seem, Mohrman said. Is it really that hard to peel a pile of potatoes and mash some while roasting others, or cook a mass of stuffing and use different mix-ins to please more palates?

For elders who want to be a real asset rather than merely kibitz, she suggests offering help in small ways, such as managing RSVPs or putting together a timeline for the big day.

"That helps the parents feel involved," Mohrman said. "But don't be offended if your son or daughter insists they have it covered because they're probably excited that you get to finally sit back, relax and be a guest for once."

On the big day, torch-passers should stay out of the kitchen unless specifically invited, Mohrman said.

"If you're banished, offer to take coats, make drinks, greet people at the door," she said. "There's plenty to do elsewhere."

Torch-takers might want to chew on this: If it doesn't work out, it doesn't have to be a permanent thing.

"Maybe next year it needs to be somewhere else," Mohrman said. "It's more about family than the place."

Comments
Here’s the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

Here’s the skinny on the ketogenic diet: What it is, how to follow it properly

It started with jugs of olive oil and cans of tuna, lots of it, which my husband hauled in one day and plunked on the counter. "That’s my lunch!"That was about three months ago, and every day since there has been a new entity in our house to consider...
Published: 06/20/18
Five ideas for rainbow-themed foods to serve at your Pride party

Five ideas for rainbow-themed foods to serve at your Pride party

More than 50,000 people are estimated to attend Pride weekend in St. Petersburg, which runs Friday to Sunday. (June is LGBTQ Pride Month.) Whether you plan to march in the parade or host your own smaller gathering, we’ve selected five rainbow-themed ...
Published: 06/20/18
My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

This week I wrote about something with which I have become very familiar: the ketogenic diet. If you’re like, "Huh?" you are where I was three months ago, before my husband, Phil, embarked on the weight-loss regimen. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
A perfect pick for dessert

A perfect pick for dessert

America’s Test KitchenIt might seem impossible to improve on a perfect peach, but we decided to try. We wanted a simple, warm dessert that amplified the peaches’ flavor. To achieve tender, flavorful peaches with a lightly sweet glaze, we began by tos...
Published: 06/19/18
Everything you need to know about marinating meat

Everything you need to know about marinating meat

For a lot of home cooks, marinating meat is almost as automatic as cooking the meat itself. Douse the meat in some kind of flavored liquid, pop it in the refrigerator overnight and cook it the next day.Seems straightforward enough, but there are reas...
Published: 06/19/18
Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

When we started seeing ads for Nestle Toll House cookies already baked and prepackaged, I knew it was time for our tasters to get involved. They are cookie lovers, and one even has his own cookiemaking business. We found the Nestle brand and had hope...
Published: 06/18/18
Take grilled potatoes to another level with garlic and rosemary

Take grilled potatoes to another level with garlic and rosemary

By AMERICA’S TEST KITCHENGrilled potatoes are a summer classic. We wanted to put a new spin on this dish by adding rosemary and garlic. Unfortunately, we found it was difficult to add enough flavor to plain grilled potatoes. Coating the potatoes with...
Published: 06/13/18
Recipe for Stuffed Beef Burgers

Recipe for Stuffed Beef Burgers

Hidden inside these tame-looking burgers is a smoky and spicy blend of bacon, chipotle, cheese and something unexpected: pepperoni. Because the ground beef part of these burgers is patted fairly thin, there’s less of a chance you’ll undercook it. For...
Published: 06/13/18
How to cook eggs for dinner: shakshuka, carbonara and more

How to cook eggs for dinner: shakshuka, carbonara and more

Eggs are an underutilized dinner ingredient. Aside from fried rice and a breakfast-for-dinner situation, I rarely use eggs in my cooking past the hour of 4 p.m. It makes no sense. Eggs are a great source of protein, able to be cooked in myriad ways, ...
Published: 06/12/18
Add some sweet heat to your cookout with these jerk chicken skewers

Add some sweet heat to your cookout with these jerk chicken skewers

By Matt BrooksBurgers and dogs may be the traditional staples of a cookout, but when you’re craving something more than meat on bun, a well-assembled skewer is a colorful showstopper on the grill.It’s scientifically proven that food tastes better whe...
Published: 06/12/18