Planning a meal is at least as difficult as preparing one. The planner must imagine which flavors and which textures might survive a culinary marriage all the way through the gastro-intestinal tract of each fussbudget friend.
While Mr. Henry believes that each of us is responsible for his or her own colon, he is mindful that out-of-town guests are stuck eating whatever the Henrys prepare. Therefore, menus must err towards the safe and the familiar.
Since over Thanksgiving the Henry household entertained eight (yes, eight) of Mrs. Henry’s relatives for eight days, the feasting never ceased. Mrs. Henry never left the kitchen and Mr. Henry never stopped ferrying food in and ferrying garbage out.
Eight different palettes with eight different dietary regimens did not intimidate the fearless Mrs. Henry. Undaunted by the closeness of respected elders and rivalrous siblings, she brazenly posted the entire week’s menu on the cabinet, declaring that whoever wanted dinner had better show up on time, devil take the hindmost. She is a courageous woman. Martin Luther was not more bold in list-posting.
Everyone came, everyone feasted, and everyone thanked Mr. Henry, though he had done no cooking apart from the cranberries and some prep work. (A moment, please……Were they happy he had NOT cooked?) Whatever the intention, they complimented him as well on his choices of wine, for which he takes full and deserved credit. Given the size of the party and Mr. Henry’s shrinking holiday budget, none of the wines cost more than $18 per bottle. But given the global wine glut, good table wine is among the cheapest of treats today.
For those less organized than Mrs. Henry, and Mr. Henry suspects such a list does not exclude the U.S. Army quartermaster general, here is the week’s complete menu:
Cuban stew: an aromatic slow-cooked concoction of Mrs. Henry’s device made with pork or chicken which includes onions, green olives, raisins, garbanzos, plum tomatoes (seeded), and a splash of liquid (either white wine or stock will do). Sprinkled with fresh cilantro, it is served over brown rice (basmati is tastiest) seasoned with turmeric for color.
Dinner 2: guests all dining at differing times.
Pizza made by each guest upon arrival using Bruno’s bottled marinara sauce (made smoother by a few moments in the blender) and for toppings a choice of mozzarella, sliced Kalamata olives, sweet sausage sautéed and crumbled, sautéed mushrooms, anchovies, and fresh basil.
Dinner 3: pre-Thanksgiving low-fat meal
Broiled farmed salmon (wild was unavailable), broccoli, baked whole fingerling potatoes, Israeli pickles in rice wine vinegar.
Dessert: mixed berries
Dinner 3: Thanksgiving.
Free range turkey, 8 lbs., cooked in convection oven for two hours at 400 degrees, mashed potatoes, sliced baked yams (NOT candied), green beans, Mr. Henry’s signature orange cranberry sauce, fresh applesauce.
Stuffing: sausage, chestnut, apple, fresh sage, and sourdough bread baked in two whole winter squashes.
Dessert: Pumpkin chiffon pie, apple pie, vanilla ice cream
Wine: Pinot Noir
Dinner 4: Post-Thanksgiving, pre-theater
Turkey soup, squash soup.
Dessert: Tia’s dulce de leche soggy cake with peaches and whipped cream. (Hmmm. Thank you, Tia.)
Wine: whatever was open
Leg of lamb, lentils with garlic and cumin, broiled asparagus (just toss with olive oil and salt, broil for 6-8 minutes), brown and wild rice, sliced drained cucumber & dill in yogurt, and iced mint tea.
Dessert: leftover pumpkin pie
Wine: Pinot Noir
Winter squash soup (made from the Thanksgiving leftovers), filet mignon, potatoes roasted en papillote, peas.
Dessert: mixed berry tart
Broiled black cod in white miso, white rice, tsukemono (assorted Japanese pickles), umeboshi (salt plum), green beans
Dessert: mochi ice cream from Beard Papa’s