Have you noticed? Thanksgiving week is in full swing right now! Yeah, baby! If you’re the poor soul responsible for preparing the annual feast, God bless you! For hotel industry culinarians, the two weeks leading up to Turkey Day are definitely the most challenging of the year. There are oceans of turkey stock to produce and transform into gravy, nearly impossible efforts to find extra refrigeration space for hundreds of turkeys arriving daily on the loading dock, and the tonnage of Idaho potatoes stacked on every inch of shelf space in the place.
Don’t forget that the usual day-to-day work must still be done while the “holiday” prep bedlam continues. The most unfortunate aspect of Thanksgiving production is the aroma of several hundred roasting turkeys permeating the air. And it’s not just wafting around—soon, your pores begin to absorb it. I swear you can’t get the smell of roasted turkey out of your skin for days. Urgh!
Yes, Thanksgiving is the one day in the hotel biz I do not miss. So if you’re looking for some last-minute Thanksgiving Day cooking tips, inspiration or nerve-calming advice I use for my feast to be a perfect Norman Rockwell-type event, I have just one bon mot: GO OUT!
That’s exactly what I do. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re responsible for schlepping all the parts and pieces of the feast, then the name should really be Thank-less-giving. Americans set their expectations so much higher for that one meal than any other dining experience of the entire year. And I feel the pain of the home cooks who are forced to try to meet these expectations. The most daunting aspect of the meal is the number of items which are expected—nay, even demanded. No—the usual three-course meal won’t do—no way. Quality be damned, an excessive array is what counts. There must be a plethora of appetizers, several salads, multiple vegetables, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, turkey (maybe ham) and the grand finale: myriad desserts. Who has the time, space or energy to accomplish this Herculean, thankless task?
Besides taking me to a lovely restaurant, there are other things to do to make it all a bit more manageable. First, be the meal facilitator, not the sole producer. Assign different tasks to guests—they always ask what they can bring when they accept the invitation, so be ready and tell them—marshmallow/pineapple salad ring or candied yams, real cranberry sauce. Take advantage of an upscale grocery’s prepared food section. And you can show off with this Cheffed-Up, gluten-free chocolate amoretti cake recipe. Most important—make sure the bartender is on the job early, because you’re going to need several stiff drinks to get you through the day. Good luck! And Happy Thanksgiving!
Chef Bill’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Amoretti Cake
• 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 cup almond flour
• 2 oz. amoretti cookies
• 4 oz. butter, room temp
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 2 tsp. orange zest
• 4 eggs
• Cocoa powder as needed
1. Finely grind amoretti cookies in a Cuisinart, put in a bowl with almond flour and whisk.
2. Put butter and sugar in Cuisinart, blend until smooth, about 10 pulses.
3. Pulse in orange zest, then eggs, one at a time, until just combined. Scrape down the sides.
4. Pulse in flour until a smooth batter forms. Scrape the side pulse once more.
5. Pour batter in a buttered 9-inch cake pan.
6. Bake 40 minutes at 325˚F. When cake is puffed in the middle and a skewer comes out dry, it’s done.
7. Dust with cocoa powder.
Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at firstname.lastname@example.org, for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!