That noble holiday when the whole family gathers around a glorious table set with candles and the fancy plates and feasts on roast turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and candied yams...
... and sauteed brussel sprouts, string beans with morels in beurre blanc sauce, bread pudding, mushrooms origano, broccoli rabe, carciofi ripieni, finoccio al forno...
... and that of course is after the antipasto of roasted red peppers, olives, pepperoncini, various cheeses and breads.
And, let's not forget tequila shots. Lots and lots of tequila shots. Welcome dear friends, to a Thanksgiving at the Danna house.
In case you are ever privileged (read: crazy) enough to end up sitting around a holiday table with my family, you will most likely need a few pointers on how to make the most of these festive and somewhat peculiar celebrations. I am proud to present you with this handy step-by-step guide.
10 TIPS FOR SURVIVING A DANNA FAMILY THANKSGIVING
TIP #1: PROPER PREPARATION OF THE STOMACH
This is where most people go astray in proper Thanksgiving preparation. Fasting for days before the big feast in some sort of pre-overidulging penance is the absolute worst thing you can do. A small stomach is an unhappy one come dessert time. The correct method? Stretch it out, baby!
The Danna family suggests a Wednesday night meal of pizza, calzone and beer to kick off the festivities.
|Even my cat, Whiskey understands the importance of the pre-hoiday carb fest|
|Michele, a model of excellence, goes a step further and indulges in a 1AM snack of Cool Ranch Doritos|
TIP #2: DON'T EAT THE BREAD
Ok, I know how this sounds, especially coming from me and especially on a holiday that's sole purpose is to stuff yourself until you fall asleep (ok fine, and to give thanks). But trust me on this one. If you decide to eat bread while enjoying the rest of the antipasto, you will just use up that valuable stomach real estate that would be better utilized for some pumpkin pie down the road.
The Danna family suggests having a shot of tequila with a pepperoni chaser.
|Mom and Jon take a break from the kitchen to share in a bread replacement drink|
|Bread be damned! (photo by Kim Powell. Sorry, I was cooking.)|
TIP #3: IF GRANDMA'S NOT HAPPY, AIN'T NOBODY HAPPY
If grandma is wandering around the kitchen telling the tale (again) of how she nursed not only her own children but her nephews as well, it has the dangerous potential of hindering the process of the cooks. But you don't want to ignore grandma – she is your grandma after all, and if nothing else, the Catholic guilt will get to you – but it is absolutely impossible to properly chop shallots while hearing sweet innocent grandma talk about her boobs.
The Danna family suggests light sedation with more shots of tequila.
|"Is that supposed to taste like something?"|
TIP #4: YOU CAN'T STAND THE HEAT. SO STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN
Ever watch an episode of Iron Chef America? Now condense that into a suburban kitchen with one oven, 4 burners, 3 cooks and no blast freezer. (Good thing we're Italian and have an extra kitchen in the basement or we'd be screwed.) There's hot pans a-flying, turkey giblets everywhere and this year, we were lucky enough to have our own personal BP (olive) oil crisis right in the middle of the kitchen floor... I'm still sorry, Mom.
Today's secret ingredient? Chaos. The Danna family suggests staying the hell out of the way and concentrating on that antipasto (refer to tip #2). Watch from afar and admire the beautiful disaster.
|Buttering up the bird|
|Mom's amazing stuffing waiting patiently for its turn in the oven|
|Bread pudding with butternut squash, kale and tons of cheddar cheese|
|Look out! High velocity whisk in use|
|Jon with a jar of secret ingredients from our apartment|
|Maintaining a safe distance|
TIP #5: HAPPY COOKS MAKE HAPPY FOOD HAPPEN
Much like grandma, if the cooks are happy, everyone is happy. Meal preparation flows smoothly, tensions are low and you can actually hear the music instead of the arguing – a rare and special occasion during an Italian-American holiday.
To maintain the peace, the Danna family suggests soaking the cooks in wine for a few hours, then de-glazing them with more shots.
|Marinating in white wine|
|Case in point: normally this is the "Sherry stop taking pictures" face...|
|... but the wine has made it "Sure, Sherry! Take another picture!"|
|Happy dad apparently shaking the meat off the turkey carcass|
|The traditional congratulatory shot once the meal is on the table and the cooks are ready to sit down. See? It IS like Iron Chef!|
TIP #6: DO NOT GET BETWEEN THE WORLD'S WORST VEGETARIAN AND THE WORLD'S MOST SCRUMPTIOUS TURKEY
It's for your own safety, really. If you cherish your fingers, just stay clear and wait until she has passed you the parts she doesn't want.
The Danna family suggests use of a chair and whip when approaching a meat deprived Vegetaricus horribicus. They can be quite ferocious.
|The Vegetaricus horribicus is roaring to warn all the other animals to keep away from her food|
|Vegetaricus horribicus hovers over her prey|
|Jon Dunbar has earned the trust of Vegetaricus horribicus and is able to feed her by hand. "If she comes calling again tomorrow, I shall name her Two Socks."|
TIP #7: SAVOR THE MEAL AND THE COMPANY
The table is set, the meal is ready, and now comes the most important part. Dinner time. If you have followed all of the tips up until this point, you should be well prepared with a large, somewhat empty stomach for the food, a slighty intoxicated head to tolerate any off-kilter conversations, and a primitive craving for your share of the turkey.
The Danna family suggests loosening your belt before you sit down, or screwing the pants altogether.
|The Robert Palmer turkey: simply irresistible. Butter, sage, thyme, spiced apple cider.|
|Cranberry sauce with pomegranate juice and orange zest|
|Finoccio al forno- baked fennel with parmesan. Trust me, you want some|
|"Low fat" mashed potatoes. Meaning there is no heavy cream in them this year – just butter, whole milk and cream cheese|
|Turkey meal with gravy and chicken crunchies. The cats celebrate too, ya know|
Let the feast begin!
|I am a seasoned professional|
TIP #8: LEAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT
If you pace yourself correctly, during the pre-dessert break you should be able to digest enough of your feast that you can squeeeeeeze in multiple slices of cake and/or pie. If not, you should eat them anyways. I can tell you from experience that the dessert will sit nicely at the top of your stomach and patiently balance there until space becomes available. As long as you remain upright, you should be ok.
The Danna family suggests using the basement bathroom if you need to make room for dessert.
|Mom's expletively awesome chocolate cherry cheesecake|
|Bruleed pumpkin pie, take III.|
|Please note empty Cuervo bottle on the table. Shortly after this, I am told there was some sort of impression of a TSA agent...|
TIP #9: IF THERE'S NO FIRE, IT'S NOT A SUCCESSFUL HOLIDAY
It's something different every year, and purposly or no, there is bound to be a flame. If you happen to be present when said fire erupts, do not panic. It is best to take a moment and determine the intent of the flame. For example, does Sherry want that deglazing gravy pan flaming so high that the cabinets are almost engulfed? Did Dad mean to spill that flaming shot of Sambuca on the tablecloth? Does Aunt Ginny want that hand towel laying on the candle for ambiance purposes? If you deem action is necessary, react quickly but calmly to smother the flame. Such examples include throwing flaming hand towel into the toilet or dumping a pitcher of water on dad and table to douse the flame.
The Danna family suggests always having a fire extinguisher or two close by.
|This year's open flame, attempt III at bruleed pumpin pie. Nobody seemed quite comfortable with my plumbing strenght butane torch.|
TIP #10: BLACK FRIDAY IS NOT FOR SHOPPING
Black Friday is for leftovers! Because your stomach has been massively stretched out for the previous night's undertaking, you should have no problem fitting a few plates of leftovers in there over the course of the next day. This year's Black Friday treat, Thanksgiving leftover paninis.
The Danna family suggests hiding a personal portion of the leftover stuffing before Vegetaricus horribicus gets to it.
|My first attempt was so thick, it didn't fit in the panini press. It was probably twice the height of my mouth.|
|My first of about three or so sandwiches|
So there you have it. 10 simple steps to surviving and probably enjoying a very Danna Thanksgiving.
When you feel comfortable, just let me know and we'll start preparing you for CHRISTMAS...