I always forget about Cornish hens and then when I make them, I can’t believe I let so much time go by without putting these festive little birds on the menu. They’re quick, inexpensive, and versatile — especially when you’re cooking for one or two for Thanksgiving. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of a bunch of side dishes, you can even cook your potatoes and vegetables such as carrots, onions, halved Brussels sprouts, chunks of zucchini, or diced butternut squash right in the pan with them. I include directions for the easy carrots and spinach from the photo in the printable recipe. And even cooler is the simple pan sauce stirred up in the roasting pan while the hens rest and you pour the wine. No Good Gravy! worries. While a one-pan Thanksgiving always sounds nigh unto impossible, you can actually do it if that’s your druthers. That’s an easy clean up, too. On your own this year? I’d still advise cooking two Cornish hens … you want leftovers, right? I mean, the best part of Thanksgiving is the I-don’t-have-to-cook next day sandwich with mayo on white bread. Right after the pumpkin pie for breakfast, that is. Don’t skip the whipped cream.
At our house, marshmallows are saved for hot chocolate when our daughter Emily is home. I’ve never put them on sweet potatoes, though if someone else served up that inescapable casserole, I’d be polite and have a bite or two. I offer up an apology to all those gooey-sweet sweet potato fans out there and make mine the way I like them, which is thoroughly mashed up with butter, sherry, just a little brown sugar, and eggs. Top that with walnuts and bake a half hour while the bird rests and I’m in Thanksgiving heaven. The recipe is called a soufflé, but I’d say that’s stretching it. Leftovers, are, of course, perfect spooned up cold right out of the refrigerator or heated up in a skillet with a fried egg cooked in the center.
Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite holiday. There’s no gift buying or wrapping, little decorating except the table, and it’s all about the food and wine. I’ve cooked for two times twenty and I’ve cooked for two, loved both and everything in between.
This year, with distanced or small Thanksgivings on tap for many folks, it could be the time to pull out all of the stops for a dinner-party style meal complete with several small courses and wine pairings. What if you dig out grandma’s china and crystal, throw on a table cloth, light the candles, and go big? It’s not something easily possible when there are 15 of you including 2 toddlers who eat nothing, a newly-vegan teenager, and aging parents (low sodium, please), but it is doable and entertaining for four who might share the cooking. Yeah, so that’s one idea.
Let’s talk carnitas for lunch. Frittatas for brunch. Pork Ragú on Pasta with Parmigiano Reggiano come Friday Date Night. BBQ Sandwiches to kick off Game Day. Pizza. Nachos. Pork Chopped Salad for the Carb-Watchers. Sweet Potatoes topped with Pulled Pork, Smoked Gouda, and Pickled Red Onions solves dinner for everyone. Pork Stew — just because no one makes it enough. Hot Pork Sandwiches (see below) or what about Cubanos? Yep, all that, and even more can be had from one oven-braised pork shoulder that requires little more effort than sniffing happily around the house all day long while it stays all cozy in the oven. I guess I don’t have to but still will say this stuff smells exactly like hog heaven.
And wouldn’t that be nice on Tuesday, November 3, 2020?