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.
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.
You might be like me and LOVE butternut squash soup. The baseline, silky with cream French-herby sort that graces decent/decadent/expensive restaurant menus and fills you up to the brim while you sip an oaky California Chardonnay. Or maybe the chunky vegetarian variety chock full of not only squash, but also every other vegetable in the whole wide world and is best served up with a local icy-cold wheat beer. Could be the Thai version all curry-laden–both sweet and spicy, which is lovely with a Grüner Veltliner, by the way. What’s your favorite?
I hope it’s cool where you live because it’s definitely time for soup. Of course it’s time for soup nearly any day of the year at my house, but cold nights and shorter days somehow find me bending over more often to pull out the soup pot. Just feels right or I need the exercise–one of the two. Perhaps one of the happiest things about seasons changing is how grateful we are to begin cooking meals perfectly suited to the weather. Think cookies at Christmas, grilled burgers come spring, pies in November, fresh vegetable salads in summer, or…soup in October. We sort of know where we are in life because of what’s on the stove–or even by what’s in front of the grocery store.
Cooking in your own kitchen for date night has this wondrous side result: you get to eat at home. There are no ever-louder-as-they-drink-more folks at the table next door and your comfy jeans are fine to wear all night long.
The wine glasses happen to be the ones you like best, maybe purchased at an estate sale or while on a trip, or even inherited from your great-aunt. Music? Whatever you like, not what the restaurant manager thinks will best go over to all age groups. Hey–you also get to set the table or ask your partner or guest to do the honors while you stir up a little dinner.
Despite devoting the lion’s share of my time to cooking, even I sometimes just have to throw something in the slow cooker, pray for success, and run. A couple of fairly recent keepers in that category are:
A gorgeous pork loin roasted over the weekend for our wine group along with a big bunch of Simon and Garfunkel Vegetables left me with two large containers of fragrant meat and vegetables in the fridge. What to do?
Made in a deep, heavy 8 quart cast iron pot with a lid (Dutch oven)
Last year around this time, I made a pot roast with big pieces of butternut squash and halved onions in the oven. A day later I took the leftovers, including the gravy, and made stew. Stew from leftovers is definitely an improvement over freshly made stew. There’s a deeper, fuller, and more flavorful rich quality–without question. It’s just that there’s usually less than when you make a fresh pot. That stew made very quickly with the addition of more onions, celery, and Guinness stout, etc., was divine. I mean it, it was an incredible stew.
No who knows totally why one time things are so scrumptious you want more and more — and another time (same ingredients and method apparently) it’s like, “This is ok. Yeah, we can eat dinner here.” Perhaps it’s the quality of the meat (in the case of stew) or maybe it’s a little pixie dust. Your taste buds might be on their “A” game so that you are able to season the pot in an extraordinary way. Truly, I just don’t know. I know when I’m tired — really exhausted– the meal prepared under those circumstances is plebian. I just did that recently, so I know. I know when I don’t give something my undivided attention that it’s bound to be less interesting. (As in the kids are hungry-throw a bunch of cut-up chicken in the oven and make some rice for God’s sake.)