Christmas dinner was a prime example of my ineptitude, hidden by stunning good luck and a little (desperate) ingenuity.
Turkey (a 12-lb. organic, free-range bird ordered from my favorite butcher shop)
Homemade sourdough rolls
"Frantically Getting Ready for Christmas" Blackberry Pie
"Safeway Lied to Me" Banana Cream Pie
The guests: my husband's parents and his older brother, in addition to my family of four. Cooking for seven people, not too bad. Right?
The results, broken down:
Turkey -- Ingredients: check. Oven bag: check. Roasting pan: check. Okay, so far so good. Seasoned with white wine, vegetable stock, garlic, salt & pepper. Outcome? Dry. Now I realize what I forgot--to add some fat. At Thanksgiving, I also used olive oil to baste the turkey. That one was moist. Oops.
Cornbread stuffing -- Thank you, Mrs. Cubbison, for making this easy for me. Followed the instructions on the box, stuffed the bird, and the stuffing came out just fine. At least this dish was, um, uneventfully average.
Mashed potatoes -- While the peeled potatoes were boiling, I was on the phone with my husband trying to direct him to an open grocery store to get some last minute forgotten items. Sitting at the computer looking up holiday hours meant that I couldn't smell the potatoes burning on the other side of the house. He walked in, empty-handed from the fruitless driving around, and helped me rescue some of the spuds from the smoking pot. We smelled each one to detect any residual odor, and found that the majority of the batch was fine and only the bottom layer was black and stuck. After washing out the pot, I mixed them up with more veggie stock, salt & pepper, and the dish was passed around the table without a question or comment, except "Yum." Whew.
Green salad -- If I had the talent to screw this one up, then I wouldn't even bother with the rest of dinner. You'd find me at Boston Market instead.
Homemade sourdough rolls -- I love Krusteaz Sourdough Bread Mix. I put the mix in my bread machine with warm water and the yeast packet, set the dough cycle, then split the dough into little balls, let rise, then bake. So easy, and without starter. Except... the box must have been in the cupboard for a while. Actually, a long time. The included yeast packet was a dud. The rolls didn't rise, and we actually ended up with little unleavened flat sourdough-flavor bread disks. (Note to self -- remember to use fresher yeast with the other box still in the cupboard.)
"Frantically Getting Ready for Christmas" Blackberry Pie -- My kids spent the night of the 23rd on a sleepover at their grandparent's house. My in-laws made this offer so hubby and I could get ready for Christmas without little elves getting underfoot or making ourselves stay up all night. Since we had this time, I decided to get a head start on Christmas dinner by making dessert a day before. My preschooler had requested blackberry pie, so I had bought two pie crusts and two cans of berries. I had intended to make two pies with crumble topping, rather than one two-crust pie. Well, I should have bought four cans of berries. First mistake. After pre-baking both crusts, I realized that I would only get one pie's worth of filling. Second mistake, not being able at this point to make a two-crust pie. So I went forward with the crumble topping idea... which didn't crumble, but congealed into a batter. I dropped this by spoonfulls on top of the berries and baked it anyways, hoping for the best. It turned out alright, more like a "betty" than anything else. (The name is a nod to the film "Waitress," which you should see if you like to eat pie.)
"Safeway Lied to Me" Banana Cream Pie -- Since I had a leftover baked pie shell wrapped up in the fridge, I decided on Christmas morning to use it for banana cream pie. Except, I didn't have all the ingredients for the quick version (namely, banana instant pudding). This (along with milk, eggs and margarine) was one of the things for which I sent hubby to the store. I called all the surrounding grocery locations, and only found one Safeway that was open on Christmas day. The recording said they were open from 8 am to 2 pm. Hubby arrived at 1 pm to a throng of angry people ready to break in the doors of the store, which had closed at noon. There was a feebly scribbled note taped to the door announcing the revised hours. The steady stream of disappointed shoppers including several husbands clutching paper lists and cell phones, sighing head-shaking grandmothers moaning over missing ingredients and a pair of rednecks cursing with multiple inappropriate adjectives and nouns because they couldn't find a single open mini-mart or grocery store to buy beer. Forced to improvise, I decided to make the custard for the pie from scratch. With Eggbeaters. Except I only had egg-white Eggbeaters. Not good. With hubby dutifully asking if he could help in the kitchen, I set him at the stove whisking the custard. And whisking. And whisking. And complaining that his arm hurt from the whisking. The custard wasn't thickening. My mother-in-law arrived, so I put her to whisking. And it still wouldn't thicken. Hm. So I added cornstarch, and wow! It thickened! Like that! Once it was thick enough, I poured the "custard" over the bananas in the pie shell and chilled it. The mixture tasted fine, but it wasn't the best banana cream pie I've ever made. I blame Safeway.
It all made for an interesting and memorable Christmas dinner. My eternally hard-to-please father-in-law gave me probably the best compliment to date: "Michelle, by the time you're sixty, you'll learn to cook." I guess that means I am on my way.
I hope you had a happy, and successful, Christmas feast!