Combining Tradition and Innovation in Holiday Meals—Without Stress!
by Will Martin, The Coffee Gounds
Having traditional dishes is so important to the holidays, our family gatherings, and the sense of familiarity and calm that comes with those days. Don’t be afraid to make the same meal this year as last: roast a turkey, make a casserole, simmer a cranberry sauce, and mash some potatoes. Your family probably hasn’t eaten this meal for a year. It will be both fresh and nostalgic for them. Do what you are comfortable with and add a riffon it: “That cranberry sauce last year was great, and I had tons of leftovers. I’m going to make it, remove half from the pan, and add a chipotle in adobo to it.” This lets you keep the tradition and try something new without adding much extra work to your plate.
Or you can complicate a classic but make it so much better. Sauté some green beans in a little (or a lot) of butter and salt and set them aside. Then use the same pan to make a mushroom gravy. You can either serve the beans with a little gravy on them, or go the casserole route and bake them together.
Want to challenge yourself this year? Scorpacciata (score-pah-chee-ahta) means to eat a lot of an ingredient that is currently in season. We have a monthly food and wine pairing meal at The CoffeeGrounds (TCG) that we did sweet corn for last September–it was fantastic. Every dish highlighted sweet corn in a different way. For the coming season that means storage- and weather-hardy vegetables: onions, garlic, potatoes, squash, cabbage, turnips, celery root, carrots, beets, storage radishes, sweet potatoes, etc. Try picking one of these vegetables, incorporate it into a few of the dishes, and make it the highlight of one.
Fall also means Midwesterners eat more meat. Right around the holiday at TCG we start taking orders for local turkeys. My dad got the family’s turkey through Block and Cleaver meats in Siren (where TCG gets our turkeys) and thought it was fantastic. And he gave me the turkey stock he made after the meal.
Enjoy your holiday. Eat well. Relax while you’re cooking (if you struggle with that, take a hint from my parents and grab a G&T, the kitchen will be hot enough for it). And cook what you’re comfortable with.