Thanksgiving Table for One
Whether we travel or stay at home, Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest of the year. For one meal, we scurry through airports, plow down interstates and push our way through supermarket aisles -- just to break bread (or a turkey wishbone) with loved ones.
The anxiety is high, the lines are long and the Scotch suddenly is not strong enough. Take my friend B., a farmer in Virginia. After several intense weeks of turkey season, she is enormously relieved on Thanksgiving. Finally, she is left alone.
The husband and kid will have left town to visit his family, and she's got the house, football and the TV tray all to herself. Instead of turkey, she will give thanks to beer, cheese and crackers.
In her book, An Alphabet for Gourmets, the late M.F.K. Fisher wrote that "dining alone" has its place, however unpopular. "This misanthropic attitude is one I am not proud of," she writes, "but it is firmly there, based on my increasing conviction that sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly."
With the season's obsessive emphasis on family gatherings, eating Thanksgiving dinner alone is perhaps the ultimate protest or an exercise in mindful meditation. Who will you argue with over the last piece of dark meat? If you lick your knife, will anyone notice? Always wanted to dine in your birthday suit? The evening is all yours.
The classic Thanksgiving menu, shrunk down for one, presents an interesting kitchen challenge. The key is to think small. Scrap the notion of roasting a whole turkey. Ditto for casserole-sized sides and a trough of gravy.
Instead, consider a baked sweet potato, scooped out and mixed with scallions, olive oil and pecans. Make applesauce, with a few peeled apples, quartered, in a pot, with an inch or two of water, and cook until desired doneness (about 15 minutes). Hold off on the stuffing and make rice or a cast-iron skillet of corn bread instead.
And when it comes to the bird, think wings. A few smoked turkey wings added to a pot of slow-cooked collard greens is a bit of culinary serendipity; in one pot, you get both your green veg and your bird.
Unlike its chicken counterparts, turkey wings are meaty, supper plate-worthy morsels. Smoked, they take on a hammy quality but are a respectable alternative to the traditional, belly-heavy pork butt and fatback.
Like a one-man band, the meal can come together in perfect melody, all at once. The sweet potato needs about an hour, as do the wings and greens. At the 30-minute mark, make the applesauce and a pot of rice.
Dinner will be served in an hour. Being alone never sounded so tasty.
Excerpted from "A Mighty Appetite for the Holidays: Kitchen Tricks for the Feasting Season."
Ever been home alone on Thanksgiving? Share your stories in the comments area below.
Have a delicious and safe Thanksgiving! Check in on Friday for leftover ideas.
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