I dedicate this column to all you wonderful folks out there in charge of hosting the Thanksgiving feast.
In all likelihood, you are already deep in the throes of planning and preparing your home for the event, all of which is done – clearly – in addition to professional and family obligations. There may even be times, particularly when you find yourself licking tiny beads of sweat from your upper lip, when you wonder how you ever ended up hosting in the first place. I think I may be of some assistance here.
Generally, you’ve been bestowed this great honor in your families for three main reasons:
- In 1974, you were identified as someone who ‘likes to cook’ and the party invariably shifted to your house shortly thereafter. Now your biggest logistical challenge is finding room in your home to accommodate all the rented folding tables and chairs.
- You had not yet taken a ‘How To Say No’ assertiveness training workshop when the subject came up at some distant family reunion you no longer recall. You’ve since accepted this task as a labor of love and have gotten very crafty about outsourcing specific dishes to targeted family members. After all, Aunt Mildred does make the absolute best cranberry congealed salad around.
- You revel in cooking and wouldn’t – couldn’t – dream of not preparing each and every single dish for the festivities. Your attitude is: why stop at a turkey? I’ll make a honey-glazed ham as well!
I tip my hat to all.
Whatever the reason for hosting, you do it. By opening your homes, you provide a venue for one of the most humanizing and connecting activities we have, that of breaking bread together. Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus understood the importance, and said as much. “We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf.” Because of you, those closest and dearest to you are spared a life of perpetually hunting for survival and, worse, fleas. And if the value of communal celebration doesn’t sway, consider the rather pragmatic message of this old Arab proverb, “He who eats alone chokes alone.” Either way, you are doing your part, and then some.
I will also add that you are especially brave because hosting Thanksgiving does come with its share of risk. Oh come on…you know the stories. Betty Sue’s new, surly boyfriend takes over the celebratory Thanksgiving toast traditionally reserved for a now crestfallen host. Uncle Finney can’t seem to stop talking after his third scotch, and now keeps repeating the same turkey joke… to the turkey. Bilbo, your sister’s adorable lab, finds the turkey fryer in the garage, proceeds to gulp all the turkey-flavored oil and has to be taken to the animal hospital immediately.
These little disasters, while not exactly appreciated in the moment, have a way of weaving themselves inextricably into the fabric of warm and fuzzy family memories, especially with the soothing passage of time. Before we know it, the mere recollection allows everyone to share in the kind of hearty laughter that unites, that brings everyone just that much closer.
And where do these special moments occur? Why, at your house.
Not to mention anything of the holiday’s victories. Oh, those sweet victories. Hugging those college freshmen as they return home for the first time since school started. Welcoming a new baby or new daughter- or son- in-law into the family celebration. Spending a glorious afternoon laughing as the football gets chucked around. Taking that first bite of the creamiest, most velvety pumpkin pie that can only come from the likes of magical baker Uncle Shep.
And where do those special moments occur? Why, at your house. Of course.
The same house, by the way, that has that awfully comfortable sofa with your name on it once clean-up time rolls around.
Now…I know Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I also know this dish – as my husband pointed out just last night – feels like the very antithesis to decadent Thanksgiving meals. And that is exactly why I chose it. After several days of eating rich, savory and fall-colored foods, it’s nice to change pace with something light, bright and fresh-tasting. Hope you enjoy this flavorful deviation as much as I do.
making gingery risotto with shrimp & coconut milk
In a large skillet with high sides, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add 3 bunches of finely ground green onions,
Finely grate 1 thumb-worth of fresh ground ginger root.
1 thumb-worth of fresh ground ginger root (about 2 teaspoons) and a pinch of salt,
and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add 1 cup of arborio rice, raise the heat to medium-high.
Continue cooking while stirring continuously until the rice begins to turn translucent at their tips, about 3 minutes. Add a 1/2 cup of white wine (optional) and continue stirring until it has been completely absorbed by the rice.
Now add a half a cup of the warm stock. (If you use a salt-free stock, add some salt along with the stock.) Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding another half cup of warm stock. Stir frequently as you do this. Now add 1 14-fluid oz. can of coconut milk, stirring well to break down any congealed milk.
Once the milk has absorbed, continue adding the stock in half-cup increments, stirring often. In about 20 – 25 minutes the rice will be tender. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and mix well. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Mix well. Take the rise off the heat and cover up with a kitchen towel.
As the risotto cooks, prepare the Garlic & Lime Shrimp. Work in two batches to make sure the shrimp cook properly instead of steaming. Heat 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 of the minced garlic cloves and a pinch of salt, and cook for 30 seconds (do not risk having it burn!) Immediately add half a pound of shrimp and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Take the skillet off the heat and add the juice of half a lime, tossing well to combine. Transfer to a warmed platter and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat process with remaining shrimp.
Spoon out the risotto in warmed pasta bowls. Top with the cooked shrimp and garnish with cilantro, chopped fresh green onions and, if desired, Sriracha. Makes 4 servings.