Pumpkin Pie Pot Lucks
Getting Over Overeating and Overworking
There is a stretch of road up ahead. It doesn’t lead to the Emerald City and it’s not paved with yellow brick. It leads elsewhere and is paved with good intentions. You set foot on the roadway. Your head fills with visions of relatives not seen since your last passage popping up like earthworms after a storm. The long road home, the Holiday Highway, get your kicks on Route 666.
This dark and twisting path winds its way from Roast Turkey to Popcorn & Beer, passing through Pumpkin Pie, Baked Ham, Plum Pudding, and Latkes. A fleeting festival opening on Thanksgiving and folding with SuperBowl Sunday. The former being one of the two important proclamations Abraham Lincoln made in 1863; the latter, apparently, some sort of sports event.
Two food traditions permeate the holidays. The first is overeating. By everyone. Repeatedly. All those months at the gym, all that stretching and bending, touching your toes, crunching your abs – gone in a binge the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Roman Empire. Tradition number two is overwork – usually by mom or grandmom – slaving away like Lincoln never did issue that Emancipation Proclamation.
Pigging out at the groaning board is something you’ll have to work out for yourself. I’ll save dieting for a future column. On the other hand, overwork can be handled by returning to the original traditions of most of these holidays. Everyone who comes to celebrate contributes to the food table. Potluck.
For most of us, potluck conjures up images of social events that our parents dragged us to. Places where the food consisted of cold, greasy chicken, eighteen casserole dishes of everyone’s favorite baked bean and potato salad recipes, and much too much green jello mold with fruit cup. Does it have to be that way? I think not. Even if you know you can’t cook, you know you have friends who can. Get out those invitation cards and get busy.
Whether you’re hosting dinner for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, New Year’s, or even Human Rights Day (December 10th for those who aren’t sure), it’s time to put your foot and your whisk down. As host, take on the main course. It’s usually the least transportable. Turkey, a ham, roast chicken, fish, baked cauliflower, a walnut and mushroom roast. Your guests bring everything else. It makes for a communal event, everyone feels, justifiably, like they contributed. You’d be amazed at the wide range of cooking talent displayed.
In the best of all worlds, you’re not always the host. Sometimes someone else gets to clean their apartment, before and after the party. If dinner isn’t at your place, what do you bring? A casserole? Not one of those tuna and noodle things with cream of mushroom soup and potato chip crumbs on top. Maybe a mix of fresh vegetables in a spicy tomato sauce. Or layers of eggplants and squashes with cheese and herbs. Dessert? Pies, cakes, brownies, fruit marinated in liqueur.
One of my favorite dishes can be used as an appetizer, a side dish, or even a main course: Garlic-Mushroom Sauté. It’s simple, tasty, and your friends will be begging for the recipe. Just smile and tell them to subscribe to GENRE. Maybe that path home won’t look so foreboding after all.
2 pounds of “wild” mushrooms (mix several different varieties like portobellos, chanterelles, shiitakes), sliced
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup of good olive oil
½ cup white wine
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup soy sauce
a couple sprigs of thyme (or ½ teaspoon dry thyme)
You will need a large, covered frying pan to hold all the mushrooms. Sauté the chopped garlic and thyme in olive oil until the garlic starts to brown. Add the mushrooms and stir. Add the wine, cover the pan, and turn the heat down to low. Let the mushrooms cook for about five minutes until soft and cooked through. Uncover, turn the heat back up, and add the cream and soy sauce. Stir to coat and let the sauce thicken slightly. If you’re bringing this to a holiday dinner, place in an oven-proof dish and reheat before serving. Makes enough for 4 main-course or 8 appetizer/side dish servings.
In keeping with the custom of quaffing quantities of spirits along with holiday gastronomic delights, I thought I’d offer the most traditional of all holiday libations: the Egg Nog – slightly updated, of course.
1 pound sugar
1 quart Jamaica Rum
1 pint Peach Brandy
3 pints heavy cream
Separate eggs (yolks from whites, not from each other) and beat yolks with the sugar until frothy. Slowly add cream and then liquors, stirring constantly. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold half of them into the yolk mixture. Pour in a punch bowl and float the remaining egg whites on top. Try not to imbibe at one sitting!
Genre is a gay “lifestyle” and travel magazine. It was launched in 1992 by three entrepreneurs, two of whom shortly thereafter left to found QSF magazine. I went with them…