The corporate world has its obnoxious terminology - from let's take this offline to the overuse of the notion, but one term I've grown to love is post mortem. We do these at the end of projects to review what worked and what lessons we can learn, and the sheer gothness of it makes me smile.
So in pondering my post-Thanksgiving-post, I realized a post mortem was really the best tactic. Without further ado, here's what I learned this Thanksgiving:
1. Zuni chicken is a crowd pleaser. Even if you're stuck on doing turkey for Thanksgiving, roast chicken is one of those no brainer dishes that comes out so well that your guests think you actually know how to cook. Cook it and cook it often.
2. Always have a back pocket appetizer recipe. We somehow forgot to consider appetizers until the day before Thanksgiving, but my mom and sister-in-law came to the rescue, with the one-two punch of buttery, rosemary roasted walnuts and the tastiest stuffed mushrooms around. The walnuts are an old family recipe, and I think the mushrooms, with their gush of umami/feta/bacon goodness, are destined to be part of the repertoire for years to come. Great app recipes are hard to find, so when you happen upon one, treat it with archival care. Also: one of the best parts of new family members is that they bring new recipes to the table, quite literally.
3. The journey is the destination. Half the fun we had this Thanksgiving was hunting down the perfect loaf of bread for our bread salad. After crossing off all Los Angeles bread as unacceptable, we chatted with bread cognoscenti and researched for hours on Chowhound to determine our San Franciscan candidates. We finally settled on Tartine's country loaf, which involved advanced reservations, showing up in person as the loaf is pulled out of the oven at 4PM, elbowing out hipsters and packing it in the car for the journey from SF to LA. Crazy yet totally part of the fun of putting together a feast.
4. Mushrooms are harvest all stars. We had mushrooms 3 ways this year, and they were really highlights of the meal. We had the aforementioned stuffed mushrooms, chanterelles sauted in butter and highlighted with some sherry, and fresh shiitakes in my mom's sticky rice stuffing. We had never had such a mushroom heavy meal, and we learned we had been missing out. Rich yet not over the top, mushrooms bring a certain je ne sais quoi to a harvest feast.
5. Assign photo duty to someone. My brother was responsible for documenting the feast. Not only do we all get to enjoy these amazing photos, but it also imbued a sense that we were creating something extra special, that deserved to be recorded for posterity. Thanks Willie!