Make Extra Food
Leftovers are meant to be sent home with people.
So in my previous post I wrote about my mother’s epic Thanksgiving meals, and how I carry on the tradition at our home in Los Angeles with my partner Judd.
Link is here in case you missed it:
This year I’m hosting for anywhere from 8-12 people. Eight confirmed definitely, another four have to get back to me (they’re all very likely yes). I do an entirely vegetarian feast (if meat eaters desperately want to, they can grab a rotisserie chicken on the way over).
I prepared a lot of my food last night (pre-cut, a couple items pre-cooked), but here’s the line-up, with basic recipes (I don’t really follow recipes in cooking, I just kind of eye the ingredients and it always tastes good. I get this skill from my mother.)
Photos are mostly from 2020’s feast.
The Roast & Veggies
I use the Trader Joe’s Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast. I usually assume I can feed six with it, so I buy two so I have extra.
The directions on the box are pretty close to nonsense. It takes longer than it says. I pull it out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge at least 48 hours ahead of time (it claims you only need 12), and if I forget, I literally microwave the thing for 5 minutes to get a head start on the cooking.
I preheat the oven to 375F. In a large roasting pan I add the following:
A bunch of olive oil on the bottom.
Approximately 2 lbs of red potatoes cut into cubes (like 2 inch).
One bushel of celery cut into pieces (like 2 inch).
One red onion cut into pieces (like 1 inch).
This time I decide to add sugar plum tomatoes in the mix.
A shit ton of garlic and rosemary and some salt and black pepper.
I place all those ingredients along the bottom of the pan and then pour in a few cups of vegetable broth. Not covering the veggies, just like half an inch deep.
I put two of the roasts on top of the veggies, drizzle the roasts with olive oil, add rosemary and tarragon, and then place tinfoil over the whole thing and roast it for an hour. After an hour I re-drizzle with olive oil, “baste” the roasts with some of the veggie broth, and take off the tinfoil for another half hour or so of roasting.
I now have roast & veggies. It’s colorful and beautiful and delicious!
I freakin’ love asparagus.
Okay I overdid it, but I bought 4 bushels of asparagus. One trick I’ve read is that you shouldn’t roast asparagus wet, so the night before, I wash the asparagus, break off the bottoms (I don’t cut, I feel the stem for the weak point and snap the bottoms off), and lay them out in the pan to dry. Then I chopped up two purple onions, garlic, and left it overnight in the fridge. In the afternoon I’ll toss that with olive oil and garlic salt and throw it in the oven with the roast for the last 20 minutes or so.
Butternut squash is a thing.
I bought too much butternut squash too. I got the pre-cut kind from Trader Joes that comes in little zig zags. The container is 12 oz and I bought 4 of them. So that’s what we’re working with.
I threw the butternut squash in my largest skillet (it’s basically a large round wok) with olive oil, fresh rosemary, and then sprinkled liberal amounts of cinnamon and poured liberal amounts of maple syrup all over it. Then I add salt to play with the sweet. I pre-cooked that up lightly, then put it in a baking pan. I’ll stir it up in the afternoon and roast that with the other stuff (probably 45 minutes at 375F).
I should probably mention that I’m blessed with TWO OVENS. It’s not fair. I know.
I’m also blessed with 2 full-size fridges and 2 beverage coolers. Again, not fair. But I use my powers for good!
Vegan mashed potatoes
So my holiday feast isn’t strictly vegan, but my housemate has an allergy to dairy, so I don’t use any in any of my feasts. Last night I chopped up about 3 lbs of gold potatoes (my rule of thumb is 2 large potatoes per expected guest but then I realize there’s only a handful left so I say fuck it and do the whole bag).
I’ll throw the chopped up potatoes in a pot of boiling water (skins on but definitely washed) with some cut up garlic (some being at least half a head, maybe the whole head), boil until easy to stick a fork into, and then dump it all in a strainer.
I take the same pot, put it on medium-low, add liberal amounts of Earth Balance vegan butter, some unsweetened, unflavored almond milk (my preferred fake milk for cooking), and then I dump the potatoes back in and mash them up, adding Earth Balance, almond milk, garlic salt and black pepper to taste, until the texture is delightful (with the occasional lump). Yum.
Sometimes I add a sprinkle of paprika on them in the serving bowl just for the pretty.
Cornbread & cranberry sauce
I don’t make cornbread from scratch. I’m lazy. I take Jiffy’s cornbread mix (vegetarian, the regular one has Lard), add an egg (not vegan!), almond milk, and then for good measure I throw in half a can of canned sweet corn into the mix, stir it around and distribute it into cupcake tins. 3 boxes of mix made me 24 corn muffins.
For cranberry sauce this year I did 2 bags of cranberries + 2 honey crisp apples in a pot with a cup of apple cider and probably half a cup of sugar (I eyed it, as always). I cook that down (I actually leave about half a cup of cranberries aside and finely chop a third apple to add back in at the end to give it more texture). I basically just had that running on the stove (cook to a boil, add more ingredients to taste, simmer on low to cook down) while I prepped other things.
I like my cranberry sauce both tart and sweet - this totally is. If I want to increase the thickness, I add a tablespoon of corn starch slowly and bring it to a boil again, stir, and back down to simmer.
I mix in the solid ingredients finally (handful of cranberries, one more finely chopped apple), simmered a little longer, and then placed in a tupperware container. Sometimes I serve it warm, but I actually like it cold with all the hot food, so it’ll be in the fridge overnight.
Stuffing & Gravy
Okay seriously I made enough food already but yes, I bought Whole Food’s vegan stuffing. It takes 5 minutes to make on the stove at the very end before everything gets served and it’s delicious. Yes, I got two even though I don’t even need one. ALWAYS MAKE EXTRA FOOD. Leftovers are delicious and then if you get unexpected guests there’s more food!
The Trader Joe’s roast comes with gravy, but I buy Whole Food’s vegetarian brown gravy packets too, and I make extra. Nothing fancy. Add water, heat up.
I have no pictures, it’s not fancy.
I always tell everybody to bring dessert if they want to bring something. If we’re lacking, I have crescent rolls that I’ll quickly lay out using a can of pumpkin & a vegan marshmallow (Dandies from Whole Foods), I’ll roll the pumpkin & marshmallow into the middle of the roll, sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice and bake briefly.
I don’t make any pies. I don’t mind baking, but it’s more science than art, and I don’t like having to pay attention to the directions that much.
I have no pictures of these.
Just because I’m extra…
I have a thing of Miyoko’s vegan mozzarella I cut into squares & some fresh mozzarella, with those remaining sugar plum tomatoes, I just make toothpick skewers of mozz + tomato with some balsamic vinegar drizzle, lay out the vegan and non-vegan ones separately and that’s what people snack on while they’re waiting for food to get put on the table. This is the first time I’m doing this, but it seems like it’ll be fun.
Leftovers are essential.
Yes, I am very privileged to have extra food. I share that privilege by sharing it with others, and making everyone take some home with them.
That’s the whole thing. I feed my guests, and I give them MORE to take home. This is hospitality on Thanksgiving for me. It also means that when a few extra strays show up at my door, I have so much abundance to share with them.
If you haven’t read my other Thanksgiving essay, you can find it here:
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it. I hope if you don’t, my posts make you wish you did.