WND – Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner

November 27, 2008


Going to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving is like voyaging into the unknown.  You never know what strange customs may prevail in this foreign land.  They may serve olives and pickles with dinner (my roommate’s family).  They may serve salad (why?).  They may not make gravy (my cousin’s husband’s family – my entire family stared at him in horror when he admitted this).

I’m actually not all that picky about my Thanksgiving Dinner.  This is mostly because I know that Christmas dinner will be exactly the same as what I would have served for Thanksgiving if I was making it.  So, if I miss my chance at Bacon & Chestnut Stuffing in November, I know that I’ll be eating it in December.  However, Thanksgiving is at our house this year, and I keep feeling like I’ve forgotten some vital Thanksgiving dish, I just can’t remember what it is.

In preparation for Thanksgiving, this past weekend was a tour of all the parking lots I hate the most.  I was at Trader Joes for chestnuts (for the Bacon & Chestnut stuffing), the liquor store for Calvados (for the cranberry sauce), Whole Foods (for the turkey), and my regular grocery store for everything else.  I had a grocery shopping list itemized and divided by store, and I still didn’t manage to remember everything I needed for the week.  This happens every time I throw a party.  No matter how carefully I plan, there are invariably things that I forget (cranberries), things that I thought I had but actually don’t (enough sugar), things that I unexpectedly need (more butter) and I end up back at the grocery store.

So far I have the cranberry sauce made (no quivering cans of cranberry sauce are unmolded at my table), and 15 slices of bread have been cut into cubes and left out to get stale.  Or, at least I hope they’re getting stale, do you know how hard it is to get bread cubes to go stale when it’s raining?  Not that I’m complaining about the rain.  The air here has been so dry lately that my skin is cracking.  This always make me feel like a Victorian heroine – you know, one of the ones who’s quietly dying of consumption in a garret while she sews on cuffs and collars for a penny per shirt by candle light.  I can usually make it to February before I start feeling like I should be coughing delicately into a lace trimmed handkerchief while murmuring, “No, no, don’t worry about me.  I’m sure I’ll be fine soon [cough . . . cough].”  In the event that I ever do find myself dying of consumption (do people still die of consumption?) I’d like to be one of the heroines who languishes palely on a couch in Italy rather than one of the ones who dies alone and in disgrace in a cold room in London while rats scurry along the floor boards.

The rest of Thanksgiving Dinner will get made later today – I figure I don’t need to start cooking until about 11:30, which is another reason I’m convinced I’m forgetting something.  Because I am only doing Thanksgiving for four people, and because I got out of work at 1pm on Wednesday, I had Dinner for anyone who hadn’t already departed elsewhere.  Since some of the people coming to Dinner would be having not one, not two, but three Thanksgivings in the next four days I made the least Thanksgiving-y meal that I could imagine.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti & Meatballs
(serves 6)

½ pound ground veal
½ pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 ¼ cups fresh white bread crumbs (about 5 slices, crusts removed)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, onion powder, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 15-20 meatballs (I had 30 – but then I think mine were smaller than 2-inches).  If you’re like me and have trouble making sure that your meatballs are of a consistent size, scooping the mixture out in 1/4 cupfuls is a useful way to ensure that they’re all more or less the same size.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of ¼-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs.


Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.


Tomato Sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup good red wine
1 (28 oz) can pureed tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can chopped or diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

Notes:    I really wanted to be able to do this all in one pan.  I browned my meatballs and sautéed my onions in my cast iron skillet, but when I went to add the tomato puree and diced tomatoes I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and poured all of it into a pot to cook.

I’d never made this particular recipe before, and the amount of oil it calls for you to use to brown the meatballs is a little disconcerting, and I’m not sure it added much to the finished dish.  The meatballs were good, although you really do want to be sure you only mix them very lightly, but I think they’d be just as good browned in about a ¼ of the oil.




  1. I’m pretty sure I had a conversation recently in which I learned that consumption is actually TB. In which case, yes, people most definitely still die of TB. Just not generally wealthy women in London or Italy.

  2. Sadly, I think people these days tend to die of TB rather than consumption. These modern times…

    Also, yes, my meatball recipe calls for a ghastly amount of oil too, and the meatballs still stick to the pan. Now that I’m all diet-y, I make turkey meatballs and coat the pan with cooking spray, and it was both as tasty and as annoying as making regular meatballs! Hurrah! (I really need to buy a large nonstick skillet).

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