Remedial Dinner Planning 101 (aka. How Thanksgiving reminds you of your own stupidity!)

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Alrighty then.  Another Thanksgiving has come and gone and it would seem that some patterns are meant to repeat endlessly.  Having very recently blogged about the WHY? vs. HOW? questions, I guess it is only fair that I actually take my own advice and see if there isn’t something to be learned from this thanksgiving “cheat free for all day.”  Hmmmmmm…..   where should I start?

IMG_8128Lesson one.  Never plan a thanksgiving menu when you are hungry….  especially if you have been “calorie restricting” dieting for any significant period of time.  Because….  if you do…..   well, let’s just say it  won’t end well.  Have you ever had that dinner party where, after everyone is gone, you start finding food in places you had forgotten about?  You know, things you meant to serve, but then just simply FORGOT??  Yes really…. it IS possible to have sooooo much food that you can forget items.  Like tonight.  The menu plan was going to be simple.  First some pumpkin soup.  then some pumpkin dinner rolls, some turkey, dressing, gravy of course, some turnip and roasted carrots.  There HAD to be mashed potatoes.  But then, somewhere along the line there needed to be some celeriac (I mean it looked so wonderful at the farmers market….  I just couldn’t leave it behind….).  Somehow a miataki (hen of the woods) mushroom as big as my head, steamed in madeira made it’s way onto the list.  Oh, and brussels sprouts….  I HAD to have brussels IMG_8134sprouts!!!  they are one of my favourite vegetables!!!

With all of this food, we didn’t really need a salad, but, I mean, there needed to be an appetizer (no soup doesn’t count….  that’s a SOUP course for heaven’s sake!).   So, a seared duck breast with pickled blueberries got planned.  Then it was decided that no self respecting host could possibly have a thanksgiving dinner without a cranberry sauce.  But from scratch of course, and with a twist…  because who really wants to do the “usual” anyway right???  That’s when the “cloved shallot cranberry compote” was born.

To finish, it just wouldn’t be right without pumpkin pie (thank god someone BROUGHT one because….  well really…..  there just wasn’t time!), and the apple pie another guest brought rounded things out……  because the cinnamon buns with pumpkin cream cheese icing that we had planned would never be enough.  Then, at the last minute, without warning, I sprung a surprise on Todd.  I got nostalgic.  I needed figgy duff.  I got thinking about my grandmother, and the dinners that we would have at her house when I was growing up, and I began having these pangs of guilt that I wasn’t a “good Newfie” any more, and the only way I could redeem myself was to magically make a figgy duff that could rival Nan’s (having never made one before of course….  cuz it’s gotta be that easy right?) and the most perfect of rum butter sauces to go with it.  Cue the band, because on thanksgiving afternoon, with my house full of guests, I was at my sewing machine….  since after all I had COMPLETELY forgotten that I DIDN’T HAVE A PUDDING BAG!!!!!  Yeah.  I’m not sure Todd will every forgive me for sacrificing a 400 thread count pillow case for that endeavour…..   but hey….  it DID result in a “perfectly passable” figgy duff, so I’m sure he’ll get over it…… eventually.

Yeah.  That was a perfect plan don’t you think???   Well.  We did….. at first….lolol.  (I won’t even tell you about the intermediate stages where we actually “simplified” things, and “paired down” the menu…..  at one point?  It kinda looked like the entire menu at The Cheesecake Factory would be happening……  And I will take this one square on the chin…..  It was 99% me.  Yup.  I like to take a simple thing and make it complex.  Really I do.  If it’s not a challenge…..  then why even bother to do it.  There has to be a “hard way” to do everything on this earth, and I am the MASTER of finding that intricate and demanding way of doing it.  Let’s just say it is a skill.  I will openly admit right now though, that even this plan changed as the day progressed….  and things did get somewhat simplified (if you could ever apply that term to what the eventual outcome was……)

Soooooo…..  I got to spend all afternoon, “leafing out” brussels sprouts.  What’s that you say???  What exactly do I mean when I say “leafing out” brussels??  Why dear folks it is very simple.  You take DOZENS of brussels sprouts, and turn them into a mountain of INDIVIDUAL leaves.  Tim the base with you paring knife, peel off layer of leaves, trim again, peel.  Trim again.  Peel.  Curse a little.  Trim.  Peel.  Easy.  Peasy!!!  (OH HELL NO!!!!!!!)

At this point it is only fair that I explain to you WHY I was chained to my kitchen counter dealing with the brussels sprouts…..  It’s all about my FAVOURITE brussels sprouts recipe.  In all fairness I do need to credit Laura Calder here.  I love this woman.  She has a flair for french cooking, which most of you know I adore.  She makes everything french seem easy and attainable, which many people tend to think cannot be done.  Todd and I have loved her style, her TV show, and have purchased every single one of her cook books, and yes, we do USE them.  So, given the success and “ease” of all of the recipes we have gleaned from her books, when I came across this brussels sprouts recipe a couple of years back, I just had to try it.  Of course there’s always the “Todd Twist” (which in this case is the balsamic vinegar!)

I have developed a love/hate relationship with this recipe.  I love the outcome.  I hate the process.  But unfortunately, I forget just how annoying the process is, until I am in the middle of trying to make the dish again.  Yes….  that’s just how good the dish turns out.  Apparently the dish is like childbirth…..  it’s absolutely effing agony for what seems like forever, but then you reach the end result and you forget everything, all the pain, all the annoyances, all the crap, until you are already in the middle of having the next kid….  (or at least that’s what I’ve been told it’s like…..   since I don’t have a uterus I’m kinda just shooting in the dark here right?)

So……  here’s how this one goes…..

You will need:

  1. IMG_8137brussels sprouts, as many as you think you can successfully “unfurl” before throwing yourself off a cliff (officially the recipe calls for one pound/500g).
  2. bacon, as much as your calorie limits will allow (one pound of Brussels will require 8 slices of bacon, if you’re the “recipe type”).
  3. butter hey it’s only gonna take a tablespoon or two this time….  really…. 2 tbsp.
  4. Olive oil….  1 tablespoon.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. the best, oldest, THICKEST baslamic vinegar you have on hand
  7. the patience of Job (sorry for the biblical reference but hey, I WAS once a bible college student…..   you can’t run from your past….   Well, not for too long anyway….  eventually all that crap has to catch you!).


  • IMG_8140wash brussels sprouts.
  • take a sharp paring or peeling knife and waste your day peeling leaf after leaf from each individual sprout, until you have a mountain of green leaves and a river of tears of frustration.  (please keep them in separate bowls, the bacon will make the sprouts salty enough….  the tears will be overkill).
  • cut the bacon into nice even “lardon” (french for “pieces of bacon”)
  • take a large sauté pan and crisp up the bacon, drain the fat (reserving a tablespoon) and place the bacon aside.
  • IMG_8141place the bacon fat back in the sauté pan, add a little butter and olive oil, and then sauté the brussels sprout leaves until bright green and tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and place them in a bowl, toss with the bacon lardon and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.
  • Eat these God. Damn. Labour. Intensive. I’m… Never… Making… These… Again….  Oh.  My.  God.  These.  Are.  So.  Good.  I.  Want Them Every Day the world is a wonderfulplaceandIlovemylifebecausethesethingare DA BOMB andIcan’teatthemanyotherwaynow! brussels sprouts.
  • Write me nasty comments telling me how you hate me for even letting you know you could do this to a brussels sprout, because you could have lived without the work that this takes, but now that you’ve found out about it you feel like you need to have them this way.

Yup.  I know how you feel.  That’s why as much as I love them, this has become a “special occasion” recipe.  You know.  Special occasion….  like….  I really need to impress these new people I’m trying to make friends with…..  or…. I need my extended family to know just how much I love them this Thanksgiving……  or….  I’ve had a hard week at work and I want to torture myself just a little bit more to reassure myself that life COULD be worse, but still end up with a tasty treat that will make me think that the world is a happy place after all!!!  Let’s just say I doubt that any commercial restaurant will ever serve them this way because the time involved makes it counter productive from a “business model” point of view…..

Well, I guess since this was supposed to be a “multiple lesson” kinda post I should give you the rest of the lessons I learned now shouldn’t I?  Ok, I will.  But they are in no specific order, and may or may not be based in fact….  only those who were actually present will ever know for sure!!!  LMAO!

IMG_8124Lesson Two:  If you put the roasted carrots, parsnips and celeriac in the warming drawer and forget them there, and no one even noticed that they hadn’t been served because they were all stuffed to overflowing, maybe you planned too much food.  (also, even if this IS the case…..  when you do finally notice, retrieve them, and place them on the counter, people WILL come back in to the kitchen, find them, and eat them.  I promise you…..  that’s what will happen.).

Lesson three:  Never leave your “Spiced Rum butter Sauce” in a serving dish beside the gravy.  If you do, you will be sure to have a least one dinner guest asking about your “special gravy” and wondering out loud why: 1.  you made two gravies.  2.  Why the “special gravy”is sooooooo sweet!!  (true story….  apparently rum butter sauce is a bit too sweet for serving with turkey!).  Also, it can make serving a first attempt at a figgy duff difficult if said guest “REALLY LOVES” gravy!!!!

Lesson four:  I’m no longer 23.  I have had much success lately in reducing my weight AND getting all of my “stomach issues” under control.  BUT.  Thanksgiving, multiple helpings (yes, several “full” plates) and a little bit of wine can all come together to create “meat sweats” and a complete return to all previous gastrointestinal problems, and just like the unfurling of those damned little green devils, the memories will come rushing back.  In full force.  Without warning.

So I guess, I can simply wait until Christmas and see if the learning sticks.  Wish me luck!!!

Thanks For reading along!!!


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