Welcome to Cocktail Hour! In this Friday afternoon newsletter Amy Haimerl offers drink suggestions, book recommendations, smart reads about dumb things, binge-worthy shows and even a little advice.
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It’s Cocktail Hour, y'all!
And this week, we’re 100% on Thanksgiving prep. So far, there have been zero tears — which is not always the case.
The first year Lovey and I were dating, he spent Thanksgiving with his family while I had The Bestie™ and some other girlfriends over to my apartment in Brooklyn. I wanted to put on a show, not just a dinner, out of my tiny oven in my tiny kitchen. But when I turned the oven on to test the heat on a batch of cookies, a colony of roaches crawled out. (That’s another story.) Tears ensued. So Lovey, who lived just a few blocks away, offered to let me use his kitchen for extra roach-free prep space.
Then The Bestie™ and I accidentally locked ourselves out of his apartment after putting in the pavlova to bake. It stayed in the oven for nearly 12 hours. In the end, all was well and we had a lovely time, but it was hard to explain to the new boyfriend that we hadn’t meant to accidentally almost burn his house down.
The next year, Lovey and I hosted Thanksgiving for 20 at our 800-square-foot apartment. Of course, I wanted to put on a show. And that’s how The Bestie™ found herself standing in Fishs Eddy in Manhattan looking at dishware while I sobbed hysterically about being a failure in life because I was a 34-year-old woman who didn’t even own a god damned turkey platter. It was a proper meltdown.
That was also the year I introduced Lovey to my war plan, broken down into 15-minute increments, for Thanksgiving prep. He might have cried.
In the end, all was well and we had a lovely time, though we did have to clean up vomit from the sidewalk the next morning because a few guests got so drunk they hurled off the rooftop.
Now, in 2021, we're hosting Thanksgiving again. And, per usual, I want to put on a show, not just dinner. But I’ve gotten better at it. Age and experience helps. Resources help. Still, there will probably be at least one too-drunk guest, one burned dish and one servingware-related midlife meltdown. But what would Thanksgiving be without tradition?
Growing up, this was always my favorite holiday. Dad's, too. Christmas may get all of the attention, but Thanksgiving felt more low-key joyful. No matter how hard the year, there was always a spread on the table, much of it raised in my mother’s garden. The extended family would play football out in the field and I’d get to ride my dad’s horse, Big Red. (That’s me on Red with dad.) After dinner, if I was lucky, I’d get to sit in his lap while he played penny poker with his siblings.
I also remember the stress of trying to please my grandmother. The other cousins went out to play before dinner, but I was in the kitchen peeling potatoes or some other task, hoping for a scrap of affection.
I remember my mother trying to please her mother-in-law but never escaping her cruel barbs. It didn’t matter that my mom grew our food and preserved the harvest by canning and freezing. She quilted and sewed our clothes. She strove to be the perfect homemaker in hopes that would earn her a scrap of respect.
But it was still never enough. She and I were never enough. Could never be enough for the simple fact that I came from a previous marriage. God rest my grandmother’s soul.
And that was just the holiday on one side of the family. My mom’s side offered a whole other set of issues.
So even though I remember Thanksgiving as this really special, low-key affair, I realize it was also fraught with an underlying current of perfectionism that has seeped into how I celebrate and engage with the day as an adult. I both love the holiday and the pomp and abundance it represents and hate that it makes me into a ball of stress and anxiety, as if I’m still trying to prove to my worth to my grandmother. Only now, it's just me that I cannot satisfy.
Mom and dad won't be with us this year. We alternate between Montana years, when we drive out to visit them, and Detroit years, when The Bestie™ drives in from Brooklyn, and we have a house full of friends for the day.
But even if I’m not with dad and the family, I remember and honor our good times through the food at our table. No Thanksgiving is complete without Dad’s Stuffing and what we call “Cranberry and White.” (Both recipes are in the "side notes" at the end; don’t miss the stuffing — it’s hilarious.) The cranberry dish is as trashy 1950s Betty Crocker as it comes. And. I. Do. Not. Care. You can make fun of me all you want. Lovey does.
He hates the Cranberry — which is actually cranberries, Jello, pineapple and grapes — and the White — marshmallows and cream cheese soaked in heavy cream and whipped! — but that’s just because he does not have the knowledges.
And besides, nobody cares about the Cranberry. You just make that to feel like you put a fruit on the table. You ½ that part of the recipe and double or triple the White so there’s enough to slap on your late-night pie while you’re playing poker.
But before we get to all that, Friend of Bar\Heart and regular contributor, Shana, is here with the drinks menu. I'm learning to delegate, and Shana is definitely the person for this task. She came correct with a cocktail hour option to get the night started and a pie-hour pairing we’ve named The Tears of a Colonizer. I’ll hand it over to Shana for this next bit.
From Shana: My family has no serious Thanksgiving traditions beyond eating dinner. I hear rumors of football and parades, but we know nothing about that nonsense.
Instead, I'm bringing you some family heirlooms via the photo. That pretty coupe belonged to my grandparents. They don't seem to have been the type to throw a rager of a fancy cocktail party, but they sure left me the barware and china to give it a shot.
The turkeys? I don't know what to say about that. They were rattling around in the kitchen drawer so I put them up every year. They're ugly and a bit creepy, but I think that might be why I like them? They'll be tucked back into their storage space by noon on Friday, I assure you.
For cocktail hour I'm making this milk punch. This is a favorite from a beloved friend. She'll be in Baton Rouge for Thanksgiving and I'll be in Detroit. But drinking this will keep us close!
This milk punch is light and delicious and a little weird. It's going to be a very warm welcome to the party. It's also non denominational: It doesn't care if you're a bourbon person or a gin person; it's acceptable to anybody looking for a drink! Plus, Amy has a very cool new-to-her punch bowl that needs to be properly christened.
I know that recipe looks a bit intimidating and means you have to get a head start. You'll be fine, but let me give you some tips:
Use a tupperware-ish container. I like the ones meant for cereal - they're big enough to hold all the punch but won't take up a big footprint of your fridge if you've got the turkey defrosting in there.
Get the densest (Is that what you call it? I have no idea; I know shit-all about cheese cloth!) cheesecloth you can put your paws on. It'll make things much easier. I'd start by asking at the butcher counter and let them direct you.
Watch yourself!! Milk punch is dangerous. It doesn't taste like a strong drink. You'll throw back three in an hour. An hour after that you'll be missing a shoe and uninvited from all future family gatherings.
For pie time, we've got something original! I'm calling it The Tears of a Colonizer. Is that both commentary on the reality of Thanksgiving and a Motown reference? It absolutely is.
1 oz bourbon
1 oz blood orange juice
1 oz Amaro Di Angostura
1/4 oz lime juice
Dash of Angostura bitters
Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker or a mason jar fitted with a shaker lid.
Shake the shit out of it
Strain into a coupe glass
Garnish with blood orange peel or candied blood orange wheel if you have people who care about that sort of thing
A few notes:
If bourbon isn't your thing, this also works really well with a dark rum. Just add a 1/4 to 1/2 oz of orange liquor.
If you're not into brown liquor, that blood orange juice is going to be great in gin or vodka.
Blood orange juice was sort of a chore to find. But, they're about to be in season so they might be lurking in your produce section. If you're local to the Midwest, I found some at Fresh Thyme.
Any solid liquor store should have the Amaro Di Angostura. It's usually in with the Campari.
Ok. Here’s Amy again.
If you need some non-booze options, last week we suggested the Truly Enlightened from Castalia bar in Detroit. But another good option is a Cranberry Shrub. A shrub is what’s known as a “drinking vinegar” and you can mix it with booze or just fizzy water to make a festive drink. I’m fond of the version by Emily Farris, who designed Bar\Heart’s logo and graphics. She’s multi-talented! Here’s how she describes her shrub:
Ok. Yes, there will be more at our Thanksgiving feast than just booze. (We're a little beyond cleaning up vomit.) Here’s what we’re planning, with links, in case you need inspiration.
Charcuterie board (I hired this out to our friends at Marrow Detroit, because now I’m bougie like that.)
Oysters (our friend Graham is a chef and master-shucker!)
Deviled eggs with pickled mustard seeds
Soup & Salad:
Parmesan broth with agnolotti. We’re going to buy the agnolotti because I’m lazy like that; but I make parmesan broth out of leftover rinds all year long and it’s magic in anything.
Chicories with pears, blue cheese and secret anchovy dressing. It’s from Samin Nosrat, and I’ll do anything that woman says.
Spatchcock turkey. This is our first time spatchcocking a turkey. But we’re told it is faster and keeps both white and dark meats juicy
Dad’s Stuffing. We’ll cook this under the bird.
Cranberry + White
Tasty, tasty pies from our chef friends Amy and Graham. (See my master delegation skills!) They are masters of flaky pie dough, and I’ve tasked them with bringing whatever they damned well feel like baking.
The new Alison Krauss and Robert Plant collaboration came out today (November 19) and it will be spinning all week long in our house. This is the duo's first album since their six-time Grammy winning effort in 2007. One of my faves so far: Their cover of the Everly Brother's "The Price of Love."
Hank says to make sure you have your couch game ready for post-stuffing naps.
That’s all for this week, friends. See you next Friday for Cocktail Hour.
1. Dad’s Stuffing Recipe.
This is his stuffing recipe, exactly as he wrote it down in the family cookbook.
2.5 cups chicken broth (from the carcass of the last one you cooked)
4 T. butter or margarine
1/2 lb. bacon (from this years hog) chopped in small pieces
1 c. celery, chopped
1 c. onion, chopped
1 jalapeno chopped
16 oz pkg Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix
1 Golden Delicious apple, chopped (only a Golden Delicious)
1 small can mushrooms
Season to taste with fresh sage gathered from the hill behind the house, lots of course-ground black pepper and a pinch of thyme. (About twice the size of the pinch normally placed in your lower lip!)
In a small saucepan bring water or broth and butter to boil. Saute bacon until half cooked, then add celery and onion. Cook until the onion is soft and transparent; the bacon should be cooked but need not be crisp.
While the bacon is cooking, mix stuffing, apple and mushrooms in a large bowl. When the bacon mixture is done, add it and the boiling water to the stuffing mixture. Stuff the turkey lightly, just before roasting.
Pro tip from Amy: Do not bougie this up with fancy bread crumbs, etc. etc. I doesn't work; I've tried. Leave well enough alone.
2. Great Grandma Mabel’s Cranberry + White
12 oz cranberries
1 cup water
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 – 3 ¾ oz Cherry Jello
1 ½ cup red grapes, peeled, seeded and halved
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
2 c. miniature marshmallows
8 oz. cream cheese
1 pint whipping cream
Combine cranberries, water and sugar in saucepan. Boil until berries snap, then 5 minutes longer. Cool slightly. Then add Jello, grapes and pineapple. Pour into a bowl or oiled mold. Chill overnight.
For topping: Cut the cream cheese into small pieces and place in a bowl with marshmallows. Cover with whipping cream. Chill overnight. Before dinner whip with an electric mixer until smooth.
Do you want to contribute to Cocktail Hour? Got a great drink with an even better back story? Book you can’t wait to recommend? A piece of advice we all need now? Something to delight us? E-mail me at email@example.com!
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