Taking The Holiday Easier

Mary Ann Fitzmorris January 02, 2020 18:42 Dining Diary

Now that the first Monday in December has arrived, it seems like we should wrap up Thanksgiving 2019. We approached it with trepidation, because so much has changed since the halcyon days of our hosting 50 guests. When the entirety of the guest list dropped to 10 for dinner, it was suggested that we move it to the south shore, where everyone else lives. Truthfully, this was a welcome suggestion because cooking for a small number was so foreign, it really took all the fun out of it for me. I made the same amount of mac and cheese because there were people coming from other dinners who would like an evening snack, and the ham was the same because you can’t cut a ham before baking. And because everyone takes ham home anyway. 

Instead of preparations that begin at least the day before, we went to the store on Wednesday and didn’t do anything until Thursday morning. In the old days, Tom would bake the cheesecake the night before and tend to it through the night, leaving the oven door ajar to cool it slowly. The Marys couldn’t indulge Tom this year, throwing him and his cheesecake out of the oven as soon as it was done. We felt a little guilty when it caved in, and a little wary when he insisted on topping it with satsumas, but the taste was the same.

The ham was done by a team this time, and I’m happy to say that we have preserved the recipe for the next generation. Tom has always said if there is a recipe you love, make sure you watch it done enough to carry it on after the originator of the recipe stops doing it. Over the years cooking for Thanksgiving has been such a family affair that everyone can do the ham with their eyes closed. This year’s ham (pictured) was blacker than usual because everyone kept basting it. 

I should have roasted the red peppers the night before, because the ovens were booked the morning of, so the pimiento cheese was not as good as it usually is. We did the andouille wrapped in puff pastry, which was up to the usual standards, but there wasn’t time to make our puff pastry garlic breadsticks.

Mary Leigh did make some cheese biscuits. These were great, and are even better the next day at breakfast. (The recipe is below.)

The mac and cheese wasn’t our best effort either. We had trouble finding ingredients Wednesday night. The pasta we used wasn’t what we normally do. And the 2 for $5 price meant the Cabot Cheddar was nearly sold out. ML went to Walmart neighborhood Market and found it for $2.38 each, so we’ll remember that. The Marys had to have a tester bowl midway through the cooking. After some tweaking, it seemed better. It got rave reviews by everyone who had it at the party, but we knew it should have been better. We decided that sharp, sharp, sharper cheddar shouldn't always be the goal.

It was wonderful to have turkey gravy with turkey slices in it. Joe Impastato does a turkey for good regulars, and the host of this event is a long and good regular. The turkey was enormous, and so was the ham, so there was plenty of protein on the table.

It was an honor to be at the first use of the dining room for the family that moved into their home a year ago. The small gathering sat in this beautiful dining room, and my mind wandered to Thanksgivings past, and people stepping down off our deck to one of the tables, hopeful dogs trailing behind. It was a lovely time, but somehow it didn’t seem right. And the one remaining dog was home by himself.

There are twenty televisions in the home where we were, but we all gathered around the one nearest the kitchen at game time to watch the Saints. People came and went well into the evening, snacking and drinking champagne.

It was not the same Thanksgiving as the ones we fondly remember, but it was a wonderful time. And when I got home, there was only a half-hour of cleanup and one dishwasher load, instead of 7 hours and three dishwasher loads.

The silver lining always presents itself. Hope you had a great day too!

Buttermilk Biscuits


  • 3 cups self-rising flour

  • 6 Tbs. butter softened

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

  • 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

  • 2 green onions, finely chopped (optional)


Measure flour into a large bowl. Cut butter into the flour and stir with a wire whisk until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. It's okay for there to be a few small lumps.

Blend in the buttermilk with light strokes of a kitchen fork. Continue lightly blending until the dough leaves the side of the bowl. Add a little more milk if necessary to work all the dry flour at the bottom into a sticky, thoroughly damp dough.

Add the bacon and cheese and green onions.

Spoon out the dough with a large spoon into lumps about three inches high and three to four inches in diameter. Dip your fingers in water and mound the dough up a bit if necessary.

Bake 10 to 14 minutes in the preheated 475-degree oven. They're ready when the little peaks on the biscuits begin to brown. Don't look for a dark overall brown; that indicates overbaking.