The holiday season is in full swing, and while you might be feeling jolly as you blast your favorite holiday tunes in the background, it’s possible that when you begin to plan your holiday parties, you might start feeling stressed.
Everyone wants to plan a holiday party that will dazzle their guests, but the combined pressures to decorate, organize a menu, cook, and bake for the party can become overwhelming. But have you ever thought about catering your party?
We’re here to assure you: catering is not a cop out. In reality, it’s the perfect idea! Think of us as the merry little elves to your Santa, the key assistants to your survival of the holiday season with your sanity in tact. So in case you’re not already on board, we’ve got five reasons to cater your holiday party this year:
If you choose to cater your holiday party this year you will likely decide to start a new holiday tradition. We’re here to tell you that CVC’s catering services are top notch and we absolutely love serving the good people of Maine. So call us at (207) 756-7599 to discuss your catering needs this holiday season. We look forward to bringing fun to your holiday festivities this season!
This month, I’ve decided to have our gravy guru Zach McBean tackle the time-honored tradition of making gravy from your Thanksgiving drippings. Enjoy, and let us know how it turns out!
That oh-so-special time of the year is fast approaching. Thanksgiving means time with family and friends, the last throes of fall giving way to snow, and the panic-stricken moment when you realize it’s time to turn that pan of shiny roasted meat juices into gravy.
Now personally, I love gravy….a lot. I mean, I will turn anything left in a pan from any kind of roasted anything into gravy. This has been a lifelong love affair, but I certainly was not successful right away. I’ve learned a few simple rules and tricks that can up your protein-topping credentials and have everyone fighting over who can chug from the gravy boat the longest. Ok, that’s a little gross…..but let’s make some good gravy!
Method 1 – Strain and Thicken
This is the tried-and-true reliable way to make gravy. For the gravy novice, this is the recipe for you.
1 or 2 Bay leaves
1 Onion, chopped
1 sprig each of rosemary, thyme, or other aromatic herbs
For Slurry – equal parts:
1 TBS Cornstarch
1 TBS Water
For Roux – equal parts:
½ Cup Whole butter
½ Cup All-purpose flour
Remove the roasted item from pan when it has finished cooking. Heat roasting pan on the range burners. Gently scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck-on bits of tasty goodness. For those of you that binge-watch Food Network, you will know this process is called deglazing.
Place the drippings in a sauce pot with the bay leaves, onion, and herbs and simmer on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.
At this point, you can use your drippings base to make one of two styles of gravy: a shiny, velvety, and less viscous version known as a slurry, or a hearty and creamy version called a roux.
For making a slurry, you can thicken your gravy with equal parts cornstarch and cold water mixed together with your fingers. Add this mixture to the gravy base, a little at a time, whisk slowly, and return to a boil as you watch it thicken. How thick is up to you – keep adding the cornstarch mixture until it’s just right.
Strain the mixture and serve. This method will also be the most effective at preventing lumps.
For a roux, follow these steps after the initial simmer. In a separate pan, melt the butter on low heat and once it is melted, whisk in an equal amount of flour. Cook the roux on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Set the roux aside for a few minutes to cool – adding hot roux to a boiling liquid will cause lumps!
When your roux has come to room temp, whisk it into the gravy base in small amounts. This will also not thicken until it boils so keep adding a little at a time and keep on whisking. Once you have the desired thickness, strain and serve.
Method 2 – Milk Pan Gravy
I remember being mystified watching my grandmother do this. It’s a little more challenging, but the tradeoffs are fewer dishes, no straining, and a nice rich finished product.
Ingredients – equal parts:
¼ Cup Whole milk, to taste
¼ Cup All-purpose flour, to taste
Remove the roasted item from pan when it has finished cooking and measure the remaining drippings. Add the whole milk in an 8:1 milk-to-drippings ratio and bring to a simmer. Mix equal parts flour and cold milk until smooth, usually about ¼ cup each, to thicken a quart of gravy.
Whisk in the milk-flour mixture to the simmering pan. Allow to thicken and serve.
Method 3 – Traditional Pan Gravy
This style appeals to the thrifty chef in me and utilizes everything brought to the table by roasting a turkey.
½ Cup All-purpose flour, to taste
Remove the roasted item from pan when it has finished cooking. Pour the drippings into a cup or shallow Tupperware container and let cool. Ladle off the fat from the top of the drippings (the fat will be a clear yellow, the juices brown) and measure. Mix the fat in a pan with equal portions of flour.
Deglaze the roasting pan with chicken broth, then add in the drippings. Thicken by slowly bringing to a boil and whisking in the fat/flour mixture. Strain if desired and serve.
Hopefully, these recipes will take some of the pressure off the daunting task of this holiday favorite. Enjoy!
Since at least the mid-19th century, Thanksgiving has been the turkey holiday. Turkey is a traditional staple at Thanksgiving feasts nationwide, with an average forty-six million turkeys eaten on Thanksgiving Day across the United States. Though turkey is in popular demand, it’s not everyone’s favorite meal. If you’re interested in turkey alternatives for your Thanksgiving meal this year, here are some suggestions:
1. Chicken – If you don’t care for turkey, try chicken this Thanksgiving. You can prepare chicken however you like: roasted, grilled, rotisserie, baked, the list goes on. Chicken is affordable, simple to prepare, and is typically a good fit for anyone’s palate.
2. Tofurkey – Vegetarians deserve their own little treat on Thanksgiving, too. Consider preparing some tofurkey this holiday. Tofurkey is a soy-based vegetable protein that can be eaten as a patty (like burgers) or link (think sausage-style). Some tofurkey recipes are stuffed with rice and served with gravy. This is a delicious alternative for the vegetarian or vegan at your dinner table.
3. Lasagna – For some, Italian-style is the way to go no matter what holiday or occasion. Try lasagna as an alternative to turkey this Thanksgiving. Soft noodles, warm sauce, and melted cheese are delectable for all pasta lovers. Surprise your holiday guests with this indulgent meal.
4. Ham – Ham is always a classic option. It’s easy to prepare and can feed an entire dinner party with one roast. Ham is also typically cheaper per pound than most turkeys. Add a glaze of brown sugar on top and you’re good to go! The best part? Cranberry sauce pairs well with ham, too. This makes for a great alternative to turkey this Thanksgiving.
5. Seafood – From salmon to lobster, seafood is a great alternative to turkey for your Thanksgiving meal. For seafood fans, it’s an ideal feast! You can go all out with shrimp, crab, or even oysters. There are so many delicious options in the seafood family that you can add to your Thanksgiving menu. Try it out this year!
Holidays often follow personal traditions, but there’s no reason why you can’t change things up this Thanksgiving. There are many tasty alternatives that don’t involve turkey if you’re in need of something different. Chicken, tofurkey, lasagna, ham, and seafood are only some of the many menu items you can enjoy this holiday. If you want to cater your Thanksgiving dinner and create a completely fresh menu, feel free to contact us at 207-756-7599. At CVC Catering Group, we want your Thanksgiving to be as fabulous as possible. We are here to serve!
I love Thanksgiving time. The weather starts to get colder and the leaves are mostly gone from the trees. The mornings are crisp and the chilly evenings are accompanied by a fire in the fireplace. Not to mention the delicious food that comes with the season: pumpkin pie, turkey, and stuffing! I could go on and on…
At our house, we do not hold back the abundance of food at the Thanksgiving table. I love the traditional feast. I’ve tried new ways to reduce fat, gluten, and sugar, but it just isn’t the same. The only thing I’ve been able to do successfully is remove the gluten from my father’s original stuffing—with my homemade Polenta Croutons!
This stuffing recipe was made by my father every year until he passed. “Boo” was his nickname because he and my nephew played peek-a-boo so much when he was little that the name stuck.
I daresay that my entire family has used this recipe every Thanksgiving and in my search for gluten-free products, I have not found a suitable alternative to the Pepperidge Farms croutons my dad always used. One day, using my love of polenta, I made polenta croutons. Initially, I used these as a crunchy topping for salads and eventually I tested them in Boo’s stuffing recipe and, to my surprise, it was delicious!
Nothing else will change though—we will still have green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, turkey, and, of course, gravy, the way they were intended.
olive oil, for greasing the pan
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup instant polenta
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup grated cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano
garlic powder, to taste
1 tablespoon each: fresh parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme, chopped
Coat a 9-x13-inch baking dish with a thin coat of olive oil. Combine 4 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low, bringing the polenta to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally until thick (about 5 to 8 minutes). Turn off the heat and stir in the butter, cheese, garlic, and herbs. Pour the polenta into the prepared dish and cool completely until firm. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone liner. Remove the polenta from the baking dish and cut into 1-inch squares. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake until crisp and golden, about 1 hour.
1 onion, chopped
1 pint fresh mushrooms, sliced
polenta croutons (recipe above)
2 cans beef consommé soup
1 clove garlic (or more to taste), minced
2 sticks butter
salt and pepper, to taste
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 lbs. Jimmy Dean sausage (we prefer sage)
Sauté onion and mushrooms in butter. In a separate pan, brown the sausage and drain well. Add the sausage, polenta, and cans of soup to the sautéed onions and mushrooms. Season with garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook in a casserole dish at 375 degrees until crispy on top and moist on the inside (about 45 min to 1 hour).
Along with pumpkins, the fall harvest brings a bounty of orchard fruit as well, like apples: nice crisp cold apples. Though common, apples are extremely nutritious – hence the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Apples have TONS of antioxidants, helpful molecules that prevent our cells from becoming damaged. One in particular, called quercetin, has been shown to reduce the death of neurons, which could improve dementia and other neurological issues.
Current research is showing that eating apples regularly may help prevent breast cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. Apples also have almost no fat, sodium, or cholesterol!
To kick the nutritional value of eating apples up a notch, I created this wonderful and delicious Apple Ginger Tonic drink for my collection of fall recipes. Enjoy!
1 large apple, cored (not peeled)
1 pear, stem removed
1 to 2 knobs of ginger, peeled
1 lemon, peeled
1 package of stevia
2 tbs of chia seed
1 tablet of vitamin C
Whir in blender and drink pulp and all. YUMMMMMM and SO good for you!