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All about working as a waiter, pursuing my dream, eating vegetarian, and loving where I live!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

3 AM Thanksgiving Prep

Last year, I was training for my current job. I spent the entire holiday following another server around, getting bread, water, and drinks for his tables. Since we have a completely different menu for Thanksgiving day, this training was almost completely pointless. I was stuck at the restaurant for the entire day and didn't get out until 10:30 PM. I missed it. "Upset" doesn't begin to describe how I felt. I called my brother as I was getting out of work, and everyone was already packing up and going to bed. I cried. It was thoroughly depressing.

But not this year!!!
My usual grocery bill for two weeks! Eek!
My restaurant demands that employees work 5 out of 7 mandatory holiday shifts. This year, my big pick to get off was Thanksgiving. Although I miss LP (visiting fam in Michigan), I'm still really excited for the holiday. We have a 5 year strong tradition of my oldest brother and his wife hosting the dinner for the siblings and their L.A. friends who don't have family nearby.

Since I had to close tonight, I didn't get home until after 11 PM and immediately got to work. I am the SLOWEST cook in the world, so prep is very important for me. I'm the only vegetarian in the family, so I usually bring a little extra to make sure it still feels like a feast to me. Never know if the person responsible for the green bean casserole is going to throw in some bacon grease. 

Autumn Rice Rissoles
Wilted Spinach Salad
Winter Squash Soup

After much debate, I settled on these three after pouring over a year's subscription of Vegetarian Times. Tonight, I formed the Rissoles patties (currently chilling in the fridge) and got started on the soup.  The "Autumn Rice Rissoles" are just fancy veggie patties. I'm not cooking them up until tomorrow, so we'll see how they turn out. I don't often have luck with this kind of thing. 

The recipe calls for 1 cup each of cooked wild rice and brown/basmati rice. Thank goodness for Trader Joe's! These fully cooked packages cost the same or less than their raw counterparts! I'm so glad I didn't have to waste 45 minutes ruining rice this evening. And no, I don't have a rice cooker! Some day we'll have the extra cabinet space, and THEN I'll get one!

If the Rissoles turn out, I think the secret will have been to chilling them for several hours AND... uniformity!

I used our beloved Alton Brown measuring plunger to dole out the prescribed 1/4 cup and then smooshed the rice mixture on to a parchment lined baking sheet while still in the plunger. Definitely easier than trying to make them with my bare hands, anyway! The real test will be when I try to cook them on the skillet! I love the flavor combination, so even if they fall apart, it could still be a tasty casserole! They have Wild and Brown rice, toasted pecans, cranberries, marinated artichoke hearts, fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme, and red onion. My one twist on the recipe was using Pecan Rice Crackers instead of plain or saltines.
This is what Red Kuri squash looks like!!!

The Winter Squash soup features Granny Smith apples and leeks. I actually found the recommended squash, red kuri, at Whole Foods! Last time, I made this with butternut. It was OK, but a tiny bit bland. I also bought actual Creme Fraiche this time to use as a garnish.

My big problem with squash is its de-assemblage. This time, like last time, I cooked it for too long. The flesh and the skin just fell apart and while the rind was soft enough to eat, it probably would have added bitterness to the soup. But even taking out the stringy bits and seeds is difficult.

My recommendation? See item #17, on the left. It's a grapefruit spoon. I'm sure you can find them at any kitchy kitchen store. However, I received my pair from my grandma. Not only are they extremely useful for eating grapefruit, they are the IDEAL tool for scooping out squash goo.

Roommates will also use them to eat cereal when no regular spoons are left clean. It baffles the mind, people. Right now, I'm letting the soup cool for several hours so I can put it in the blender (WHY didn't I buy an immersion one, WHY?!) before reheating it in the slow cooker.

TIME FOR BED! I'll let you know how it all turns out


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