Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: A Kitchen Knightmares Special

Today on Alphabet City: Overshadowed by Juan Pablo on Thanksgiving, Jon Paul feels like Charlie Brown.

In the debut posting of the series Kitchen Knightmares, I acknowledged that no one wants to hear me whine about being married to a chef.  But I really get worked up about the issue when Thanksgiving approaches because none of my guests ever give me any credit for cooking the meal.  Since Chef Juan Pablo hails from Mexico City, I usually bar him from the kitchen claiming that only an American can appreciate the meal’s historical underpinnings.  I’m not interested in his South of the Border suggestion to add chipotles to my green bean concoction.  Usually, he’s happy to escape the kitchen, and always willing to accept the compliments when our friends remark year after year, “Chef’s done it again!”

I’m like the Charlie Brown of Thanksgiving.  Try as I might, I just can’t get through to our friends that I spend days preparing our annual spread.  While fellow Texan Angela gets kudos for her trio of pies, I get nada from friends for my buffet of casseroles and cranberries.  It’s odd that Chef gets all credit for the food, because in the beginning my dishes were straight-up white-trash—not at all things they’d expect from Juan Pablo.

“My goodness, everything sure is brown.  And starchy,” observed my Australian friend Rebecca when she first joined us about eight years ago.

Rebecca worked for the UN and was accustomed to more exotic flavors it seemed.  She had a difficult time distinguishing between the line-up of Pyrex dishes offering down home casseroles made with Cream of Mushroom soup: broccoli-rice, green bean, and potato.  Later, she tried to hide the sour look on her face when she reluctantly tasted a frothy pistachio green concoction known ominously as Watergate Salad.  At that point, I made a vow to break from my Texas ways and embrace some more “elegant” Yankee traditions.

That’s when I turned to Bon Appétit for help.  Over time, their November issue has provided easy-to-make upscale suggestions, many of which have become part of my repertoire.  No more canned cranberries—my crowd-pleasing recipe: Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel, my stained page torn out from BA, Nov. 2001.  After years of therapy, I’m adding an interpretation of a vegetable that I’ve hated for decades: brussels sprouts—the unpleasant smell of which I associate with my sister Paige’s after-school snack doused in vinegar.  BA’s advice?  Make them into a slaw—Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustard Dressing and Maple Glazed Pecans!

This year, we celebrate a very special moment at the table—it will be Chef’s first Thanksgiving as a certified United States citizen.  In honor, I’m tearing down my wall and am allowing him into the kitchen on this holiday.  His first suggestion?  Spice up the turkey and gravy.  At first I was suspect.  But then while I was flipping through an old BA, just a few pages down from my cranberry specialty, I spotted a recipe for a Citrus-Glazed Turkey with Chipotle Gravy.  A little immigrant influence never hurt anyone—why that’s what has made this country great!  Viva America!

The only downside?  A jazzed-up turkey is exactly the kind of food our guests expect from Chef, not me.  And that means no one will ever give me my hard-earned kitchen credit.  Good grief, a Charlie Brown Kitchen Knightmare for sure.

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