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Thanksgiving for the Culinarily Challenged
Did you have a happy Halloween? Good, because now it’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. It’s true, we’re upon the time of year where the special occasions come on fast and furious.
Thanksgiving needn’t worry you or stress you out. It’s perfectly acceptable to let someone else do all the cooking for you, or most of the cooking for you. Not everyone is a wiz in the kitchen, which is why there are professional chefs.
There are two choices, going out and staying in. Each has its own advantages. When you go out, absolutely everything is done for you, from turkey to fixings to dessert, and sometimes there are even more choices than one would find on a “traditional” Thanksgiving table. The major plus is the cleanup: you have none at all. The primary disadvantage is that it’s a fight against the clock to get home to your couch before the tryptophan renders you helpless.
Staying in with a catered meal has several advantages including being close to any of the televised games you’d want to watch. If you’re especially adept it’s possible your guests will never know you hadn’t been slaving in the kitchen for days. Being in a home – family’s, friend’s, your’s – feels, well, homey on a day that’s about being thankful and together. If you don’t want to leave your whole meal to the professionals, it’s easy to supplement what you do really well – the best brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, and green beans ever – with something you’ve never been able to master – your dry turkey people only nibble on out of politeness. The worst part about having the meal at home is the cleanup.
First, going out:
Benny’s Chop House will have a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner from noon to 9pm on the big day, November 22. Chef Jonathan Lane will take care of everything, beginning with your choice of butternut squash soup or salad. You won’t have to choose between light and dark meat, because this meal includes both turkey breast and leg. Sides are chestnut stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and apple-sage gravy. If you possibly can eat any more, the meal ends with a slice of Pastry Chef Aaron Lindgren’s pumpkin pie. All this for less than $35 for adults and $17.99 for children under 12. Not having to do any cooking or cleaning? Priceless. Reservations at bennyschophouse.com or (312) 626-2444.
Perhaps your appetite is larger, or you want the option of something other than a traditional turkey dinner. Maxwell’s at the Club, the East Bank Club’s signature restaurant is offering a Thanksgiving buffet from 1pm to 7pm on November 22. For $45 ($12 for children 10 and under) you can get turkey and trimmings, of course, but also prime rib and leg of lamb. Along with the carving station, Executive Chef Mike Lodes will be overseeing a buffet that includes chilled shrimp salad, fingerling potato salad, pancetta and gorgonzola green bean salad, and others. And then there are the sides such as roasted butternut squash, maple roasted sweet potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and sautéed brussels sprouts. For good measure, there will be roasted seafood and chicken piccata. But save room for dessert including fruit, cakes, tortes, cookies, cupcakes, pumpkin pie, and pecan bars. So much food! So few dishes! Reservations can be made online or via phone, (312) 527-5800 ext. 301.
Just because you live in the suburbs doesn’t mean you want to (or can) cook any more than city folk. Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook has you covered. On November 22 from 2:30pm to 7pm Chefs Sara Stegner and George Bumbaris are offering a traditional turkey dinner. After a choice of butternut squash soup or salad that includes seasonal touches of pumpkin seeds and pomegranate, roasted turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy will be served. Sides include apple chestnut stuffing, sweet potato puree with homemade marshmallow, fresh vegetables, and cranberry sauce. Dessert includes choices between pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and double chocolate cake. Reservations for the $47 meal can be made at (847) 205-4433.
If dining at home suits your style better:
The East Bank Club’s Food Shop can do all your cooking and you can get all the glory. The Thanksgiving menu has a variety of items, including many non-traditional dishes, so you can be the host who thinks the most of your guests. Or, if the myriad choices from the a la carte menu are too daunting, the Thanksgiving Package (serves ten) a whole roast turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and a choice of two seasonal sides. Orders must be placed by Friday, November 16 by calling (312) 527-5800 ext. 318, and can be picked up all day (9am to 9pm) Wednesday, November 21 and until noon on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 22.
Prairie Grass Cafe has you covered out there in Northbrook. No need to stress when the professionals are in charge of the traditional turkey dinner, or parts thereof. Whole or half turkeys with gravy are available, of course. There are two different types of stuffing, apple sage and sausage and giblet. I’d go for both, since all the sides – including mashed potatoes, sweet potato puree, green beans, brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts, and cranberry sauce – are available in pint and quart sizes it’s easy to mix things up. And since the meal wouldn’t be complete without dessert, whole pumpkin pies, pecan pies, and double chocolate cakes are available. Orders from the Thanksgiving To-Go Menu can be placed by calling (847) 205-4433 by Sunday, November 18. Pickups are between noon and 3pm on Thanksgiving Day.
It’s not too early to think about turkey day since most conversations in November begin with, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” That’s a fact.