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Friday, November 11, 2011

It's a Delgado Thanksgiving

Almost 7 years ago I married a wonderful man... my other half, my better half.  At this time, "A" was the co-owner of a hotel in my hometown.  It just so happens that he lived in this hotel before we met, and after we married I moved into the hotel as well.  It was as glamorous as it sounds in that we had a very large suite with an oversized jacuzzi tub, small kitchen, and a living area.  We never ran out of toilet paper, we always had fresh and clean towels, and I never had to clean or make the bed if I didn't want to (although I never asked the housekeeping staff to do such things for us). 

The best thing about living in this hotel was the banquet center and the large commercial kitchen that came with it.  I had access to two double convection ovens, a steamer, 2 ranges equaling 8 gas burners, two 6 foot stainless steel prep tables, a walk in cooler, and a walk in freezer all at my convenience.  Let's not forget about tables and chairs, linens, china, glassware, chaffing dishes, etc etc.  The little lightbulb above my head lit up one "brilliant" October afternoon when I thought "I could put on the most awesome Thanksgiving ever!"

I printed a menu for a fairly traditional Thanksgiving feast including appetizers and dessert along with a pretty little invitation.  30 guests later we filled the large meeting room with friends and family from all over the state.  I convinced myself that preparing Thanksgiving dinner for 30 people mostly by myself was no big task since I had all the equipment and oven space I needed to pull it off with flying colors.

Oh my goodness I was a wreck!  I did some prep work the night before, but not near enough.  I remember I was near tears when I heard the first guests had arrived and I forgot to put the appetizers in the oven.  I think "A" was courageous enough to walk in the kitchen once to see how everything was going.  I can't imagine what he saw, but he immediately put his hands up and slowly backed out.  Maybe I looked a little crazy with my hair all a mess, mascara running down my face, food smeared all over my apron (thank God I remembered to put one on), and a carving knife in my hand.  My poor brother in law came in after that to lend a hand and ended up carving the two turkeys for me.  Did I mention he's a vegetarian??

As it turns out, everyone was more than content in the meeting room and I was the only one freaking out... as usual.  "A" helped me wheel all the food in, and everyone was as impressed as I had hoped they would be.  I received endless compliments on the meal and that made the insanity all worth it.  In fact, family and friends still talk about it.  We sold and moved out of the hotel the following year, but I'll always remember that first Thanksgiving for us, and what a great time it ended up to be.

When entertaining guests, never underestimate the importance of appetizers.  They sure can buy you some time if you're running behind in the kitchen.  I have included a couple of my favorite recipes that can be prepared in advance and warmed when needed.  Just don't forget that you have them and try to remember to put them in the oven!

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Gorgonzola and Hazlenuts
1/2 lb of center cut bacon
1 pint of pitted dates
4 ounces crumbled gorgonzola
1/4 cup finely chopped hazlenuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the gorgonzola and hazlenuts.  Spoon filling into dates.  Wrap dates with bacon and secure with a toothpick.  Place wrapped dates in an oven safe baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes or until warmed through.

Don't like the dates?  No problem.  Cook your bacon until crisp.  Combine gorgonzola and hazlenuts together.  Crumble bacon into cheese mixture and stir together.  Stuff filling into cleaned and stemmed mushroom caps and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until warmed through.  Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar to finish.

Crab Phyllo Cups
1 cup chopped imitation crab meat
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon horseradish
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 package frozen phyllo tart shells
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Combine crab, cream cheese, horseradish, mayo, and chives together in a bowl until well blended.  Spoon filling into the phyllo tart shells.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until warm and bubbly. 

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