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Thanksgiving in the City
SPONSORED: How to get "All The Best" of Thanksgiving without the slaving away in the kitchen part

I’m a Generation Y foodie with a fiery passion for pumpkin pie (naked please, no cream), but unfortunately, this year, the way my work schedule’s going, I’m not sure I’ll get my fix.

Here’s the deal as I see it this week: For so many young professionals in the city, the holidays tend to hash up memories of their mothers’ perfectly roasted turkey, their aunts’ home-made pumpkin pie and their grandmas’ famous lump-free gravy. Thanksgiving weekend means putting our feet up, enjoying a few of those cocktail sausage rolls, and passing out at 9 o’clock in a food induced coma. Having somewhat recently left their families’ nests to build a life of their own, a lot of these Gen-Yers have yet to work planning a holiday menu, shopping for groceries, and staying up all night rolling out flaky pastry dough into the holiday tradition. And hey, it’s not because we’re all lazy bums (keyword: all), but rather there are a vast range of legitimate reasons why this trend seems apparent. Here’s an overview of what I heard from various 20 and 30-something year olds on the streets of Toronto last week.

One popular sentiment was that the mere idea of roasting a turkey safely and without burning down the house was anxiety provoking in itself. This is not really surprising considering the well-documented decline in food skills in the Gen-Y population and the disappearance of Home Ec. Classes across Canada. Today, many young Canadians’ exposure to the kitchen is limited to what they watch on prime time Food Network and for many, that leaves a disconnect between the watching and the doing.

Likely tied to this de-emphasis on kitchen prowess is the disappearance of kitchens themselves! Real estate in the city is expensive and in demand – who really has room for the 8-burner stovetop, stand mixer, deep-fryer, pressure-cooker and plating station that is required to prep an elaborate meal?

 

Even those who love to eat and cook feel the pressure of hectic work schedules cutting into essential shopping, prepping and cook time. So, an 8-course dinner party? Yah, pretty much an impossible task. 

Another common concern is with the practicality of cooking a large meal for a small family. Unlike their parents or grandparents, many young professionals today don’t have a gaggle of energy-consuming kids to feed, and who can justify roasting a 20 lb bird simply to satisfy a tradition for one or two adults? 

And then, there are always those who don’t even have a chance to consider the food logistics of the upcoming holiday- all that really matters is the prospects of a much needed day off work.  And that of course includes time off food work, too! 

With these sorts of responses, it would seem that for many young professionals in the city like myself, the dining room table (if we even have one) is looking not-so bountiful this holiday season. And sure, we could all just head back to the nest and let our 85 year old grandparents wait on us over the long weekend, but maybe it’s time to relieve ol’ Nanna of the burden and make everyone a little more thankful. 

Enter the pre-made Thanksgiving feast- the way the new professional generation can embrace “culinary tradition” for as long as their finances, family sizes, work-schedules, and kitchen skills (or lack thereof) necessitate. This holiday season, specialty food stores like Summerhill’s All the Best Fine Foods are making the holidays simple with pre-cooked Thanksgiving staples sold either as a pre-fixe option or on an a la carte per serving basis. That means that a full holiday dinner can be as easy as ticking off a few boxes on an order form, and as tasty as Nanna’s classic spread.

I found out about All the Best’s holiday menu when they participated in September’s Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium event supplying their house-made Ontario Apple Sauce as the secret ingredient.  In the week leading up to the event, their kitchen staff had painstakingly peeled, diced and cooked down 15 bushels of local apples- a sheer passion for quality that was evident in the comforting applesauce end product.  It’s that exact human passion that you can particularly appreciate and taste when sitting down to a holiday meal.  Even if you’re not the one slaving over the kitchen this holiday, the holiday meals from All the Best still exude a certain level of love that we all search for around the dinner table at this time of year.

All the Best has been preparing their Thanksgiving meals since their opening in 1984 using produce from local farms, naturally raised meats and poultry and high quality ingredients with no added chemicals or preservatives. I’d call that a culinary leap from the sugar saturated canned cranberries, and powdered stuffing mix I was contemplating using to fill the void this particularly hectic year. 

Their executive chef, Nicole Rumball, has worked with co-owners Jane Rodmell and Susan Merry to develop traditional recipes for juicy roast turkey, homemade stuffing, luscious gravy, tangy cranberry sauce, maple glazed squash, mashed potatoes and a mean pumpkin pie. We’re talking about a pie so flaky, sweet, and flawlessly spiced, it doesn’t need to hide under cream. I even managed to weasel their top secret recipe out of them (see below), but who knows if or when I’ll have time to use it.

And sure, while All the Best’s holiday meal is an ideal solution for young busy people like me who have little time to even read a holiday recipe, never mind actually use one, Rodmell suggested that it fits the needs of all sorts of demographics.  Ultimately, it makes the otherwise hectic holiday “relaxed and joyful, even for the cook!” 

So if you started reading this piece in the same state I was in when started writing it — anxious about this year’s Thanksgiving meal — I hope you’re now breathing a sigh of relief. To the culinarily handicapped, the space-starved, the small family, the overworked and the just plain forgetful, let All the Best bring you a new Thanksgiving tradition this year— sitting down with the people you love (even if it’s just your cat) and being thankful someone else worried about perfecting the meal.

You can order your perfect Thanksgiving lunch or dinner using All the Best’s order form, pop by their Summerhill location, or even visit their brand new Church St. storefront open just in time for the holiday rush.

 

The Best Pumpkin Pie

Serves 6

When you are all set to make your pumpkin pie for this year’s Thanksgiving Feast why not start from scratch with your own homemade pumpkin purée? Small ‘pie’ pumpkins are now available (and clearly labeled) at Greenbelt farmers’ markets — pick one up this weekend and savour locally-grown, harvest flavour.

Ingredients:

9-inch (23 cm) pie plate

1 small ‘pie’ pumpkin
2 eggs
¼ cup granulated sugar           (60 ml)

3 tbsp brown sugar                 (45 ml)

11/2 tsp ground cinnamon      (7 ml)
1 tsp ground ginger                 (5 ml)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg   (1 ml)
¼ tsp salt                                (1 ml)
²/3 cup whipping (35%) cream (150 ml)
11/2 tbsp brandy, opt             (22 ml)

9-inch (23 cm) Sweet Short Crust or Flaky Pie Pastry Crust in 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate partially baked

Preparation:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C).  Cut pumpkin in half; scrape away seeds and fiber and place cut side down on an oiled baking sheet.  Cover with foil and bake in a 350°F (180°C) oven until very tender.  Timing will vary from 35 minutes to over an hour depending on the size and density of the pumpkin.  Cool cooked squash, then remove peel and mash until very smooth.  Force purée through a fine-meshed sieve for extra smooth texture, if you wish.  Cool and refrigerate.  Reserve 1½ cups (375 ml) pumpkin purée for this 9-inch pie.  Freeze extra purée for future use. 
  1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or with a whisk, beat eggs and granulated and brown sugar together until combined and smooth and pale in colour.  Add pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.  With electric mixer or using a wooden spoon, stir to combine. Fold in cream and brandy, if desired.  Place pie plate lined with a partially baked pastry shell on a baking sheet.  Fill with pumpkin mixture.  Bake in preheated oven until pastry is golden and filling is just set, 40 to 45 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

Serve at room temperature or chilled, perhaps with a spoonful of lightly sweetened vanilla – or brandy-flavoured whipped cream on the side.

Note: Do not overcook pumpkin pie or the filling will dry out and crack.  We recommend removing the pie from the oven when the filling is puffed around the edges and just beginning to be firm in the centre.

Other pumpkin options: On market shelves you’ll find canned Pumpkin Purée that is super convenient, versatile, available all year long, and allows you to adjust sweetness and spicing to your personal taste. You may substitute 11/2 cups (375 ml) canned Pumpkin Purée in the recipe above.  Do not use canned Pumpkin Pie Filling:  it is already sweetened and spiced.

Adapted from “All The Best Recipes” by Jane Rodmell, Robert Rose 2009.  For additional recipes and updates, visit www.allthebestfinefoods.com or follow @allthebestff on Twitter.

* This article was posted as part of Toronto Standard’s media sponsorship of Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium.

____

Abbey Sharp is a Dietitian (RD), home chef, food writer, blogger & media personality. Follow her on Twitter at @AbbeysKitchen.

For more, follow us on Twitter at @torontostandard, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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