T-Minus 6: Weekend Projects

Score! It's the weekend. But this week, there's no time for cartoons and lazy pancake breakfasts. We've got serious business to attend to -- buying wine and determining (and maybe even getting a start on) dessert.

I caught up with Andrea Closkey, one of my favorite local winos, to get her thoughts on how and what to buy for next week's feast. Closkey oversees wine events and education at Best Cellars in Arlington, Va.

What should I serve while guests are arriving?
"Start things off with nice acidic wines, such as an Italian Chianti or a Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity in these wines make your mouth water and gets people thinking of the food. These are your aperitifs."

What goes with turkey and the trimmings?
For red, Closkey suggests a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais Nouveau (first day of release was yesterday, Nov. 17) and in the white category, Riesling.

"You can't miss with any of these," says Closkey. "They already have so much structure. They're light on tannins, so they cut through the fat of the food. It's a refreshing way to cleanse the palate."

What about dessert sippers?
"If you really want to be sassy, try a Madeira with something like a chocolate pecan pie," says Closkey. "I call it the Superman of wines. It never really breaks down, so you can save it for next year, and it still tastes as good. Its nutty character softens up the pie. It's one of my favorite pairings."
"I'm also a big fan of champagne with dessert," continues Closkey. "It's a great palate cleanser and a great way to end the meal."

What's a big Thanksgiving wine no-no?
Big tannic reds, like Cabernet, says Closkey. "With big reds, you're gonna remember the wine and not the food, and that's not fair to the cook."

Other suggestions:

Estimate ½ bottle per person, which is about two glasses.

Don't over pour, says Closkey. Fill a glass only one-third so that the wine can breathe and that your guests don't feel obligated to drink a full glass.

Take advantage of free tastings at area wine stores (Arrowine, Wine Specialist, Bell's, Curious Grape, Best Cellars, to name a few); it's a great way to develop your wine palate and learn about food pairings.

For more a list of holiday-centric wines under $20, check columnist Ben Giliberti's picks from this week's Food section.

Sweet Stuff:

If you're thinking about pies, the weekend is a good time to make the dough so that you're not running around like Lucille Ball on Wednesday night. Dough made on the weekend can be sectioned, wrapped and frozen until Tuesday. Thaw in fridge, then roll out when you're ready to bake.

I'm a big fan of using apple cider vinegar in my pie dough; it's like the magic ingredient that keeps dough from having a tantrum. For how-to details on making dough, plus a filling of apples, rosemary and pinenuts, check out my video.

Another tried and true Thanksgiving-esque treat is a pumpkin bread pudding that I cribbed years ago from one of Bobby Flay's cookbooks. What I love about this recipe is that you only use half of the pumpkin bread in the pudding, so the other half is breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. Advance weekend prep note: You can make the pumpkin bread and wrap it until pudding time.

Earlier this fall, I got inspired to take one of my favorite cocktails, the Dark n' Stormy, and put into dessert form. After some mad scientist kitcheneering, I came up with a Dark 'n Stormy Pear Crisp, which does my rum/ginger elixir justice. With in-season pears and a crunchy pecan topping, this crisp is an O'Donnel keeper.

Although you can't really make the crisp one too far in advance, you could shop for local pears at your neighborhood farm market this weekend. Those still open include Arlington Courthouse, Columbia Pike, Freshfarm at Dupont Circle and Takoma Park.


By kimodo |  November 17, 2005; 11:54 PM ET  | Category:  Desserts , Thanksgiving , Wine and Spirits
Previous: T-Minus 7: Turkey Tools, Pie Love, Get Your Chat Groove On | Next: T-Minus 3: Pumpkin Pie Made With What?

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Hey, Kim!

The link to your Dark 'n Stormy Pear Crisp doesn't seem to be working. Could you re-post it? That sounds like something I'd like to try!

Thanks!

Posted by: Phyl | November 19, 2005 03:46 AM

Hey Phyl,
Thanks for letting me know. The Dark n' Stormy Pear Crisp link is now working. Do try it -- it's a goodie.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 19, 2005 09:07 AM

Good morning,
Could you post the spiced nuts recipe? Thanks!

Posted by: AVR | November 19, 2005 11:22 AM

Hello Kim !
Was wondering if I just throw out the brine mix after pulling out the turkey and cooking it...Just seems a waste...Can it be used for anything ??

Posted by: Rich | November 20, 2005 10:20 AM

Hi Rich:
Think of the brine as your turkey's aromatherapy bath water and then maybe you won't feel so bad discarding it. Sorry to say, but you don't want to be messing with a solution that's been "infused" with raw poultry.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 20, 2005 12:15 PM

Hi Kim! My brother convinced my mother to do the 2 hour turkey method -- ever heard of this? You cook the turkey in a seriously hot oven for an hour or more? and then let it for the rest of the time. Supposedly this results in a moist bird. Your thoughts?

Posted by: Jo | November 21, 2005 11:32 AM

Hi Kim! My brother convinced my mother to do the 2 hour turkey method -- ever heard of this? You cook the turkey in a seriously hot oven for an hour or more? and then let it sit out for the rest of the time. Supposedly this results in a moist bird. Your thoughts?

Posted by: Jo | November 21, 2005 11:33 AM

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