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Tips, tools & advice from the pros on how to serve an elegant Thanksgiving meal • Brooklyn Paper

Tips, tools & advice from the pros on how to serve an elegant Thanksgiving meal

Table it: Hand-painted Gien ceramic ware, from A Brooklyn Table.
The Brooklyn Papers / Dennis W. Ho

Picture this: it’s Thanksgiving Day and your 15 guests are
due to arrive in several hours. You’re hunched over your gourmet
cookbook and your turkey. The day speeds effortlessly along, and
then, boom!

Disaster strikes.

Your recipe reads, “Put one plastic brining bag inside the
other to create double thickness. Fold back the top one-third of
the bag to form a collar.”

You panic. What bags? A collar?

It is then that you realize that making the perfect Thanksgiving
turkey requires more preparation than simply buying the 14-pound
bird, but now, all the stores are closed.

This year, don’t get stuck in a turkey rut without your metaphorical
brining bags. With suggestions and hints from several local merchants,
this holiday guide is all you’ll need to prevent your next
turkey tragedy. These Brooklyn entrepreneurs have given us tips
on where to save and where to splurge and suggestions for setting
an elegant table.

Jennifer Baron, owner of A Cook’s Companion in Brooklyn Heights,
and Joanne Tarzian, owner of Tarzian West in Park Slope, both agree
that the number one essential splurge item for Thanksgiving is a
high quality roasting pan.

Baron and Tarzian both suggest the All-Clad heavy gauge roasting
pan for $199.

“[The All-Clad roasting pan] is an investment,” says Meghan
Dunn, a Tarzian West employee. “It will last forever.”

Evelyn Luciano, a sales associate at A Cook’s Companion, explains
this pricey pan’s charms: “The heavier the gauge [of the
roasting pan], the browner and more even the cooking.”

And, Dunn suggests, as a substitute, the less expensive Chicago
Metallic roasting pan for $28 will get you through the lean years.

“It’s a good pan. You’ll just need to replace it
every few years,” she says.

Also high on the splurge list is a first-rate carving knife. Baron
says that as long as you invest in a top-notch carving knife, you
can use any old carving fork because, she opines, “A fork really
is just a fork.”

Baron highly recommends a hollow ground Wusthof carving knife, specifically
the 9-inch slicer for $90.

Of the knife’s quality, Luciano says, “The blade is ridged
with grantons [scalloped edges], which create air pockets as you
slice, and the food falls right off the knife.”

Tarzian also recommends the Mercer carving set for $65.99 for those
who desire the aesthetic value of a knife-and-fork set.
“An electric knife can work really well, too,” says Tarzian,
and suggests the Cuisinart electric knife for $49.99.

Baron’s next pick for the splurge list is a grooved cutting
board; she sells a large array of them in her store, but personally
recommends the Epicurean 18-by-13 grooved cutting board for $60
and Totally Bamboo’s Kona Groove Board for $45, as it is “lovely,
handcrafted, and made of sustainable grass.”

Tarzian agrees with Baron about the Epicurean board and loves it
because “It’s easy to clean and doesn’t absorb food
odors.”

And on the splurge list for serious bakers, Tarzian loves the KitchenAid
stand mixer, which starts at $269 and comes in a dozen colors.

“It’s great for baking, because you don’t have to
hold the mixer the whole time like you do with a handheld,”
she says.

And for a pie crust that keeps your guests satisfied, Baron recommends
a simple Pyrex pie dish for $5.50, which she says, “makes a
wonderful crust.”

Baron and her staff also have a couple fun items they love. One
of them is The Food Loop, a silicone trussing tool that is reusable,
dishwasher safe, and only $14.95 for six loops.

“It’s better than string or twine, because it’s reusable,
easier to use, and better for the environment,” says Luciano.

While the roasting pan and high-end knife are certainly Thanksgiving
tools you can’t do without, there are some smaller items that
can be easily forgotten. A Cook’s Companion and Tarzian West
both publish Thanksgiving checklists, which they are happy to share
with customers. Among the smaller items on the checklists are a
gravy separator, turkey lacers, potato ricer, meat thermometer,
turkey baster, and last, but not least, brining bags.

Baron and Tarzian both carry inexpensive models of these must-haves.
A popular money-saving brand is OXO Good Grips, which Baron advises
for many of the smaller fundamentals. For the turkey baster, Baron
mentions a $2 model as well as a more high-end model by Harold’s
Kitchen for $20.

Of the difference, Baron says, “You can certainly reinvent
the mousetrap, but this $2 baster does the job.”


Setting the table

As for the decorative side of Thanksgiving, we take you to A Brooklyn
Table, in Cobble Hill. The store features several sample table settings
in gorgeous patterns and motifs for fall, and co-owner Carolyn Humphrey
tells us which ones are best.

Humphrey, who co-owns the store with Nathalie Roy, loves the Gien
cookware from France, which transfers from freezer to oven to table
for the most hassle-free meal. The cookware features animal motifs;
a Gien oval baking dish is $60.

For the purist, there is the Juliskah cookware, which also multi-tasks,
and is in the same price range as Gien. Humphrey loves the Juliskah,
because “it comes in a thousand shapes and sizes and it’s
white, so it mixes with anything.”

As for her own decorative preferences, Humphrey recommends inexpensive
garlands, which she says look great interspersed with votives for
an understated, elegant table. She also sells more high-end real
dry flower arrangements, which start at $24.

Humphrey gushes over the Vagabond acorn sauceboat in pewter, and
also from Vagabond, a set of bird-shaped salt and pepper shakers
for their design and function.

Linens from A Brooklyn Table range from inexpensive ($24 for tablecloth
and $4 per napkin) to opulent ($300 for a tablecloth and $32 per
napkin).


Wine and dine

If you have no idea which wine to pair with your meal, stop by Red,
White & Bubbly
in Park Slope, where the unpretentious wine
experts will gladly send you home with the perfect grape for your
feast.

Wine sommelier and Red, White & Bubbly owner Darrin Siegfried
cites his personal favorite for Thanksgiving as a Pinot Noir, and
recommends Gruet, NV Brut as his “favorite bubbly.” And
for those who “just have to have red,” Siegfried loves
Prejean winery’s Marechal Foch.

Five
guaranteed-to-be-a-hit hostess gifts

1.
Stonewall Kitchen spreads, such as caramel apple
butter, ($8.95 from Classic Impressions) and Tag cheese spreaders
in fun patterns and colors ($12.99 from Tarzian West)

2. Extra-virgin olive oil in decorative bottles ($10-$20 from
Tarzian West or Classic Impressions) and the Cocktail Food
Deck, a set of recipes for “50 finger foods with attitude”
($14.95 at Tarzian West)

3. Tea Forte porcelain teacup ($20) and Hannah’s Delights
pumpkin spice tea biscuits ($7.99, both from Classic Impressions)

4. Apron with Brooklyn Bridge design ($20 from Classic Impressions)

5. Silicone oven mitts ($19.99 from Tarzian West)