This Thanksgiving, Slow Down and Savor the Feast

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My Thanksgiving planning started a few weeks ago with an email from our friend, John, asking if we wanted to join him and his wife for dinner. We could eat out, he suggested, or stay in. “My preference is hosting here so we can drink a bunch of wine and enjoy some leftovers,” he noted.

slow-down-savor-thanksgivingMine, too, but I knew I’d have to bring my A game to the kitchen. John makes every gathering special, and as a certified wine pro studying to become a master sommelier, he has a particular knack for matching wine and food. So we spent some time putting together a menu of a dozen dishes for which he’ll be opening seven bottles of wine. To add to the fun, he’s even printed a menu for our “event.” By design, ours will be a long, leisurely Thanksgiving feast.

And that’s just as it should be.

I recently wrote a freelance piece about making the Thanksgiving meal a healthy one. I interviewed dietitians and chefs who all had great ideas for how to trim calories and fat without sacrificing flavor. One of my favorite tips, though, doesn’t require changing a thing about how you cook: Slow down the pace of the meal.

One of my favorite tips for creating a nourishing Thanksgiving doesn’t require changing a thing about how you cook: Simply slow down the pace of the meal.

You know how it goes: You spend weeks planning, shopping and cooking, set everything out on the buffet, and everyone loads up their plates and gobbles it all down in 20 minutes. “People tend to shovel it in, and then they’re in that turkey coma,” Nourish Network advisor Rebecca Katz, M.S., told me.

Slowing the pace is good for the cook and for the guests. People will take time to really savor the meal you’ve spent so much time preparing and cooking. And they’ll probably eat less, since it takes at least 15 minutes for your brain to get the message that you’re getting full. “The longer the meal lasts, the more time there is for digestion,” Katz reminded me. Everyone will leave the table satisfied but not stuffed.

Slowing down the meal is easy. Here are three strategies you can employ tomorrow.

  • Don’t serve everything at once. Offer appetizer items first and let people nibble, then move on to the turkey and trimmings, followed by dessert.
  • Use smaller plates. Oversize dinner plates just invite people to overload. Instead, use smaller plates; guests can take seconds of what they really want. There has been intriguing research finding that plate (or bowl or glass) size really does influence how much we eat.
  • Offer visual cues for smart portion sizes. You can prepare individual-size servings of items like desserts. For dishes like mashed potatoes or stuffing, put out an ice cream scooper instead of giant spoon so people can easily serve themselves moderate-sized portions.

Katz recommends starting the meal with little cups of soup. Her advice inspired this creamy mushroom soup, which is rich and luscious and gets Thanksgiving off to a relaxed start.

This Thanksgiving, give yourself and your loved ones the gift of a leisurely feast. They’ll be thankful for it!

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Cream of Mushroom Soup with Chanterelles

This mushroom soup employs an old restaurant strategy of using affordable button or cremini mushrooms, for the base, then garnishing with more expensive fungi. You can cook the soup, cool to room temperature and refrigerate the base and mushrooms for garnish in separate containers. Gently warm it up over medium-low heat. Serve in little teacups, demitasse cups or even shooters. This is lovely with Manchego and Nutmeg Gougeres.

cream-of-mushroom-soup-chanterelles1 ounce dried mushrooms (such as chanterelles, porcini, oysters or a mix)
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
sea salt to taste
8 ounces fresh cremini or button mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped shallot
Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup sherry
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Place dried mushrooms in a medium bowl. Cover with 2 cups hot water, and let stand 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving soaking liquid. Combine soaking liquid and stock in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and keep warm (do not boil).

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1-1/2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add rehydrated mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and cook 2-4 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring frequently. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl. Set aside approximately 1/2 cup of the prettiest specimens to use for garnish.

Heat remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons oil in pan. Add fresh mushrooms and shallot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook 2-4 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Increase heat to medium-high, and stir in the sherry. Simmer 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Whisk flour into stock mixture. Stir stock mixture into mushroom mixture, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 30 minutes. Add reserved rehydrated mushrooms (except the ones you’re using for garnish). Puree soup in a blender or food processor until smooth (or use an immersion blender to puree it in the pot). Stir in cream and adjust seasoning as needed. Ladle soup into cups and garnish with reserved rehydrated mushrooms.

Yields about 4 cups; serves 6-8