It takes more than a perfect menu to make a great holiday. It takes at least one good tradition, and sometimes those come from the craziest sources.
Thing1 had graciously offered to spend his first afternoon home from college helping me with the big shopping trip for the big meal that was coming up on Thursday. The sentimental part of his brain (coincidentally attached directly to his stomach) had apparently suggested that any Thanksgiving dinner would be incomplete without now just one or two of his favorite recipes, but all of them, and he had ideas about the shopping list.
The final list included ingredients for his favorite green beans, the boys’ favorite cranberry relish, enough stuffing ingredients to feed an entire village, and, finally, burnt bottoms.
Yep, you read that right. With Thing1’s help, I finally realized that our family’s signature recipe for every holiday meal includes a big basket of buttery, flaky, burnt bottoms. Here’s how I make them:
I start with only the best ingredients:
- Enough tubes of Crescent rolls to meet the real and imagined capacity of two average teenaged boys (I just get what’s left in the freezer case).
- A functioning timer
- One too many irons in the fire (or pots in the oven as the situation permits)
- Optional ingredients (one, maybe two, glasses of wine or a good conversation)
I roll out the crescent roll dough from the tube and then re-roll the pre-cut dough from the fat end of the triangle to the skinny end (The boys and/or their cousins often volunteer).
We then put rolls on a cookie sheet after a good debate over whether eating rolls baked on a non-stick coating or a greased metal sheet will be worse for us 20 years from now. We set the oven to recommended temperature, put the sheet in and set the timer. I used to be tempted to set the timer a little early to keep the bottoms nice and golden, but this strategy somehow always backfire.
Someone usually pours a glass of wine, and I go back to preparing the rest of the meal, often talking with a family member or other guest about food or some other non-distracting topic like politics.
When the timer goes off, I check the oven to confirm that rolls are almost but not quite done. I set the timer for another minute or two – or, actually, I don’t – I know I’ll remember to check them again before they get too well-done just like I’ve never done for the last 23 years.
This year I deviated from the routine, setting the old-fashioned timer with the bell along with the timer on my phone. It was Thing1’s first Thanksgiving as a college man, and I wanted the dinner to be perfect. But the bell rang, and the bottoms weren’t even done.
I set out the cranberry relish and the stuffing and completely missed the buzzer on the phone. It was only as I pulled out the green bean recipe that a distinctly smoky smell made it clear that I’d done it again.
“Oh man,” I moaned and then laughed as I pulled out the first cookie sheet. To be clear, I am not the only hostess in my family cursed with the inability to serve anything but burnt bottoms in the bread basket, but, I was sure this Thanksgiving would break the curse.
I hollered the bad, but expected, news to my oldest son who blurted out what he had asserted in the grocery store when I presented the option for an alternative starchy side dish just a few days earlier:
“It wouldn’t be the holidays without a burnt bottom, Mom! Now Thanksgiving can officially begin!”
And when I thought about it each time, it wouldn’t be the holidays without at least one good inside joke.
What’s your signature dish?
P.S. The burnt bottoms get eaten every single year – every single one.