Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From Inception to Execution: Things Never Come Out As Planned... And For That We Are Grateful

Adaptability and patience; these are perhaps the most challenging assets that we as humans have and must develop in our lives. To say that life is always full of surprises is not only an overused cliché but does not even come close to how much anything that is planned could potentially change at a whim. Yet, these changes are what makes life… beautiful.

The real tale of our Thanksgiving is one which we could have never predicted, but the reality was amazing.  In order to properly tell it we must go back to the beginning.  A story which I hinted at in my previous post.

On Saturday November 20th, some friends which we had recently meet were shooting a pilot for a new show they were just developing. The setting for this episode was going to be a Worth Kitchen dinner. As the apartment was being lit and the cameramen were shooting Tamy and myself prepping the food and the apartment, I received a call from my parents telling me that my grandfather had just passed away. In shock and not knowing what exactly I needed to do next, I continued cooking. It was Tamy and Evita (producer and camerawoman) that took action and started packing up the equipment. It was 7:30 at the time that Evita and Beto (the other cameraman) left and at 11:30 both Tamy and myself were sitting on a plane on our way to Bogota.

Funerals are very sad, and this case was not different. However I do not share this with you guys looking for any condolence, my grandfather was 98 years old and he lived a very rich and full life. He brought us together as a family to wish him a sweet  (bittersweet) farewell. Our trip to Colombia was quick and unexpected, yet an amazing chance to reconnect with family members I have not seen in a while, especially my Grandmother.

There was a very special moment Tamy and I shared with my Grandmother, in the middle of a restaurant surrounded by uncles and cousins. She silently taps our shoulders and tells us “please do not say thank you nor any comments. You are the only ones I have a gift for and I do not want anyone else to know.” She slips a very small package into Tamy’s hand and tells us “This is a very lucky item that used to be my Grandmother’s and I want you to have it for your kitchen.” Its really the small details like this one that can completely change your day, your week, or your perspective.  We now had in our hands an amazing family heirloom that is over 150 years old… passed on to us in one of the sweetest ways possible. A great close to an emotional 4 days in Colombia.

And like that we found ourselves on our next plane heading to Mexico for our very intimate family Thanksgiving. The first of two Thanksgiving dinners that we had planned. Yes, I know, TWO!  And we took it upon ourselves to cook the two dinner’s on Thursday and Friday. You see, my friends from Mexico love the Thanksgiving tradition, not just because of the food, but because it’s a moment where the old high school group of friends, friends who have remained very close since our graduation, can come together and have a great time. Plus, they have been complaining how unfair it is that they have not participated in a Worth Kitchen event, so what better opportunity than this to have a special Thursday AND Friday dinner.

So friends, I present to you the very special Thanksgiving menus and pictures from our traveling roadshow in Mexico.

Dinner #1 Traditional Thanksgiving Menu
Lima Bean salad with pickled onions & cilantro

Italian inspired turkey with rosmeary, basil, & white wine as well as roasted vegetables
(gravy was made from turkey broth, drippings and all roasted veggies blended)
Stuffing - Italian bread stuffing with basil an Parmesan cheese
Mashed potatoes with hazelnut and cinammon
Candied Yams
Green beans with almonds and cilantro

Pecan Pie (store bought... I know but I did not have time to do everything! We arrived at 3:30 AM that day)

Plating the salad... man I love that kitchen!
The turkey just before it was removed from the oven. You might notice a small hole where the rosemary is coming out from, I stuffed it with butter and rosemary for additional flavor and tenderness.
The appetizer on the table as was set for the dinner. Notice the wine on the top left? Quintessa 1996. So good!
And this is what a traditional Thanksgiving plate looks like in the Donnelly Family household. I am pretty sure it is very similar as many home across the States. This one happens to be in Mexico.
Dinner #2 (On Friday) Thanksgiving a la Mexicana

Nopales (cactus) salad with red and green tomatoes and fresh cheese on a bed of stuffing souffle

Chipotle-honey rubbed turkey with kumquats and rosemary and "chile de arbol" pickled onions
Cilantro Pasta
Green beans with almonds and cilantro (we had a lot of green beans)

Yam (sweet potato) Crème Brulée

The turkey before going into the oven with a close up of the chipotle rub, rosemary and juicy kumquats.
The nopal salad lying on top of the stuffing. If you have never tried cactus before, it is very delicious, highly recommended. Every once in a while you can find them in Chelsea Market, but almost year round in Spanish Harlem markets.
Prepping the dishes as everyone awaits in the table behind me. 
And this is my take on a Mexican Thanksgiving. The gravy was made by reducing the juices and drippings from the turkey. The onions have been sitting in vinegar and chile juice for three days, they were SPICY! So good! And yes, the plates definitely added some additional Mexican flavor.
And this was the group of friends for whom we cooked the non-traditional (but what I hope will become a tradition) Thanksgiving. There is one important person missing from this picture due to the fact that he left early (once he saw the tequila being poured), my Dad. He joined us for the entire dinner.
Also missing is a picture of the dessert. They all came out terrible, however, the combination of yams in a crème brulée was definitely delicious and highly recommended for anyone to try.

Over all the Thanksginvings were amazing. And for all of those who donated to the Children's Cancer fund in Mexico, we raised $1,200. A great figure, especially considering all the complications we had leading up to the event. A very special Thank You to all of you who donated, and to all of you who helped us out so much in this project.

Adaptability and Patience is a virtue, but one we should always be thankful for as well.


  1. Awww that last picture is fabulous!

    I'm sorry to hear about your grandpa and your dad's cancer, although glad to hear he's doing better. Tell your parents hi for me. :)

  2. the grandma moment was amazing!