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Cooking in College: Helping out with the year’s biggest meal

The American tradition of shamelessly eating enough food to feed a small town is approaching, but it’s always important to be thankful for how the food comes to be. What better way to appreciate how the food is prepared than trying to prepare it yourself?

Now, I’m not suggesting that all college students should make entire Thanksgiving spreads on their own — although it’s very rewarding. But take the time this year to help whoever is cooking the whole eight-course meal. They’ll appreciate the assistance. Help them with the turkey by basting it, which is scooping up the hot juices around the turkey and coating the top with it. You could also help with moving things on and off the stovetop or in and out of the oven.

Or alternatively, also offer to even take over making a dish. I suggest — especially if you aren’t extremely confident in your cooking abilities — doing something easy, like mashed potatoes or turkey gravy. Both dishes are integral parts of the Thanksgiving experience, and they are easy to make en masse for however many people are eating.

If you decide to take over both, consider that it’s easy to do them at the same time because they have some free time built into the recipes. For example, while the turkey drippings are simmering in the chicken stock, the water for the potatoes can start boiling while the potatoes themselves get diced.

When making the turkey gravy, a very important part of the recipe is the turkey drippings, which you’ll have to get from around the turkey itself. Coordinate with whoever is making the turkey to get these drippings, which add flavor to the chicken stock.

Another point to consider is the thickness of the gravy. Everyone has different preferences regarding the texture of their gravy, and gravy can only get so thick through simmering. If it still isn’t thick enough for your tastes after simmering for 15 or so minutes, consider adding a small amount of corn starch.

With the recipes I’ve provided, it’s easy to double the servings by doubling the ingredients, so keep that in mind when considering how much food to make for all the guests you may be having for the holiday.

Thanksgiving truly marks the beginning of the holiday season, so be sure to celebrate in a way that makes you happy. Enjoy the food — some of which you may have helped make — and enjoy the warmth, because the outside won’t be giving much of it.



Mashed potatoes and steak made by Robert Scarpinito. Credit: Robert Scarpinito | Copy Chief

Mashed potatoes and steak made by Robert Scarpinito. Credit: Robert Scarpinito | Copy Chief

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8

10 Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme

Fill a large pot less than halfway with water, and place it on the stovetop. Bring the water to a boil. When the water starts boiling, add a teaspoon of salt.

On a cutting board, dice the potatoes. The smaller the dicing, the more mashed the potatoes will be.

After the water is boiling, lower the heat to medium-high, and add the diced potatoes.

After the potatoes have been boiling for 15 minutes, drain them and place them in a large bowl. Mash them using a hard utensil of some kind. I use a meat tenderizer.

Add the butter and cream and properly combine it with the potatoes using a rubber spatula. This makes the texture of the mashed potatoes more consistent. Then add the salt, pepper and thyme. Stir again.

Serve the mashed potatoes with gravy on top.



Cook time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8

2 cups chicken stock
Turkey drippings
1 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan, put the chicken stock on medium-low heat. Add the turkey drippings and let that simmer for 20 minutes.

In another small saucepan, start melting the stick of butter after the other pot has simmered for 15 minutes. Once it’s melted, add the flour to create a roux, and add salt and pepper.

Add the now-warm chicken and turkey stock, and mix it properly with the newly created roux. Let the gravy simmer for 20 minutes or until desired texture is reached.

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