I've been thinking a lot about the holidays and family and what it all means to me now that I'm 31, living with my own little family of a husband and two boys, in a city literally four thousand miles away from any relatives. My husband's family is scattered even further across the globe, in Dubai and Australia. If I let myself dwell on it too much, it can bum me out this time of year.
Until a couple of days ago, we weren't planning to go anywhere, and no one was coming here, which is tough for me. I really just want to be around family for Christmas.
Since we decided to just buy tickets and go, a huge weight feels like it was lifted from my shoulders. I'm genuinely excited for Christmas, rather than just trying to book up my days with festive activities to simulate that warm, cozy feeling.
We all have high expectations of the holiday season, don't we? Epecially these days with social media overload, when all you see is curated snippets of people's wonderful, happy lives. It's easy to compare to one another. And we all chase those just-like-the-movies holidays.
Even people who have their extended families nearby can feel it, for whatever reason (family drama, lives not being quite as pictured). My solution for the holiday doldrums is twofold:
1. Gratitude. It chases away all the "I wish" thoughts. I know it sounds cheesy, but I feel blue, I make myself sit down and actually write - pen-on-paper old school - the things in my life I'm grateful for. It works like a big snap-out-of-it slap in the face and I always walk away feeling cheered up and lighter. Truly. Try it. Do it every day if you have to.
2. Be the friend you wish you had. I always, but especially at the holidays, crave big, cozy gatherings, lots of people, lots of noise, a feeling of belonging, comfort and familiarity. Family, or family-like people.
My favourite friends are those with whom there is no effort. The friends who've see me in my jammies. The ones who come over and just hang out for hours, without even planning to. The friends who arrive in their comfy pants and wool socks and plunk themselves down on the floor with a cup of tea or glass of wine (that they may or may not have helped themselves to). I have lifelong friends like that, but also many that I've only just met.
Don't we all want that? Effortless, cozy closeness.
And you know how you get it? You invite people over. Going for coffee won't do. There's a certain sincerity and warmth that comes only from being in each other's living rooms.
So if you, too, long for a bustling, cozy holiday house and for whatever reason it's not being offered to you by a motherly figure in a flour-dusted apron, it's time to take a deep breath and grab the grown-up reins. BE the floury apron. Be the open door for your friends. Be the noisy kitchen. Hang out in your socks. Curl up for a chat with your feet on the sofa. Be the home where people feel comfortable showing up fancy-free and as they are. (And if you're not quite comfortable with it, just fake it. Pretend you are. Fake it till you make it.)
I love turkey leftovers, don't get me wrong. But I really only want to see the same stuffing and mashed potatoes for about a day after the main event. Then I'm done. I love to cook an enormous bird, though, and freeze lots of extra meat for future dishes. Which is what I did this year - I pulled all of the meat off the bones and packed it into freezer bags, then simmered everything else into a flavourful stock (which I also froze).
I much prefer to see leftovers re-incarnated in different meals over the coming weeks. Like this delicious pie. With its flaky, all-butter crust? I could eat it every day.
Here are a couple of notes: to quickly cool the filling, transfer it to a large freezer bag (by standing the bag upright in a large measuring cup and ladeling it in) then submerge in an ice bath, or pour into a large baking dish.
It's important to use a 9x2" deep-dish pie pan and not a standard 9x1 1/4" as there will be too much filling. If your pie dishes are all smaller, use any 2-quart (2-litre) baking dish and omit the bottom crust (which you can choose to do anyway, if you like).
My go-to all-butter pie crust is this recipe.
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion, cut in 1/2" dice
- 1 medium carrot, peeled, cut in 1/2" dice
- 1 medium stalk celery, cut in 1/2" dice
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups turkey or chicken broth
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or leftover gravy
- 1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
- salt, to taste
- 1/2 large russet potato, peeled, cut in 1/2" dice
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 2 cups coarsely chopped leftover cooked turkey (or rotisserie chicken)
- 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
- 1 heaped tbsp minced fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme or a mix)
- 1 double or single pie crust
- 1 egg whisked with 1 tbsp water for egg wash
Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, carrot and celery until soft, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle vegetables with flour and stir to coat. Cook, stirring, for a minute, then add the broth, milk and cream. Bring to a simmer, add pepper and salt to taste. Add potato, cover, and cook until tender, about 12 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in frozen peas, leftover turkey and herbs. Let cool for 30 minutes (or see note in post).
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375ºF with a baking sheet or pizza stone placed on the lowest oven rack. Roll out bottom pie crust (if using) to about 12" and gently transfer to a 9x2" pie dish. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes. When filling has cooled and oven is hot, pour filling into frozen pie crust. Roll out top crust slightly larger than the pie plate and drape it over the filling, pinching it together with bottom crust. Cut a few slits for steam vents and brush with egg wash. Bake on preheated baking sheet/stone for about 35 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling out.