A Ridiculously Expensive Thanksgiving
November 5, 2012
While chef Erika Monroe-Williams, founder of The Hopeless Housewife, doesn’t like to waste money, she says, "There are a few things for Thanksgiving dinner that I think if you’re able to splurge on, you should."
Her first splurge is the turkey. A frozen store-bought 18-pound turkey, which sells for $1 per pound will cost you $1.80 each per 10 guests, but it's possible to spend a lot more.
"Williams-Sonoma has a Willie Bird Fresh Free-Range Turkey for about $100," says Monroe-Williams. "These free-range turkeys are from Sonoma County and are said to be amazing. They have an organic version for a 16- to 18-pound bird that costs $130."
For 10 guests, that’s $13.00 per person.
"Next I would splurge on the gravy, using organic herbs, white wine, and homemade stock," says Monroe-Williams.
Homemade gravy could run about $9 for 10 guests, costing you $0.90 per person.
Up the price by cooking your gravy with some help from the vineyards, like with an $899 bottle of Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc 2005. You’ll spend $75.83 per person, making it a total of $90.80 per person for the gravy.
Kick up your potatoes with black truffles, which sell for about $40 an ounce. Monroe-Williams calls the addition of black truffles to a potato recipe "wonderful and decadent."
Monroe-Williams estimates that mashed potatoes with cauliflower and garlic for 10 would cost $1.08 per guest — add in half an ounce of black truffles and you’ll now spend $3.08 per person.
Traditional Thanksgiving stuffing for 10 people usually costs about $1.25 per guest. Get fancy by adding Sur La Table’s foie gras to your stuffing for $139.95. With the addition of the indulgent duck liver, you'll spend about $15.25 per person.
The Cranberry Sauce
Forget a $0.99 canned cranberry sauce and go for pricier and higher quality ingredients instead. Try adding a cup of a $99 port wine and a quarter cup of a $35-bottle of Grand Marnier to a $5 homemade cranberry sauce.
While canned cranberry sauce for 10 guests costs $0.09, the homemade sauce with port wine and Grand Marnier will set you back $13.90 per serving.
The Brussels Sprouts
For your veggies, "I would make them all organic, and there are some great recipes out there for Brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze," says Monroe-Williams. "You could use aged balsamic and the price could really sky-rocket."
Cook two 12-ounce bags of Brussels sprouts, which are $5 at www.peapod.com, and add Mussini Balsamic Vinegar of Modena "50 Years" Il Privilegio, which retails for $279 a bottle. For 10 guests, that’s $28.40 per serving.
The Green Beans
Traditional green bean casserole costs $1.25 per person, but a few changes can up the price.
"Fresh wild mushrooms for a green bean casserole are so nice," says Monroe-Williams who recommends using haricot verts (about 2 pounds at $8 a pound) and wild mushrooms (1 pound at $20 a pound) instead of string beans and canned mushrooms or mushroom soup.
This casserole serves 10 guests for a price of $3.60 per person.
The Sweet Potatoes
If you’re serving sweet potatoes as a side, you’ll spend about $0.87 per guest. Add black walnuts, which Monroe-Williams likes because "they have a stronger flavor; they are smokier and richer tasting."
Since those black walnuts cost about $16 a pound, you’ll spend $2.47 per person for 10 people.
"Thanksgiving is so traditional," says Emily Luchetti, executive pastry chef at Farallon and Waterbar Restaurants in San Francisco. "I always do some fun stuff for me."
Luchetti’s suggestion? "Buy a really good pie."
Sure, grocery stores sell a pie for $10 (about $1.67 per serving) but go for something pricier and yummier, too. Consider the 10-inch pecan pie from New York City's Little Pie Company, which sells for $30 and will feed about six guests for about $5 per person.
More on Desserts
Another Thanksgiving extra? Real vanilla beans.
"It’s totally expensive but worth the splurge," says Monroe-Williams. "It really takes it from drab to fab in seconds."
While a box store’s vanilla extract costs $2.74 for a 1-ounce bottle, the real thing from Williams-Sonoma will taste so much better at a cost of $9.95 for four vanilla beans.
Plan to use about one bean per recipe, such as crème brûlée for six people. That’s a cost of $0.41 per person for the real thing, compared to $0.11 per person for the extract.
Want to impress your guests with a festive Thanksgiving cocktail? New York City mixologist John McCarthy recommends this tasty bourbon drink using A.H. Hirsch Reserve 16-year bourbon, one of the most expensive bourbons in the world ($300 a bottle), mixed with the rare Glenrothes Extraordinary Cask whiskey, which retails for $5,000 a bottle.
Buy the drink at a bar and you’ll pay $668 or make it at home for $5,326.17 for eight people.
Chill your cocktails with gourmet ice. At $5 each, Gläce Luxury Ice Spheres, which measure 2.25 inches in diameter, are individually carved and free of minerals, additives, and pollutants. Their design means they don’t melt fast which keeps your drink cool, but minimally diluted.