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Dinner

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L.I. Pour House on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station will host a free Thanksgiving dinner for those in need Nov. 22, and is prepared to feed up to 500 people, according to owner Anthony Pallino. Photo from L.I. Pour House Facebook

A restaurant and bar on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station will be open Thanksgiving Day, but those seeking a burger or beer will have to wait until they reopen Friday.

L.I. Pour House, located at 650 Route 112, will for the second consecutive year hold a free Thanksgiving Day meal for those without a place to go for the holidays, from noon to 3 p.m. Last year the event fed about 100 people, according to owner Anthony Pallino, though he said he expects at least double the crowd this year, and he’s prepared to feed as many as 500.

“We have the platform to do it so it’s kind of selfish not to,” Pallino said. “It’s a time for people not only that are homeless, but also that just don’t have families and stuff like that to have a place to go. I’ve never felt that before — I‘ve always had a place to go on the holidays. I’m very lucky.”

Pallino said all of the food — turkey, stuffing, pasta, desserts and more — will be made in-house by the restaurant’s chefs. Many of those who take up the L.I. Pour House offer will likely be regular patrons of Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen based in Port Jefferson Village, which for nearly 30 years has served a hot, fresh meal homemade by volunteers at several area churches free of charge for those in need Sunday through Wednesday, as well as Friday, including at First Presbyterian Church on Main Street. The soup kitchen does not have Thursday offerings and while it offers turkey dinners repeatedly around Thanksgiving, it is closed on the actual day. The organization’s president, Marge Tumilowicz, said she’s been directing her regular guests to go to L.I. Pour House for a hot, home-cooked turkey dinner Nov. 22. She said Welcome Friends made up invitations for the event and distributed them to their guests prior to Thanksgiving.

“It’s wonderful,” she said of the event. “It should be a time of warmth and community, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about. Everybody says it’s for the family. Well, guess what, it was for more than family at the beginning. The whole community came together to celebrate.”

The statement on L.I. Pour House’s Facebook page summed up the thinking behind hosting the event.

“This Thanksgiving we at L.I. Pour House will be giving back to the community that has supported us for four years,” the post said. “So if you know of any family down on their luck or have no place to be this Thanksgiving tell them to come to L.I. Pour House. … We wish everyone a great holiday season.”

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Knowing exactly what we want and then getting it brings out the thrilled child in all of us.

I recently attended a wonderful party thrown by one of my wife’s friends. I’ve seen this gentleman for years in various settings that are a blend of personal and professional. Each time, he seemed pleased with the fish he ordered for lunch, with the interactions at holiday parties or with the chance to discuss details of his children’s lives.

At this party at his house, however, I saw a different side of him that I hope resides in each of us. In his elegantly decorated and comfortable home, he welcomed us into a large kitchen. People stood around a table covered with various dishes, helping themselves to sliced steak, warm pretzels and a variety of appetizers.

While the food appeared pleasing to the guests’ palates, the bigger hit was the wide assortment of wines. With a stream of ordered and shiny glasses at the ready, each arriving guest had a chance to sample from a variety of wines, all gracefully arranged with the bottles of the neck facing outward, as if each container were a person reclining comfortably in a bath after a long day.

“This one came from a trip to California,” he said. “It’s my absolute favorite.” He proceeded to describe his experience at the vineyard and the interactions with its owners.

“After a sip, I told him I wanted his entire stock of this one,” he said, taking a small swallow, smiling and basking in the familiar flavor that splashed across his receptive taste buds. When told there were 12 bottles of that particular wine, he asked the owner to pack them all up and ship them to him. He was delighted to share what he described as an extraordinary taste of life with guests who became increasingly animated and comfortable with each other as the night wore on.

Once outside his house, he took us on a tour of some of the amenities he had taken considerable time to add to his house. For starters, he had two firepits on a 50-something degree evening, both of which offered welcome warmth against the breezes that seemed no match for the flames.

Around the side, he said he used to have a lawn. Once his children were old enough, he had no need for grass he would need to water and mow, and that young children didn’t occupy during evenings or weekends. He had recently installed a putting green for his wife’s birthday. That, however, was just the beginning of the story, as he had the green designed and installed to match the contours, speed and play of the nearest golf course.

First, he said, the installers put down a base. Once they did that, they added sand that they carefully contoured. That process took a solid two days, as a worker walked back and forth across the relatively small space, making sure of exactly the right concentration and height to match the specification.

Once the sand was down, other workers meticulously shaped it. Then they put the carpet down. A professional golfer designed the holes.

He assured us that the entire process has paid off, as he and his wife have loved the chance to hone their putting in the backyard, especially shaving several strokes off the weakest part of his wife’s game.

As we prepared to leave the home after a pleasant evening, it was clear that our host has learned to drink deeply of the pleasures life affords him. Hopefully, we can all bring something that provides such satisfaction into our lives.

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By Emma Kobolakis

Winter dinners are inherently cozy. The air is colder, so the food is heartier. Some of us close our eyes and imagine a beautifully browned bird with bountiful sides of stuffing and sauce, a la Thanksgiving dinner. Others salivate at the thought of glazed ham or roast vegetables. That’s the grand thing: Our preferences are unique to each of us, and those preferences are built on shared experiences. The nostalgia felt when revisiting those experiences builds our anticipation to indulge, year after year, with friends and family.

That’s the grand thing: Our preferences are unique to each of us, and those preferences are built on shared experiences.

What’s your fondest holiday memory? Perhaps it was the time that you snuck handfuls of marshmallows and ate them in front of the TV while mom was making sweet potato casserole. Or the time that you and your friends decided to buck tradition and host a potluck, where you had a bite of everything and collapsed, moaning, on the couch. Or that one year when you decided you were the second coming of Martha Stewart and resolved to cook the entire feast, yourself — only to be saved from certain disaster when guests arrived to help. Or perhaps you carried it all off with a flourish.

If you’re a nervous home cook, it isn’t easy to devise a winter-worthy side or main course, which is why many of us do tend to play it safe and stick with the tried and true. However, there’s much to be said about taking something basic and adding some new flavor to it. The idea is to cook seasonally, with an eye on what’s readily available, as that usually has the best flavor. And it’s just as important to highlight those flavors in a harmonious way. Try to think outside the box of root veg and roasted meat; you might be pleasantly surprised.

In order to riff successfully on a classic, start with the basics and change one or two elements. Stuffing is fine and dandy, but what about stuffing a squash with a heady mixture of pork, sage and bread crumbs? And it wouldn’t be right to disregard those of us who don’t eat meat at all. Try a steak — a cauliflower steak, caramelized and served with a hearty relish. Or if you’re tired of the typical protein-heavy main courses, how about pastitsio, a Greek meat and pasta pie that will induce the same itis in your guests. They’re designed to serve at least four and are easily doubled (or tripled) to feed a crowd.

—Holiday dinner recipes—

Butternut squash stuffed with pork, sage and bread crumbs — Serves 4
Active Time: 30 minutes — Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 2 tablespoons butter; 1 teaspon olive oil; 2 stalks celery, diced; 2 shallots, sliced; 2 cloves garlic, sliced; 1 pound sweet pork sausage, casings removed; 1 small bunch sage (chiffonade); 1/2 cup bread crumbs; 2 medium-sized butternut squash, sliced in half lengthwise and seeded; 1/2 stick butter, melted; salt

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and a glug of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Sauté the celery, shallots and garlic until translucent.
3. Add the sausage, breaking up with a spatula into small pieces.
4. Once browned, add sage. Salt to taste.
5. Remove from saucepan, place in bowl. Add bread crumbs until desired consistency is reached.
6. Brush butternut squash with melted butter and sprinkle with salt.
7. Mound stuffing into squash hollows and sprinkle with more bread crumbs and melted butter.
8. Roast until the squash is soft when poked with a knife, about 45 minutes.

Pastitsio  Serves 8
Active Time: 1 hour — Total Time: 2 hours

INGREDIENTS: olive oil for frying; 1 large onion, chopped; 3 cloves garlic, minced; 2 pounds ground beef; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 teaspoon oregano; 1 teaspoon thyme; 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes; salt; bread crumbs, for garnish; 1 pound ziti; 1/2 stick butter, unsalted; 1/4 cup flour; 2-1/2 cups whole milk; 1 cup Parmesan (+ 1/2 cup for topping); nutmeg

In order to riff successfully on a classic, start with the basics and change one or two elements.

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Prepare meat sauce: heat olive oil in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add cinnamon, oregano and thyme. Add crushed tomatoes. Salt to taste, and let simmer for 45 minutes.
3. Prepare béchamel: Melt butter. Add flour and cook until golden-brown and nutty. Stream milk in slowly while whisking. Whisk every so often until béchamel is thick. Salt to taste. Grate nutmeg into it, about 1 teaspoon’s worth.
4. Prepare pasta: Boil pasta until al dente; it’ll be baked again. Combine pasta with meat sauce.
5. Pour pasta and sauce mixture in 13- by 9-inch buttered baking dish, topping with béchamel. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and extra 1/2 cup Parmesan. Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown and bubbling. Serve hot.

Curry cauliflower steak with roasted red pepper relish — Serves 4
Active Time: 30 minutes — Total Time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS: 1 head cauliflower; olive oil; 2 tablespoons curry powder; 2 roasted red peppers; 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped; red wine vinegar; honey; salt; 1/4 cup chopped peanuts

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Slice cauliflower head into 1/2-inch thick “steaks.” Rub with oil and dust with curry powder.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in cast iron (or ovenproof) skillet. Fry on both sides until browned, then move to the oven for 15 minutes, or until tender.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the relish. Chop red peppers and parsley.
5. Whisk red wine vinegar, honey and salt in a bowl. Stream in olive oil until emulsified.
6. Add peanuts and salt to taste.
7. Serve steaks with relish on top.

Emma Kobolakis is a professional cook, food writer and recipe developer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Serious Eats and on the tables of diners in Brooklyn.