The Thanksgiving project started in 2008 after they first published a postmortem of the holiday dinner they had created from magazine recipes. The menu included a dry-brined turkey from Martha Stewart Living, Brussels sprouts hash with caramelized shallots from Bon Appetit and roasted potatoes with figs from the New York Times — not technically a magazine, but close enough.
They published their recap in early December. The hitch in that strategy: “Readers would have preferred to see those ahead of time,” Patton said.
In 2009, the experimental meal shifted to late October and became a full-blown party for about 20, which the couple christened Fakesgiving. They borrowed the name from a friend who hosts a Thanksgiving eve meal.
Flash-forward to the menacingly cloudy Sunday before the arrival of megastorm (nee Hurricane) Sandy: Patton and Dunn found themselves scurrying down an Adams Morgan fire escape, past the dried special-effects blood from the previous night’s pre-Halloween revelries, to retrieve a turkey from the grill in their back yard.
Even before tasting the bird (Cook’s Illustrated), Patton, 33, and Dunn, 34, were pleased. Cooking the turkey outdoors freed up room in the oven to finish or reheat some of the other 18 items on the menu. “Yesterday was an eight-hour cooking day,” Dunn said.
It was a kind of orderly chaos. A printout of an Excel spreadsheet organizing the food and prep schedule hung on the refrigerator door, a short distance from the stove, where Patton’s mom, Brenda Lewis, stood over a pot of creamed greens (Martha Stewart Living).
“They are the impresarios,” said Lewis, a retired college administrator from Tullahoma, Tenn., “and we are the sous-chefs.”
Also assisting was Patton’s sister, Cassidy Papadopoulos, in from Annapolis with her husband, Dean. She took the lead making the paprika-spiced mayonnaise to accompany Patton and Dunn’s own fried Brussels sprouts — one of several dishes not from a food magazine.
Papadopoulos, who will host the family’s actual Thanksgiving at her house, had to make the dip five times to get it right. First, it was too hot in the kitchen for the mayonnaise to set. Then the olive oil flavor was too pronounced. So it continued. Still, most everything was going smoothly by late afternoon as guests started to trickle in to the couple’s airy apartment.
“They never seem flustered,” said two-time Fakesgiving guest Ryan Fitzpatrick of the District.
Not even when the introduction of wet Brussels sprouts into a Dutch oven caused hot oil to splatter up and onto Patton’s dress shirt. Lewis swooped in to attack the stain, further adding to her accomplishments, which included putting together the flower arrangements and ironing the linens for the three candlelit tables in the dining room.