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Malhotra making the meal on Thanksgiving

Thursday, 11.27.2008 / 1:00 AM / NHL Insider

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Malhotra family expects a packed house Thanksgiving Day.

In fact, it'll be Manny Malhotra's time to prove to his Columbus Blue Jackets teammates that he really does possess a command of the culinary arts.

For the third straight season, Malhotra and his wife, Joann, will host a Thanksgiving Day feast for those players on the Columbus roster who wish to take part in a fabulous home-style meal. This year's menu will be an extended lunch break as players are scheduled to catch an evening flight to Detroit for a Friday meeting with the defending Stanley Cup-champion Red Wings.

"It started out just the young guys on the team who didn't have family coming in or girlfriends or anything to do on Thanksgiving," Malhotra told NHL.com. "But it's kind of extended to guys who have gotten married or have kids. So really, we could have anywhere from 15-20 people in our house.

"It'll be a little different this year because we're going to hit the road later in the day, so I'm not sure if it'll even be done as extensively as it has been in the past. It'll probably be more like a Thanksgiving lunch."

The 28-year-old Mississauga, Ontario, native takes his cooking as serious as a shift on the ice.

"I think cooking is a lot more stressful (than a shift on the ice), because you want everything to taste good and you put so much time into it," Malhotra said. "You just hope everyone enjoys their meal."

Malhotra will keep it simple, yet delightful. His jam-packed smorgasbord includes a 20-pound turkey, ham, regular and sweet mashed potatoes, steamed green beans and a few accompanying delicacies such as gravy and cranberry sauce.

"I think there are people who go above and beyond for Thanksgiving and have a huge dinner, but for us, we keep it as simple as possible," Malhotra said. "The day of preparation you get all the groceries. Many people don't realize how easy you could make Thanksgiving Day dinner if you just put the bird in the oven early in the morning, mash the potatoes and get those green beans prepped on the stove. It's not overly complicated but it probably can be as complicated as you want it, I guess."

Actually, Joann Malhotra is responsible for much of the preparation.

"We always get a good laugh out of this because I do the cooking part and she does all the sous chef work -- she cleans and chops all the vegetables and gets everything ready for me," Malhotra said. "Then I come in and steal all the thunder by turning on all the gas knobs and putting everything in the oven, so she doesn't get as much credit as she should. But she does all the dirty work and I kind of put it all together and turn the heat on."

Malhotra gained an appreciation for the team-bonding Thanksgiving Day tradition as a member of the Dallas Stars (2001-04), when he attended dinners provided by Kirk Muller. In Columbus, he went to get-togethers organized by Tyler Wright and Luke Richardson before taking over three years ago as a married man with a 5-month-old son.

"I think the idea of coming together and eating as a family is what really attracted me to continuing this tradition," Malhotra said. "Being a hockey player, you're used to being away from your family during the year, but whenever you have an opportunity to sit down and have dinner with your teammates -- who are your extended family most of the year -- it's just another way to be together in a family-type setting and that's a cool feeling. I was very grateful to be able to hang out with (Muller, Wright and Richardson) when I was younger. Being able to see each of them on a different level, other than just a hockey player, was great. I mean, it's nice to see the human side of them, the family side."

Once Malhotra determined he was the man to host Thanksgiving Day dinner, he had to overcome any remaining fear of working the kitchen. He watches the Food Network and enjoys how celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray can make cooking look so easy and fun.

"I just like to keep things as simple as possible, but I did have to get over a fear of burning stuff and not making it taste good," Malhotra said. "I kind of found that if you put a group of ingredients together that you like, most likely the outcome is going to be something you like, so you have to get over your fear of not doing it right. If there's a certain meal I really enjoyed in a restaurant or something I have craving for, I'll look up a recipe and use it as a guideline on how to get it done. On a day-to-day basis, I'll just whip up whatever we feel like having off the cuff."

Sounds like Malhotra's teammates will have much to be thankful for by the end of the afternoon.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.
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