The quintessential holiday for eating in the U.S. is upon us, folks. Thanksgiving. This year, my immediate family and I will be celebrating on the weekend, since we all have other plans for today. That certainly doesn’t stop me from discussing my menu, though, as I’ve only been thinking and dreaming about what I’m going to make for the past few weeks… ;) *cue melodic, daydreamy music*
Appetizers— on most holidays, it seems like everyone skips breakfast and lunch so they can eat extra of the main meal. Not the healthiest thing to do to your body and it also leads to overeating, which is why I like to set out a snack while everything is cooking. Something easy, a few small tapas like buratta or mozzarella balls with crostini and olives or a good cheddar with crackers and apple chutney, are good choices.
Potatoes— life is full of tough choices. What college to attend… what car to buy… and what potatoes to make on Thanksgiving. #firstworldproblems The first debate is whether to have Yukon gold or sweet potatoes. In the past, I’ve made both so nobody could complain about missing out on a favorite. The next tough decision whether is to make smashed or scalloped. For me, it’s smashed all day. I think the smashed potato acts like a “glue” — a little turkey (or Tofurkey) and a little piece of vegetable, with the potato sticking it all together to your fork — which is just a beautiful thing. Either way, I smash them with lots of melted butter and 2% milk; add a few generous tablespoons of sour cream; and add salt, pepper, and chopped chives to finish them. If you were to ask a real chef, I’m sure they would say to use heavy cream instead of milk. I use milk for the sake of saving a few calories (you’ll certainly make them up elsewhere during the meal… ;) Crème fraîche or marscarpone would probably be amazing in place of the sour cream, too.
Other Vegetables— these hasselback carrots caught my eye as a potential change from the maple-glazed carrots I usually like to make. Alton Brown’s creamed corn is always good, as is his mustard green gratin. The winner is a root vegetable gratin, though, since it has a little bit of everything — butternut squash, turnips, and yams (which I will likely substitute with something else, since I’m doing potatoes separately) — with parmesan cheesy yumminess and cream.
Cranberry and Apple Sauces— not sure where all y’all stand on the cranberries, but for us they are a must-have. My mom and I started making fresh cranberry sauce from scratch when I was 7 or 8 years old. I tweak the recipe a little ever year, but always use spices and orange to make the berries a little more interesting. I also plan on putting out homemade apple sauce, since I made a ton of it this year.
Turkey and Gravy— I’ll be cooking an 18 pound turkey for my parents and Steve and a Tofurkey for me to go along with all of the side dish awesomeness I’ve discussed. I brine the turkey a few days in advance using Alton Brown’s foolproof Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe, which is seriously the only recipe you’ll ever need for turkey. Gravy is pretty self-explanatory, although I have been mulling over the idea of apple cider gravy, rather than just using turkey or vegetable broth.
Stuffing— I’m not sure whether it was the cranberries, the cornbread, or the apples that swayed me, but I do know that the stuffing search of choice was over after I saw this cornbread stuffing from Food52 on Facebook a few weeks ago.
So, we’re blazing through this menu. That was easy…! Not.
For one thing, there is still a lot of cooking to do. I certainly have my work cut out for me in the next two days; nothing too cumbersome, but certainly a lot of prep. For another, we didn’t discuss…
Desserts— arguably, my favorite thing to make. The best part of the meal, yet the one that is typically underrated or overlooked after everyone has gorged themselves on the main course.
So, this is the toss-up. I am generally one to keep things traditional on Thanksgiving, so pumpkin roll and pumpkin cheesecake would be good choices. I’m absolutely salivating over these salted caramel pots de crème; this bourbon-butterscotch pudding; and these mini cranberry, caramel, and almond tarts. But I also found this Ferrero Rocher-inspired pie. Hold. the. *bleeping*. phone.
Man. One of those times where I wish that I had a legitimate excuse — e.g., a huuuuge family to feed — to make every. single. one. of these recipes without feeling like a fatso for doing so.
Before the decision is even harder, I’m moving on to the last and another one of my favorite categories…
Cocktails— as if I didn’t have enough sweets to choose from, could homemade Irish cream sound any more perfect? Practically a dessert in and of itself. Of course, there are also all of these and these fantastic bourbon-based things to choose from… and transforming leftovers into boozy cocktails for sure got my attention as something to do later in the week, especially the Cranberry Cocktail Sauce drink, the yummy-looking thing with the cranberry-rosemary garnish in the photo.
Needless to say, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday ahead, full of cooking and eating, family and friendship. What’s on your Thanksgiving menu this year?