Its that time of year again! Thanksgiving is when we all slave over a much bigger-than-usual meal, planning and cooking far more food than we really need. Its crazy, its stressful, and I love it. This kind of thing used to scare me, but now, its a fun challenge–all the planning, the timing, and trying to balance the variety of food throughout the entire meal–I can’t quite nail it down, but its a wonderful thing.
By the time you’re reading this, I’m abuzz in the kitchen (and I promise you a post to show the fruits of my labors during this holiday, so check back in a few days!), so while I do that, I thought I’d post a mini-roundup of dishes I’ve done before that would do great on your holiday table. This list is by no means exhaustive and I’d love to hear what your plans are for this year, whether they be what you intend to do or links to some of your own holiday-relevant food. I’ll have more to add soon enough.
And to all of my readers, I hope you have a fun and Happy Thanksgiving!
Given all the work that goes into the Thanksgiving meal, I like my guests to be a little on the hungry side–why bust your ass all day so that they can fill up on some mediocre lunch and have no room for the fruits of your labor? So for those early/mid-day growling bellies, consider:
- Cream Cheese Swirled Pumpkin Bread: like banana bread, but pumpkinny. Light, sweet, and hits the spot as a snack or, for me, breakfast. Plus, you can easily do this a day or two ahead and nobody will be the wiser.
- Cranberry muffins: simple and delicious muffins–sweet, tart, and surprisingly lively flavor with a crunchy topping. Again, a great snack or even breakfast, and again, easily done a day or two ahead.
- A bowl of soup, whether it be:
- Toasted Pumpkin Seeds: With all the pumpkin and squash in play, having a bowl of seeds is pretty easy and more seasonal than opening a bag of chips. Plus, these salty mid-day snacks can be surprisingly filling, so its a great and easy way to stretch the day for cheap.
Then, of course, there’s the big meal: Thanksgiving dinner.
- Roast Turkey with gravy: The star of the show, of course. There are many approaches to cooking the bird out there, but I think my favorite way to do it is by brining it overnight before oven roasting it. Brining not only infuses flavor into the meat–it also produces a moister, more tender bird.
- Cranberry Sauce (two ways): I used to think I hated cranberries, but it turns out, I hated bad cranberry sauce. These two very different versions of this classic sauce will run you out of cranberries very quickly. I’ll be making a much larger batch of them both this year, so please, if you were thinking about opening a can of cranberry sauce this year, try it from scratch. You’ll never go back!
- Macaroni & Cheese: if you were thinking about giving your guests a heart attack, this is the way to do it. Incredibly rich with more cheese than macaroni, this dish includes gruyere and mascarpone for sauce as well as a crisp cheddar and parmesan crust.
- Creamy Sausage Mushroom Stuffing: Another quintessential side dish: stuffing. Don’t buy a box or bag of premade stuffing. Everybody craves stuffing, and with a little bit of extra effort, you can really blow away your guests. My wife isn’t one to remember meals in great detail, but she told me that I had better prepare this one again this year or I’d be in big trouble. Yes ma’am.
And then, finally, dessert. Whether you’re in the crowd that claims you have a sweet tooth or not, I think dessert is crucial to any good meal. Its that finishing touch that draws the meal to an end, hopefully on a high note.
- If you’re baking any pies, you can prepare the crust(s) in advance and just set them aside in the fridge/freezer until you need them. Depending on what you’re doing, you might prefer a traditional, all-butter pate brisee, or, you might want to make a graham cracker crust from scratch (no mushing up boring store-bought graham crackers!).
- Armed with a good crust, you’ve got options in the pie department. Everybody loves pie. Even if you’re not hosting Thanksgiving, your hosts will be happy if you bring any one of these:
- Last year, I made a Poached Pear Bourbon Bread Pudding that was a big hit.
- It wouldn’t be me to not include ice cream in the roster. So of course, you also might consider an ice cream or sorbet, and the beauty of this is that you can prepare it a good while ahead of time. Flavors like pumpkin, pomegranate, pear, or cranberry (swap cranberries for blueberries, and a mix of honey and OJ in place of the maple syrup. Skip the nuts) come to mind.
Like I said, this list is by no means exhaustive, and I promise I’ll have a few new things to add in the coming days/weeks. I hope your menu planning goes well and I’d love to hear if there’s anything that you absolutely must have on your Thanksgiving table this year!
Again, I hope you have a happy holiday!