Let’s talk about Thanksgiving for a moment, now that everybody is probably sick of talking about Thanksgiving and ready to move on to Christmas.
I like Thanksgiving. I don’t often get the opportunity to make big elaborate meals, and most of the time, I don’t want to. But every once in a while, I like to pull out all the stops and make way too much food and pig out to my heart’s content. While Thanksgiving’s historical background makes me cringe, I enjoy the general message of gratitude and fellowship that it tries to send. I’d much rather have a harvest feast in October, but I’m American and not Canadian, so November it is.
This year’s menu:
Turkey and gravy (Alton Brown’s Roasted Turkey)
Hands down, my favorite turkey recipe. I don’t bother with the brining – perhaps if I had a second fridge to store the bird during brining – but everything else makes for a perfect turkey anyway. I prefer a simple bird to more exotic flavors. To be honest, roasted turkey is not my favorite; I prefer chicken or duck. But I do like turkey in other things like soup, enchiladas, and pot pies. It also makes for a killer homemade stock/broth. So I don’t usually eat a lot of turkey on Thanksgiving, but I’ve got plenty of other uses for it.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
I don’t do the overly-sweet casserole of potatoes, marshmallows, and pecans. I just can’t. But I still want sweet potatoes, and I still want mashed potatoes. So I just mash my sweet potatoes. This year, I roasted the sweet potatoes first, and that made for some very tasty potatoes. After peeling them, I put them in a pot on the stove, heated them up with some butter and heavy cream and gave them a good mash. Very tasty.
Not from a can. Never from a can. I did not like cranberry sauce until I started making it myself (which can be said for a good number of things I’ve learned to make over the years). Cranberry sauce is very easy to make if you’re going the classic route: pour cranberries in saucepan and add water, sugar, orange juice, and orange peel. I also do a bit of allspice and a pinch of salt. Simmer until the berries soften and burst, about 30 minutes. Chill for a couple of hours. Done. This went terrifically with the sweet potatoes and turkey.
I’m not a big fan of stuffing turkeys (I’m not a big fan of extra work, really), so it’s dressing on my table. I’m picky about dressing: no onions, no celery, no meat, and mushrooms are a must. Not much room for variation, but I know what I like. This was a very successful dish. I’ve tried a couple different mushroom dressings, but this one has definitely been the best. Rich and creamy, with excellent flavor. I’ll probably keep this as my go-to recipe now.
Getting veggies onto the plate during Thanksgiving isn’t always easy. It’s like the best Thanksgiving foods are starches or meats. Green bean casserole is traditional, but neither my husband nor I like it. Instead, I roast Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and carrots. It’s a very simple addition, but it’s freshness is welcome and really helps to add some balance to the meal.
A necessary addition to the Thanksgiving table. I like to make my own rolls on Thanksgiving – I like to make as much as possible, really. This year’s rolls had good flavor, but they were harder than I liked. While they were a nice complement to the meal, they definitely needed butter and have only gotten harder in the days since being baked. This was another Food Network Magazine recipe, and I’m not sure I’d use it again.
I’ll admit, it’s a very traditional menu, and I don’t vary it much from year to year. But it’s a meal that I find appropriate for the season, with components that I might use in other meals but not so often all together. I like the simplicity of these dishes, and how they all come together to make a delicious autumn feast. And though I’m not usually a fan of leftovers, I make an exception for Thanksgiving.
Happy harvest, folks. May the bounty of the season be ever-present for you.