Thanksgiving Dinner isn’t a time to try out new recipes. People want the old standards, so no Thai Turkey, Vegan Stuffing, Chipotle Potatoes, Weird Sides or Funky Pies. No, no, no! Despite Chefs, Magazines and Food Networks trying to offer new twists on old favorites every year around this time, we all just want the old favorites on Thanksgiving.
Having said that, each family has their own old favorites. Elise’s Mother-in-Law Althea always made Pureed Parsnips each year for Thanksgiving, which she insisted was an acquired taste. I don’t think many in the family acquired it, because the tradition seems to have died with her passing. My Dad like the Jellied Cranberry Sauce out of the can, but I don’t, so that tradition is not appearing at this Thanksgiving.
I played tennis with two ladies this week, neither whom was hosting Thanksgiving, but each bringing dishes to their in-laws and other family members. One was bringing a sweet cabbage dish, that was a family favorite for the holiday, and gravy, because the family she was visiting “doesn’t make gravy”. Who doesn’t make gravy on Thanksgiving? She was making the gravy ahead and would add in the drippings after the turkey is roasted.
The other lady I played with (who shall remain nameless) said she had to go to an in-laws house with a bunch of cousins and kids running around.
And Thanksgiving used to be my holiday.she said.
Clearly, not happy about it.
But children get married, have significant others, have children themselves and us Moms, have to roll with the punches. She decided the other day, since she wasn’t hosting Thanksgiving, to take down her Thanksgiving decor and put up Christmas decorations. Christmas seems to be coming early this year and many houses in my neighborhood already have their lights up. Merry, merry! I love it.
I also used to love Thanksgiving, since it’s a holiday based on food and gratitude, two things I can get behind, until one Thanksgiving a couple of years ago that lives on in infamy. I knocked myself out for days decorating, preparing and cooking and then, after an awkward dinner that didn’t last long, I was left with a kitchen full of dishes and a big mess. No one helped cook or clean, except Zeke. As I recall, no one even said “Thank you”, the very emotion on which Thanksgiving is based.
After that, I went on strike, proclaiming I would never host Thanksgiving again. That didn’t last long, but I did insist everyone (we’re talking grown humans here) bring a dish to Thanksgiving, so all the burden wasn’t on me. Even that small request got push-back, with some claiming they “couldn’t cook” and another just totally ignoring the request. Ugh!
Fast forward to this year and I’m actually looking forward to Thanksgiving; everyone that’s coming is bringing a dish. I’m having my Mom and her boyfriend Bob, A.J. and her family, Emma and Gui, my sister Elise and her sons Michael and James. There will be 13 of us in total, most likely including two dogs (Lucy and Cosmo) and a terrified calico cat named Eloise.
The menu is: Roast Turkey with my grandmother’s Sausage Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes with Ina’s Make Ahead Gravy (both giblet & non-giblet), Grandview Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Rolls, Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Pie with Whipped Cream. I may also make Pumpkin Ice Cream, depending on how much energy I have left. My Mom’s bringing a Vegetable Platter and Deviled Eggs for appetizers and I’m going to try and cook as much ahead as possible.
Taking a hint from my tennis friend, I’ll make the gravy ahead and add the drippings and giblets that day. There’s so much cooking going on Thanksgiving Day, making the gravy at the last minute only adds to the stress. I’ll make the cranberry sauce ahead, since it keeps for weeks, and unwrap and dry brine the turkey the day before. I’ll also make the stuffing the day before, but will wait until Thanksgiving to stuff it in the turkey. I’m doubling the stuffing, since it seems to be many people’s favorite, including mine.
I’m taking a page out of Ina Garten’s playbook and using (God forbid) store-bought Mashed Potatoes (Bob Evans), but jazzed up with Parmesan, sour cream and butter. Making mashed potatoes from scratch is a major endeavor with peeling, boiling, mashing and the starchy mess that’s leftover to clean. Ina found that using store bought potatoes tasted just as good as homemade and was actually cheaper to make, so for me it’s a win-win.
I feel like I need another vegetable side, so will do what my tennis friend suggested and put some root vegetables- carrots, parsnips and onions- under the turkey, as it roasts. This way it soaks up all the yummy drippings and seems like a pretty low-stress way to make a side dish.
The table will be set early, so that’s out of the way. And, everyone knows the best part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers, which is why hosting is almost worth it, just for that fact. My birthday is the next day, which I will spend in the Keys, eating Turkey Sandwiches, visiting the Sea Turtle hospital with Wyatt and recuperating.
Up Next: Easy Ricotta Gnocchi