Thanksgiving is tomorrow, did you know? Ha. There’s just about no place I’d rather be than in the kitchen, on Thanksgiving or on any other day. Cooking is my therapy, and how I relax. It’s a right-brain, creative release, and one that helps balance the geeky left-brain focus that’s the norm in the life of a tech nerd functioning at warp speed.
I’ll also admit to being the person who wakes up every day thinking about what I’m going to eat, or cook, or where I’m going to go to eat, and what I’m going to have when I get there. Suffice it to say that food plays a major role in the day-to-day business of living my life. Food is serious business. And holidays like Thanksgiving take meal prep to a whole new level.
The Thanksgiving Meal—My Favorite
As I was getting my thoughts together last night on what I would cook for Thanksgiving—there’s no sense in starting too early—I decided it might be fun to write about what I was going to cook for a change of pace. Of course, from a wholly self-centered standpoint, it also means that I’ll be able to easily find all my recipes in one spot for posterity’s sake. So there’s that. We eat our Thanksgiving meal in the evening, so I’ve got all day to fool around and make it happen. So here goes—the 2017 Thanksgiving Meal Extravaganza Chez Moi…..
Thanksgiving Starter—Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus
This is one of those recipes I’ve been making for so long it’s simply not possible for my family to let it go. As a result, all holiday meals and special occasions require Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus. Good news? They are super easy, and that beautiful photo up top there shows how gorgeous they are. Want to do it? Get some prosciutto, stone ground mustard, Boursin cheese, and asparagus (thick spears work best here). Cut the ends off the asparagus, cut prosciutto into 1 to 1 ½ strips. Lay a spear of asparagus down on the prosciutto strip, put a dab of the cheese on an asparagus spear, dab some stone ground mustard on, wrap it up. Repeat 400 times. Cook these bad boys in a 425-ish degree oven until they are browned on one side, turn over, cook for a few more minutes. Sorry, this is how I cook, you’re going to have to learn to go loose.
Thanksgiving Turkey—Spatchcocking All the Way
I love spatchcocking things. Well, I love spatchcocking turkeys and chickens, that is. It not only makes them easy to manage, it also ensures your meat cooks evenly and pretty much turns out delicious every time. Who can ask more than that? Here’s the recipe I’m using for my Spatchcocked Turkey this year, courtesy of Bon Appetit. Never fear, if you’ve never spatchcocked before, this recipe shows you exactly how to do it and it’s totally easy! And if you’d like to watch Chef Melissa Clark do it, here’s an awesome video as well.
Image credit: Bon Appetit
Thanksgiving Accoutrements: The Side Dish Veggies
Perfect Mashed Potatoes. This is where it gets tricky. Because while I’m sharing some new things I’ve not yet tried, I’m also sharing some old standbys that I’ve been making for years. And I don’t measure when I cook, I just figure it out as I go. So I’m going to try my best to guess well here, but know that cooking is a doing, tasting, tweaking, tasting thing. So trust yourself and go loose—it’ll be fine.
I learned to make mashed potatoes from a chef a long time ago. Most people boil the potatoes and then dump cold milk, butter, etc., in there and mix it up. My chef friend taught me that that was all wrong which, of course, it is. So, while my potatoes are boiling, I heat up butter and heavy whipping cream (oh, come on—it’s Thanksgiving for Pete’s sake) in a sauté pan. I’d guess that for six to eight people I would start by using one stick of butter and add three cloves (at least) of finely minced garlic. Sauté that until the garlic is tender, being careful not to burn it, then add one-half to one cup of heavy whipping cream. Once it gets nice and melty (that’s a word if I say it is), let it sit until your potatoes are done. Mash those potatoes—I use a hand masher because I’m old school, then pour in your garlic, butter, cream mixture a little bit at a time. Voila! The perfect mashed potatoes. And yes, they will change your life.
Sauteéd Brussels Sprouts. There are a million ways to cook Brussels sprouts, but my foodie friend and fine-dining chef Debbie Gold taught me her method about fifteen years ago and I rarely deviate from it. It’s that good. Cut the ends off your sprouts and cut them in half, put (at least) a stick of butter (shut up) in your skillet (cast iron is best), and then toss them in. Sauté them until they are nicely browned and carmelized. You might need to add more butter. I’m serious. Too much butter isn’t possible. This takes a while, so plan on a good 30 minutes from start to finish, just to be safe.
You can jazz them up by adding prosciutto or pancetta to the pan, or even throw in some butternut squash if you like, but they are glorious as is, too. When they’re done, I squeeze the juice of a lemon over them. Occasionally I also toss in some very finely-grated parmesan, but that’s really not necessary. Again, these are perfect in their “natural” state. This has been my kids’ favorite dish pretty much since they started eating solid foods, so it is not possible for a holiday meal to take place in my home without them.
Petite Sweet Potato Pie. I like sweet potatoes, but they have not always been a staple as part of my Thanksgiving feast. This is mostly because apparently not everyone in my family has as ‘well-developed of a palate’ as I do. In fact, many of them do not care at all for sweet potatoes. Travesty. What can I say—other than that they are dumb.
As a result, for years sweet potatoes have never really been a part of my menu for Thanksgiving. That all changed, however, the year my delightful mother-in-law brought her homemade sweet potato pie to Thanksgiving dinner. From that moment, and to infinity and beyond, it became a staple around these parts.
It doesn’t matter that only four of us like this dish, she has good manners and makes enough for everyone (and we usually have a fairly large crowd). This is also evidence of how clever she is. This way, because of both her manners and her cleverness, we have DOUBLE the amount of sweet potato pie leftovers. It is really no wonder we don’t all weigh 400 lbs. How does she do it? There’s a homemade pie crust (of course), after all, we are purists. It’s filled with sweet potato goodness. Sometimes she adds marshmallows as a topping for my daughter, but they really don’t need it. In fact, I would never sully these glorious petite pies with marshmallows.
I don’t have her exact recipe (yet) but this looks close. Bottom line, if you like pie, and you like sweet potatoes, this is a way to get even more pie out of your Thanksgiving dinner. And have the leftovers the next day for yourself. More pie is never, ever a bad thing. This recipe from NPR’s All Things Considered, featuring Matthew Raiford and his Nana’s Petite Sweet Potato Pie will change your life. I’m sure of it.
Image credit: NPR
Roasted Cauliflower Gratin with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese. This is a new recipe that I’m trying this year. The goat cheese called for here originally gave me pause, as I don’t want the cheesiness of the goat cheese to overwhelm the dish. But it calls for such a small amount that I figured it would be fine. We shall see.
This is from my favorite recipe source of all times, NYT Cooking, and if you don’t yet subscribe and love to cook and/or want to learn, start. Editor Sam Sifton and his team are amazing and this site has truly been my go-to source for so many recipes, pretty much since the time it launched.
I suspect this Roasted Cauliflower Gratin with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese from Martha Rose Shulman might just be the sleeper hit of the meal tomorrow. In due time, we shall see.
Also, if you want to give someone who loves to cook an amazing holiday gift, get them a subscription to NYT Cooking. For a measly $1.25 a week, it’s an awesome gift. I should be in sales.
Image credit: NYT Cooking
Cornbread, Chorizo, Cherry, and Pecan Stuffing. I’ll go ahead and put it out there right up front—I don’t particularly care for stuffing, dressing, or whatever it is you choose to call this stuff. In fact, I could totally do Thanksgiving meal without it. Judge me if you will, it’s of no consequence—I can’t be shamed when it comes to food. I like what I like.
Unfortunately, there are other members of my family who feel differently about stuffing, so we make it, and usually experiment with something new every year. This recipe was suggested by #2 Daughter, Katherine, and so Cornbread, Chorizo, Cherry, and Pecan Stuffing, courtesy of the fine people at Bon Appetit, it shall be. It looks fine. I’ll have a bite, just to say I tried it. But with so many other things to gorge myself on, stuffing is definitely not going to be taking up much space.
Image credit: Bon Appetit
Cranberry, Fig and Pinot Noir Chutney. I am grateful to have many fellow foodies as friends, one of whom is my pal, Laura Otting. Laura shared her Thanksgiving menu a few days ago and, when I saw a mention of cranberry fig chutney, well, I might’ve stopped reading. You say “figs” I am in. All in. I can’t wait to try this Cranberry, Fig, and Pinot Noir Chutney, recipe courtesy of Epicurious. Don’t worry, I’ll definitely be reporting back on this one.
Image courtesy of Epicurious
Thanksgiving “Butt Crack” Rolls
Lest you think us heathens, there are Thanksgiving rolls. Of course there are rolls. Rolls slathered with plenty of butter, naturally. I am partial to what my 11-year-olds call “the butt crack rolls,” which relies on only the magic (and convenience) of the frozen Rhodes Yeast Dinner Rolls. Credit for introducing these gems into the family meal goes entirely to #1 Daughter, Kellie Annie (she loves her middle name so much) (that is a lie). Pop two of those little balls of yeasty goodness side-by-side in a muffin tin, let them rise awhile and, once cooked, well, you’ll end up with “butt crack rolls.” Try it, you’ll see.
As an aside yet while on the topic of butter, I was once buttering a roll while having dinner with a long-time friend. He looked at me as I was wielding the butter knife and said “You’re not really going to eat all that butter, are you?” I responded by immediately popping the whole thing in my mouth, moaning a bit for good measure. As a result, whenever I’m slathering (isn’t that just the very best word?) butter on anything (which is often), I tend to take a photo and text it to him, just to hammer home the point that butter is good. Lots of butter, even better. It’s a good thing I like working out almost as much as I like butter.
It’s not as though we’re not already stuffed by the time it even gets anywhere near time for dessert. But we have to continue eating because, well, it’s what we Americans do on Thanksgiving. Now, after all the other eating is done, one simple fact remains: We need pie!
My aforementioned delightful mother-in-law (I’m really not sucking up here, she is delightful) can always be counted on to bring a delicious pumpkin pie. As a result, and because one pie is never, ever enough (even if there are only two guests), I usually try to do something different. Sometimes I make chocolate biscuits, which go really well with red wine by the way. Sometimes I make a cheesecake. It really all kind of depends on what I’m in the mood to eat at that particular moment in time.
At this moment of time, I’m slightly obsessed with apple pie. Mostly because a couple of weeks ago, I found this recipe for Double Apple Pie in (of course) the NYT Cooking blog. I’m really not going to get a good night’s sleep until I make the damn thing, so make it I will. Once I come out of the food coma, I’ll let you know how it is.
Image credit: NYT Cooking
There here you have it. The 2017 Thanksgiving Meal Extravaganza Chez Moi. I’m looking forward to my old standbys and experimenting with some new favorites. And I’m also looking forward to seeing photos of your Thanksgiving meals on the Instagram and on the Facebook. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!