I told David’s mom that I wanted to take on the challenge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. I’ve cooked various parts of Thanksgiving in years past, but I’m 35 years old and decided it was time to see if I can do the whole thing myself. Plus I re-read the The Little House series this fall, and felt inspired to channel my inner Caroline Ingalls (she and Almanzo’s mother were always cooking!).
Although my job was decidedly simpler given that I didn’t need to grow all the food, de-feather the turkey, and grind wheat for bread, among other things. How on earth did they manage it all?
I planned out the meal a week early, and did nearly all of the grocery shopping the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This was the best idea, since I missed the crowds. I ran out to Whole Foods on Tuesday for the turkey and a couple of last minute ingredients so I wouldn’t have to put it in the freezer.
My mom helped me lots by supplying recipes and telling me to sit and write out a timeline of when to prep/bake everything, which helped the day go more smoothly. I bought this year’s edition of the Food Network Thanksgiving magazine and had fun choosing a few recipes there.
Here’s our menu:
Dry-brined roast turkey, gravy
Roasted Brussels sprouts salad
Cranberry relish (Linda)
Sweet potato casserole
Pumkpin pie (Linda)
Homemade whipped cream (Linda)
David and the kids offered to help, but our kitchen is so small, it was easier for David to play with them, and for me to let one kid a time come help me. Amie was up at 7:00 am tearing bread so I could dry it in the oven for dressing (I did not attempt actual stuffing, though I was raised on it!), and I always call upon Gabe to do my scary jobs, like browning the turkey neck in butter for the gravy.
I really, really love baking pies, and come November I start making one a week to practice for the holidays. Homemade pie crust is very easy if you practice it a few times (and especially quick if you have a food processor, though it’s not necessary). I love this all-butter pie crust recipe and have used it for years. If you cut the butter and chill it in the freezer before making the crust, it comes together even better.
A new addition to the menu this year was the roasted Brussels sprout salad, which my friend Liz told me about. It was a big hit, and is a nice side salad for any occasion. Here’s the recipe:
Several handfuls brussels sprouts, washed, ends and outer leaves removed, quartered
Toss brussels sprouts in olive oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, roast at 350 for 20 minutes, stir, continue roasting until you can pierce with a fork
Cool and toss with mixed greens, toasted pecans, feta cheese, and Tessamae’s Lemon Garlic salad dressing
The salad with lemon brightened up all that heavy, (delicious) food. I won’t even tell you how many sticks of butter I used for Thanksgiving dinner.
I chose a spiced cider and bourbon cocktail from the Food Network magazine, and David was in charge of assembling the drinks before his parents came over with appetizers in the afternoon. The kids had their own fancy apple cider drinks. I should also add that David grew the sweet potatoes for our sweet potato casserole!
We roasted the turkey at Linda’s, so she did the actual cooking and whisked up the gravy for me while I was finishing things in our oven. She also made the appetizer, a pie, homemade whipped cream, and cranberry relish, so I certainly can’t take all the credit! What I would’ve done if I actually had to make the entire meal on my own, I don’t know.
I scurried around all day, but had plenty of time to sit with a book and a cup of tea before finishing things up in the afternoon. We’re almost finished with season 4 of the Great British Baking Show, so Amie and I felt compelled to stage a photo cooking with our cups of tea in hand, like the bakers.
We started with a fire pit, drinks, and appetizers here at 3:30. Along with the Brie baked in puff pastry, Grandpa and Mum-Mum brought a host gift of a baby frog.
We moved around the corner to Steve and Linda’s for another fire pits (can you tell our family is fond of fire pits?) and dinner on their newly-completed screened back porch
We had only one small catastrophe: the marshmallows on our sweet potatoes caught fire under the broiler! Thankfully they were easily scraped off and replaced.
I was really pleased with all the recipes, and sat down the next day and made notes in my bullet journal of what worked and what I’d change in the future.
It was a Thanksgiving challenge I very much enjoyed, but I’m certainly thankful that we do pot-luck most years!