America’s iconic meal is the pilgrim’s feast. Some of my father’s ancestors supposedly came over on the Mayflower. Therefore, I try to incorporate foods that were historically present at the first Thanksgiving. But I cannot help myself ~ my Thanksgiving menu looks like I am preparing a smorgasbord. I have a firm belief that this meal is not about cutting back or trying to keep it simple. Certain dishes just cannot be left out. Not that this meal should be gluttonous (as gluttony is one of the 7 deadly sins, don’t ya know) but my husband and I LOVE leftovers. Please note however, that using jarred gravy is a sin.
Speaking of gravy, its preparation was a joint effort by my parents on Thanksgiving. The organs and neck of the turkey were simmered for one hour (I now use stock instead of water) and later cut up to add to the drippings that were thickened with flour paste. I still make my gravy this way and add seasonings to taste. The drippings will provide most of the flavor.
I received a comment last week after the last post asking for vegetable and side dish suggestions. I love vegetable dishes so it is the hardest course for me to pare down. Right now my menu consists of five vegetable dishes alone. WAY TOO MANY ~ but that comes from trying to please everyone. Make a fall green salad including apples or pears, two vegetable dishes and call it a day.
My husband turned me on to Brussels sprouts twenty-five years ago ~ LOL! I can eat them boiled and sprinkled with a little salt. Most people cannot. I have to say though that when I do prepare them for Thanksgiving, the entire dish is gobbled up! I just cut off the stems, slice them in half, sauté in butter with shallots, salt and pepper and add chopped bacon. Better yet, sauté them in bacon drippings. Simply scrumptious.
Since I am adding fresh corn to my oven baked stuffing (see part 1), I am tempted to forgo the corn pudding. But then my niece Peg may skip my dinner! My pudding is rich and sweet. I insist again on using the fresh white corn that I froze from the summertime.
ALI’S CORN PUDDING (freely adapted from my sister, Cindy)
- 8 cups fresh corn, cut off the cob
- 3 jumbo eggs, beaten
- 2 T. butter
- 1 T. flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup sweet condensed milk
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer to a sprayed baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Not sure it gets any easier than that!
In lieu of the green bean casserole (one of my sisters is sure to rebel and sneak it into the house), I will prepare a squash dish. Fall squashes are abundant this time of the year and can be quite delicious when combined with each other. Some brilliant marketing person came up with a great convenience trick. Buy pre-cut squash if you can find it. Fall squashes typically have thick skins. They are time-consuming and difficult to peel to boot!
ALI’S ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH HOT ALLEPO*
- 5 Butternut squashes (2-3 pre-cut packages)
- 2 T. olive oil
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1-2 tsp. hot Aleppo pepper
- Peel the butternut squash and cut into one inch cubes.
- Toss squash with olive oil on a baking sheet.
- Sprinkle with kosher salt and Aleppo pepper.
- Bake at 400 degrees until squash is tender, approximately 20-25 minutes.
*Aleppo is a Turkish spice that is similar to crushed red pepper. It is mild and can be used like paprika. I like to add some kick to this dish since butternut squash can be a little bland so I use hot Aleppo pepper that my friend Jochem brought back to me when he visited Turkey. It has more heat and a smoky flavor. I used it in butternut squash soup recently and it really added wonderful depth to the soup.
Don’t forget fresh cranberry relish. There is no excuse for using (or serving for that matter) the congealed cranberry sauce from a can. There are tons of recipes online and you can make it up to three days ahead. All you have to do is combine 1 cup of water with one cup of sugar and bring to a boil. Add 12 ounces of fresh cranberries and simmer for 10 minutes until they ‘pop’. Add ½ tsp. orange zest and 1 T. Grand Marnier, if desired. Very refreshing and delicious on a turkey sandwich!
I would love to combine sweet potatoes and white potatoes in a gratin but my husband would have a heart attack (just kidding, B) if I didn’t make mashed potatoes for the gravy. Most people make sweet potato casserole or pie. I can eat sweet potatoes without any accompaniment. I suppose since they were abundant almost 400 years ago that they should make an appearance on the table. Please skip the marshmallows (you’re killing me); I think we are beyond ‘needing’ them to consume sweet potatoes.
Therefore, go for baroque and use sour cream, cream cheese, heavy cream, butter or any combination of the above to whip up the potatoes. You won’t be sorry nor will your guests. Slather on the gravy as well! Bon Appétit!
Next time, just desserts…