Thanksgiving Menu 2017

20161124_145229Do you have your Thanksgiving menu planned yet? This year I will be at my mom’s, and she and I are splitting most of the cooking duties. If you need ideas, both Serious Eats and NYT Food have great menu planners.  Sam Sifton and Melissa Clark (both of NYT Food) were on On Point today discussion The Big Day. My favorite new piece of advice was to use a bit of stock to warm the turkey after carving and right before serving. Sam Sifton has many other great ideas (and even more opinions) in Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well, which is worth seeking out as much for the writing as it is for the recipes.

Breakfast (Don’t forget breakfast!!!!!!!)

  • Bagels, cream cheese, and lox. This pleases everyone in the house, and doesn’t require actual cooking (there is enough of that going on).

Appetizers (all cooked multiple days in advance)

  • Bit and Pieces Party Cheese Ball: Mom made this for our wedding, but neither Will nor I actually got a chance to eat it. The reviews were great.
  • Shrimp cocktail: A classic, in case the rest of our experiments fail.
  • Hummus Masabacha: A new hummus variation (at my request).
  • Chicken Liver Pâté: I’ve never made pâté, but I thought a meal with many other stars would be a good time to try it (so if everyone hates it, they will have many other options).

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal MattersDinner

  • Spatchcocked Turkey (prepped and cooked day of): Flat and fast!
  • Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce (cooked many days ahead): My mom has made this before and really liked it.
  • Dressing (not stuffing, because we NEVER put it inside the bird) (prepped the day before, cooked day of): I’m wavering between the one I linked to, and the dressing in Thanksgiving (which I made last year and is very similar, just sans sausage plus apples).
  • Giblet Gravy (cooked day of): I make the gravy after the turkey roasts with the drippings and giblets, following the recipe in Thanksgiving.
  • Mashed potatoes (cooked day of): Maybe now is a good time to tell my mom that I got some purple potatoes to include in here…
  • Brussels sprouts (prepped the day before, cooked day of): I may go with Sam Sifton’s recipe (also in Thanksgivinghave you bought a copy yet?), which has bacon and cream. If not, I may go with a simple roast.

20161206_083130Dessert

  • Cranberry Pie (prepped and cooked the day before): I’m sure this is considered Thanksgiving blasphemy, but apple and pumpkin pie don’t really excite me. This cranberry pie is the only pie I crave annually. Last year I made it for myself the week after Thanksgiving just because I wanted it that much.  (The photo above is this beloved pie over Greek yogurt for breakfast, or, my dreams come true.)

Drinks

  • Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub (cooked many days before): Shrubs are excellent for non-alcoholic cocktails with just some sparkling water, or with sparking wine.
  • Four Roses (perfect, as is): Because, as Sam says, the day should end with a glass of whiskey.

20161125_104847If you need even more inspiration, this is my game plan from a couple years ago. And don’t forget to be creative with your leftovers! Above are mashed potato cakes, Brussels sprouts, and an egg.

 

 

 

Last Week I Cooked…. (and Thanksgiving Prep)

I finally sat down this weekend to make my Thanksgiving menu. The internet exploded with Thanksgiving inspiration before Halloween, but that was too much too soon for me. Within the week is just enough pressure to get my thoughts in order. Here are some of my ideas from last year and my menu this year:

(All the unlinked recipes are from Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well.)

Before all meal ideas became turkey-centric, I made a few other noteworthy things this week.

20161114_120804Spicy miso ramen express. I guess this was express because once it was actually time to eat, the ramen came together very quickly (and well, this was the first time I made ramen so I don’t have anything to compare it to). The most time consuming part was not actually part of this recipe, but I decided to make this smoked eggplant topping, which was a lot of work and then completely disappeared in the ramen.  So as written this was a very flavorful soup that is definitely worth making again.

Spinach and chickpeas. This dish was the center of a tapas inspired meal. It came together in half an hour, and went splendidly with salami, bleu cheese, sardines, and some red wine.

20161115_184918Pizza with kale and coppa. I’m still working to recreate the best pizza I’ve ever had, which was at Delancy. It was a magic combination of kale and coppa. It is hard to recreate the quality of ingredients, and I’ll never get the wood-fired effect at home, but the flavor profile is getting there. I used the dough and drained crushed tomatoes from this recipe as the base, then used thinly sliced kale, shredded mozzarella, and coppa over the top. The coppa shrinks a lot when it cooks, so I overlap them to get almost full coverage. I think this time around the cheese was my weakest link, so next time I will experiment with other brands/types.

20161118_191852Send the rice down beef and celery. This is my favorite recipe from Every Grain of Rice. It is quick and incredibly flavorful. I had half a head of cabbage languishing in the fridge, so I also made a simple cabbage dish with vinegar from the same book. Easy enough to pull off on a Friday without being overwhelmed, and then feeling super accomplished for also making dinner.

20161119_104016Breakfast hash with kale and onion. Inspired by the Serious Eats home fries I’ve been making a lot of potato dishes recently with sauteed onions and whatever else I have around. This one ended up being a bit onion heavy, but a runny egg and hot sauce on top masks many flaws.

Last Week I Cooked…

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersChili. I think I’ve finally landed on my perfect chili recipe. It’s based on this old Rachael Ray recipe, and I’ll post my version soon.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersPasta with sautéed mushrooms, onions, peppers, tatsoi, garlic thyme olive oil, and mozzarella. So this pasta was meant to be pizza. The dough had been rising all day, and a little before I was ready to cook I put it on top of a wood stove to warm a bit more. I promptly forgot about it as I was cooking all the other components, and by the time I got back to it the bottom half was cooked through. I probably should have left it there to keep cooking and called it oven top bread. But, I tried to salvage the top half which would have made a meager pizza for the five people I was feeding. A furious search through the cabinets (this was not in my kitchen) thankfully resulted in a box of spaghetti. The garlic oil I intended for a white pizza with sautéed mushrooms became the sauce, the firm mozzarella was cubed and added into the pasta at the end to melt a bit. With a salad alongside, dinner still happened.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersCassoulet with lots of vegetables. This is a soup with lots of options, yet I seem to always make it in a very similar manner. I start with sausage, spicy if possible, and then proceed with the vegetables (minus the zucchini). The liquid does vary according to what I have, which this time around was leftover beef stock from the chili and bean cooking liquid. At the end I stir in some shredded cabbage. The result is a hearty almost all vegetable soup with a bright tomato base (that is really not at all like cassoulet, but that’s ok).

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersLast Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersThanksgiving! I stuck mostly to the menu I set out with. The turkey brine was Sam Sifton’s, but the method was Alton Brown’s. Most of the other dishes were straight from Thanksgiving. We had mashed potatoes, creamed Brussels sprouts with bacon, green beans with lemon and butter, fresh bread dressing with apples, onion, and celery, mashed buttercup squash with butter and sage, and giblet gravy (which was my favorite item on the table). I adapted my simple cranberry sauce just slightly by using fresh orange juice and half sugar for the honey (because I ran out of honey). Lastly I made these sweet potato rolls which were a hit but I think can be improved upon. I want to experiment with sourdough more often (a new year’s resolution perhaps?) and I think they would benefit from a heftier flour.

I took the week off work so I actually cooked some lunches (but just barely). One day I had a quesadilla with sautéed tatsoi, another was a quesadilla with scallions and a simple black bean spread made with sautéed onions and cumin. And another was the requisite leftover turkey sandwich on a sweet potato roll.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersCranberry grilled cheese. I may like this version more than the traditional Thanksgiving leftover sandwich. I used cheddar cheese and added in some turkey. And never, ever, leave out the swipe of Dijon mustard.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters“Exhaustive research into the business and culture of American breakfast suggests you can always put an egg on it” – Sam Sifton, Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well. AMEN. My favorite breakfast this week was repeated twice: mashed potato cakes (just mashed potatoes grilled in a cast iron), topped with creamed Brussels sprouts with bacon and a fried egg.

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal MattersI’ve made the leap. Now I don’t just have recipes that I published myself on this little website, but also in a little local publication and on their website. The print edition is just a short intro and the recipes for the most basic of cranberry sauces that you can doctor up, and breaking free from the cylindrical confines of canned pumpkin. The online version has a bit more of a story to it, which you can read here. Rumor has it these may be the first recipes ever published by our town paper. For the tiny portion of you who may reside in the same town in central MA, you can see the article in the November 18th edition of the Grafton News. Today is a great day to make both recipes and start checking things off your Thanksgiving to-cook list.

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal Matters

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal Matters

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal Matters

 

 

Thanksgiving Gameplan

Thanksgiving Gameplan - Vegetal MattersI’m the boss at Thanksgiving this year. As always, with such power comes responsibility. There is a menu to plan, shopping list to make, tasks to dole out, and the added complication of not cooking in my kitchen, so I have to make sure any needed equipment makes the trip as well. This isn’t my first Thanksgiving rodeo though, so fear not.

My menu so far is easily executable versions of classics. Though what I consider classics may be debated. I to this day have never consumed green bean casserole. I have only once attended a Thanksgiving where marshmallows were allowed on top of sweet potatoes (it was with an ex-boyfriend’s family – maybe a sign that it wouldn’t last?). To me, marshmallows on sweet potatoes are as outlandish as capers on ice cream. Mashed potatoes are a given, perhaps something with sweet potato or a squash, and the green things vary. I think I recall sautéed green beans on the table growing up, but I can’t say that for sure. I’ve tried out Brussels sprouts the last few years which I love, but they aren’t appreciated by all. This year I’m going to use Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well as my guide, but wanted to offer up a few options I’ve made before to fill out your menu.

The turkey. Every time I’ve been in charge of the turkey, I’ve made Alton Brown’s and it had not failed me. Brining makes for a moist bird, and his hands off approach is so logical – why would you keep opening the oven to baste when that lets all the heat out? Thought maybe it just appeals to me because I don’t want to be tending to the bird anyways. There is also a recipe for brined turkey in Thanksgiving that I may try out.

Stuffing (or dressing, if we are being technical). I’m most undecided about stuffing. This kale and caramelized onion stuffing looks so good, but I’m not sure it would be a crowd-pleaser. I may have to save that for anther time. I’ve made cornbread stuffing and more traditional bread and celery stuffing, but I can’t say any recipe stood out enough for repeating. Suggestions?

Mashed potatoes. I think this is the only Pioneer Woman recipe I’ve ever cooked. You would be creamy too if you had this much cream cheese, cream, and butter in you.

Sweet potatoes or squash. Chipotle smashed sweet potatoes are a bit of a departure from normal fare, but are a welcome spicy/sweet combination.

Green things. I’m deciding between these Dijon braised sprouts (which I like a whole lot) and the creamed ones with bacon in Thanksgiving. I may lean towards the creamed ones to make one more attempt at converting Brussels sprout haters, who are often swayed by cream and bacon. And I supposed I should offer a non-sprout green…maybe green beans?

Gravy. Yes, another Alton recipe (for big holidays, I tend to rely on my dependable favorites).

Cranberry sauce. I like my cranberry sauce in a blob rather than a cylinder. This recipe makes for the perfect complement to all Thanksgiving fixings, only has 4 ingredients, and can be made ahead. You can go even simpler as all you need to make cranberry sauce is cranberries, sugar/honey, and water, or fancier with the addition of liqueur or nuts.

Extras. This fresh cranberry cocktail is tart and festive. It takes a bit of premonition, but serving is easy. I’m not a huge pie fan, and the marbled pumpkin gingersnap tart with cheesecake swirls is just the perfect thickness and amount of pumpkin.

Even more ideas.  I made a Pinterest board a few years back to keep track of Thanksgiving ideas. Last year the New York Times posted Thanksgiving Recipes Across the United States. Some suggestions are very questionable, but they are fun to read through. And lastly, Thanksgiving can be an expensive meal not in reach for everyone. Many food banks and pantries are accepting donations right now for their Thanksgiving distribution. Here is a great list of foods to donate now and all year long.

Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well

Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well - Vegetal MattersThanksgiving is a holiday with lofty expectations. There is a big meal to prepare for more people than you usually cook for comprised of dishes you more than likely only make once a year. Each year there is an explosion of trendy recipes with new methods, imploring you to cover your turkey with a bacon lattice or a wine soaked t-shirt, soak it in a salty, sugary bath for days beforehand, fry it, grill it, slow cook it, spatchcock it, or squirt it every 15 minutes with a supersoaker of basting liquid (I may have made that up, but watch it catch on). There are so many people to please, traditions to uphold, and diets to account for that all the fun is almost sucked out of planning.

Sam Sifton is here to cure all these ails. A New York Times writer with 25 years of Thanksgiving cooking experience, as well as the one man Thanksgiving help line for the Times. The combination of his own experience and saving so many other meals made him full of opinions and wisdom on the subject which are compiled in Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well. It may seem silly to have a cookbook you use for one day a year, but the recipes and lessons transcend turkey day. The dry humor alone makes this worth reading cover to cover each year, whether or not you are hosting (it will take you an hour at most, not counting for the times you walk around reading parts aloud to all in earshot).

On some topics Sifton offers no compromises: NO APPETIZERS (oysters don’t count), NO SALAD, NO GARLIC, NO CHOCOLATE.  One bottle of wine per person is not outrageous. Gravy and cranberry sauce are the most important elements because they tie everything together (I agree). If you don’t cook, you clean (which should be law, holiday or not). “Leave the kitchen gleaming so that the morning may dawn on a new day, not a continuation of this one.”

If you are paralyzed by options each year, Thanksgiving is your book. There are enough variations to keep the meal interesting year after year, but all are well tested recipes guaranteed to succeed. Sifton says with his guidance “you are going to cook and serve a meal that will bring praise down upon you like showers of rose petals.” And once we are past Thanksgiving, and you have a picked over carcass and a ton of meat Sifton directs us through making turkey stock (get everything you can out of that giant, expensive bird!) and turkey gumbo, turkey salad, and even Thanksgiving eggs (because “exhaustive research into the business and culture of American breakfast suggests that you can always put an egg on it” – AMEN).

The suggestion I am most excited to put to work in my own kitchen this year is to start the morning of Thanksgiving by using the neck of the turkey to create a stock which will be used throughout the day (genius!). It will take everything I have not to, but there will be no salad (guess what will be for lunch Thanksgiving day though?!). Thanksgiving is a book I will most often reach for in November, but also on days when I need a little extra guidance when hosting a large group, classic recipes, or a reminder of how funny food writing can be.

 

Cranberry Grilled Cheese

20141201_185806 I need to learn which recipes need multiplying, and which are already plenty. There were 11 people at Thanksgiving, and Will and I were in charge of pie, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes (just cubed and roasted with paprika and chili powder), a cocktail, and cranberry sauce. All dishes were appropriately proportioned except the cranberry sauce, which we doubled and greatly outlasted the turkey leftovers. It’s a good challenge to think of it as more than just a turkey topping, so last night’s dinner was grilled cheese with cranberry sauce.  I used whole grain sourdough, swiped one slice with Dijon mustard (essential in any grilled cheese), a mix of sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan (brie would be heavenly), and a thick layer of cranberry sauce. Toasted up in the cast iron, flipped, and finished in the oven for thorough melting. Served alongside a kale salad with a Dijon vinaigrette to make it a real dinner. A few slices of apple or pieces of languishing turkey, bacon, or ham could also liven up the party. We were invited to share another turkey tonight and I offered to bring the sauce, but I’ll be sure to save enough to have these again (they’re worth cooking up a batch of cranberry sauce to make, regardless of proximity to a turkey).