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Thanksgiving menu 2014

November 9, 2014

Thanksgiving table

As we’ve done pretty much every year since I moved out on my own, my mom and I are splitting the Thanksgiving dinner duties.  Last year she traveled up here to Lawrence to have dinner at my house, but this year we’re back at her house in Wichita.  My mom’s work schedule has changed, and she has to work Wednesday and Friday, so celebrating on Thursday will just be too hectic — so we’ll be doing dinner on Saturday, freeing Thursday up for prep.  We’re pretty big fans of doing as many things ahead of time as possible, so we look for recipes that allow us to do just that.

In the past, we’ve done twists on the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, but this year my mom was craving a good old fashioned turkey dinner with all of the trimmings.  I still stubbornly insist on doing things from scratch, with little to no processed shortcuts.  And my husband, who misses all of the big 4-hour-long holiday feasts that he’s used to, has requested a classic Italian dessert.  The following menu is a direct result of all of these things coming together.

  • Turkey in a Pot (from Cook’s Country, November 2014 – online recipe available to members only) — Because there are only a few of us, and my mom isn’t a fan of dark meat, we typically only cook a turkey breast instead of the whole turkey.  When I saw this recipe for a turkey breast cooked in a Dutch oven, with a gravy made from the drippings, I knew it would be the perfect recipe to try this year.  Cook’s Country rarely (never?) gets it wrong, and this recipe is both simple and straightforward.
  • Mashed Potatoes — Leaving this to my mom, because my mashed potatoes never turn out good.  She uses a little milk, lots of butter, and an electric mixer.  As long as she doesn’t accidentally dump in a truckload of black pepper (it’s happened before), these are guaranteed to be delicious.
  • Sausage Cornbread Stuffing (from a Jimmy Dean Sausage ad my mom saw in a magazine) — Like the turkey, this is a recipe we’ve never tried before.  For me, I could take or leave stuffing…I’ll eat it if it’s on the table, but I don’t miss it if it’s not there.  That’s probably because I grew up with Stovetop, which is easy but bland.  My mom, on the other hand, grew up with her mom’s completely from scratch cornbread stuffing.  This recipe looks like a good compromise between the two.
  • Slow-Cooker Green Bean Casserole (from Cook’s Country, October/November 2010 – online recipe currently available to anyone, but will probably be members-only after this month) — I made this from-scratch Crockpot version of my beloved green bean casserole for Flavio’s first Thanksgiving in America, back in 2010.  I was just learning how to cook, so this was probably my only real contribution to dinner that year (although I seem to remember also making cranberry sauce from the recipe on the bag, and maybe helping out with the relish tray).  I’ve got a lot of memories of this recipe: driving across town to my dad’s grocery store to pick up a 2-lb. bag of perfect hand-selected green beans that he’d made up just for me; spending pretty much all dang day chopping, sautéeing, and slow-cooking this casserole; and being so blown away by how much yummier it was than the “traditional” canned green bean & cream of mushroom soup recipe we all know and pretend to love.  This recipe takes some work — don’t let the “slow cooker” label fool you — but it’s worth it, especially if you’re trying to free up space in your oven.  I plan to do as much of the prep ahead of time as I can this year.
  • Sweet Potato Biscuits (from Midwest Living) — My mom hates sweet potatoes.  I know this because every time I say the words “sweet potato,” she reminds me how much she hates them.  I don’t know what prompted me to make these last year, but I somehow managed to convince my mom to try one.  She loved them!  When we started planning our menu for this year, she demanded that these be included.  They’re made with mashed sweet potatoes, orange zest, and smoked paprika.  They’re spicy, sweet, smoky…a little bit of everything.  They’re basically perfect, and if you’re feeding a lot of people you need to make a double batch.
  • Fresh Cranberry Relish (from Whole Living, November 2012 – dang I miss that magazine) — This is a relic from a year that we decided to make a really fresh & healthy Thanksgiving dinner.  I’ve held onto it because it takes like a minute to make, it’s got a nice balance of tart & sweet, it can be made ahead of time, and it’s completely no-cook.
  • Pecan Pie — My mom is making this, and I really don’t know why.  She doesn’t like it, I don’t like it, Flavio doesn’t like it.  I guess she’s making it for my brother, but we’re still not sure if he’s coming to dinner, and it’s not even his favorite pie (he’d probably rather have apple or blueberry).  But this has always been her Thanksgiving go-to.  She makes it with dark corn syrup and Log Cabin pancake syrup.  Gross and double gross.  Sorry, ma!
  • Tiramisù — This was Flavio’s request.  I thought about making a pumpkin version (there’s a recipe for a pumpkin tiramisù pie in Ashley English’s A Year of Pie), but since the running theme this year is “Classic,” and it’s the only thing Flavio has asked for, I’m going with a traditional recipe.  I’ve only made this once before, using a recipe from a bag of lady fingers, and it turned out extremely boozy.  I figured I should dial back on the liquor this time, particularly since my sister-in-law is almost 6-months pregnant.  So if you’ve got a particularly good, low- to no-alcohol tiramisù recipe, send it my way!  I figure this may become a new Thanksgiving tradition for us, since this is a dish best served if it’s been allowed to sit in the fridge overnight.

So how do you Thanksgiving?  Traditional American turkey dinner, or do you try something new every year?  Are there any dishes that aren’t necessarily traditional but are absolute must-haves on your family’s table?

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