As usual, we had so much fun last weekend at small group Thanksgiving. I posted my menu notes on Instagram, but did not get a chance to do a planning post here beforehand. So, in case you want to make any last minute changes to your menu, I have some goodies to recommend:
- My mama’s turkey. My mom grew up on a turkey farm and probably cooked more turkey before the age of ten than most people do in their entire lifetimes. She swears by dry brining, so that’s what we do. Last year, we smoked our turkey, but since we were at a friend’s house this year (due to the never-ending house remodel), we just dry brined it for 24 hours and then threw it in the oven at 325° for a few hours (until the breast temperature with an instant-read thermometer was 165°). Other tips from mom: baste with herb butter (I just throw some Kerrygold, sage, thyme, parsley, and garlic in my mini food processor – half of it I use to baste the turkey, and the other half, I put in a dish on the table for the bread/rolls), put foil on the leg and wing tips to keep them from burning before everything else is done, and throw some fresh herbs in the cavity of the turkey before roasting. Of course, a turkey raised on pasture is the key to a delicious main course, but you can’t go wrong with Jan’s tricks!
- Sage pesto squash. We made this last year and loved it. Plus, we had lots of butternut and acorn squash from our garden, so this was an easy pick. Our sage plant was a bit out of control this year, so I had made froze a ton of sage in olive oil and froze it about a month ago, making this side extra easy.
- Chard, mushrooms, lentils, and sweet potato shepherd’s pie. That title is a mouthful, but this recipe will become a regular in our Meatless Monday rotations. My favorite part of making the Thanksgiving menu every year is finding a vegetarian main course that pleases everybody – vegetarian and meat lovers alike. This was a big hit. I modified this recipe quite a bit, and I need to test it a few more times so that I can share it here in full (look for that before Christmas). But if you want to make it for Thanksgiving, I basically added a ton of chard to the bottom because we had lots of it from our home garden, added some different spices, threw a splash of cream in the sweet potatoes, and then covered it with Asiago cheese before baking.
- Pommes Dauphinoise (Potatoes au Gratin) (Food52’s photo because I forgot to take one). I always try to make the potatoes and stuffing a little bit different than the traditional every year because everyone is going to be having traditional mashed potatoes and stuffing later this week. These were the surprise hit of the meal – even the world’s pickiest eater liked them! (Sorry, Mike!). I added three more potatoes than the recipe called for because it seemed like the cream/cheese to potato ratio was a little off. I also added thinly sliced onions to each layer. These will be making it on plenty of special occasion menus in the years to come!
- Help me prayer. I loved this prayer that our friends found and recited. I may or may have had a few tears fall into the gravy. Speaking of gravy, I just make Ina’s gravy, and, per usual Ina fashion, she never lets me down (I do, however, skip the brandy/cognac, and add extra cream instead).
- Bacon and brussels. This has become a staple at our house, and it’s so simple yet a big crowd-pleaser. Since I was trying to simplify things this year since I wasn’t cooking at home, I figured the tried and true would be a good choice. I just wash and trim off the ends of the Brussels sprouts, cut the larger sprouts in half, and dump them in a big bowl. Then add about a few glugs of olive oil (about one “glug” per two cups of sprouts), 3-4 smashed garlic cloves, and about 4 slices of good pastured bacon, sliced thickly. Stir to combine. Add some salt and pepper (red pepper flakes if you’re feeling those), and spread out evenly on a large baking sheet. Throw in a preheated 425° over for 20 minutes, until some of the sprouts’ outer layers are crispy. Serve immediately.
- Annie’s Eats mac and cheese. I made this two days ahead – it is always nice to have some dishes that are easy to make ahead to lighten the load on Thanksgiving day. A few changes that I made (and it was still delicious, just not so rich): I double the recipe for everything but the cheese and only used about 6 cups total of cheese in the actual mac and cheese, I used french bread instead of sandwich bread, I used Monterrey jack instead of colby, and I added a sliced up jalapenoin with the cheese.
- Roasted carrot soup. I made this a few weeks ago and froze it, making it super easy for Thanksgiving. I made two batches: one from Food52 and this one. They were both delicious, but you may want to stick with the Food52 one so you don’t have to worry about peanut allergies.
- Pioneer Woman’s cornbread stuffing. I had tons of leftover cornbread frozen from a chili party a few weeks ago, so that is why I chose this one. I’ve made it before, and PDub rarely lets me down, especially for holiday cooking. This is my other go-to stuffing recipe if you’re not feeling the cornbread.
Since I was cooking ahead at my parent’s house, my mom whipped up some copycat jalapeno dip (this would be great to take if you’re not hosting because it stays really well, so they could either set it out or save it for later) that was amazing with lots of veggies before the meal. I used this recipe for dessert but subbed out apples instead and added some caramel sauce on top. Someone brought some delicious cheese and crackers, so that kept us busy while we finished cooking and prepping.
What’s on your Thanksgiving table? Be sure to report back on your favorites from the big day. I am thankful for all of you that visit my little corner on the interwebs!