Thanksgiving Menu & Cooking

Back before Thanksgiving, I was going to post my planned menu. I was going to ask for tips, tricks, and suggestions. I had a blogging plan.

Of course, I also had a turkey plan, and you guys see how well that went. I also had this plan that I’d do a bunch of cooking Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. That went about as well as you might expect.

The not cooking very early? That was totally my fault. Monday and Tuesday rolled around, and I realized my menu was small enough that I wasn’t sure it was worth any possible degradation in quality to cook so early. Though, to try to make sure it set, I think I made the cranberry sauce Tuesday. I may have made it Wednesday morning.

I resolved to cook a bunch in advance on Wednesday. Then Wednesday rolled around, and Bill and I spent most of the day out of the house doing something else. I don’t even remember what. Probably some shopping (which I’d also done Tuesday) for Thanksgiving. Some other things. I don’t know. All I know is that we got back to the house early evening, and I was just astounded.

This didn’t stop me from cooking early, mind you. It just limited how much in advance I could do. That ended up being okay, even though it also resulted in Bill and I getting up at 7:00 am to cook. We actually had plenty of time mid-day to just chill out. It was really nice.

So, with that in mind, let me tell you what we had! Some of these will get posts of their own, some will not. I basically did not think to take photos this year, which is a bummer, as everything was pretty attractive. Except the sweet potatoes.

1) The turkey, of course! This thing was KILLER. I may not be able to do it my old way next time. It came out crisp skinned, gorgeous, totally not dry, and so pretty. It ALSO came out two hours early, and none of my guests showed up more than about half an hour before dinner1, so we did have to let it cool for a lot longer than we might have wanted. Still, even mostly room temperature, it was stellar. Bill says it was his favorite dish of the evening. And, let’s be honest, though it’s the centerpiece of most meals no one EVER says the turkey was the best part of Thanksgiving.

2) I tried to make Mark Bittman’s “firm” cranberry sauce again this year. Like last year2, I wanted to make it in the lobster jello mold my grandmother had given me a few years ago. Like last year, it didn’t set. Boo!

3) We had a number of turnips and potatoes in the house from our CSA, and I know how to use potatoes better than I do turnips (despite the fact that part of this blog is to help me stretch that out), so I decided to make mashed potatoes & turnips. I have had good success in the past straight substituting turnips for potatoes.

4) Sauteed brussels sprouts with bacon. This won’t get a post of its own, since it has one. Short and sweet of it was, it was good, but not as good as last time. I am not sure why, but I think we overcooked the sprouts. So it went from “heavenly” to “okay”. Also, I think we may have forgotten the vinegar. If so, that’s why they were only decent – it was really a lovely combination.

5) These sweet potatoes. They… Well… Let’s just say that mine didn’t look as appetizing as Mr. Flay’s photo there. In fact, they didn’t even look like they came from the same planet…

6) This rum spiced pumpkin pie, from Imbibe Magazine. Only I forgot the fresh ginger. Good news? It didn’t need it. It was delicious without it.

7) An apple-molasses pie, from my Pie Town Cookbook. I’m really sad that I don’t seem to have managed to take photos of this. It looked amazing3.

8) Pioneer Woman’s No Knead Rolls. Bill actually made these. They were beyond lovely. However, the recipe actually makes enough for TWO armies, not PW’s more usual singleton army. Seriously, we only used 1/5th of the dough. The other four parts are in our freezer for future things that we want rolls for. This doesn’t make the 24 rolls her recipe says it makes. We made 18 rolls. With 1/5th of the dough. You will have rolls for all eternity if you make these.

I think that’s everything we made. We had some more desserts, though.

Our friend Mel brought some of those yummy rolled-up stuffed cookies. The kind Pepperidge Farms calls “Pirouettes”. Only she didn’t bring that brand, she brought the Royal Danish ones. I think.

True story about these cookies? I never buy them. Ever. Because they are a cookie weakness for me, and I will eat all of them in about no time. This means we weren’t totally thrilled (and yet we were) when Mel left the ENORMOUS can of them.

Mel also brought her friend Jamie. Jamie, in turn, brought banana bread and brownies. Turns out she’s a pretty good baker. She wasn’t pleased herself with the banana bread, but I think the banana bread eaters liked it. I liked the brownies, that’s for sure.

Finally, our friend Krysti brought this dessert concoction. I don’t even know it’s name. It sounds like a food atrocity, but it’s actually pretty damn good. It’s apricot jello (which is, apparently, common in her native homeland of Minnesota, but is rare in Chicago), with canned pineapple and canned mandarin orange segments suspended in it. This is eaten with a big ol’ dollop of Cool Whip. Normally, I think regular Cool Whip, but she got super fancy and brought french vanilla Cool Whip.

It was really good. I had my doubts, when she described it, I’ll admit. But she said it’s a serious family tradition for her, and it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it, so not only was I thrilled she brought it, I was going to try it. Glad I did. Now I wonder, why apricot jello?

It was, as Thanksgiving always is, a feast. I was super thrilled to be able to host more people this year. I laughed and laughed as our guests tried to learn a new dance step from the Internet while I broke down the turkey carcass. They were clearly having a great time.

I was a little bummed not to send leftovers home with Mel and Jamie, but they had other plans, and both swore they weren’t eating again for weeks anyway, so it’s probably for the best. Krysti took home a pile of turkey and some other leftovers, and I think she utterly enjoyed them.

So, all in all, a very successful Thanksgiving. I hope yours was as well.

fn1. This is so weird to me, but it seems more normal around here. What time do you all normally show up or expect guests for Thanksgiving, specifically?

fn2. Intriguingly, it seems I made this dish, but never posted about it, aside from the photos that year.

fn3. Let’s all just ignore the fact that “amazing” doesn’t have to mean “tasty” and pretend my guests didn’t call it “The Demon Pie” all night, okay?