Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner, 2008

My mind keeps drifting back to last year, which I kept dead simple because I was eight months pregnant at the time. Turkey, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, a couple of do-ahead nibbles, and my mother-in-law's pie made for a nearly stress-free meal for a change.


This year, of course, I tried to do a bit more, but not much more, since we have a newly-toddling little boy underfoot and I spent much of the month or so leading up to the holiday with my brain occupied by our potential house purchase. The actual menu came together shockingly late (for me), and I didn't get around to writing up my plan until the day before (an old catering trick, I think I got it from Ina Garten--make a detailed list of what has to get done, when, working backwards from when the meal is to be served, so that you don't forget to put the stuffing in the oven or something like that). This is what I came up with:
  • Prosciutto and Gruy√®re Pastry Pinwheels--An old friend in the appetizer world, because you can do all the prep ahead of time, and then just slice and bake. They disappear very quickly because they taste fabulous.
  • Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese, Bacon, and Balsamic-Fig Dressing--I am salad-impaired; Thanksgiving is the only time I make stuff like this, going for the bag-of-greens-and-bottled-dressing approach the rest of the year. The dressing for this is wonderfully sweet-tart and divine with the goat cheese. I had to use romaine because my grocery store has no arugula, despite the presidential election.
  • Cranberry Relish with Apple Cider--This one had two changes. The first was accidental, because I bought pomegranate-flavored cider instead of normal (I thought they'd just changed the label somehow). I tasted it and thought it would do all right. Then I actually read the recipe, instead of just the ingredient list, and thought, Hm, that's a rather weird preparation. I think I'll cook it all together and see what happens. What happened was really good, so score one for being willing to go off the rails once in a while.
  • Mashed potatoes. In one of Nigella Lawson's books she mentions that she's not daft enough to think that you actually need a recipe for mashed potatoes, but then goes on to include one anyway. I've always liked that bit.
  • Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots--An unexpected hit last year, so I made them again. Might become... tradition!
  • Apple and Sausage Stuffing--With added chestnuts. This turned out okay, but I think I should have toasted the bread, as it didn't hold up as well as I would have liked. Not bad otherwise, though.
  • Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs and Shallot-Dijon Gravy--Another one where I cheated. I always buy a kosher turkey, so I didn't do the salting bit. I did mix a bunch of the herbs into the butter and slathered it under the skin. My probe thermometer chose an incredibly bad time to go on the fritz, but the white meat was done and delicious, and the gravy was fantastic. I'd make this one again any time, and if I had a standard turkey I'd certainly give the salting thing a try.
The cranberries, salad dressing, and appetizer were all put together the night before. The morning of, JJ helped by only getting up once in the night and then sleeping until 7:30. People started arriving around 10:30.

My sister-in-law brought some bread, and her mother the pumpkin and apple pies tradition demands. My husband's family are not big drinkers, and I'm still nursing the baby, so the wine list was minimal: a Beringer merlot my in-laws brought, and Domaine St. Michelle sparkling wine. I cooked, people lent a hand where needed and played with the kids when not. JJ and his grandfather both took a nap. Due to the long drive some people had ahead of them, we sat down to eat at around 3:30, ate a lot, sat around talking, did some cleaning up, called distant relatives say hello, ate some more, talked some more. The only time the TV was on all day was while L watched a library video after lunch--not a football to be seen! We have just enough leftovers to enjoy a reprise some time soon.

It was a very nice day. Good to see family, and spend a day not worrying about much of anything except whether the turkey is done enough.

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