November 18, 2012 | Menus
So here we are – the Sunday before Thanksgiving – and I’m guessing if you’re reading blogs about Thanksgiving recipes that you either still have some holes in your menu or you’re, dare I say it, not even sure where to begin. Have no fear, Thanksgiving really doesn’t need to be difficult, and this post will help you whether you’re just filling in holes or looking for a complete plan that starts today.Let’s start with the full plan – for the past few years I’ve offered a cooking class on the Monday before Thanksgiving to anyone who wanted to come cook with a group and get the whole meal basically prepped or completed. You can visit this post from last year where I laid out the plan for those who couldn’t come to class but wanted to do it at home. You’ll find a complete plan from shopping today through to serving your dinner on Thanksgiving. If you’d prefer to just fill in some gaps or plan a different menu, here are my favorites by category.For appetizers, I don’t believe in serving anything too heavy as you are already serving a huge meal. But guests may want to snack on something small before sitting down, so either these Spiced Almonds or my very popular Rosemary Roasted Marcona Almonds would be a quick munchy you can plan to tide people over.If you want something just a bit more substantial for an appetizer, try Shrimp with Romesco Sauce or Ricotta Crostini with Lemon and Basil.If you like to start your Thanksgiving dinner with a soup, I think Celeriac Soup is seasonal and a nice change for many people. Carrot Ginger Soup would also be nice. I don’t serve a salad on Thanksgiving, but you can choose from many interesting ones by visiting the Salad Category on this site.The turkey seems to be a given for most people, so if you’re making one, I highly recommend a heritage breed turkey for the best flavor and I recommend brining it to make it moist. Here’s the lowdown on both.If you don’t eat meat but do eat fish, a large filet of salmon is a great choice as it’s easy to cook and can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold. Here’s the technique for a basic herb covered filet.I divide the side dishes into the potato-squash type of sides and the other green type of vegetables. Here’s a link to all of the potato recipes on this site – you’ll find basics on mashed potatoes plus everything from gratins to hassleback potatoes to sweet potatoes and potato salads.As for squash, you can’t go wrong with Maple Roasted Acorn Squash or a nice Butternut Squash side dish.My very favorite green vegetable for Thanksgiving dinner is Brussels Sprouts Roasted with Pancetta, but if that’s not your thing, try Spinach Sauteed with Roasted Garlic, Butter Braised Asparagus with Morels, Balsamic Roasted Beets and Onions, or Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots (a must if you have young kids – they love these!).People tend to be pretty particular about their dressing/stuffing. I grew up making the Pepperidge Farm bagged stuffing with basic celery and onions and it took me years literally to be able to try something new. If you’re game, try this Dressing with Chestnuts and Kumquats.I think people might be the same way about cranberry sauce (when I grew up that meant slicing the jellied stuff from a can which many people still adore), but this Roasted Cranberry Sauce with a slight kick from jalapenos is really good.I’m guessing you’ve got dessert covered – your mom is making your favorite pumpkin pie, or your brother is bringing the coveted pecan pie that you grew up with, or your kids would rather have cake. That’s cool with me! But if you want to try something sinfully good and decadent, try this Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce. Just don’t blame me if you need to excuse yourself from the table and change into more comfortable sweat pants!
I’ll be in New York with my whole family, including the boys’ girlfriends, celebrating Thanksgiving without cooking for the first time I can recall. One of the many things that I’m thankful for is that I can get my kids all together at this time, and although I miss my dad, I’m thankful for the great times I did have with him. I’m also very thankful for all of you dear readers, and I wish you a safe and happy holiday!