We all know it starts with the bird. But, how are you cooking your bird this year? Are you shooting him up with butter and seasonings, are you bathing him in an overnight brine? Are you getting him ready for the fryer? Or, if you are like me, are you rubbing him down, inside and out, with fresh herbs and olive oil and stuffing him with oranges and apples? Whichever way you plan to cook him, the bird goes on your menu plan as the shining star of the meal.
I have traditional appetizers that I have made for years, and that my mother and grandmothers made before me. I make a salmon mousse spread, and a garlic and sherry infused chopped liver pate. I think two appetizers are great, one that is lighter and one that is rich. Think crudité and bruschetta, cheese board and roasted veggies, savory onion dip, and blue cheese stuffed endive leaves. It’s about balance here. Appys are the lead up to the big event.
And then there are the desserts. Pumpkin pie, of course. We also include chocolate pecan pie, and good old-fasioned chocolate cream pie. All served with a heaping ladleful of bourbon and vanilla laced whipped cream.
Every year it’s the sides that get my imagination going. Here’s where I change it up a bit (much to the chagrin of the family). And, every once in a while I hit a home run! There are the standards: whipped potatoes and dressing. The accompaniments are as endless as your Thanksgiving Day waistband.
In place of a sweet potato dish, this year I’m making a savory carrot pudding served with creamed onions and peas. (You see, three vegies in one!). I’m also serving fresh green beans sautéed in olive oil, with thin slices of garlic and julienne sundried tomatoes (The recipe is below). I’m also considering creamed spinach and saucy succotash. It’s a dilemma. A good one! Here’s my recipe for changed up green beans.
With Sliced Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 6 to 8
20 Minute Cuisine
Here is a really simple recipe that you can make in minutes, and is as perfect for a weekday meal as it is when company comes a callin’. You can make everything in advance, and then reheat just before serving. The best part is that leftovers are delicious in a pasta salad for tomorrow’s lunch!
1 (4-ounce jar) julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 whole head of garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces, about 4 cups
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
Place the sundried tomatoes into a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is soft and golden, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Blanch or steam the green beans until crisp-tender. I use the vegetable setting on my microwave for this. I place the green beans in a bowl with a little bit of water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place into the oven. The green beans are usually crisp-tender in about 4 minutes. Drain the water from the bowl.
Place the green beans into the skillet and toss with the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
You can find those fancy, skinny green beans in the grocery store, already cleaned and bagged. These are delicious in this recipe. The only change to make is that you do not have to blanch them first. To make this an even heartier side dish, add baby new potatoes, halved and blanched until they are tender. Green bean, tomatoes and potatoes all in one dish…. Well that’s good!
It’s that time. Time to gather your friends and family, and experience the very essence of togetherness, celebrating all of our blessings. A time to watch parades and football, and have that one day a year where you are encouraged to gorge yourself on all the traditional dishes you have waited (ALL YEAR!) to devour. Hooray, hooray, it’s Thanksgiving Day! Over the next two weeks, I’ll share with you my meal plan, complete with a timeline and my favorite recipes. Take from it what you wish, and substitute freely. I’m here to point you in the right direction. Just do yourself a favor, and make a plan. I guarantee that a plan will help you enjoy your Thanksgiving Day to the absolute fullest… leaving you plenty of time for Christmas shopping!!
Two weeks ahead, make your meal plan. List the dishes you plan to cook, those you’re going to pick up, and those that others are bringing to the party. Make a grocery list of all of the ingredients you need to prepare the dishes you are cooking. Sort your list by departments: dairy, produce, pantry staples, meats and poultry. Take stock of your bar and include wine, mixers and garnishes on your list. After your grocery list is prepared, check your pantry to see which items you’ve already stocked and cross them off your list. (You’re already making progress!) Now, place any orders you need to make. The turkey, of course (I like to order a fresh turkey), bakery goods and specialty items.
One week ahead, plan your tablescape.Take stock of your china and flatware to make sure you have enough. Same goes for glassware and crystal. Don’t be afraid to mix and match china patterns. There’s creativity in designing a pretty table. Look for festive placemats, table runner or tablecloth cloth. A simple throw blanket can double as a cloth on your table. Locate candlesticks and votive candles. Don’t be afraid to experiment with those cute twinkle lights, wrapped around pillar candles for some real tablescape sparkle! Create place cards, organize your centerpiece and assemble décor for platters. Pinecones are great, but pretty twigs and stems of fruit are good for decorating too. I love to include food as part of my tablescape centerpiece. I place artichokes alongside pears and limes for a green experience. Add a few branches, pinecones and a gourd or two, and you have an organic look that is perfect for the occasion.
Saturday before Thanksgiving, plan on a shopping day!If you are farmer’s market shopper, get up early and visit the market you love. Purchase all of the fresh produce items that you need. Stop and smell the coffee beans. Remember this is not a race. Rather, it’s time to enjoy your stroll through the market. Smile at the people you pass, and greet your favorite farmers. This is the season to be thankful for the growers! Slow down long enough to enjoy a festive cup ‘o Joe while you double check your list. Finish up at the grocers to purchase anything you were not able to find at the market.
Sunday before Thanksgiving, get your apron out! Make the dishes on your meal plan that are easily made in advance, like chutneys and relishes. Lay out serving dishes and utensils.
Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Make it a prep day!Chop and prep all the ingredients you will need. If you need onions for three dishes, chop a bunch. Same goes for apples (for pie!) and potatoes for mashed potatoes. Here’s a trick. Submerge potatoes in cold water in the pot you will use to cook them in, and place them in your fridge. They will be fine until you’re ready to boil. Set your table! Prepare your centerpiece. Get those place cards placed! Set up your bar. Did you remember to make extra ice? If you have a frozen turkey, let’s get it on its way to thawing.
Wednesday before Thanksgiving, focus on breads and desserts. Prepare your desserts. Get pies ready to bake. Prepare your casseroles and sides. Prepare dough for breads or rolls. Cover everything with plastic wrap, and store in the fridge until tomorrow. You can place the baking dishes on top of each other to save space. Use a heavy piece of cardboard, or a thin baking sheet to separate the dishes.
Thanksgiving Morning, it’s show time!Get that bird ready to roast. Organize your oven racks, and preheat so that you’re ready to bake off desserts, breads and then casseroles. Before your guests arrive, see to last-Minute details! Prepare mashed potatoes. Save the potato water to help thicken your gravy. Set out appys. Get the ice in the bucket. Pour yourself a glass of wine…. you’re doing great!
Pull the turkey from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. While he rests, use the drippings in the pan to make the gravy. As you carve the bird, encourage friends and family to help you get the dishes to the table. Pour gravy into boats. Spoon the sides onto plates. Say a prayer of thanks….