Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tasty Eating's Essential Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a big deal in my home. I've been hosting for years and I do all the cooking by myself. Guests come with empty stomachs ready to eat. And I'm happy to serve them.

All that delicious food doesn't come easy though. Some things like the pie dough, stock, and cranberry sauce start 3 days ahead. But that's fairly easy compared to all the prep I do the day before. See the below? That's 8 hours of consecutive prep. It saves me a lot of time and worry the day of. All worth it.
Speaking of saving time, I also label all my serving dishes ahead of time. If I'm busy, I can have a couple of guests plate the food for me. I don't have to actually tell anyone where something goes. It's all labeled and ready. I also like to take out the special dining plates too making sure they're all in one piece.
And since I do make so much food, it's all set up as a buffet in my home. There's not enough room on the table for the platters. It's better this way anyway because some of these dishes are quite heavy.
First up, the star of the show: roast turkey. Herbed butter under the skin, bacon on top, and spatchcocked this year. A total success except I took it out a bit too late. The residual heat cooked that turkey past my optimal desired temperature. But overall, a winning dish.
The other meat at my Thanksgiving is the mustard glazed ham. This is real smoked ham from the butcher. No supermarket stuff for me. I tweaked the recipe this year so that each and every piece has a bit of the mustard sauce on it. It was well received. That means the tweaks will remain on the Thanksgiving roster.
When it comes to sides, I like to keep them relatively vegetarian. There's enough meat to go around with the turkey and ham. Balance is the key to plate after plate of delicious Thanksgiving food. Anyway, a new addition to the menu this year is roasted butternut squash with sauteed onions and cranberries. I used to make roasted sweet potatoes but it always went untouched. So I decided to do squash instead and people really enjoyed it. Even though butternut is naturally sweet, it's not as heavy or as sweet as sweet potatoes. I also enjoyed the addition of onions and tart cranberries. This will definitely stay on the menu for future Thanksgivings.
Macaroni and cheese is favorite. I've been using a new recipe this year and it's been really good. Creamy cheese sauce and pasta shells. I made this ahead of time and it seized up a bit. The pasta absorbed too much of the moisture in the cheese sauce and made it much too thick. Even when I reheated it up for dinner, it was still too thick. I think I may have to make this closer to dinner time for the ultimate cheesy mac n cheese.
The sausage dressing is always a favorite too. I use good crusty bread, sausage, a slew of sauteed vegetables, and homemade stock to make this. It just exudes flavor. And that crusty top from baking is so good next to the softer bottom of the dressing.
People think mashed potatoes is easy. But it's not that easy. The ratio between tater to butter to milk is important. The way to mash it is also important. Gummy potatoes are not friendly. My potatoes are flavorful, creamy, and oh so smooth. I like it as is but some gravy on top is good too.
Roasted brussels sprouts is one of my favorite things to eat. Just simply salt, pepper, and oil then roasted until lightly charred. No bitter sprout here. Just naturally sweet and savory. Load 'em up!
The corn souffle was something I discovered a couple of years ago. I was looking for something new to make with corn and this was it. Light, sweet, and just a bit spicy. It's the perfect texture to all the heavier sides of the meal.
I grew up buying frozen garlic bread to serve at Thanksgiving. And I loved it. The pungent garlic flavor against all the other strong flavors of the meal. However, I wanted to make my own one year. I wasn't about to make my own bread but I wanted to make my own garlic butter. It started as chopped raw garlic and butter on bread then toasted. The garlic didn't seem to cook enough and left an unpleasant raw garlic taste in people's mouths. Then I sauteed it in butter but then it cooked too much and burned a bit when I toasted it on the bread. So one day I just decided to poach the garlic in butter slowly until the butter was infused with intense garlic flavor. What I got was a caramelized garlic brown butter. It was magical. The garlic flavor is so intense. Spread it on some bread, broil it under some flames, then top with parsley. So good. It's garlic butter crack.
And in my home, we have a side of bacon from the turkey. It's best eaten while the turkey is roasting. It's a little snack for the hard workers (me and Mr. M&P) of the day. Not too shabby.
And a Thanksgiving isn't complete without some gravy. Homemade gravy that is thick, creamy, and packed with flavor. Perfect over the turkey.


  1. I'd like some garlic butter crack please.

    How do you make your gravy?

    1. I actually have a bit of leftover garlic butter crack that I'm keeping in the fridge.

      I'm going to post about the gravy tomorrow but in summary: leftover roast vegetables from turkey, homemade stock, immersion blender.

  2. Wow, Hungry's Thanksgiving looks WONDERFUL!!!


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