I really, really wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year. I kind of toyed with the idea last Thanksgiving, but I had to work and there just wasn't time. This year I planned ahead and asked off several days, and Mom agreed to let me cook *and plan* everything. Actually, she was pretty happy about not having to be the Thanksgiving cook for the first time in 20-ish+ years. Of course, she was happy to help.
I've been looking forward to it for weeks. I kept the menu simple, because it was just the immediate family, and well, obviously I'd never tackled Thanksgiving dinner before. Here's the menu I ended up going with:Rustic Bread Stuffing with Red Mustard Greens, Currants, and Pine Nuts
Glazed Carrots with Molasses and Marjoram
Bacon and Thyme Sauteed Brussels Sprouts- didn't use a recipe here
Dinner Rolls (Um, not homemade- I'm not that ambitious) (this year)
Cranberry-Apple Crumble Pie
I'm not going to post every recipe because I think that would feel monotonous. Instead, I'm going to walk you through my cooking and planning process.
~The day before Thanksgiving, I made the pie.
I've never really been partial to cranberry sauce, and neither has the rest of my family. I think my mom has always felt kind of obligated to make it because it's "traditional". I decided to get rid of it. This recipe appealed to me because I was still able to work cranberries into the menu. The tartness of the cranberries worked really well with the softly-sweet Gala apples.
Going into the oven
For some reason, I've messed up a few pie crusts lately, so I was a little nervous about this one. I used lard for the first time as a substitute for shortening. I ended up scrapping the first one I made because I thought it came together a little too quickly. The second crust acted much better though, so I went with it. The crumble topping didn't go on until halfway through the baking process.
Coming out of the oven
The recipe was actually pretty simple, so I kept my fingers crossed that it was a keeper. I'll come back to the pie.
I also got a little prep work done the day before the big dinner. I bought the Brussels sprouts on the stalk because they were soo much prettier than the pre-bagged ones.
Just found out recently that Brussels sprouts were members of the cabbage family.
Don't know why that surprised me.
So, I cut all the Brussels sprouts off the stalk, trimmed them, and blanched them. This way, I figured, all I would have to do for dinner would be to slice them and toss them in a saute pan with some bacon, garlic, and thyme (my favorite way of cooking them).
Thanksgiving day, I woke up excited and ready to cook. I started, of course, by getting the turkey ready to go into the oven. I love sage, and apple cider makes me think of fall, so this recipe seemed perfect to me.
Mom and I thought it was strange that the recipe didn't call for anything to go into the cavity of the bird. So, we decided to stuff it with some onion, lemon, and more sage.
My dad made the comment that there is nothing pretty about a raw turkey.
So, in the turkey went. While it roasted, we prepped the stuffing. It could be made a couple hours ahead of time, which was great so it could be in the pan and ready to go when the turkey came out.
I was excited about this recipe because I love pine nuts, and I didn't want a meaty stuffing because of the bacon in the Brussels sprouts. I thought the greens would be a nice touch. Alas, Mother couldn't find red mustard greens at her little Morganton grocery stores, and I went to three places here in Charleston and couldn't find them either. What really upset me the most is that I know they had them at the farmer's market, but I couldn't get off work last Saturday morning to get them. So, we substituted kale for the greens, and it worked out fine. We also substituted orange zest for lemon zest because I thought it might be a nicer flavor with the currants. I added some extra chicken stock, because it seemed a little dry and I wanted to make sure it bound together properly.
Basting the bird
Also, Margaret brought some nice cheese and wine from A Southern Season, where she works in Chapel Hill. God, I love that place. We enjoyed some bubbles and cheese while we were waiting for dinner.
Triple cream, Gruyere, and a local goat cheese from Chapel Hill
Dad and Margaret looking skeptical
Mom and I taking a break
When it came time to take the turkey out of the oven, it got slightly hairy. The stuffing and rolls went in, and I started sauteing the Brussels sprouts and carrots. After those were just finished, I started the gravy. No, I don't have any pictures of the carrots. Not sure why except that I just got a *little* busy. So, here's a turkey picture:
A good one of Dad carving the turkey
Finally, we sat down and enjoyed our meal. Margaret brought several bottles of red, including a Valpollicella Ripassato, a Rioja, and a Tempranillo from Argentina. We drank them in that order, and they were all delicous.
The food turned out really well! I loved the flavor of the gravy. The stuffing was a hit, although we all agreed I could have doubled the kale and added a bit more stock as a binder. The flavors were right on though, I just love greens and could have had more. The carrots were a little sweet, even though I cut back on molasses and added apple cider vinegar. I didn't really mind the sweetness, because they were kind of like a substitute for a tradidional sweet potato or yam dish (another Thanksgiving tradition no one in my family is particularly fond of).
Didn't think I would forget, did you?
I absolutely loved the pie. Considering how easy it was, it really turned out well. The lard made the crust nice and flaky, and the overall flavor was nicely refreshing, not cloyingly sweet like some holiday desserts. I would totally make this again.
So, I think that pretty much covers it! I really enjoyed myself, and of course, spending time with the family was the best part by far.