Thanksgiving Menu and Plan 2019

Cooking a Thanksgiving meal is a lot of work. That sounds obvious, but I’m leading with it because I think sometimes people forget jus how much work it really is. You have to choose recipes that you and your guests will like, and be able to eat, and hopefully go well together, and then you have to actually make all that food, but you also have to be able to plan, and manage your time (and oven space) in order to get everything onto the table all together.

I’ve been hosting it every other year for, I don’t know, a long time. More than a decade. Every year we make some old favorites and try a few new recipes, and I thought I’d share this year’s menu, in part so that I’ll have it all in one place for next year, but also in case you were looking for some inspiration. I’m also going to share my plan for how to put it all together, just to give you an idea of what that looks like for me. Shout out to my husband, who manages all the cleaning and most of the shopping, so I can focus on the cooking.

If you have a favorite Thanksgiving recipe or tradition, or any tips and tricks for managing your cooking time more efficiently, please share in the comments, I’d love to hear about it!

The Menu

Spicy Pickled Green Beans via The Splendid Table (x 1/2), but a quick pickled version
Smoky Candied Almonds via Serious Eats (x 1)
Cheese and crackers (tbd)

Turkey and Gravy: Herb Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy via Epicurious (x 1) I’ll have a smaller turkey, and I salt it (otherwise known as dry-brining for who knows what reason) rather than brining it, so there will be a few adjustments to the time-table

Mashed Potatoes: Extra Potato-y Mashed Potatoes from Inside the Test Kitchen by Tyler Florence (x 3)

Stuffing: Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Corn Nuts from Bon Appétit‘s 2019 Thanksgiving issue (x 1), and a vegetarian bread stuffing with apples, and maybe some pecans and dried cranberries, that I’m just going to make up (x 1)

Cranberry Sauce:Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel via Epicurious (x 1/2), and Mama’s Cranberry Salad via food52 (x 1/2), the former I’ve made quite a few times, and the latter because I wanted to try something new

Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios and Lime from Bon Appétit‘s 2019 Thanksgiving issue (x 1 1/2 or 2, haven’t decided)
Caramelized Spiced Carrots via Epicurious (x 1/2)
Sweet Potato Spoon Bread via The Best American Recipes 2002-2003 (x 1)

Pecan-Rye Pumpkin Pie from Bon Appétit‘s 2019 Thanksgiving issue (x 1)
Cranberry-Lime Pie via Epicurious (x 1)
Derby Pie via my mom and Aunt Julie (x 1), my son volunteered to make this, but it’s unclear if he’ll have time

Drinks: my husband handles the drinks. I think he’s making cranberry Mai Tais

Also, my mom is bringing Peasant Pie, Corn Pudding, and Apple Pie

The Plan

The Weekend before Thanksgiving: make turkey and veggie broth for stuffings and gravy, make the Zinfandel cranberry sauce, make cornbread for stuffing, make pie dough for pumpkin and derby pies

Monday: make cornbread stuffing, roast sweet potatoes for spoon bread, peel and mash, make nuts and pickles

Tuesday: acquire the turkey and do hopefully the last shopping run, salt the turkey, make the gravy base and herb butter, make the cranberry pie, maybe take out all the serving dishes and try to figure out which ones to use

Wednesday: make the veggie stuffing, make spoon bread, make the jelly cranberry sauce, make the derby and pumpkin pies, prep the sprouts and carrots, maybe infuse the cream for the mashed potatoes with thyme (haven’t decided about that yet), finalize plan for Thursday, go shopping for anything you forgot on Tuesday

Thursday AM: roast off the sprouts and the carrots, get the turkey out of the fridge
noonish?: get the turkey in the oven, peel the potatoes
some time after that: get the stuffings into the oven, boil the potatoes, get the appetizers on the table
after the turkey comes out: somehow fit everything that needs to get heated up into the oven, mash the potatoes, finish the sprouts on the stove, make the gravy
once the turkey is rested: carve the bird (that’s my brother’s job), get everything onto the table, don’t forget the cranberry sauce, remember to be thankful, eat
later that evening: pull pies from the fridge, whip cream, consider heating up the apple pie, somehow manage to have dessert after eating too much of everything else

Veggie Broth

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to prepare for Thanksgiving in earnest this weekend. I did turkey broth a couple weeks ago and froze it (I used Bon Appétit‘s recipe), but I have some vegetarian dishes that need broth*, too. So, we went by the farmers market, got some lovely fresh, local vegetables, and got to work.

I kind of cobbled together this method a few months ago, and really liked the results, so I thought I’d share it. Keep in mind, though, that it’s really very flexible, and you can add or subtract ingredients based on what you have.

2 sweet potatoes
3 carrots
1 parsnip
2 leeks
1 onion
1 or 2 heads of garlic (the market had pretty small heads of garlic, so that’s why two)
6-8 oz. mushrooms

Chop everything very coarsely, leaving skins on. Toss with some olive oil and a little salt, and roast at 450° F until nicely browned, but not burnt (25-40 minutes). Add them to a stock pot, then deglaze the roasting pan with some white wine, and throw that in as well. Add

2-3 stalks celery
small bunch parsley
several peppercorns and allspice berries
a couple of whole cloves
1 or 2 bay leaves

and enough water to cover everything by about 2″. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about an hour and a half. The broth should be golden and flavorful. If you like, you can reduce it further. Strain, chill, and then freeze.

*I guess since it’s roasted it’s technically stock? I don’t know, I just use broth for everything.

Potato Gratin

This is a pretty simple side dish to make if you have a mandoline. If you don’t, then the slicing may get a bit tedious.

Serves 4

4 russet potatoes
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
1 bay leaf
1 small sprig of rosemary
3 thyme sprigs
1 1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground white or black pepper and nutmeg to taste
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1. Put all of the ingredients except for the potatoes and the cheeses into a pot and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter a 9″-square casserole, or you can go for a different shape around the same size. If you’re feeling French, you can first rub the pan all over with a cut clove of garlic.

3. Peel the potatoes, and slice them fairly thin, about 1/8″ (this is where the mandoline comes in). When you’re not working with them, keep the potatoes submerged in cold water so they don’t oxidize, but make sure you pat them dry before using them.

4. Arrange the potato slices in the pan, overlapping them, but keeping it to a single layer. Try to fit most of them in, but if your potatoes were on the large size you might have some left over. Strain the cream mixture, and pour it evenly over the potatoes. (If you taste the cream mixture, it will probably be delicious, but too salty. That’s okay, because the potatoes are as yet unseasoned, so it will all work out.)

5. Bake for 45 minutes, and then check it. The top should be browning a bit, and the potatoes should be cooked through (poke the center to make sure). In my experience, how long they take is highly dependent on how tightly packed your potatoes are, so give yourself some wiggle room, they may go longer.

6. Take them out of the oven, sprinkle with the cheese, and either put them back in for a few more minutes to get melty, or heat up the broiler and brown to desired crispiness.

Quick Bite

Squash and Radicchio Salad With Pecans from the Bon Appétit Thanksgiving issue. I made it as written to the best of my ability, given that I couldn’t find honeynut squash or Asian pears anywhere (I substituted red kuri squash and Roxbury russet apple). The vinaigrette was great, and the squash, apple, pecan, and cheese went really well together, but I did find the radicchio overpowering. I know it looks striking, but it’s just not that good all by itself. Next time I’ll make it half and half with Tuscan kale or something.

Chickpea Soup for All Souls’ Day

A little late, but, while we’re still in the right season, I wanted to share this soup, from The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, which is warm, hearty, vegetarian (in fact, vegan), and tons of flavor for very little effort. You do have to like chickpeas — seriously, it’s just a bowl of chickpeas — and you must use dried ones, not canned.

You’re probably going to look at the recipe and go ‘What? That’s so boring,’ but please, trust me. You are going to love this soup!

Serves 4-6

14 oz. dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in the refrigerator in water to cover by 2 inches
Cold water
1 1/2 TB extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium to large onion, minced
2 6-inch branches fresh rosemary
6 large fresh sage leaves
1 large bay leaf
1 large clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and put them in a soup pot. Add water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and bring to a slow simmer.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, rosemary, sage, and bay. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is a deep golden color. Stir in the garlic and cook for a few seconds.

3. Stir in about 1/2 cup of the chickpea liquid into the onion pan, swish it around to pick up any brown bits, and dump everything into the chickpea pot. Simmer, covered, for 3 hours, or until the chickpeas are tender, but not falling apart. Season generously with salt (but not too generously – it should taste good, not salty) and simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes.

4. Remove the herbs, puree 2/3rds of the mixture in a blender, then stir it back into the pot. Adjust the seasoning, then ladle into bowls, topping with parsley, black pepper, and a little more olive oil if you like.

Okay, real talk: you don’t have to soak the chickpeas overnight. If you forgot or didn’t plan ahead, just go ahead with the recipe anyway. Ask me how I know. Also, the cooking time is kind of dependent on your chickpeas, but when I made it it only took two hours to cook to doneness. You don’t have to puree it (I didn’t this time), it’s honestly good either way, and it’s still good even if you completely forget the parsley, which I obviously did.

Cottage Cheese Burgers

My mom used to make these for us when we were kids, and I’ve started making them for my kids, because they’re quick, easy, fun, and delicious. How’s that for a pitch? They’re also, if the internet is anything to go by, not a very common recipe, so I thought I’d go ahead and share them.

So, it’s a very free form recipe, but I use 16 oz cottage cheese, 2 thinly sliced scallions, 2 eggs, some grated Parmesan and salt to taste, and enough breadcrumbs to be able to form the mixture into patties (I’d start with a half-cup, and add more if you need to). Then form into about 8 patties, and fry in a nonstick pan (or well-seasoned cast iron) with a couple TBs of olive or other oil of your choice, over medium to medium-high heat. When they’re brown on one side, flip them over, and continue frying until cooked through. My advice would be to pick a cottage cheese with low moisture, or even strain it if it’s too liquid-y, and the smaller curd types work better than the large curds.

As long as you’re not adding very much more liquid, you could probably season them however you like, but part of the appeal for me is their simplicity, so I usually don’t. Oh, and, this is very important, to achieve their fullest potential, serve them with Russian dressing (or whatever they’re calling ketchup and mayonnaise mixed together these days).