I don’t relish Thanksgiving fare — pureed roots and turkey. It’s like a precursor to fifty years from now and my 5 p.m. dinner in the solarium at Sunny Acres Rest Home.
This year is the third Thanksgiving my husband and I are hosting and making dinner for sixteen people. We are on a rotation, every three years it’s Turkey Leap Year at our house.
My sisters and mom all offer to bring something and typically it’s the fun stuff like dessert and appetizers and I am relegated to the mush and turkey. I try not to read into the fact so many people want to bring food. Do people leave my house hungry after one of my parties? Do they find one of my long blonde hairs in my Chinese Chicken Salad?
This weekend I began prepping for the big Thursday dinner. I taste tested a couple of recipes to see if I could trip on something new, delicious and maybe a new foodie tradition. For example my mom’s stuffing and of all things, lima beans is a staple on our Thanksgiving table. People crave her lima beans! Unfortunately, I never got on the lima bean gravy train. It’s been forty years since I’ve eaten a lima bean and the thought of a lima bean touching my mashed potatoes still triggers my gag reflex.
It takes me nearly three days to prepare for a twenty five minute meal. People woof down their dinner and then lumber to the sofa for a cat nap or some football, then rise up an hour later to gorge on dessert. Meanwhile, I wash sixteen place settings of china, crystal and silverware that I haven’t used in three years.
I like to serve a first course prior to the big spread as a way to prolong the dinner experience. I love reading Southern Living which features beautiful interiors of homes below the Mason Dixon line and trendsetting cuisine out of Charlotte, Austin and of course New Orleans. I have my sights on having a southern living lifestyle when I retire so I am reading up on its way of life to prepare.
In the latest issue of the magazine there is a recipe for Potato and Parsnip Soup. I know I just admitted hating pureed food and the Potato and Parsnip soup is pureed. But I liked the idea of serving a first course soup that is a bisque and piping hot. This dish is perfect for a late fall dinner. You chop a pound and a half of parsnip, an odd, white vegetable resembling a carrot. Other unusual ingredients include ginger, leeks and thyme. You can garnish the soup with sour cream and chives and it is a nice hearty starter. It was fun to make because I got to use my Cuisnart, which rarely sees the light of day.
This recipe can also be made in advance and kept in the freezer. I am testing that this week to see if my batch tastes good after its been frozen.
A recent Martha Stewart Living featured Roasted Squash with Shallots, Grapes and Sage appetizer. It photographed beautifully in the magazine and seemed easy to prepare. I tried that recipe out as well. It’s a colorful dish and it was tasty. However, it takes up prime oven real estate on Thanksgiving. I will definitely make it again and I think it’s a great side dish for a beef tenderloin or other succulent meat.
Last Christmas I made Ree Drummonds Burgundy Mushrooms with a rib roast. It’s a nine hour recipe, but something you can prepare the day before. The mushrooms were nice and meaty and I think a nice pairing with turkey. I plan on making Burgundy Mushrooms for Thanksgiving this year.
Many years ago I offered to make Smashed Sweet Potatoes to bring to one of my sister’s Thanksgivings and it has been an annual request since. This is another day before recipe and yes, it is pureed. However, it is really flavorful and it is an Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa recipe so therefore fabulous and easy. Watch Ina make it:
I’ve also prepared Ina’s Butternut Squash Risotto which is really yummy. I could eat vats of this, but I am not sure I am going to make it this Thanksgiving. Risotto requires plenty of stirring and it you make in advance it can get a bit sticky. But even sticky risotto is good.
Ina Garten likes to move her guests to a different room in her home for each course, but my house isn’t as large as Ina’s. I do like the idea of planning some kind of after dinner experience like roasting marshmallows over a fire pit or lighting off some fireworks to get people moving again. We have some sparklers and leftover fireworks from the summer that we may bring out to fight off the Tryptophan wreaking havoc on our guests.
I have to admit I love Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful kick off to a four day weekend filled with scrumptious leftovers. It’s not too cold out and maybe you luck out and guests can mill around outside in case you need to have a mental breakdown over a side dish not going your way. Like the first time we hosted Thanksgiving prior to remodeling our kitchen. There was a grease fire. We smoked all the guests outside. My husband insisted I cried, but my eyes were just watering from all the smoke. Really.
I’ve already set my table. My husband seemed concerned about the table getting dusty, but I assured him I’d go over all the place settings so they are nice and shiny the day of the turkey. The more I can get done in advance the better for my mental state and my guests’ enjoyment.
I do struggle with whether or not to decorate for Christmas. A part of me believes that Thanksgiving should remain this last hooray for autumn with cornucopias, pilgrims, pumpkins and hues of brown and gold. But there are only so many opportunities to get everyone together and I find I pull out the Christmas decorations and trim the tree so the house is festive.
By Christmas day we are ready to purge and start a new year.
Regardless of what is served on Thanksgiving, who naps, who helps with clean up, what taboo topic is brought up at the dinner table, I am thankful for the chance to host the people I love and sharing a day of pureed gluttony.