Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Thanksgiving Menu Planning
Thanksgiving meal planning can be a bit of an ordeal, but our family has inexplicably turned it into a rather stress-free affair. Our family is LARGE, you see. Rather absurdly large, as a matter of fact (ahem, large in terms of numbers, that is, not weight). And Thanksgiving is quite literally the only thing we do en masse that is mostly without stress. We have learned some tricks.
Some very valuable tricks.
Grandma roasts a couple of dead animals, and Preston fries one. The bird does not at all interest myself nor my mother (at whose house we hold this affair), but the sides, well, that's where we excel.
When you have a family as large as ours, it is par for the course to have at least 50 guests (some years, it's more like 75 or so), and so a few of us go a little crazy with our contributions. Mom will make a restaurant-sized pot of rice, and will throw in more rolls than you can shake a stick at. Then, depending on the year, she'll also make a few spinach quiches (my favorite) and/or a big pan of macaroni and cheese. My sister will make the biggest broccoli casserole you've ever seen, a few pumpkin pies, and a plateful of peanut butter fudge that will virtually vaporize before the main course has been consumed.
Grandma, even though she will have already worked herself to the bones over a couple of turkeys, will also make the gravy, the sweet potato casserole, the green and the red jello casseroles, and, if I've been a good girl, The Carrot Cake to End All Carrot Cakes.
And someone will open a can of cranberry stuff and squirt it out onto a small plate, with the can indentations still proudly showing off. I have tried valiantly to break us of this habit. I have made a cranberry chutney, cranberry preserves, and even a cranberry conserve, but it doesn't matter what I do. Someone will still slide out a can-shaped mound of canned cranberry stuff. So I have given up.
Over the years, I have tried all sorts of recipes, including slaving away for literally half a day making my own cream of mushroom soup FROM SCRATCH, and then FRYING MY OWN ONIONS in order to make the BEST GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE EVER, but I have learned my lesson. No one liked that casserole any better than the one in which I used Campbell's and Durkee's, so, you know, screw it.
A few years ago, I made a mushroom and wild rice pilaf that I thought would be a flop (but which I was willing to make because I thought I would have leftovers to live on for the next week) and it was a hit. The pan was scraped clean. I made it again the next year, and I'll be making it again this year.
Last year, I roasted three or four giant sheet pans worth of vegetables, and in another shocking turn of events, I watched my siblings snack on the brussels sprouts and turnips like candy. That one will make an encore appearance this year as well.
Oh, and then there's my very favorite fall fruit salad. I don't know if anyone besides my mother, my children, and I like it, but I cannot imagine a Thanksgiving without it now (and it is splendid for breakfast the next morning).
I will also be baking a new pie this year. As much of a success as the chocolate-espresso pecan pie has been, David Leibovitz recently posted a recipe for a bourbon-ginger pecan pie, and that recipe was quickly moved to the top of my list for this year. It will be the only unproven recipe in my repertoire though, because frankly, the tried-and-true family favorites are the easiest to pull off.
So, here's to Thanksgiving, my friends, the only holiday in which we gather together to do nothing but share a meal, count our blessings, and revel in each other's company. We give thanks for the food before us, for the friends & family who are with us, and for the love between us.
Our Thanksgiving Favorites:
Preston's favorite fried turkey brine and technique (I don't eat meat, and cannot vouch for this)
Wild Rice and Mushroom Pilaf
Simple Roasted Vegetables for the win
Chocolate-Espresso Pecan Pie
Autumn Fruit Salad (I like to add in a few handfuls of pomegranate seeds)
David Leibovitz' Bourbon and Ginger Pecan Pie