OK, the countdown is on! TG minus 2 days. I thought I’d update you on my plan. Saturday, I’ll admit, I made the cranberry sauce and tossed it in the freezer. Please somebody remind me to take that out of the freezer tomorrow. But, today (Tuesday) I really began to prepare in earnest. I am having a tiny Thanksgiving dinner (in number of participants only). But, I still like to prepare my essential favorites.
Yesterday, the UPS man, dropped off the turkey. I kid you not, my Greenberg Smoked Turkey is in my fridge right now waiting for the main event. I will merely bring it to room temperature for the feast. If you have never had a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving, consider it one of these years. Taking the turkey out of the kitchen equation is rather huge, in terms of freeing you up to play with the fun things, like sides and pies. And, at this point I think my husband would actually be disappointed if I roasted a turkey, because (I’m not sure) I think the feast is something he genially tolerates in order to have cold smoked turkey sandwiches (white bread, mayonnaise and seasoning salt only) for the rest of the week. I believe a lot of BBQ spots and other rather fine establishments are starting to offer smoked turkeys for special order on Thanksgiving. But the Fed Ex drop-off is pretty hard to beat.
I’m making the Sourdough Bread Stuffing with Sausage and Artichokes again. It is a solid winner, in my book. To cut down on the commotion on Thursday, today I dried the bread chunks by baking them at 350 for a bit. I seasoned and cooked the sausage. And I chopped my onions, celery, and mushrooms. The latter are in the fridge just waiting. I may prepare the dish tomorrow, but I’ll likely wait til Thursday to throw it together. But the hard part (none of it is actually “hard”) is finished. The knives are cleaned and dried and the cutting board is put away. Dishes clean.
Next, I made an executive decision today that I want simple sweet potatoes. I considered my traditional favorite Sweet Potato Casserole. And I considered this non-traditional Spicy Sweet Potato Gratin. This one would have been a great accompaniment to the smoked turkey. But I settled on a far more simple plan for this year. I’m going to scrub my potatoes and bake them at 400 degrees until they are soft (about 50 minutes) and I’m going to serve them baked potato style with butter, brown sugar, and bacon. Easy. I’ll cook the bacon on Thursday morning while I’m prepping the dressing.
While it is not an “essential” in my book, I suppose I should have something green around so I’m going to cook some green beans. I’ll likely steam them til crisp tender tomorrow and put them in the refrigerator until Thursday. In the waning moments before show time, I’ll sauté/simmer them momentarily in a lot of butter and a dash white wine vinegar in which I have cooked a bit of onions and herbs. I’ll toss a few toasted slivered almonds on top. I should do my Green Bean and Sour Cream dish, but I’m full just thinking about it.
The gravy just kind of happens along the way. With a smoked turkey, I don’t have drippings to play with…so I usually improvise with flour, butter, chicken broth, and cream or milk. It works.
Why am I making two pies for five people? I can’t answer that, except to say that I like for everyone to have a sweet that they really, really, really like on Thanksgiving. Plus, my lard and butter crust recipe makes two crusts. God forbid that I should cut my recipe down or waste one. No, I will have two pies. First there will be a pumpkin pie for my husband, Pitts. I will be using canned pumpkin puree which is neither organic nor fancy. It just is what it is. I will not be roasting and pureeing my own pumpkins or squash. However, this article my Melissa Clark in the New York Times Diner’s Journal makes me think that at some point, I will. And it won’t be pumpkins in my pumpkin pie, but Butternut Squash. Cool.
But not this year. I have consulted Rebecca Rather’s Bourbon Pumpkin Tart recipe in The Pastry Queen, Tom Hudgen’s Pumpkin Pie recipe in The Commonsense Kitchen, Alice Waters Pumpkin Pie recipe in The Art of Simple Food, and the Pumpkin Pie recipe in The Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated. These are four of my filthiest cookbooks, which should tell you that they are 4 of my favorites and you should probably own them. These four pumpkin pie recipes have me on firm footing. That is to say, I’m not sure what I’m going to do, only it will not involve nutmeg, it will involve cream instead of evaporated milk, and it is going to be killer. When I was still practicing (daily and paid) law (as opposed to free and general purpose family issue law) I would hear that you know you are getting close to the end of research when all of the same cases keep popping up. Likewise, if your most trusted cookbooks have ingredients or methods in common, you are on the right track.
I am also making a pecan pie for myself, and anyone else who wants it of course. But this one is for my own personal sweet tooth issue. I ran across this Pecan Pie recipe on the Kitchn. I like it because it doesn’t use corn syrup and uses cane syrup, instead. This appeals to me for a number of reasons including flavor, regionality, and the fact that I don’t want to go buy a bottle of corn syrup and I already have cane syrup. Done. I’m going to generally follow this recipe and I’m going to throw a cup or so of semi-sweet chips in the bottom of the crust for good measure.
All this may require ice cream or sweetened whipped cream. I should probably buy more whipped cream.
And, finally, there will be brownies. My mom used to make these for our big family gatherings at Virgil and Katie’s house next door on Lake Wichita. I always felt very happy to haul a tray of these brownies next door. They are PLAIN. They are simply good brownies. There will be no pecans in at least half of the pan, because this was a special request of my son, Ford. I used to ask for brownies without pecans, too. Now I like pecans in my brownies, but my mom granted this wish for me and I will grant it for my son.
That’s the plan. What am I forgetting. My “oops” list contains: eggs, silver polish, Bar Keeper’s Friend, and kosher salt. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you are still looking for inspiration, be sure to check out the last few posts, including Butternut Squash Soup, the Sausage and Artichoke Stuffing, and Roasted Cranberry Sauce. Also, my last year’s Thanksgiving Inspiration post contains a lot of wonderful recipe options from last year.
Be happy. Enjoy the process of cooking with or for your family, or go hit a giant buffet. Whatever you do, I surely hope it is a day filled with family and/or friends, a great deal of joy, and perhaps a touch of football. I might have to have the Cowboys Game playing in the background while I cook, for an extra dose of nostalgia, even if I don’t watch it. And finally, my heart is with all of our PIE friends who have lost a loved one this year and will be having a first Thanksgiving without a very important attendee, as well as those who are alone this holiday. I hope you make it through with some smiles and some laughter. I have much to be thankful for, each of you chief amongst the list. Please accept my best wishes for this, one of my favorite days of the year.
[This is my Grandma Katie and Papaw Virgil's Turkey Needle, which is actually an upholstery needle. This is what they used to sew up the giant turkeys served to the family. It is my talisman, my Thanksgiving good luck charm. Whenever I cook for Thanksgiving, I pull it out and hang it prominently in my kitchen. It makes me feel like I'm part of something bigger. It makes my time in the kitchen a family reunion of the memory sort, and not work at all (except the dishes...that's always work)]. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.