What I’d make if I were making Thanksgiving dinner
I am, as always, in good hands this Thursday. My mother is the sort of woman who makes multiple stuffings and four kinds of pie even when there are only 5 to 6 of us at the table. It’s a brilliant layout of food and she has her prep-and-assemble timeline down to a science. So even though I approach the holiday every year thinking that I might contribute a dish or two, the effort is entirely redundant, and I’m more useful washing dishes, peeling the occasional apple and more or less staying out of the way. I should add here that this is all something I can entirely relate to as I am the absolute worst delegator in my own kitchen, as my sister among others can attest to.
But that doesn’t stop me from looking through the mass blog posts and magazine articles and cookbooks that are out there, all solely dedicated to this one glorious meal. Over the past few years and recent weeks I’ve compiled a long list of bookmarked recipes that I would make to supplement the usual Thanksgiving fare, if I were running the show. But for now I’ll happily take my place at the table, and function solely as a grateful eater.
Mexican Egg Nog – holiday favorite boosted up with cinnamon, vanilla and some golden rum.
Fallen Leaf Cocktail – have a small gathering? Take advantage and make this beautiful cocktail for each guest.
Carrot and Pomegranate Soup – our Thanksgiving always starts off with a beautiful soup that sets the tone for the meal without weighing you down before you get into the heartier stuff. My mom always makes something different, but the soups have been consistent through the years: always light and very smooth, a pureed root vegetable base laced with fruit and a little cream, topped with a simple but elegant garnish. (This years soup: “Pumpkin, apple, celery, onion – thinned with stock and cider: sage and cinnamon”, she reports over email.) This carrot and pomegranate version found in Luisa’s archives definitely fits the Rajan Thanksgiving bill.
M. Wells Shaved Brussel Sprouts Salad – don’t underestimate the respite a good salad brings to a heavy meal. The bitterness of the arugula and bracing squeeze of lemon would be the perfect relief to the mashed potatoes and gravy.
Indian Roasted Potatoes – I make this so often: for guests, for weeknight dinners, for a simple side during a special occasions meal. The cumin seeds and turmeric will make this dish stand out in the sea of parsley and oregano. A crowd pleaser that’s easy to double or triple in quantity. (Note: I never make this with curry leaves and sometimes swap the dried chilies with fresh jalapeno. I also usually forget to add the mint and cilantro at the end, to absolutely no detriment.)
Challah Bread Stuffing – the eggy, rich challah flavor raises this into something that feels a little more elevated than regular stuffing . I made this for the first time recently, and it was unfussy to prep and vegetarian to boot.
Adobo Turkey with Red-Chile Gravy – rave reviews and a flavorful kick make this the roast turkey recipe I’d most like to try.
Nothing can beat a great pie, but here are some of my favorite alternatives (and by alternatives, I mean additions) to the dessert table:
Either of these two cakes: festively seasonal, great for making ahead, easy to carry if you’re contributing as a guest, and good for a large group. Also, they’re just really good.
Vanilla Roasted Pears – easy as it gets and a nice reprieve from all the pastries. Leftovers would be great with roast pork or spooned over hot oatmeal for a delicious next-morning breakfast.
And lastly, a recent baking tip from my mother: “Before putting on the top crust of your apple pie, dot the filling with cut up bits of store-bought plain caramels” (instead of dotting it with butter which is what recipes usually instruct you to do.) You’ll have an Apple Caramel Pie and a lot of happy guests. Have a great Thanksgiving!