For Americans there is no celebration like Thanksgiving. From hand print turkeys to school plays reenacting the first Thanksgiving where settlers (formerly called Pilgrims) and Native Americans (formerly called Indians) shared a table and helped one another through the coming dark and dismal winter, all of November is spent looking forward to the 4th Thursday where we can gather, eat, gab and watch American football.
And while it is a time for family and friends to come together, there is no mistaking the fact that Thanksgiving is all about food. There are no gifts exchanged, no songs to learn and no church service to attend. When you are the tiniest bit food-obsessed, and happen to be Southern, the question is not “What can I serve with ease for Thanksgiving dinner” but rather, “What is the absolute best thing I can possibly make that will blow everyone away and secure my position as the ruler of the family get together. For. Ever.?”
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering that question and I now have, undoubtedly, the best round-up of Thanksgiving food stuffs. This isn’t the healthiest, trendiest, most expensive, prettiest or most exciting. This is, quite simply, the tastiest eleven dishes you can serve. Polish up the good china, get the football schedule and wear your roomiest pants. It’s TURKEY TIME!
I eat this every week because there is an Ottolenghi 25 steps from my front door and deep down I am a bit lazy. On a positive note I have seen this dish as it is set out fresh from the kitchen and I have seen the dregs of it at 3:00 in the afternoon. It does not matter. It is always gorgeous and always delicious. And it is always served at room temperature. Snap.
My friend AC texted me, “I need a recipe for cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving…” She has high standards and a refined palate. There was but one place to turn for something like that: Southern Living If Southern Living Magazine can’t give us the best cornbread stuffing ever created then what is the point of their existence?
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, fiber and vitamin B6. Don’t worry, we can counter that with a huge dose of butter, some marshmallows and pecans. Good news, it is still considered a “side dish” so you do not even have to waste any of your dessert allocation.
Children in Southern Louisiana grow up with an inherent fondness for spinach because we are first introduced to it cooked down with cheese, creme and buttery breadcrumbs on top. Don’t fight it. Southerners are well-known for our healthy eating habits.
Brandy Milk Punch
Thanksgiving gatherings often begin in the early afternoon so you need a gentle cocktail to move you from lunch into dinner. Enter the Brandy Milk Punch. Make it by the batch, stick it in the freezer, pull it out when your sister-in-law starts examining the spots on your wine glasses.
Turkey Gumbo used to be what you’d make from the leftover carcass of the turkey but honestly, by the time you had a carcass you were pretty tired of eating turkey anyway. Why even take that risk? Go ahead make Turkey gumbo with turkey legs, necks and smoked pieces you can pick up at a butcher or the grocery store and serve it along with your glorious turkey breast (spoiler alert, we’re not cooking a full bird anymore).
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Will it diminish the overall look of your Thanksgiving feast to omit the can shaped red gelatin cut into ruby red slices? Only you can know that.
Brussels Sprout Salad
The death knell to salads is dressing. Toss too early and it gets all slimy and wilted. Leave it for people to dress themselves and it’s a mess, people use all the dressing and leave a dressing colored ring on the table. Answer: Brussels Sprout Salad. This one is featured on Food52.com and is written up by the exhaulted Merrill Stubbs. Pretty sure she isn’t going to let us down.
Roasted Turkey Breast
The downside to serving this instead of a whole turkey is that you’ll have no excuse for dinner to be an hour late with everything else either freezing cold or way overcooked. You will also need to find another reason to argue with your husband because “It HAS to be done, it’s been in for 6 hours!” followed by, “I don’t know WHY it is still bleeding” and the grand finale, “No, we can’t microwave it!”
And lastly, the sweets:
Joy’s Dad’s Pie
Joy’s dad makes pie so she makes pies, so I make pies. Here’s a pie recipe that comes complete with a tear in your eye.
Bridge the seasons with this Ginger Stout Cake. Don’t get up and go to the store at midnight to save 50% off of the cost of toys and electronics, just spend 50% less by buying less. Instead, at the end of the meal, after everything is cleared away, the dishes are done, the table is clear and the television is on, break out this cake. Have a slice. Top it with fresh whipped cream. Brew a cup of coffee or pour glasses of Port and welcome the beginning the Christmas Season. And start thinking through the next obvious question, “Whatever will you serve for christmas dinner?”
If you need a few reminders about Thanksgiving Do’s and Don’t here is a pretty simple guide.