All Things Thanksgiving

It's easy to assume Thanksgiving is an exciting day for anyone who loves to cook. My very first cooking class was at a restaurant in Arvada called Bella Bistro. I was about 16 and was in a class full of middle-aged married couples learning how to host a memorable Thanksgiving dinner. I will never forget this class! I learned how to properly roast a turkey, but I also learned how to make the best stuffed mushrooms which I have made about 100 times since for clients and and various gatherings (hint: all you do is combine cream cheese with ground Italian sausage, stuff them into button mushrooms, and roast 20 min at 400 degrees with Parmesan on top...finishing with truffle oil if you so choose!) Anyway, Thanksgiving is a great day and I'm here to help you out since a lot of you will be forced to do your own thing this year without mom's help!


Appetizers:

I think it's important not to skip these. It's likely you're going to run behind on the feast and it prevents your guests from being awkward and hangry hovering over you in the kitchen. With that being said, keep it simple! No need to go crazy here, you're already doing that with dinner. I have found that a solid cheese board will do the trick, and here's how I build mine:


Charcuterie:

-3 Cheeses: one brie, one cheddar, one hard cheese such as parmesan (or a strong cheese like gorgonzola or goat)

-3 Meats: proscuitto, salami, pepperoni are always great options

-3 Fruits: honeycrisp apples, pears, grapes, persimmons, figs, berries

-1-2 Dried Fruits: apricots, mango, raisins, craisins, pineapple

-1-2 Nuts: cashews, pistachios, almonds, walnuts

-2 Spreads: jams (fig, apricot, raspberry), mustards, honey, bruschetta

-2 Salties: olives (black, kalamata, green), cornichons, other pickled vegetables

-3 Carbs: assorted crackers, pita chips, crostini, pretzels

-Additional items: chocolate, rosemary (for garnish), raw vegetables, bread sticks


Beverages:

You can't go wrong with serving wine all day, but sometimes it's fun to mix it up especially since not everyone may be into wine or even alcohol at all. Set up a station to build-your-own Thanksgiving cocktail station with the list below. It makes it easier on you as the host and it allows your guests to enjoy their own concoction whether it's a cocktail or a delicious mocktail.


Build-Your-Own Cocktail Bar:

-Bubbles: club soda, ginger ale, sprite, champagne/prosecco

-Juices: cranberry, apple, lime, pomegranate, orange

-Fruit: sliced red and green apples, sliced oranges, cranberries

-Sweeteners: simple syrup, maple syrup, grenadine

-Garnishes: rosemary, mint, cinnamon sticks, maraschino cherries, orange peel

-Alcohol: red wine, white wine, vodka, tequila, rum


Feast:

The main event! One great thing about Thanksgiving food is it's all very easy to prep ahead of time. Here's what my menu and timeline will look like to give you some ideas:


2 Days Before:

-Make and freeze pie crusts

-Maple Vinaigrette:

2 T maple syrup + 1 T whole grain mustard + 2 T minced shallot + 2 T apple cider vinegar + 1/3 c olive oil+ S&P

-De-seed pomegranates (for salad)

-(Optional) Blanch and shock vegetables for side dishes


1 Day Before:

-Peel and cut yukon gold potatoes (hold in water bath in fridge)

-Prepare sweet potato casserole, pies, and stuffing and hold in fridge

-Make butternut squash soup

-Brine turkey overnight:

1 1/2 c kosher salt+ 1 gallon apple cider + bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, ginger, allspice, orange peel

(bring to a boil and then let sit to cool down before placing the turkey in)


Thanksgiving Day:

-Roasted Turkey:

Make sure you pat the turkey dry from the brine to ensure crispy skin. I like to spatchcock my turkey, which basically means it is cooked flat (the backbone is removed) and this ensures fast, even cooking of the meat and crispy skin. I surround the turkey with apples, onions, and fresh herbs for aromatics, and then rub the turkey (important to get UNDER the skin) with a mixture of softened butter, salt, and herbs. Roast at a high temperature (like 450 degrees) and if the skin starts to get too dark for your liking, cover it with foil as you finish cooking.


-Brown Butter Parmesan Mashed Potatoes:

In a large pot, place the peeled, chopped potatoes in a bath of equal parts cream and milk (enough to cover the potatoes) with some bay leaves, smashed garlic cloves, whole sage, and whole rosemary sprigs. You can keep the aromatics in a cheesecloth for easy removal later. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are soft. In the meantime, placed diced butter cubes in a pan on medium heat. Keep swirling the butter around for about 5-8 minutes until it turns golden brown and set aside with grated Parmesan. Once the potatoes are cooked, strain them (discard herbs and garlic, keep milk/cream mixture) and pass through a fine mesh strainer, ricer, or mash by hand. Then, add the brown butter, salt, and cream mixture (as much as you desire) and season to taste.


-Sauteed Green Beans:

Blanch and shock the green beans. In a large saute pan, heat olive on medium high and add the green beans. Toss for a couple of minutes and then add a knob of butter, fresh minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking until green beans reach desired texture. Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice.


-Maple-Cardamom Roasted Carrots:

Blanch and shock the carrots and toss with olive oil, maple syrup, ground cardamom, a small amount of dijon mustard, and brown sugar. Roast at 450 degrees for about 45 minutes (tossing every 15 minutes or so) until browned and beautiful. Optional: in the last 15 minutes of cooking, toss the carrots in melted butter. To serve, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and fresh thyme.


-Best Gravy Recipe:

https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/make-ahead-white-wine-gravy/

-Best Roll Recipe:

https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/salted-honey-butter-parker-house-rolls/


-Arugula Autumn Salad:

Top arugula with crispy prosciutto (fry for a couple of minutes in a hot pan), sliced honeycrisp apple, pomegranate seeds, candied pecans, and goat cheese crumbles. Serve with maple vinaigrette.


Final Thoughts

Remember what Thanksgiving is about! We all know this year blows. As hard as it may be, taking just one moment to write down/talk about/just think about what you're grateful for goes a long way. My mom did a great thing last year and gave us all "gratitude jars" with little blank papers inside. The idea is that each day you write down what you're thankful for and put it in the jar. Then whenever you're feeling down you can use those little papers to remind you of your blessings! Don't like cheesy things like that? That's fine too. Just start a note on your phone and make a list of your gratitudes that you can keep coming back to.


Any other Questions??

Let me know. I'll be home doing nothing except counting down the hours until Thursday :)




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