Thanksgiving is my JAM! I love the tradition of it, the food, the challenge, and the sentiment of abundance and gratitude.
I’ve made the feast or hosted since early adulthood and have a tried-and-true routine. This is what I’m making.
I do two turkeys because I like the backup in case something goes wrong with the Thursday bird and because I like to send everyone home with whatever leftovers they want as well as have leftovers for days at our house. I used to just do one and would get a giant bird but it’s unwieldy, takes a long time in the oven, and can cook unevenly. So now it’s two smaller (around 20lb) birds or a full bird and a breast.
After lots of experimenting and wishing it wasn’t so, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that brining the bird makes all the difference. Buying a “pre-brined” turkey doesn’t count. I make the brine (the store bought mixes work too) and soak that baby for days, turning it from time to time. It makes for a tasty and moist bird and is worth it. Brine that baby. I use Thomas Kellor’s brine and cooking instructions.
I hate making gravy and order it up or buy it at Trader Joe’s. It feels like a way to cut-corners that works for us.
I’m a stuffing snob. I use a classic, very simple recipe that is devoid of any wildcards and make it with GF bread. I cut the Trader Joe’s GF white bread loaves in cubes and let them dry on the dining room table for a couple days. I chop an onion and head of celery finely (1 onion/celery head per 2 loaves because those loaves are tiny. For a bigger loaf it would be one small onion and one celery head per). Pour in a very generous amount of butter, salt, pepper, and dried sage and it’s just about ready to go. I add in an egg and a tiny bit of stock right before cooking according to Turshen’s directions on a sheet pan.
If you make one thing from my list, this should be it. They are FANTASTIC and will become everyone’s favorite and you will be happy to make it a part of your tradition. Yum. I adjust the recipe by using GF flour and cutting the sugar in half and then double of it because it will go fast.
Making the mashed potatoes in the instapot is the best thing that’s happen to my Thanksgiving plan. No more messing with potatoes at the last minute, let the Instapot do the heavy lifting and they will also stay warm and moist.
Whose life perspective and way of moving through the world teaches you something about who + how you want to be?
I am a person who really loves canned, jellied cranberry sauce but I make this gingered-pomegrante recipe and also love it. It’s less intensely tart than regular cranberry sauce, more complex in a way I enjoy, and pretty to look at.
Sometimes I cook pies, sometimes I just order them. But if I order them, I order really good ones because really delicious pie is a very important part of our Thanksgiving. I love both pecan and pumpkin. If people want something outside of that like apple pie or cheesecake, I invite them to bring it.
If I do one, and I usually don’t have one or have someone bring something, I make this festive brie or order a cheese board from Sorella Collective.
WHAT PEOPLE BRING
I have people bring the things I don’t want to mess with or don’t feel very inspired by. I invite people to bring…
-a dish they love as part of their own Thanksgiving traditions (we often have friends in addition to family)
- veggie or salad
- wine or drinks
- additional desserts
ADDITiONAL THANKSGIVING DETAILS
-for florals, I love edible natural choices pouring out of the centerpiece more than flowers. Like mandarins, pomegranates, walnuts, and maybe some foraged leaves. It can be really pretty to do simple white flowers too for a fresher, more minimalist version. You can get all sorts of good ideas on setting a beautiful table HERE
-I set the table on Tuesday or Wednesday.- clean out the fridge on Saturday or Sunday and make sure it’s organized and ready to go.
- plan a simple dinner for Wednesday night. Take out of tomato soup/salad greens/grilled cheese.
-I make a timetable for the oven. The oven is prime real-estate when it comes to Thanksgiving Day cooking so a plan is a must as well as helps you to enjoy the day knowing everything will be ready when it needs to be.
-We love the tradition of an after dinner group walk before dessert.
- I pick up (or order) to-go boxes so everyone easily can take home their own Friday feast.
Jaimi Brooks is a licensed marriage and family therapist, women's group leader, founder of The Well Lived Woman, and creator of the Values Deck.