25 October 2010

ghosts of thanksgivings past

As I start to plan out the menu for this year's Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share my annual trip down Thanksgiving memory lane. Sadly, I don't have photos from the year I watched two guys absolutely mangle a turkey while "carving it" (seriously, it looked like they were trying to shred it for fajitas), and at the time I just thought it was hilarious since my then-vegetarian self would not be eating the turkey anyway. But alas, we can still do lots of recounting.

My first real Thanksgiving, my first year out of college, I made an "Unturkey" (do they even make this anymore? VASTLY superior to the icky "Tofurkey"), some stuffing that I'm sure was made by StoveTop, some instant mashed potatoes and vegetarian "turkey" gravy from a packet, and cranberry sauce from a can. Mmmmmmm! Astronaut food!

Check out my college dishes from Target, and my wacky vinyl placemats. And how about those water glasses that were clearly stolen from various bars. That unidentifiable mass in the middle is the Unturkey, and you can see that I at least TRIED to spice up the StoveTop by adding in some Craisins. Ah... how far I've come.

The first time Mark and I made a big Thanksgiving meal together (all so that we could quickly chow down and then stick it all in the fridge so we could go skiing for three days), we had much better success, finding the stuffing recipe that I want to make every single year for the rest of my life, and taking on the full bird. It was almost too pretty (in my humble opinion) to waste on just the two of us.

That year we also figured out the division of Thanksgiving labor that we feel works for us, and we've agreed that we're still good with it this year. Here's how we do things:

  • Plans menu (Mark gets veto power)
  • Does all shopping and pre-ordering
  • Preps and brines turkey
  • Makes turkey stock for stuffing and gravy
  • Makes stuffing
  • Makes all vegetable sides
  • Makes cranberry sauce or opens up a can
  • Makes pre-dinner cocktails
  • Makes the pie crust (or buys a pre-made crust... I know, I know)
  • Cooks the turkey
  • Carves the turkey
  • Makes the mashed potatoes
  • Makes the gravy (only because I failed at this last year... the roux needs more time than I gave it)
  • Chooses the wine to drink with dinner
  • Makes the pumpkin pie
  • Slices any onions needed for various recipes
  • Does more than half of the dishes :-)
I blogged about that first "real" Thanksgiving meal here.

Last year, we made our first Thanksgiving in the modern era (my post-vegetarian era) in which we hosted guests (or guest), and it was mostly a success, some overcooked stuffing notwithstanding.

Last year we definitely had a good groove in the kitchen, and we hope to keep perfecting our timing and just our feel on how to cook a great Thanksgiving meal. I blogged about dry-brining the turkey here, about the recipes that didn't make the cut (but which are back in consideration for this year) here, and the end result here.

My goals for this year:
  • Get the turkey a little darker brown without overcooking the breast
  • Keep the stuffing moist!
  • Add in a couple of new, interesting dishes
  • Add a second dessert that is dairy-free
  • Make a more creative centerpiece or table setting

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  1. looks delicious! you set a very elegant table.

  2. Thanks! Maybe these days I do, but you can see that I got there through much trial and error! :-)

  3. OMG - I just read Ina Garten's recipe for Roast Turkey with Truffle Butter and I now know that my purpose in life is to make that bird. I have all this truffle oil that I bought in Italy, so I'm going to spend the next weeks experimenting with quantities to make my own truffle butter. All because of your post--THANK YOU.

  4. Lori -- Let me know how it turns out! The Gourmet recipe that I linked too, and also here, looks amazing too!


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