Upon waking Thanksgiving morning, my mind always starts racing with thoughts of the feast that will be consumed in mere hours. This year, the menu will look a little like this: juicy turkey breast, freshly smoked on the back patio; roasted then pureed butternut squash and sweet potatoes made into a gratin with sinful heavy cream, bubbling gruyere cheese, savory fresh sage and dotted generously with crisp, salty bacon; bright, sweet-but-just-tart-enough homemade cranberry sauce, made with orange zest; fluffy mounds of mashed potatoes, creamy with extra sharp cheddar cheese; tender and slightly caramelized roasted brussel sprouts with pancetta bits, drizzled with syrupy-thick local balsamic vinegar; hearty cornbread dressing made with homemade sausage, sage, tart apples and sweet golden raisins.
I start dreaming about what will be on our turkey day menu weeks before the momentous day arrives. You can find me searching my cookbooks, flipping through two years’ worth of Bon Appetit magazines that I shall never (ever) part with, and asking friends, neighbors, and sometimes friendly strangers, what they will be cooking this year. I seek inspiration everywhere I go in the hopes that I will find the perfect recipe to round out my holiday table. I’m not really seeking perfection, per se, but there are just so many amazing side dishes to choose from and I don’t want to miss out on anything!
I love to hear what menu item is the “must have” at each person’s table. There are, of course, the standards (cranberry sauce, stuffing, green bean casserole) but there are also some that are a little more unique: a wiggly, squiggly Jello mold with crushed pretzels and fruit cocktail suspended inside the shifty mass; deep fried turkey liver and giblets; smoked salmon pate served alongside Ritz crackers. These are the foods that are so strongly bound in your food memory that the holiday just wouldn’t be the same without them. What I find interesting about the food that people choose as their must-have is that, oftentimes, they don’t even really like it, or eat it, but they still require its reassuring presence on the table.
I hope that the holiday finds you well this year and that you are surrounded by family, friends, fine wine and amazing food. I hope that you are thankful for whatever good things you have in your lives. I hope that you will take a moment, before you grab your fork and tuck into that momentous meal, to tell the ones you love, well, that you love them. I have plenty to be thankful for this year and I truly hope that you do, too.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all…now, go grab your eating pants!