For years I’ve been talking about making Thanksgiving – I love the food and I felt this was a holiday I could someday own. It’s a bit complicated given the family traditions, but I couldn’t wait to tackle it when I finally got my chance this year.
Not to be overly critical (forget it, let’s face it, I am), but I was convinced I could do it better. I always appreciate when someone makes the effort of entertaining, but we’re talking Thanksgiving here. Sure, the Fourth of July can be potluck and the high holidays are all about tradition, but not Thanksgiving – it’s a holiday about giving thanks, good food, and giving thanks for good food (and football for some people, too). In my world, there’s no place for Chardonnay and turkey that was cooked, sliced, frozen and then reheated (and we found the critical).
So about two months ago I found out that our yearly tradition of going to Florida was turned on it’s head and I declared that this was going to be my year. I was going to make Thanksgiving, I was going to do it my way, and my family was going to like it. Damn it!
(Only hold a knife like this when posing)
I spent weeks planning the menu, researching recipes and techniques I hadn’t used in years, practicing the brine solution on a chicken, and creating a Thanksgiving run of show until I finally came up with what I thought was a worthy, executable menu. We kept a few family staples that I delegated to my mom (green bean casserole and her Jello-mold, because it wouldn’t be a holiday without her Jello), and I took on the rest.
There was the apple cider-brined turkey with sage-thyme butter and gravy made from sherry, reduced apple cider and homemade turkey stock. There were these delectably rich dinner rolls served with honey butter, and roasted sweet potatoes because it turns out I’m not the only one who can’t stand candied yams. There was stuffing, which was the one thing that needs some work before next year, although my brother-in-law couldn’t seem to get enough.
I skipped the desserts as my energy was focused on creating my ultimate turkey, and delegated those to family members. They picked their favorites and we wound up with a delicious dark chocolate cake from my mom and adorable chocolate turkey’s made out of Oreo’s, Whoppers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a bunch of other candy from my sister. We had quite the assembly line going, but they turned out well – next year we’re going to use them as part of the table decoration.
Speaking of, we had some fun with the table, too, decorating with mini pumpkins, autumn flowers in Ball jars, and votive candles set in jars with cranberries. It was festive, fun and delicious, and hopefully the start of a new tradition my niece will cherish.
This isn’t to say there weren’t issues, like when my mom threw out the giblets I needed for the gravy or when I tried to heat up the cranberry sauce in a glass container and it cracked. Oops.
And throughout all of it, I truly did (and do) give thanks for my wonderful family who accepts me for who I am and goes with me on my crazy whims. And for my wonderful new niece who lights up the room every time.