Thanksgiving: the Uninviteds

If asked: what’s the best part about hosting a holiday meal? Most people would probably respond with something like: Oh, of course it’s welcoming people into my home and the warmth of the season and rainbows and unicorns and blah blah blahhhh….

Or perhaps some would be more pragmatic: It’s getting to stay home!  Who wants to deal with airports and traffic and all of those hassles?

I’m going to be perfectly honest: The best part of hosting Thanksgiving is getting to control the menu.

Thanksgiving has been mostly a “friends holiday” for the hubs and I over the last decade.  Amtrak to DC to visit friends!  Big raging party with classmates!  Camping in Joshua Tree!  Hot-tubbing with friends at their Hollywood apartment!  Yay, Thanksgiving is just a four-day weekend for fun!

Climbing in J-Tree, Thanksgiving '06. I used to be so much cooler.

This year, we’re doing things a little more traditionally, though, and I’m excited about it!  We’re hosting a small family gathering in our new apartment and for the last week, I’ve been poring over recipe websites trying to narrow the field.

A few dishes that will definitely be making an appearance beside the Turkey:

  • Stuffing.  Probably my single favorite Thanksgiving item.  I’m in agony over the number of options here, though.  Cornbread or sourdough?  Sausage or bacon?  Apples – in, or out?   Sage or thyme or both?  My head, it explodes.
  • Cranberries.  Homemade cranberry sauce is so freakin’ easy to make.  And while it may be a bit player on Thursday’s table, it’s the star of the show when it comes to Friday’s turkey-cranberry sandwiches (drool).
  • Salad.  Okay, you all know that I LOVE salad.  And while it may not be entirely traditional, I love incorporating Thanksgiving flavors (candied pecans, dried berries, pumpkin bread croutons, a hearty nutmeg vinaigrette) in a big salad to have as a first course.

And a couple of dishes that will NOT be invited to the party:

  • Green bean casserole. Seriously, I just don’t understand this dish.  I mean…it’s okay, but what is so special about mixing together slimy canned green beans and bland soup?  I’ll be serving fresh haricots-verts, roasted to perfection in browned butter, instead.  (Yes, I know I sound like a snot.  Whatever.)
  • Pumpkin pie.  Maybe it’s because canned pumpkin makes me want to gag, but again – what is to special about a plain ole’ pumpkin pie?  I mean, again, it’s okay.  But the crust and the ice cream on top are the best parts.  I’m thinking about serving a pumpkin bread pudding (a la Bobby Flay on the Thanksgiving Throwdown) instead.
  • Gravy.  I am just so indifferent to gravy.  I know I’ll end up making it because it’s not Thanksgiving without it, and I really can’t think of a creative substitute.  But gravy is always an afterthought for me.  I prefer my turkey and potatoes without it.

So…yes, I suppose those may be unpopular opinions.  But holiday eating always comes down to trade-offs and choices, right?  With such an abundance of options, there’s no reason to eat something if you don’t truly enjoy it.

Back to tinkering with my Thanksgiving spreadsheet. :)

Today’s EAT: Butternut squash soup from the freezer + corkscrew pasta, with a plop of Greek yogurt and some crumbled bacon.

Not a bad dinner for one!  I really did not feel like cooking for myself tonight and very nearly flopped on the couch with a box of cereal and called it a night.  I’m glad I looked in the freezer and saw this soup first!  Dinner was defrosted, boiled and stirred together in fifteen minutes.

Today’s DRINK: Meh – no wine tonight.  Just not in the mood.  However – if you have a sec, check out the new DRINKS page I’ve been working on!   I hope this is helpful to you guys – although honestly, I’m doing it as much for my benefit as yours, so I can keep track of what I have and haven’t tried. :)

Today’s RUN: Er, workout.  On your wise advice from my workout video rant the other day, I decided to give Jillian’s Yoga Meltdown a chance (thanks Kelly and GeekGirl!)  It was better than I thought it would be.  I was, at least, sweating and shaking a bit (in a holy-planks-you-want-me-to-hold-that-for-how-long? way, not in, like, a blood-sugar way) by the end.  I give it a 6/10 and would do it again in a pinch. :)

Today’s QUESTION: Which traditional Thanksgiving dish is your favorite – and which one could you really live without?

27 Responses to Thanksgiving: the Uninviteds

  1. My favorite part about staying home for Thanksgiving is I can drink a lot of wine and not worry about driving anywhere :). I honestly love green bean casserole, sorry, haha. And I cannot live without mashed potatoes.

  2. I’ve gotta agree with the green bean casserole being majorly overrated.

    I love a good cornbread stuffing, roasted root veggies, decadent desserts (though I only love pumpkin pie if it’s deep dish, thick flavorful crust style) and that salad idea also sounds amazing!!!

  3. spreadsheet?! hahahah. while i am picky about what i eat i actually like NOT prepping big holiday meals because A) i don’t like to cook and B) i like to come and go from the party as i please hahah.

    but since i think i’m going to my mom’s for thanksgiving i felt like it was appropriate to hand her a list of some foods i expect to be invited. hopefully that wasn’t rude of me hahaha

  4. My mom makes the BEST cranberry sauce. And I just got a recipe for sausage, apple and cranberry stuffing. I look forward to making that :-)

  5. Me? I’m just relieved I don’t have to deal with all the shopping this year. I had a great time cooking in the kitchen whilst drinking a bottle of wine, but I shopped for the Thanksgiving meal at least three times last year (after forgetting critical recipe items both time 1 and time 2). No thanks. I’ll bake a loaf of banana bread to take to the in-laws and be done with it.

  6. I’ve also not been home for about 10-15 years for the holiday and I love the fact that I get to control the menu. This year we have a cousin and his family joining us, but I’m still the planner and cook. My fave is probably, sadly, mashed potatoes. Bland and boring, but comforting and tasty. I’m perfectly happy to skip meat and gravy, but they’re on the menu for the sake of others.

  7. My grandmother’s garden grown green beans & her dressing :) Heck, anything my grandmother cooks is a winner in my book.

    This year I’m taking a recipe from Branny Boils Over on brussels sprouts! Should be delicious!

    • In that same episode of Throwdown last night, Bobby Flay made some roasted brussels sprouts with pomegranate that looked uhhh-mazing. And I don’t even really care for brussels sprouts!

    • Brussels extraordinaire:
      Halve sprouts & blanch in salted boiling water
      Cook up a load of bacon and crumble when it’s done
      Heat up the bacon grease really hot, put the flat side of the sprouts down and coooooook until they’re super dark-brown caramelized, season w/ S&P
      Flip around for some browning on other sides, season w/ S&P
      Serve with the crumbled bacon on top. Hell, throw some crumbled Maytag blue on top if you must.

  8. Masheds, no doubt. Hate turkey (well, the white not so bad for you parts), DESPISE pumpkin pie and luckily that green been revolting crap was never part of my family’s repertoire. I do cranberry sauce with Pom and Zinfandel that freaking rocks, and an uncooked food processor relish that’s cran/orange/sugar to taste/make a day ahead. And my stuffing recipe is a bacon & mushroom sourdough deal from Bon Appetit in like 1999. Despite these yummy items, I will be in Canada on Thanksgiving since it was the only time that a 10-day vacation panned out for us – hoping to have poutine.

    Here’s a suggestion for ya: Thanksgiving drinks and a Jaegermeister (!?) turkey: http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2010/11/18/five-ways-to-drink-your-thanksgiving-dinner/

  9. I think this question presents a problem for me, because I pretty much love everything. Pumpkin pie, turkey, stuffing, squash, fresh rolls with butter, cranberries… A traditional family food, lefse, is also a must! I guess it’s more about what I don’t like. I can live without the green bean casserole, but if it’s there I will eat it. I can also live without chocolate dessert/ chocolate candy on Thanksgiving. I am probably a chocolate addict, but for some reason it just isn’t a must for Thanksgiving (though if it’s there, I will probably also eat it.) Have fun organizing the menu and cooking!

  10. Mashed potatoes and gravy or pumpkin pie are MUSTS for me. LOVE IT!!!!

  11. T-day dish I love: Cranberry sauce! Pie (pumpkin or apple)! and Candied Yams. I’m a bit of a sugar addict, apparently…

    T-day dish I could live without: Mashed potatoes. They are kind of boring and I just don’t get it.

  12. Haha-totally agree with you on the 3 “have nots.” I’ll take tollhouse pie over pumpkin pie any day, if turkey is done right it doesn’t need gravy, and my mom makes a green bean dish with apple cider and onions (which she got from rachael ray on food network) which I absolutely love.

    And I’ll keep the cranberries and mashed potatoes. And wine is a MUST!!! (thumbs up to the new drinks page!)

  13. I LOVE stuffing! It just wouldnt be Thanksgiving without it.
    I could actually do without the cranberry sauce. It’s never really excited me. Of course, it doesnt help that my dad makes it himself and has force fed it to me every year because “oh but you’ll love it this time”.

  14. hands down, my favorite dish is sweet potatoes! Doesn’t matter how they come; sweet potato casserole, mashed sweet potatoes, you name it!

    I can totally do without cranberry sauce. Not.a.fan!

  15. For some reason, cornbread pudding is a staple at my family Thanksgivings. I don’t know where my aunt got the recipe, but it’s the most delicious thing at the table and it’s what I think of when I imagine Thanksgiving. I’m so bummed to miss out on it this year.

    In terms of traditional dishes, I’ve never, ever cared for stuffing. Blegh.

    And holy cow — a T-giving spreadsheet! You are serious! I like the “Drinks” page addition.

  16. I got invited to my bro’s inlaws for my 3rd Thanskgiving this year, and her dad makes this concoction that is to die for. They call it stuffing, but it is something else. Traditional bread meets onions, bacon, sausage, and cheese. It’s unfreakin real (however not so healthy).
    My opt out – salad. You know, with so many other delicious items on the table salad definitely gets skipped over. Plus, once it touches the gravy it gets all hot and soggy and gross. Skip on the salad for me.

  17. I love the stuffing and detest gravy. I thought I was seriously the only person in the world who didn’t like gravy.

  18. What?! No pumpkin pie? haha I wasn’t always a pumpkin pie fan, but now that it’s a Chiffon pumpkin pie. Ah I love it! It’s so much creamier. YUM!

    We do dressing (we don’t stuff our turkey–grosses me out because it touches raw bird and doesn’t cook throughout). Dressing is the one and only thing that I’m in charge of every Thanksgiving. It’s the one thing I can make and tastes amazing! And cranberry sauce is a must!

  19. Totally agree on the gravy – pass. I have a really yummy new browned butter mashed potatoes recipe (with buttermilk) if you want it. I’ll be making it!

  20. Phew! When I first saw the title of this post, I thought you were talking about us!! (you really aren’t, are you?) Anyway, did not know that gravy was a dislike of yours. I agree with the rest of your “uninviteds” tho’……
    green beans and pumpkin pie are not the stars of T-Day in my book either. But somehow they always manage to make an appearance and stay for days and days afterwards!

  21. Fav over the last 5 years, Emeril’s Brined Turkey and sweet potato / pumpkin pie is banned.

  22. T-day has turned into a “friend” holiday also, which I love! This year, we are traveling with our two dogs and spending time in San Francisco. On the menu – NOT a roasted turkey but a smoked one, which is easy and really tasty! I do like roasted veggies, and I’m a pecan pie fan rather than pumpkin.

  23. I TOTALLY support what you said about GB casserole. That shit is VILE. I also dislike pumpkin pie. I’m just not a huge pie fan in general!

    And yeah, the only year I enjoyed Thanksgiving was when I controlled the menu. Well put.

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