Cooking for Thanksgiving can be stressful. I don’t like to stress.
Thanksgiving dinner is rooted deep in tradition. We all have our favorite dishes that are “must-haves” for the table. It’s imperative that each dish remind us of family and taste just like they did when Grandma made them 20 years ago.
Replicating a recipe isn’t too difficult if you follow the instructions. But replicating several recipes at the same time, each with their own baking temperature and time – all while the centerpiece of the table is baking soundly – can make even the seasoned cook sweat a little bit.
Here’s the thing: if I’m going to be stressing and sweating in the kitchen, it better be worth it.
My step-mom and I are splitting the menu for our Thanksgiving dinner this year. She’s making the dishes she grew up eating and I’m making the ones Mr. Crumbs and I can’t bear to miss.
- The Turkey
- Sweet Potatoes
- Cranberry Sauce
- Pumpkin Pie
- Chocolate Pie
Not too bad, right? A good mixture of cold vs. hot vs. make-ahead vs. not-in-the-kitchen-at-all. Instead of working for the food, I’m taking a slightly different approach this year.
How can my food work for me?
Mr. Crumbs and I sorta kinda split the responsibility for the turkey. My job is to find one, buy it and do all the prep-work. His job is to cook it.
Actually, his job is to smoke it.
We started a tradition last year that kicked the turkey out of the kitchen. Mr. Crumbs was gifted an early Christmas present – a rotisserie attachment for his Weber grill. The Thanksgiving turkey was the first experiment and I am not exaggerating when I say it’s the best turkey I’ve ever had.
A former fan of the deep-fried variety, I’ll never go back.
First it brined for two days (don’t remember the recipe then, but using this one this year). Then it’s slow-roasted and smoked for 7-8 hours (if I remember correctly). The bird is moist, incredibly flavorful and has just enough smoke flavor to make you think a local BBQ joint delivered.
This coming from the gal who doesn’t even like turkey!
(I won’t have the opportunity to post a “how to smoke a turkey” post for you guys before Thursday, but if anyone is interested in smoking a turkey for Christmas, let me know and I’ll crack the whip on Mr. Crumbs for a write-up ASAP!)
There are 9 confirmed people at our dinner table with possibly 3 more. The rule of thumb is to allow 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. To maximize our efforts on this rotating bird, I’m doing some before for the after. Our bird will be based on the larger end of the ratio scale (the before) because I want to make sure there plenty of leftovers, both for the few days following and for next year (the after).
It feels weird saying that, but 2013 is only 6 weeks away!
Once our dinner feast is over and everyone has packed up some turkey for sandwiches, I plan to pick off the remaining turkey, measure out in 2 cup servings and freeze each individually in sandwich baggies. Two cups of shredded turkey is enough for tacos, enchiladas, salads and soups. This will make it very convenient later when I’m planning and prepping meals.
Taking full advantage of the sweet potatoes is mostly a before effort. I plan to make an slightly altered version of this recipe – switching out walnuts for hazelnuts (there are walnuts in my pantry) and making a few kid-friendly by omitting the nuts and breadcrumbs and topping with 2-3 mini-marshmallows instead.
The beginning of the recipe mentions roasting the sweet potatoes whole. I’ll do enough for the recipe, plus a few more. It’s a perfect opportunity to make extra puree and add sweet potato pancakes on the breakfast menu.
It’s a new twist on the old apple pumpkin pancakes – sub sweet potato for pumpkin, honey for sugar, coconut oil for vegetable oil, almond flour for the grains and voila! A healthier version of an old standby. And no more work since I’ll be roasting potatoes anyway.
“The cranberry sauce is a condiment, not a side dish.”
This is what I say to myself every time I think of cranberry sauce. Out loud.
“A piranha is a fish, not a snake.” I say that out loud too.
Last year’s cranberry relish recipe made WAY TOO MUCH. And I use all caps because it was that big of a deal.
With the tiny 2 tablespoon scoop everyone took, we had probably 6 cups leftover. That’s too much.
This year I’m reducing the recipe a bit and fermenting it.
What’s that you say? Fermented cranberry sauce?!
Yes indeedy sir. I read about it here, although I’ll probably just ferment 1/4 of my own recipe with 1/2 of the recipe being as-is. (I’m all about kefir, but everyone else is on yogurt. Baby steps.)
And even though I’m not a gambling girl, I’m gonna bet we’ll have leftovers. LOVE this idea of making grilled cheeses with the cranberry relish, so some will stay in the fridge. Slice and butter up some potato buttermilk bread with leftover smoked turkey, havarti cheese and some cranberry relish? Shoot, I’ll eat that sandwich until the new year!
Some will get pureed smoothly and stored in freezer bags for future peanut butter and cranberry sandwiches. I’ll leave some as-is and use it for cranberry almond oatmeal muffins.
I’ve narrowed down the bread for the big meal to two recipes: either potato buttermilk bread shaped into rolls, or a new buttermilk dinner roll recipe that I’ve had my eye on. Either way, it’s gonna be buttermilk.
Dinner rolls are very handy to have on-hand in the freezer. They’re portioned out in individual servings so when you need some bread for dinner (or to accompany a soup lunch), it’s a cinch to pull out two or three. I plan to double the recipe and freeze the extra rolls. This will no doubt save me time later in the month!
Growing up my mom used to make two pumpkin pies. The family joke was one pie was for me and the other was for everyone else.
You could say I have a thing for pumpkin.
Since the dessert table will be also be hosting an apple cranberry crumble and chocolate pie, I’m only making one pumpkin pie this year. However, I am making a triple batch of homemade pie crust and a double batch of pie filling.
While it can be done, it’s not ideal to bake and freeze pumpkin pie. The filling is a custard and there’s something about water getting in and separating the eggs and whatnot. There was more, but I don’t want water in my pie nor do I want the eggs to separate (pumpkin quiche anyone?), so I stopped reading.
Instead you can mix up a second batch of pie crust – minus the liquid – and freeze it. Label the bag with the contents and any remaining ingredients (i.e. add 2 Tbsp milk and press into pie pan). Place it in the freezer and simply pull it out when you’ve got a hankering for pier.
By the way – the recipe will be tripled because I need one for the chocolate pie below. I don’t want a freezer full of pie crust. I just need one spare.
The filling can also be pre-made separately and frozen. Mr. Crumbs isn’t a big fan of pumpkin pie, but The Boy is. If The Girl is too, I can make mini-pies over the next few months as single serving desserts. Having pumpkin pie on a day that isn’t Thanksgiving is a treat in itself!
This pie is kinda hard to make easy. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not “difficult” per se – but it’s not a pie I would recommend making far ahead of time and freezing and such. So given that the rest of my dishes are working hard for me long after the tryptophan has worn off, I’ll let this one slide.
So those are my plan for Thursday and to be honest, just writing them out is making me hungry!