This Holiday season in 2021 there seems to be a renewed excitement around getting ready to host our Thanksgiving dinner because we are getting our heads above water where COVID is concerned, and so looking forward to being together!
When you’re thinking about your meal, there are so many traditions that make up the Thanksgiving dinner. We do the typical potatoes and stuffing, with a twist or two on some of our dishes, but all in all, we remain pretty close to the traditional make-up of the dinner. Thanksgiving, as opposed to the December Holiday season, is ALL ABOUT THE MEAL (as my husband John says). I think this is one of the only times he can’t WAIT to eat! We’ve started to eat earlier in the day the last few years, which we all really like because it gives us time to relax after the dinner, and still feel like there is time to talk, play a board game, watch a movie, and just enjoy relaxing and being together (especially if some of us have to work the next day).
Our Thanksgiving Holiday starts a couple weeks ahead when I reach out to my family about the menu, and what everyone can bring. Hosting and serving the Thanksgiving Dinner is a lot of work in and of itself, let alone making all the food! Give yourself a break and have your family and friends bring a dish! It makes it sooooo much easier!
We have our regulars of course, like my Baked Sweet Potato Casserole and my Sausage and Sage Stuffing, Andrews’s Smoked Turkey, Pat’s Fluffy Mashed Potato Soufflé, her Murphy Family Stuffing and a second Roasted Turkey, Connie’s Sweet and Buttery Carrots, and a green vegetable such as Roasted Maple Glazed Brussel Sprouts with Toasted Almonds and Cranraisins! Add some Buttery Dinner Rolls, Herbed Cornbread and Cranberry Sauce! Yes, the canned jellied cranberry sauce! I can’t teach some old dogs new tricks, but I am going to spruce it up with a Cranberry Relish that my cousin Joey taught me how to make! I always make a Pumpkin and Apple Pie, and sometimes a Pecan Pie (my Mom loves Pecan Pie), topped with some fresh whipped cream and creamy vanilla ice cream. And Voila! The menu is set! Although sometimes we get lucky and Pat’s sister Barbara Leighton brings me some of her creamed onions! One of my favorites! I’ll have to get her to teach me how to make them one of these days! And as for the appetizers, they are simple and few. The focus is the meal itself! So I’ll just put out some shrimp cocktail and maybe some cheese and crackers.
And when I set my bar up, we always have a Creamy Eggnog with a splash of Bourbon or Salted Caramel Liqueur, and whiskey, vodka, gin, with mixers such as ginger beer, tonic and orange and cranberry juices! I’ll have some special local beer from some breweries in Lansdale and Skippack, PA, like Imprint Beer and Brothers Kershner Brewing Company. And this year, I’m serving a selection of wines from the Barboursville winery in Virginia! We’ll have a Chardonnay Reserve 2019, an Allegrante Rose 2020, Brut Cuvee 1814, Nebbiolo Reserve 2017, Barbera Reserve 2019, and maybe even a Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2019 for after dinner.
I do feel the best turkey to buy is a fresh turkey from a local farm near you if you can. But I will say a frozen Butterball can be just as amazing! And you need at LEAST 4 days in the refrigerator to let that bird defrost, especially if it’s over 15 lbs or so. I like buying 2 smaller turkeys, (up to 15 lbs. each), instead of a large 25 kb. turkey. That way you get more meat instead of bone, and if you have two ovens, a grill and an oven, or even room on your stovetop, you can cook two at the same time! And they’ll cook in a lot less time, too! If you’re lucky enough to have a smoker or fryer, then that’s when you can really get creative, and frying a turkey can take less than an hour or so! I’m still a huge fan of brining a turkey with water, salt, sugar, spices, and peppercorns. 24 – 48 hours ahead, and you won’t regret it! Just make sure your turkey is defrosted before brining!
Now, there’s one other way to cook a turkey, and that’s to “spatchcock” it! What a funny word, right? Every time I say it, I laugh hysterically, and I feel like I’m saying a curse word! It means “to split open poultry”, removing the spine. I read where it originated from Ireland, and it could be an abbreviation of “Dispatch the Cock”, an 18th century phrase when they needed to whip up a quick chicken dinner.
Back to how to “spatchcocking” a turkey. It’s very easy, really. You put the breast side down, you take sharp kitchen shears or a sharp knife, and cut the backbone out in the middle of the turkey. There are a million videos on it! And your turkey will cook in just over an hour or so! It’s about doing what you can to make things easier that day, especially if you can make a dish or two ahead of time! I like to get my table set and start getting my bar area set up. I start making ice a few days ahead so I have plenty, and make sure I have plenty of lemons, limes and oranges for garnish.
I love taking the Thanksgiving week off from work if I can. I can enjoy the few days of prep for the dinner, with the smells of apple, pumpkin, roasted sweet potatoes, and spices mulling while I take my time and enjoy this experience, grateful for the time surrounded by family and friends.
So without further ado, let’s get started! The countdown is on!!!!!!!
Let’s get cookin’, bakin’ and entertainin’!