Thursday, November 12, 2009

countdown begins: 14 days to go...

A beautiful turkey day awaitsI cannot tell a lie: I’ve been excited about Thanksgiving 2.0 since about March.

And by March, I mean the day after Thanksgiving last year. Maybe even during last year’s dessert.

In case you didn’t think it was possible, it’s even bigger this year: at least 16 on the guest list! It might also be time to start thinking about chairs.

First: the food.

Over the past several months, I’ve collected all the tasty dishes—from starting flatbreads, warming soups and sparkling drinks to turkey types, veggie greens and sweet finishes—in the running for this year’s final menu. (Check out last year’s menu.)

Because I’ve managed to unfold the unabridged list on a full stomach, I can’t promise this list won’t grow. It’s hard to naturally taste what goes with what when your stomach’s just not growling and telling you what’s right.

It really looks like a crazy number of dishes, but there’s plenty of time to carve the perfect menu… and get feedback. So, please feel free to leave feedback in the comments. (Note: I will include some traditional dishes that aren't listed here. Worry not. Neil.)

Here’s the full rundown of ROUND ONE Thanksgiving 2009 possibilities (including about 60 new items I've added since initial post):

first to get the party started...

When you're arranging dinner for a larger number of people, you can't expect everyone to arrive at the same time (or even on time). We also want to encourage Neil's fam to hang out a little longer, so having starters ready when they walk in (alongside a card table and football on TV) will be key. Some ideas:
Porcini tapioca
  • Bella mushroom tartlets
  • Pear bruschetta w/hazelnut cream
  • Baby artichokes stuffed w/ crab salad
  • Shrimp + chorizo flatbreads
  • Fresh goat cheese + crispy shallot dip
  • Hazelnut profiteroles w/blue cheese + grapes
  • Andouille-and-sweet-potato pie w/ tangle apple salad
  • Palestinian spinach pie
  • Warm crab dip w/fresh herbs
  • Texas smoked salmon tartare on blue corn chips
  • Bakes peaches w/almond paste
  • Rosemary flatbread w/blue cheese, grapes + honey
  • Spinach and shrimp salad w/chile dressing
  • Plum clafouti*
  • Porcini tapioca*
  • Leek, baby broccoli, smoked salmon + goat cheese tart*
  • Fresh fig mini pies w/honey mascarpone cream*
  • Midgetized BLT w/roasted tomato confit + ginger aioli*
  • Bacon + onion tartlets*
  • Curried sweet potato shooters*
  • Spinach + tofu dumplings*
Ginger shiso sourSure, I may not drink myself, but some people on T-day might benefit from a little loosening. In all areas, drinks included, we'll have some standards, in addition to all this dreamy stuff, such as:
then we sit down, gather 'round and indulge...
Last year I worked long and hard on a delicious mushroom soup. But when some people just pushed it aside and dug into the main courses, I felt a little defeated while realizing I'd have to question my soup strategy. If I don't start everyone with a bowl will they bother? We'll see which soup will garner the best tasting attention:
  • My mama's magic chicken dumpling soup
  • Pumpkin soup w/ creole lobster
  • Mushroom soup w/toasted bread
  • Chestnut soup w/grappa cream
  • Spicy parsnip soup*
  • Colombian chicken soup*
  • Avgolemono chicken soup w/rice*
Let's face it: big turkeys are a big waste. Neil's brother requested more turkey this year—despite the glut of leftovers we had last year—but I know a bigger bird is not the answer. It's bigger breasts (isn't it always?).

For the sake of appearances, I'm getting one whole, decent-sized turkey this year and two big turkey breasts. The whole turkey will be roasted in some "traditional" flavor for the pilgrims, while the breasts will be wild with flavah!

The regular turkey options are:
  • Alsatian-brined turkey w/riesling gravy
  • Roasted turkey w/figs + muscat gravy
  • Roasted turkey w/lemon and chives
And the two big breasts? Maybe we'll have a family turkey breast throwdown to see who can make the best, with tastes like:
  • Maple-glazed bird w/bourbon-pecan gravy
  • Indian-spiced turkey with cilantro-yogurt sauce
  • Slow-smoked turkey breast w/cane syrup-coffee glaze
  • Tangerine-glazed bird
  • Pickled jalapeno-paprika-rubbed and roasted breast
  • Grilled, butterflied turkey w/caraway-acho gravy
  • Chile-roasted turkey w/sherry mushroom gravy*
  • Hickory smoked turkey breast w/apple+cabbage slaw*
stuff it, baby
I heart stuffing. In fact, I would pitch the whole dinner for a pan of stuffing. Whether it's fancy, made-from-fresh-but-expertly-staled-bread dressing with chestnuts and fine wine or even Stovetop (that's right), I'm a fan. It's warmth, it's fall, it's comfort, it's Thanksgiving, it's good. One of these will be good too:
  • Wild mushroom whole wheat stuffing w/tarragon
  • Proscuitto-bread stuff w/sausage
  • Shiitake mushroom and fresh herb stuffing
  • Garlic + olive oil-tossed seeduction bread stuffing
  • Chorizo corn bread stuffing
  • Chestnut stuffing w/fennel*
on your side
Vanilla bean-whipped sweet potatoesSo many sides, so little time. We're talking , salads, potatoes, greens, grains and beyond. How to choose? Well, once the turkey and stuffing are selected, it might be easier to know what will go. Until then...

Potatoes (not including sweet):

Sweet potatoes:
  • Vanilla bean-whipped sweet potatoes
  • Sweet potato gratin w/chile-spiced pecans
  • Sweet potatoes w/apple butter
  • Cranberry-glazed sweet potatoes
  • Sweet potato spoon bread
  • Mashed sweet potatoes w/apple cider*

Mint, pea, feta risottoComfort, grain and rice:
  • Toasted coconut basmati rice
  • Butternut squash risotto w/chestnuts
  • Proscuitto risotto w/parmesan + cannelini beans
  • Polenta gratin w/spinach + wild mushrooms
  • Mashed winter squash w/Indian spices
  • Pea, mint + feta risotto*
  • Crispy ham + cheese polenta*
  • Lemony quinoa salad w/pine nuts + olives*
  • Farro + green bean salad*

Straight up veggies:

Beet greens
  • Roasted brussel sprouts w/cranberry brown butter
  • Kale + water chestnut in curried cream
  • Spinach simmered in yogurt
  • Ensalada verde w/idiazabal cheese
  • Green salad w/tangy mustard vinaigrette
  • Braised kale
  • Spinach salad w/warm bacon vinaigrette
  • Creamed spinach + parsnips
  • Basil, plum + spinach salad
  • Roasted broccoli w/acho butter
  • Swiss chard gratin w/toasted bread crumbs
  • Sauteed beet greens w/sun-dried tomatoes + pancetta*
  • Brussel sprouts w/cranberries*
  • Kale w/currants, lemon + olives*

Sides that refuse to declare a party:
  • Cranberry sauce w/spiced pumpkin seeds (must have!)
  • Champagne-roasted cauliflower w/gruyere
  • Avocado relish w/caramelized onions
  • Crunchy baked fennel
  • Fragrant cauliflower in tomato sauce
  • Curried eggplant w/chickpeas + spinach
  • Fall harvest salad
  • Hot, buttered cauliflower
  • Baked, curried peaches w/ricotta + almonds*
  • Cranberry, clementine + pumpkin seed conserve*
  • Corn cakes w/spiced cranberries*
  • Cranberry-grapefruit conserve*
  • Cranberry-licorice compote*
  • Crisp salmon w/avocado salad*
  • Barley salad w/parsley + walnuts*
  • Beet, fennel and jicama salad w/macadamia nut dressing*

time to explode, recover or sleep...
Another crazy lesson I learned last year: these people don't eat until they drop. I was really surprised when, following dinner... and a while after it, that no one was gung-ho about dessert. Personally, I'd been counting down to it! This year, I'm planning for the down-time. The in-between. It might also make another slot for getting Neil's family to hang a bit longer. And to help them digest, refresh, chill and stay awake:
Super refreshing post-dinner blackberry napoleonswho am I kidding? this is the main event...
I would make (and eat) every single one of these if I could. Perhaps, with a little training, I could some day. By this time next year, I will be an Iron[wo]man. Until then, some desserty ideas:

Pies, crostadas, tarts (oh my!):
  • Rustic pear + hazelnut crostada
  • Chocolate macadamia nut tart
  • Deep-dish apple pie w/cheddar crust
  • Poached pear and brown butter tart
  • Honeyed fig crostada
  • Granny Smith apple + brown butter custard tart
  • Fig+raspberry tart w/chestnut honey
  • Pumpkin cheesecake tart w/cranberry gelee
  • Sweet potato tart w/red wine caramel
  • Chilled grapefruit-caramel meringue pie

Bread pudding:
Strawberry basil bread pudding
  • Pumpkin bread pudding w/caramel rum raisin sauce
  • Caramel bread pudding
  • Dulche de leche breading pudding w/juicy baked plums
  • Krispy Kreme bread pudding w/espresso whipped cream
  • Banana bread-and-butter pudding
  • Kemptville blueberry bread pudding
  • Bread pudding w/dried cranberries, vanilla + mint
  • Strawberry basil bread pudding*

Cakes and other fancy stuff:

Fig, blackberry, pear crispMostly fruit:
  • Confit of peaches w/mint
  • Minted melon w/vanilla granita + citrus yogurt
  • Fresh fruit wrapped in vanilla crepes
  • Plum-marsala sorbet*
  • Blueberries, bananas + nutella crepes*
  • Fig, blackberry + pear crisp*
  • Rhubarb + strawberry compote w/balsamic + ricotta*
I'm not sure whether narrowing down this collection into a balanced meal for 16 that honors tradition for some, excites palettes of others and flows delightfully from course to course will be any easier on an empty stomach. Good thing I've started "early"...

*New additions since 11/12


Christa said...


Please, please, please send me your recipe for vanilla bean whipped sweet potatoes. I'm drooling already.