Souper Tuesday: Ten Things on My Table This Thanksgiving

Hands down, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

What’s not to love about a day that revolves around gratitude, relaxation and food?

It surprises some people that Thanksgiving is my favorite food holiday, since I haven’t eaten turkey in 14 years. But the sides are all just so divine. And more importantly, so numerous.

So instead of giving you a soup recipe today (we did have soup tonight, but it was out of a box), I’m sharing my menu for Thanksgiving 2013.

Most of the recipes can be found online, and I’ve provided links for those. You’ll notice that several of them come from Real Simple. I originally discovered these in the November 2006 issue, and still work from those torn-out magazine pages. But it’s nice to know they’re available digitally if there’s a melted butter accident.

(Oh, and I don’t have any pictures, which is a shame, but please just bear with me and enjoy the lovely photography at the links provided.)

Here we go.

1) Turkey
Last year I had a small crowd, and made a turkey breast in the crock pot. Apparently it was a winner (I have to trust the word of my guests on this one). But I’m expecting a slightly larger crowd this year (including a ravenous Rory) and so I need a bigger bird. And though it’s not cheap, I might just order one from Whole Foods that’s all ready to pop in the oven,

2) Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Shallots
So, I love mashed potatoes in theory. In practice, though, I’ve been kind of underwhelmed. They take a lot of effort (the peeling!) and aren’t so great reheated. This year, I’m going to try this twist on the standard recipe I’ve been using from Real Simple. I’m sure Noah will make comments about the “weird” things in the mashed potatoes, and then we’ll have to get into the etymology of the word “shallot” and go through the list of words it rhymes with, but hopefully they’ll taste good.

Also: I’m cutting the recipe down; at least by a third, maybe more. Less peeling, less leftovers.

3) Everybody’s Mushroom Gravy
This gravy is the other thing I’m hoping will improve the mashed potatoes for me. All these years I’ve been making gravy out of the turkey juices (which, as you might imagine, I find kind of gross) and then haven’t been able to eat it. I heard about this mushroom gravy on The Splendid Table, and I thought “a ha!” Just the thing. It’s meat, dairy and wheat free, for those of you into those sorts of things, and supposedly delicious, for those of you into that. I’m excited to douse my potatoes with it.

4) Cranberry Orange Relish
Cranberry sauce is nice and all, but since I don’t eat the turkey, I don’t have much to do with it. I’ll probably make the Cranberry Orange Relish recipe that’s on the bag of Dole cranberries I just bought. But if you have a killer recipe, I’m taking suggestions.

5) Wild Rice Dressing
I love dressing. And I’ve been torn over which one to make this year. I’ve made this one before, and have also tried cornbread dressing. If it were up to me, I’d make a sourdough bread-based dressing this year.

But this wild rice one, described as “From the Northern Midwest,” is Pat’s favorite. And it is yummy. So I’ll consider it a Thanksgiving present to him, as well as a nod to my Northern Midwest roots. After all, I am raising a kid with a stronger “Southern accident”  than most of the people I know who were born and raised around here. And his little brother might be following suit – we’ve thought it’s so cute how Rory says “Aw gum” when he’s “all done,” but I’m starting to wonder if he’s been watching Roy Williams interviews.

Long story short, we need some northern exposure, without all that pesky sub-zero weather. So the wild rice dressing it is. In the meantime, if anyone would like to send me a Lou Malnati’s pizza for Christmas, I would be grateful.

6) Pureed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Syrup
Mmmm. Sweet potatoes. This recipe is just sweet enough, without a marshmallow in sight. And so smooth. Pretty easy, too. The kids go bonkers for these.

7) Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts
Brussles sprouts were not something I was exposed to as a kid. And I’m sure I was just fine with that; they had such a bad reputation.

Well it was slander, I tell you.

Once I finally got around to trying them, I realized that they are amazingly delicious. Pat loves them too, and even the kids eat them. Preparation is key. Lots of people roast them (also good, I’m sure), but it’s nice to have this stovetop recipe for Thanksgiving, when the oven is already jam packed.

8) Grandma Lil’s Corn Casserole
My sister and I cling tightly to three Thanksgiving traditions from our childhood: watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, making cinnamon rolls out of the tube for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, and this corn casserole. (Sadly, we never get to enjoy them together, because she always has to work most of the weekend, which makes travel pointless for either of us. But we always call each other and/or my mom to discuss the status of the corn casserole.)

As the name suggests, it was my grandma’s recipe. Canned vegetables and boxed cornbread mix make it easy, tons of butter, cheese and sour cream make it delicious.

1 can corn, drained
1 can creamed corn
2 eggs
1 box Jiffy corn mix (my Grandma only used 1/2 box; I probably use 3/4 because I like it more like cornbread)
1 c. sour cream
1 stick melted butter
1 c. shredded cheese (optional; I mix it in)

Mix all ingredients in casserole (I use an 8×8 dish but it nearly overflows). Bake in 350 degree oven for 55-60 minutes. 

This recipe is a great go-to for potlucks, too. Major comfort food. And it’s a good thing Pat likes this, because boy, does he hate the parade.

9) Crescent Rolls
Always crescent rolls. This year I’m using the Immaculate Baking brand. Easy as that.

10) Dessert
As much as I love to eat dessert (and I really love to eat dessert), I’m not much for making it. So when a guest asks what they can bring for Thanksgiving, I always say pie. This year, my mother-in-law will be bringing pumpkin.

11) Wine
Wine is not just an integral part of the meal; it’s an integral part of the day. After all, I need something to get me through those six hours or so of cooking.

That said, I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding for four of the past five Thanksgivings, and I have not been able to partake at the levels required for optimal enjoyment. But this year, like Nigel Tufnel, I’m turning the fun up to 11. Or at least having a mimosa at 11.

Is something criminally missing from my table? Have a wine or cocktail suggestion for me? Hate the parade? Or creamed corn? (I know, MiT, I know.) Tell me about it.