Thanksgiving recipe mainstays: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry raw relish, apple, pecan, and pumpkin pie
But for my sister and I, it is the other things that make the meal complete. We love tossed salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing and a vegetable such as fresh green beans or fresh broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots with browned butter*. These are must haves in our book. (She usually brings the salad and veggies.)
In other words, we like vegetables that taste like vegetables. No pistachio pudding/fruit salad or green bean casserole or sweet potatoes with marshmallows for us. (If those items are on your must have list, great. I just figure we consume enough calories at this meal, I rather save my appetite and capacity for important things like the main course and pie!) Sometimes I might serve pickled beets or a sweet pickle of some sort to act like a taste-bud punctuation mark.
Every family has their standbys and favorites that make their Thanksgiving meal complete, and I would like to hear about your traditions.
But let's not forget that whatever is on our menu, Thanksgiving is a day to gather together with loved ones and give thanks to God for his blessings.
Today, I must go finish up some shopping at the Elm Grove Sendiks. They are one of my last convenient sources for pasteurized whipping cream (not ultra pasteurized) for the pumpkin and pecan pie. (Pick 'n Save used to carry the cream but don't anymore. Maybe that is one reason they fell behind on the 2010 Brookfieldnow grocery store preference poll?) UPDATE: I was happy to find pasteurized whipping cream at Trader Joe's!
Stuffing: Thanksgiving favorites: Kyle's stuffing You can make this the night before but don't stuff bird until cooking time.
Mashed potatoes: Use Idaho or Russet potatoes. I usually figure on 2 potatoes per person, that way, I have plenty for the leftover meals that follow. About an hour and a quarter before you anticipate serving, peel the potatoes, rinse, and cut into 1 inch pieces. As you cut them up, drop them into a large kettle with plenty of cold water--to keep from darkening. (You can hold them like this until cooking time. Potatoes are a root vegetable, so you bring them to a boil, instead of dropping into boiling water. Some cooks like to add a small chopped onion and/or garlic to raw potatoes for added flavor.)
Start cooking at least 45 minutes before mealtime, add about 1 teaspoon salt to the water. Cover and put on high heat, until the potatoes come to a boil. (There should be ample water to cover potatoes and ample room in kettle to accommodate vigorous boiling.) Turn down heat to maintain a moderate boil--cook until tender--about 20-25 minutes. Test with a fork. The potato should easily yield to the fork. Take off heat. You can hold them in the hot water until you are ready to mash.
Drain the potatoes--remember to save the potato water for the gravy. Add about 1/3C of half and half or milk and put about 3T of butter into the bottom of the potato kettle. Let the butter melt before mashing. You can use a potato masher, ricer, or hand held mixer to mash. Add more milk/cream as needed to make a fluffy mashed potato--remember it is better to add cream little by little than to add too much! Taste and salt to taste. (I tend to be a low-salt cook, figuring the gravy is the real seasoning agent.) Once the potatoes reach the proper consistency, put them into a covered serving dish and set aside. Once the turkey comes out of oven, you can turn down the heat and keep the covered dish of mashed potatoes in oven until serving time.
Baked-in-their-skins yams are on the nice to have list. I just cut the ends off to let the steam out and toss on the oven rack at 350 degrees until tender about 1 1/2 hours before serving time. If done early, take them out of oven and return to heat up before serving.
Homemade gravy: 1 C flour, 1 C pan drippings, 8 C water. (Use your potato cooking water, green bean water, and plain water to make 8C.) Soak the flour in some of the water at least 1 hour before you make the gravy. After removing the turkey, pour off the fat and save.
De-glaze the pan with about half of the water, stirring constantly. Add the 1 C fat, then the flour and remaining water to make the proper consistency. Salt as needed. Strain if desired.
Cranberries: Kyle's Fresh Cranberry Relish: A happy accident (I also make the cooked ones: 1 bag berries, 1 C water, 1 C sugar. Simmer until all berries are popped.) Make each the day before, but don't mix the raw relish until Thanksgiving morning.
Pie: As American as Mom and Apple Pie Includes a cranberry apple variation, I make these early Thanksgiving morning before I put the turkey in the oven. Pumpkin pie is the recipe on the pumpkin can. Pecan Pie is from the 1965 Fanny Farmer Cookbook. I add twice as many pecans, however.
Pie crust: Easy as pie...really! Pie Crust Recipe
Browned butter: You can make this days ahead. In a heavy sauce pan or small saute' pan, place butter, whatever amount is desired, and put on low to medium heat. Butter will melt and as time goes on, the milk solids in the butter will start to brown and the mixture foams a bit. Watch it and stir it occasionally to prevent burning. Brown until a medium brown. It will continue to brown a bit after you remove it from the heat, so until you are experienced, err on the side of underdone. You can always heat it more. It has a delicious nutty flavor that goes well with vegetables.
Turkey leftovers - soup: The Turkey's Last Stand