A few years back, as my Thanksgiving cooking duties expanded from “string bean cleaner” to full-out cook, I had a constant stream of ideas flowing; new twists on this, deconstructions of that. There is no question that this type of thinking creates some pretty interesting stuff like last year’s psychedelic string bean casserole. But Thanksgiving, is rooted in tradition; small part history, and mostly family. So the dishes we grew up loving, we ultimately crave for that late November Thursday. And this year’s menu was a bounty of those familiar colors, textures, and flavors!
The star of the Thanksgiving table is almost always the Turkey. But all too often after the table gets passed the awe of the beautifully browned bird, you are left with overcooked meat begging for an overflow of gravy. Luckily for me, cooking a fantastic turkey hasn’t been an issue for the last two years after my brother hooked me on the pre-Thanksgiving day brine. You can read a lot about the brining method but bottom line, a brined turkey is a moist and flavorful turkey. This bird was seasoned with a Cajun butter throughout the cooking process which added great flavor and a little heat to go perfectly with the rest of the meal not to mention making the pan gravy all that more flavorful!
And although the Turkey sits as the main piece of the meal, it was the accompaniments that really stole the show. Silky roasted garlic and rosemary mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potato fries with garlic and tomato aioli, and a string bean and cauliflower salad all showcased Thanksgiving favorites while highlighting the great colors and textures of the seasonal ingredients. For a slight twist on a classic (at least for me), this pumpernickel and brussel sprout stuffing was studded with dried cranberries and cremini mushrooms and added a wonderfully savory piece to the plate. With a little sage and some more roasted garlic this was by far one of my favorites. With a bit of fresh cranberry sauce as a tart reminder to eat more, there was only one thing missing.
Because as I’ve mentioned previously, it’s not a great Thanksgiving with out some beets. And since I was a little sick of the same old preparation, this roasted greens and beet gratin was a perfect addition! Layering a mixture of sautéed spinach, kale, and collards with slices of roasted beets would have been good on its own. But baking this combination with a feta and mozzarella white sauce put this side over the top!
But dinner is only half of the Thanksgiving meal. Because if you hadn’t been looking forward to mashed potatoes and turkey this past month, you were definitely looking forward to pumpkin pie! So with my Mom handling the pie duties, I went straight for the ice cream. This cranberry ginger and pomegranate seed ice cream not only paired great with the pie, but was just fantastic on its own. And that flavor combination may sound familiar. Because I wasn’t about to go the Holiday without a few cocktails and that cranberry ginger syrup (here’s the recipe card) works just as good with vodka as it does with vanilla ice cream!
So I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving full of tradition and creativity! Oh yeah, and some family too…