This year, I will be staying in Washington, DC for Thanksgiving … IN ORDER TO HOST THE HOLIDAY! AIEEEE! OMAGAH! WHAT??
… Actually, it’s not THAT terrifying. (She said, in her famous last words before her death-by-drowning at the hands — er, goo? — of a mountain of mashed potatoes and gravy.) It’s a new adventure that the History Teacher and I are taking on this year. We’ll be hosting his immediate family (traveling in from all sorts of corners of the East Coast), as well as a few local friends who’d rather stay nearby than make their long and expensive voyages home. To which I say, the more the merrier! … and the slightly scarier? More people! More food! More chaos! More tryptophan-induced napping on a limited number of beds and couches!
But! But. The technicalities are just that — small things that, in the grand scheme of the holiday, aren’t worth a freak-out. Yes, there are more people than just THT and myself. Yes, that means more food in a tiny apartment kitchen (and, frankly, more bodies — hope I have the floorspace!). But it also means more fun, more fellowship, and more sharing of a tasty meal (and a drink or two) with wonderful folks and good friends. Can you ask for anything better than that?
First step? A menu! I love — LOVE — to plan shindigs, events, and meals. Moreover, I find something incredibly enriching about hosting people in your home. Friends and family, food and drink, good music, funny stories — what more could you want? And when it comes to Thanksgiving, more so than almost any other holiday, the heart of that hosting, that gathering, is the menu. The food’s the thing, to badly paraphrase the Bard.
If you’re thinking of hosting Thanksgiving this year, or you’re already planning on it and don’t quite know how to handle the responsibility of such an undertaking, look no further! I’ve divided the meal into easy categories, with tips, planned recipes and links along the way. This is what THT and I are most likely serving (with a little help from Mama THT — thank you in advance for those pies!), with a seasonal, fall flavor in mind. I hope this helps you plan your own Thanksgiving Feast!
MAIN COURSE: Oven-roasted Turkey. THT and I are planning on concocting an Old Bay-Spiced Turkey by whipping up butter and Old Bay seasoning (“Hello, Maryland!” — the turkey), then massaging the turkey meat below the skin to infuse the meat with Old Bay flavor.
- Make sure to have at least 1 pound per person. You’ll want more, though, for leftovers.
- While sides can be prepared in advance and reheated, your turkey is a day-of affair.
- That being said, defrost in your fridge for 1-2 days if your bird is frozen. Once thawed, you can allow the bird to come to room temperature before starting to roast that bird.
- Check out some fabulous tips for roasting a turkey here on Simply Recipes. I plan on following most of these directions next Thursday!
- Flavoring options: Citrus (sliced lemon and fresh rosemary in the turkey cavity; lemon zest and chopped rosemary massaged into turkey skin with butter or olive oil); Old Bay (see above); Classic (Butter, parsley and a little poultry seasoning); Cajun (Use some Emeril Legasse spice or other Cajun seasoning in the cavity and on the turkey’s skin).
SIDES — STARCHES: I recommend at least 2-3 starch-based sides, varying the amount by the number of your guests. We’re making Classic Mashed Potatoes, a concocted Old Bay-Seasoned Crab-and-Cornbread Stuffing (experimental? Yes. Tasty? We hope!), and Sweet Potato Friesas an appetizer.
- Vary your starches and carbs! These will help round out your meal, and are a great way to add versatility while also making sure that he classics — mashed potatoes, stuffing — aren’t forgotten.
- If you have any vegetarian diners, make sure at least one does not contain meat or animal products. If you often use chicken broth in your stuffing and a vegetarian’s coming over, vegetable broth is just as delicious (and, thankfully, meat free!0. If your guests are vegan, watch for dairy products, as well. (Mashed potatoes might better serve a vegan crowd as sliced, baked potatoes coated in olive oil and herbs, for example.)
- If you’re concerned about healthiness, lighten things like mashed potatoes with skim milk or low-fat cream cheese instead of the traditional cream or butter. The possibilities are endless, and here especially, the Internet is your friend. Try these. Or these. Or this one.
SIDES – VEGGIES: I’d have 2 veggies and/or a side salad of some kind. I definitely count squashes in this category, which makes it flexible. We’re having Broccoli & Mushroom Salad (courtesy of Real Simple) and Not-So-Processed Green Bean “Casserole”, and may include one more, depending on whether or not we get extra guests. (Here’s hoping we do! Love me some big parties.)
- This is a great place to experiment a little with flavors and international cuisines. Are you fans of Indian food? Curry-spiced roasted cauliflower with an Indian chutney would be divine next to some turkey and mashed potatoes.
- While it’s tempting — and, frankly, downright delicious — to go full-fatty-buttery-crazy with these, this is a good opportunity to bring balance to the meal. Use olive oil instead of butter. Oven roast rather than fry. Thicken cream sauces with a bit of flour, and use lower-fat milk when possible.
- Stay classic-ish to make even the least veggie-loving diner happy. Simplicity will also make YOU happy.
SIDES — BREAD & ROLLS: I’m making a loaf of Artisan Bread in Five‘s Oatmeal Pumpkin Bread (featured here at Chickens in the Road) which is allegedly divine with turkey — especially in sandwiches the next day. They’re great for sopping up gravy, cranberry sauce, and any other tasty goodies.
- This is an easy area for simplifying — there’s no shame in buying rolls or bread! (Or farming them out to friends or relatives who happen to be coming to your festivities.)
- If you’re determined to have homemade bread, using a mix is also nothing to judge. Check out this brand, or this one. Both look delicious!
- Sometimes, there’s nothing better than a crescent roll. Pillsbury, your sorcery knows no end.
DESSERT? AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE! THT’s mom is bringing Applie and Pumpkin Pies, and we may have cookies or other sweets as well. Oh snap! Carb-sugar coma in the works? Aww yeah.
- This is also the easiest area for friends and family to contribute. Don’t do all the work yourself — especially when pies, parbaking and various fillings are involved. Do you have time to peel 2 dozen apples? Probably not, but your guests might!
- If you DO pick up a store-bought pie, warming it in the oven will still give you that fresh-baked feeling. Mm-mm!
- Not into pies? Rock a Thanksgiving cake! Frost your cake with red and orange leaves, or decorate with seasonal fruit. A skillet cake would also be divine. Why not? It’s your T-Givs!
So there you have it! Use these categories as your guide, add a few condiments (cranberry sauce, gravy, etc.), and go to town. 🙂 Keep me posted on your Thanksgiving adventures, and I’ll keep posting mine! Stay tuned for a slew of holiday-themed recipes and goodies.