Our annual Thanksgiving feast is perhaps the antithesis of the norm: calm, casual, and intimate. No elaborate place settings or countless sides and dressings – just the basics. We love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. This year was our biggest crowd yet, with both Taylor’s mom and step-dad in town visiting, our little 4-person table was at capacity.
I hope your day was just as fabulous, and filled with turkey and pies and all manner of delicious things. I say it every year but one of the things I am most thankful for is you. If I could get a dining table big enough to seat each and every one of you, you know I would extend the invitation in a heartbeat. But in a sense, isn’t that what this blog is? A big, community table where we can all sit down and share a homemade meal. That is perhaps what I love most.
So thank you for sharing in this journey with us, and here’s to many more turkey days to come! But now, on to the food!
As in years past, I’m not going to bore you poor turkey-stuffed souls with all of the recipes, but rather just focus on the highlights. More for my own reference (as I always look back at years’ past to see what worked and what didn’t). I will be sharing the recipe for the green beans shortly, and as soon as I perfect the biscuits will be sharing those as well. The rest, well, links are included where relevant. Might I suggest bookmarking them for next year?
Turkey: We went free-form this year, adapting a basic brine recipe with a bunch of different ingredients. Apple juice instead of water, and a few aromatic spices like cinnamon and star anise gave the brine an almost cider-like aroma. But you know what we’ve finally realized, after 5 years of brining our turkeys? Brine is about getting moisture and salt into the bird. It doesn’t really matter what else goes in to the mix, you won’t taste it. At least not in any discernible way. We’ve done orange juice, honey, and malt beer brines; each produced a succulent, moist bird, but could you tell that there was orange juice, honey, or beer in there? Could you taste the peppercorns or bay leaf or white wine? Nope. We’ll see, maybe next year we’ll try something outrageous and potent like balsamic vinegar or cranberry juice, just to test this theory. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop brining the birds, it just means I won’t obsess quite so much about the minutia of the specific recipe.
Potatoes: The definitive roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Can’t beat ’em.
Stuffing: Taylor went off the cuff this year, inventing his own Italian sausage stuffing recipe on the fly. His verdict (since I’m not a stuffing fan I cannot comment): eh. Not his best, for sure. Perhaps the wrong choice of sausage, or a slightly off texture. In my opinion that describes ALL stuffing, EVER, but Taylor refuses to nix it off our bare-bones menu.
Biscuits: I’ve been working on a brown-butter biscuit recipe for some time now. It still needs work, but these tender biscuits were a welcome respite from the rest of the meal. The sweet sorghum and bourbon glaze was perhaps a wee bit too sweet, though. Still a work in progress!
Green Beans: I had spotted some persimmons at the store, and set out to re-make a Thanksgiving dish from our pre-blog era. This dish was one of the highlights of the meal, for sure, and I’ll be sharing the recipe next week.
Cranberry Sauce: I finally used the last of my hibiscus in the Hibiscus-Lime Cranberry Sauce recipe I shared earlier this month. Smashing. Tart and tangy and a perfect complement to the turkey and rich gravy.
Gravy: Our bird was a lean one this year, so the drippings were minimal. Perhaps that was why the gravy was significantly lighter and milder than in years past, but with homemade turkey stock and a splash of Madeira it was still fantastic. We tried a smidge of potato starch to thicken it up; it was like cornstarch on steroids. If you like thick gravy you may want to give it a try.
Pumpkin Pie: I ONLY MADE ONE PIE CRUST THIS YEAR! That alone makes it a success, as there were no catastrophic disasters or pie crust ‘incidents’. Granted, it did not come out of the oven looking quite so pretty (oops) but it was a success nonetheless. For the crust I used this Food Lab “Easy Pie Dough” recipe at the suggestion of my cousin Brooke. The concept of the crust is quite ingenious, and it makes for a soft and very workable dough. I just (as always) need to work on my crimping technique.
For the filling, as you well know I had to keep it fairly classic, but opted to try this Molasses Pumpkin Pie recipe from the Merry Gourmet, topped with a bourbon-spiked whipped cream. I used fresh pumpkin, which made for a light texture and color with just a hint of molasses shining through. The in-laws gave it a resounding moan of approval, and so did Taylor for that matter. No Kroger pies this year!
I’m adding this note as a reminder to myself more than anything. Dear future Lindsay, next year, make two desserts. One pumpkin, of course, but also something chocolate. Something about eating dinner at 3:00 in the afternoon will throw off your hunger routine. Even after a huge meal and unabashedly large slice of pie a few hours later, come about 8:00 or so you WILL be craving something chocolate. It seems silly to top off such a fantastic day of homemade goodness with a giant scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream, but it was the only option at that point. Next year though, I’ll be prepared!
Sounds like it was a wonderful day! You certainly took the prettiest Thanksgiving pics I’ve seen yet! :)
One year we did the brine thing with mostly lemon. Mikes hard lemonade, lemon rinds, lemon juice (and of course the usual salt & schtuff).
We could actually get a hint of the bright lemony goodness in the turkey! Not overpowering, mind you – mostly just in the scent and a hint of the front side of the taste).
I love the way a brined turkey turns out – but you’re right, much of the added flavor does not come through.
To get good herby and citrusy notes into the bird, we shove said herbs and citrus into the cavity. Poke holes in your lemons or oranges (whichever you are going after) and shove in the cavity. When the bird begins to roast, the citrus will help steam the meat from the inside with juice and flavor. :)
We do this with chickens too.
Interesting that you didn’t think the brine flavored the turkey much, because I was amazed by how flavorful my turkey was. I brined with whole peppercorns, whole cloves, whole allspice berries, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and it made the meat taste amazing. For the first time ever the turkey was my favorite part of the meal! Next year I’m trying your cranberry hibiscus sauce….I should be able to find hibiscus in some form in NYC!
I’m so glad that the pumpkin pie worked out well (whew!). It sounds like you had quite a wonderful Thanksgiving feast. And I agree with you on the desserts. One slice of pumpkin pie is usually enough for me. I’ve been craving chocolate cake and lemon tart ever since.
Our holiday has been so overwhelmingly packed with family that I’m a bit envious of Taylor and your’s intimate setting. I love family time but we are knee deep. ;-)
I know that not everyone is as passionate about the need for chocolate in their life as oneself, but considering you do chocolate desserts well! I’m shocked no cocoa adorned your Thanksgiving table. But all is forgiven, I’m sure the pumpkin pie was delicious.
Yes to chocolate desserts. We always have pumpkin pie and apple pie. No chocolate and I totally regret it.
An apple cider brine sounds amazing – but what a bummer that the flavor doesn’t stick around too well. We’ve been doing a maple syrup brine for the last four years followed by a maple syrup and melted butter rub before roasted. I don’t know which one really imparts the flavor – but we definitely get that sweet maple taste on the skin of the bird.