While some Americans are having a larger Thanksgiving, quite a few are again limiting numbers and thinking about a smaller menu. A turkey roulade (roo-LAHD) — a rolled up, stuffed turkey breast served up with a pan or two of roasted vegetables is for just that more intimate occasion and will serve 1-2 with plenty of leftovers, 4 with some, and 6 without much at all in those pesky where-are-the-lids Tupperware containers. (You can double it all for a larger group if need be, but do plan on more time. I also include a couple of other options for one-pan sides.) With some prep, this beautiful meal goes into the oven all together and is done in less than an hour — which makes it a lovely small dinner party menu as well. If you can get a boned turkey breast and don’t have to bone it yourself, you are way ahead of the game. Not Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes and gravy or …? You can surely add other dishes though you don’t need them. (See TIPS below for links to Brussels sprouts I made, gravy without drippings, my spicy cranberry sauce, etc.) Easily purchased appetizers and a bakery pumpkin pie help give you most of the day off, a lot less dish washing, and time to watch “Home for the Holidays,” with Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, and Charles Durning– one of my favorite Thanksgiving movies. No movies, but want music?Here are some listening ideas.
Note: While this meal is basically gluten-free, do check all purchased ingredients, including turkey, for GF labels.Our Honeysuckle frozen turkey breast did not contain gluten, but other brands might.
When fall finally arrives (not sure it’s here yet), it’s time to bake again — and by November, it’s time to think of baking for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I am anything in life, I am a pie baker. I’m not a county fair blue ribbon winner, but I’m something better — I’m the person folks like to see walking into their house or the church potluck with a pie basket on her arm. It wasn’t always that way, but pie baking is a progressive art or one that is a lifelong undertaking. I began with pies that didn’t taste badly, but were pale and puny at best and were luckily called out by older, experienced pie bakers in the mid-70’s. (“You could have left that in the oven a while longer.”) Even now, hundreds and hundreds of pies later, there’s the occasional crust that won’t hold together, for example, and gets ceremoniously dumped straight into the garbage can. It doesn’t faze me anymore, but pies continue to be educational as long as you’re willing to bake them. If you don’t bake one for a while and then assume you’ll be fine, that pie may or may not bake into something worth eating with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.
Every once in a while, it’s time to cook up an old recipe on the blog, take new photos, and tweak the dish up to today’s standard. That’s exactly what happened the other day with the blog’s very first pumpkin soup from way back in November, 2009. With my book club meeting in my living room last Thursday, I thought I’d move away from the same-old, same-old cheese and whatever….and make a soup I could serve in coffee mugs along with the glass of wine we enjoy. Change = good. I looked at the not few pumpkin soups I’ve blogged and settled on the simple, but fun 12-year-old version that is finished off with peanuts and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. As I sometimes will, I tried making it right from the original recipe, which is so old it’s not even printable. While good, it needed perking up, thickening, and expanding. I was amazed, though, to see how readable the recipe was even then. That’s not to say it didn’t need editing and redoing. It did.
I always forget about Cornish hens and then when I make them, I can’t believe I let so much time go by without putting these festive little birds on the menu. They’re quick, inexpensive, and versatile — especially when you’re cooking for one or two for Thanksgiving. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of a bunch of side dishes, you can even cook your potatoes and vegetables such as carrots, onions, halved Brussels sprouts, chunks of zucchini, or diced butternut squash right in the pan with them. I include directions for the easy carrots and spinach from the photo in the printable recipe. And even cooler is the simple pan sauce stirred up in the roasting pan while the hens rest and you pour the wine. No Good Gravy! worries. While a one-pan Thanksgiving always sounds nigh unto impossible, you can actually do it if that’s your druthers. That’s an easy clean up, too. On your own this year? I’d still advise cooking two Cornish hens … you want leftovers, right? I mean, the best part of Thanksgiving is the I-don’t-have-to-cook next day sandwich with mayo on white bread. Right after the pumpkin pie for breakfast, that is. Don’t skip the whipped cream.
At our house, marshmallows are saved for hot chocolate when our daughter Emily is home. I’ve never put them on sweet potatoes, though if someone else served up that inescapable casserole, I’d be polite and have a bite or two. I offer up an apology to all those gooey-sweet sweet potato fans out there and make mine the way I like them, which is thoroughly mashed up with butter, sherry, just a little brown sugar, and eggs. Top that with walnuts and bake a half hour while the bird rests and I’m in Thanksgiving heaven. The recipe is called a soufflé, but I’d say that’s stretching it. Leftovers, are, of course, perfect spooned up cold right out of the refrigerator or heated up in a skillet with a fried egg cooked in the center.
Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite holiday. There’s no gift buying or wrapping, little decorating except the table, and it’s all about the food and wine. I’ve cooked for two times twenty and I’ve cooked for two, loved both and everything in between.
This year, with distanced or small Thanksgivings on tap for many folks, it could be the time to pull out all of the stops for a dinner-party style meal complete with several small courses and wine pairings. What if you dig out grandma’s china and crystal, throw on a table cloth, light the candles, and go big? It’s not something easily possible when there are 15 of you including 2 toddlers who eat nothing, a newly-vegan teenager, and aging parents (low sodium, please), but it is doable and entertaining for four who might share the cooking. Yeah, so that’s one idea.
…scroll down to bottom for links to many things thanksgiving–crafts for kids, wine advice, music….
When it’s only a week until Thanksgiving, we can go one of two ways: bury our heads in the sand of the past and recreate each and every one of the holidays gone by — could do that with your eyes closed, right; would it be so bad? —or what about spend a little time thinking about trying, even learning something new–perhaps in the way of Thanksgiving sides? If you’ve been reading along lately, you’ll know I’m totally taken with the idea of a curated Thanksgiving. That is to say, a more dinner party-ish meal– not dinner party-ish as in fancy pants table settings or overly-priced sparkling wines served in frighteningly expensive flutes, but rather in a limited number of precisely considered, perfect dishes. Ok, just ones that taste good, not necessarily perfect-perfect. One vegetable instead of 6. 2 desserts in the place of the buffet of pumpkin and pecan lovelies. A beautiful meal, not an eat-all-you-can til you bust your britches buffet. Less cleanup. Fewer leftovers. More energy for a round or two of Hearts or to watch “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” that all-but-required Thanksgiving movie. No, no. Don’t start the Christmas movies, please. Even football is better than that. Give Thanksgiving its due, its own time. Let’s not mash our day of gratefulness all up into December madness.
Baking at Thanksgiving. It’s a big deal to some people and a late afternoon stop at the grocery for others. Perhaps because often folks are cooks OR they’re bakers and rarely both. The pumpkin pie may have all the memories the turkey never garnered and the homemade yeast rolls and butter just might be why your grandson shows up. On the other hand, it could be all about the dressing, gravy or even the ham at your house where no one looks twice at dessert. I once brought turkey and dressing to a summer potluck, where a close friend refused to eat a bite. When I asked why, she said, “You didn’t make gravy. I don’t eat dressing without gravy.” She truly had some serious food traditions and it’s not unusual. Listen to your friends and family talk about Thanksgiving and you’ll see.
It’s an odd thought, but Thanksgiving is overwhelmingly vegetarian. I mean, think about it. Except for the turkey, everything is basically and definitely vegetarian (or appears that way); even the gravy and the stuffing could be if you so wanted. Mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole, buttery rolls, pumpkin pie; it’s all on that side of the equation. Skip the turkey or duck-duck-goose stuff, as well chicken broth in the various sides, and there you’d be at a nearly totally vegetarian meal.