THANKSGIVING A to Z

Thanksgiving Farmer Market Produce Shopping Haul
Thanksgiving A to Z list first, personal thoughts and the actual menu we plan to serve follow. Follow along on Instagram for updates to this list the rest of this week and through the weekend.

cheese-charcuterie-crudite-board
A is for Thanksgiving APPETIZERS

miso-roasted-brussels-sprouts-shiitake-mushrooms
B is for Thanksgiving BRUSSELS SPROUTS

alternative thanksgiving sauces

C is for Thanksgiving CRANBERRIES, and all the other CONDIMENTS, DIPS, SAUCES, and SPREADS

  1. Classic Whole Cranberry Sauce with flavor ideas {recipe}
  2. Stone Ground Grainy Mustard the way Thomas Keller serves his Roast Chicken
  3. Pomegranate Salsa {recipe}
  4. My Favorite Store-bought Kimchi {resource}
  5. Peruvian Aji Sauce ** very very spicy {recipe on SeriousEats}
  6. Middle Eastern Garlic Sauce, Toum {recipe on Epicurious}
  7. Italian Salsa Verde {recipe}
  8. Pickled Onions {recipe}

D is for DEFROSTING THE TURKEY. I know. D is Dessert. Or Drinks. Maybe even Decor. All natural choices for D for Thanksgiving, but I have been scarred for life by one Thanksgiving a little more than 10 years ago when I underestimated the time I needed to defrost a glacial turkey behemoth and on the morning of Thanksgiving, I found the turkey partially STILL FROZEN. Not to fear, because the Internet says that you can “flash-defrost” a turkey by submerging it in water and changing out the water every half-hour until the turkey defrosts.

I did that, and because I was a genius, I did it in HOT WATER to defrost it even faster. And then I read the Internet again and found out that defrosting a turkey in cold water is only safe if you are vigilant about keeping the water temperature at or below 40 degrees, and is wholly UNSAFE in warm or hot water because the warm water becomes a bacteria-breeding hot tub. The truth is, not likely you’re growing a super-colony of turky-borne bacteria, and even if you were, you’d probably kill them when you very safely roast your turkey, BUT I am so paranoid about poisoning, and you know, killing, my own family, that I threw the entire turkey into the trash and we won’t even talk about what we actually had for Thanksgiving that year.

Needless to say, if your turkey is frozen, plan ahead for the defrosting the turkey safely in the lowest part of your refrigerator, and to play it even safer, plan to have it fully defrosted a day in advance. If you are brining your turkey, you need to keep that in mind and might have to add time to your turkey prep schedule. Dry-brining the Zuni Cafe-style turkey takes three days (see “J” below), though the recipe adaptor, Russ Parsons has tested the brine on a frozen turkey, and apparently you can brine the bird WHILE it is defrosting in the refrigerator. Praise the mother fucking lard.

E is for Thanksgiving ENTERTAINMENT. Start putting together a playlist now. My family doesn’t let me play anything except Christmas carols all day, but for all those hours I am gleefully alone in the kitchen zone washing, prepping, and cooking ahead of time, I play Sadé, Led Zeppelin, Michael Bublé, and WuTang.

Don’t call me a grinch. I listen to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You year-round.

fall farmers market salad Maple Citrus Vinaigrette

F is for FARMERS MARKET SALAD. No one eats salad. NO ONE. I don’t know why we even bother with this here.

G is for Thanksgiving GRAVY. I am not a fan of gravy, as I prefer a thinner, lighter “pan sauce” made from poultry drippings and wine without any sort of flour or cornstarch thickener, but if I ever left gravy off the Thanksgiving table, I’d be excommunicated from the family. So the compromise in our family is that Green Bean Casserole gets a makeover (more on that later), and Gravy stays because our family is almost all Asian and every single day of our entire lives, we don’t eat anything like any of the traditional Thanksgiving foods except on Thanksgiving, so let us have the white people equivalent of sriracha sauce on everything for one day goddamnit it.

  • Roasted Garlic Mushroom Gravy {Recipe}
  • Miso Shallot Gravy {recipe}

H is for Thanksgiving HARICOT VERTS. See? Even for this list, I had to compromise between Gravy and Green Beans for “G” my God the metaphor is come to life. Haricot verts is just a skinny type of green bean.

  • Bacon-wrapped Green Beans {recipe}
  • Greens Beans with Lemon and Feta {recipe}
  • Blistered Green Beans with Garlic-Sautéed Mushrooms and Onions {recipe}

pumpkin pie ice cream sandwiches
I is for Thanksgiving ICE CREAM. Between I and J, I had a harder time figuring out what to do with the letter I because I refused to put Ice Cream on this list because you can have ice cream three times a day every day of the year, so why waste Thanksgiving dessert on something as quotidien as ice cream? Ok, fine, you can churn your own cranberry pumpkin sage latte whatever Fall Harvest flavored ice cream, you goddamned superhero of Thanksgiving.

Or you can be realistic and buy pumpkin pie ice cream from the freezer case in any grocery store, and if you still want to be a superhero, you can turn it into Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches with Lattice Pie Crust Cookies.{how to}

J is for “JUDYBIRD,” Russ Parsons’s Zuni Café-style Dry-brined Turkey. I don’t need to re-print the recipe that’s probably one of the more famous recipes for roast chicken, and now turkey, out there. Plan ahead. It takes three days to brine the turkey, which means you start brining on Monday morning.

meat-thermometer kitchen tool
K is for Thanksgiving KITCHEN TOOLS. When it comes to Thanksgiving, there are a LOT of fancy tools, equipment, gadgets, and electronics to help with cooking the dinner, but there is only ONE tool you MUST BUY if you don’t have one already: a meat thermometer. Everything else, from an extra-large roasting pan with rack to food mill, is nice to have. If you have the money, buy them, but you probably already have something that you could tweak to work and use the money you save for some new Loubs. But there is nothing that can accurately tell you when the turkey is ready for showtime, i.e. cooked all the way through, not over cooked, killed any possibility of foodborne illness except for a thermometer.

cranberry cream cheese stuffed brioche french toast casserole

L is for Thanksgiving LEFTOVERS. My family loves leftovers so much, we now roast two turkeys every year; one to eat for dinner, one entire turkey to carve up right into to-go portions that never even hit the dining table. Additional thoughts on my family’s leftover policy and How to Use Up Thanksgiving Leftovers here {how-to post}

M is for Thanksgiving MASHED POTATOES

  • Perfect Three-Ingredient Fluffy Mashed Potatoes {recipe}
  • Loaded Baked Potato Mashed Potatoes
  • “Mashed Potatoes” Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic and Truffle Butter {recipe}

bourbon maple glazed easter ham plate

N is for Thanksgiving, NOT TURKEY. I have the perfect solution to accommodate dinner guests who don’t like turkey at Thanksgiving.

Don’t invite them to your house for dinner.

Unfortunately, you can’t do that when it’s like, you know, your own Dad. We cook a ham for Dad, which he doesn’t eat because he ends up eating turkey anyway (!!!), all the while insisting that he doesn’t like it. Oooo. K. DAD. Eyeroll. This is my reality every year.

roasted butternut squash

O is for Thanksgiving’s OTHER VEGETABLES. Is there anything else except Brussels sprouts, green beans, and my beloved sweet potatoes? Apparently, there is:

pumpkin spice layer cake with cream cheese frosting salted caramel

P is for Thanksgiving PUMPKIN DESSERTS. I’m going to be honest here, I k i i i i i nda hate pumpkin pie with my entire being. The only part of me that doesn’t hate pumpkin pie is the part that wrote this post: read about my hatred-turned-semi-hatred on the Cook’s Illustrated Pumpkin Pie post. This year, we’re doing fruit for dessert. Just kidding. I love telling my family shit like that just to give myself negotiating leverage when it comes to green bean casserole and stuffing.

quinoa salad with roasted mushrooms

Q is for QUINOA, RICE, and OTHER GRAINS. Also, obviously, we have plain steamed rice on our table every year.

R is for ROLLS and BREAD

Just buy the bread and rolls.

S is for Thanksgiving STUFFING

  • Stovetop Stuffing. The actual Stovetop brand in the box. Don’t make this. Make the Bread Salad aka “Stuffing” below.

thanksgiving 2016 tablescape, table setting
T is for Thanksgiving TABLE SETTING

I don’t have much to share about a Thanksgiving tabletop because I use the EXACT SAME table setting every year, and also pretty much for every special occasion. I don’t have separate dishware for different holidays or fancier dinner parties, and only “dress up” my everyday dishware with…nothing. I don’t have anything else to dress them up either because why? That being said, here are the very few things I have/use to set the table:

  • CHARGERS, the large “plates” under the regular dinner plates, are an inexpensive way to add some height/depth to the table. These gold ones are made of plastic so they’re pretty inexpensive; I bought them from Michael’s, and they also available online here.
  • PLATES: I use the SAME plain, basic white dinner plates, salad plates, and bowls from Crate and Barrel for every holiday, occasion, party, and meal. The advantage of simple, elegant white is that they work for everything. The disadvantages of simple elegant white dishes is no disadvantages.
  • NAPKINS: The same “all-white” philosophy goes for napkins, and not paper napkins. As you start adulting, you will use cloth napkins, so get simple ones that you can replace easily if they ever get really stained.
  • NAPKIN RINGS: The tiny leaf wreath napkin rings in the above photo are from Cost Plus, but you don’t have to spend money here. Tie an herb sprig or colorful fall leaf around the napkin with a ribbon or twine. Place a (rinsed and) spray painted pumpkin or pine cone on the napkin. Fold the napkin into a turkey! Just kidding don’t do that last one.
  • PLACECARDS: The kids made place cards, which were cute for our dinner, but not for the photo. Sorry, kids.
  • FLATWARE: I bought gold flatware from OneKingsLane a few seasons ago when it wasn’t very easy to find gold flatware, almost regretting it because I thought gold would be a passing trend. So far, so gold: you can find gold flatware anywhere! Just make sure it’s dishwasher-safe (if you’re into that sort of sanity-saving thing).
  • GLASSES and STEMWARE: Wine glasses are probably the only tabletop item on which I spent more than a few dollars. Embarrassingly, even as recent as a few years ago, my stemware was an eclectic-aka-garage-sale collection of wine-tasting souvenirs, corporate swag, and a few random three- and four-piece sets I had inherited from framily when they had broken too many others in a set. When I started adult dinner partying in a new home, I asked family for decent wine glasses as housewarming gifts. I have Riedel wine glasses in three different size/shapes, as well as an extra set of Champagne flutes because you can never have too many Champagne glasses.
  • CENTERPIECE: We don’t arrange a complicated tablescape/centerpiece because we usually have to move all of it to accommodate all the food on the table. We grabbed a few leafy branches from the yard and threw the leftover Halloween pumpkin on the table with some candles and it looked pretty good!

persimmon upside down cake
U is for UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

  • Persimmon Upside-Down Cake adapted from Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl cookbook, Everything I Want to Eat {recipe}
  • Spiced Pear Upside Down Cake {Bon Appetit} – next year, I am making this.

V is for VODKA

  • Cranberry Ginger Moscow Mule

W is for What else? WINE

My favorite wine to drink at Thanksgiving is everything. The end. And The Beginning. And The Middle. MORE WINE.

X is for Thanksgiving XTRAS. These are the little details that didn’t fit anywhere else on this list, like what ingredients, foods, or other things to have extra on hand because you never know what’s going to happen. These are the perfect responce to guests who ask “What should I bring?”:

  • Bottles of wine: you will never, ever, ever, have “too much wine.” Ever.
  • Ice: Your refrigerator ice maker can’t make ice fast enough for a Thanksgiving dinner party
  • Chicken, beef, and/or vegetable stock
  • Butter (if you don’t use extra butter, you can freeze it, though you will probably use it very soon for Holiday baking)
  • Fresh herbs, namely parsley
  • Garlic and onions
  • Fruit and things to garnish the turkey serving platter
  • Disposable storage containers to send leftovers home with guests
  • Fresh flowers: put them in any room where a guest might wander in
  • Alka-seltzer, advil/tylenol, and tums

Y is for Thanksgiving YAMS and SWEET POTATOES

  • Crispy Oven-Fried Sweet Potato Fries with Sriracha Aioli {recipe)
  • Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Truffle Butter
  • Thyme Roasted Sweet Potatoes {recipe}

Z is for ZUNI CAFÉ-INSPIRED BREAD SALAD is what I call it every other day of the year, which is, as Judy Rodgers calls it in her Zuni Café cookbook, a “sort of a scrappy extramural stuffing, it is a warm mix of crispy, tender, and chewy chunks of bread, a little slivered garlic and scallion, a scatter of currants and pine nuts, and a handful of greens, all moistened with vinaigrette and chicken drippings.” So I call “stuffing” during Thanksgiving so people will eat it, because no one wants to eat anything called “salad” on Thanksgiving.

  • Bread Salad with Arugula, Figs, and Roasted Pistachios {recipe}

THIS YEAR’S MENU

This is the Menu we are serving this year. It looks like the menu we serve every year because like I said, my family doesn’t know what to do with anything other than traditional American Thanksgiving foods.

  • Starters: Smoked Salmon Dip with Veges and Crackers {recipe}, Cheese and Charcuterie Board {how to}
  • Salad: Italian Chopped Salad {recipe} and Shredded Kale, Romaine and Quinoa Caesar
  • Bread: King’s Hawaiian Dinner Rolls. I know. Why, family, WHY?!
  • Zuni Cafe-Inspired Dry-Brined Herb Roasted Turkey
  • Traditional Turkey Gravy and Miso Mushroom Gravy {recipe}
  • Cranberry Sauce {recipe}, Salsa Verde {recipe}, Kimchi {resource}, Aji Sauce {recipe}
  • Roasted Brassicas : Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower {recipe}
  • Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower {recipe}
  • Roasted Squash with Pomegranate Salsa and Feta {recipe}
  • Green Bean Casserole {recipe}
  • Miso Creamed Greens {recipe}
  • Challah Stuffing with Mushrooms and Chestnuts {recipe}
  • Desserts: Dessert Cheeseboard {how-to}, Pumpkin Pie {recipe}, Ice Cream and Sorbets {resource}
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  • TempusFugitive

    Thankful for all the years of great content you gave us.

  • Sook Won

    This is E for epic. I’m brining & whining in a winterwonderland

  • Eric Jonathan Swenson

    wow good job sarah

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