It probably won’t come as a surprise that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is a beautiful affair: a day devoted purely to the enjoyment of food, with no religious connotations. It excludes no one. Come one, come all, and, please, stuff your face. And then have another plate.
I am proud to say that when I lived in Philadelphia I produced not one, but two Thanksgiving feasts all by myself in my two years there. These meals were only for a party of two, but they consisted of all major components: turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and some sort of vegetable. I never made pie for the occasion, but rather my single baking accomplishment: chocolate chip cookies. I make great chocolate chip cookies, but nothing else in the line of baked goods (I intend to tackle baking bread soon; stay tuned). Despite my proficiency in the Thanksgiving staples, I must admit that my role in this year’s Detroit Thanksgiving was supporting, at best. There is something about Detroit that brings out the laziest side of me. I lived there for a year before I moved to Colorado, and I didn’t leave the house unless it was absolutely mandatory (i.e. school, work, the library… sad, but true). After this trip, I can attest that my old habits persist. As far as the cooking was concerned, I did make somewhat of a contribution helping my mom, but it was probably not what you would expect from a self-proclaimed psycho cooker.
As happy as I was to be home for Thanksgiving with my family, there was one drawback. My immediate family was missing some essentials: my oldest brother, his wife, and their smiley baby girl. We made a feeble attempt to compensate for the absence: we had a brisket in addition to the turkey. No, food is not a sufficient substitute for the beautiful baby, but it helped to ease our pain.
We had six people for Thanksgiving, but could have easily fed twelve. While planning, my mom and I kept insisting that we didn’t want to make too much food, but somehow the menu kept growing. Initially, we planned on sticking to the basics, not a far cry from the Thanksgiving dinners I have prepared myself. Then the brisket was added on to the menu. My adorable grandmother wanted to make the brisket, and this somehow justified its presence. In turn, this necessitated two gravies. We knew that we would make a vegetable, but in the dwindling grocery shopping hours, we were unsure if we had decided on roasted Brussels sprouts or green bean casserole. The only reasonable solution was to prepare both. My mom makes a pretty traditional green bean casserole, except she uses frozen French haricot verts from Trader Joe’s, which really seem to make a difference. The Brussels sprouts were roasted with olive oil and finished with a touch of fresh lemon juice and honey. Then somehow a Caprese salad was added to the mix: just some bocconcini mozzarella and grape tomatoes drizzled tossed with olive oil, and served over a bed of arugula. You may be asking yourself: Why we would do such a thing? Doesn’t it seem unnecessary with all of that food? Isn’t it a little contextually inappropriate? These are reasonable questions to which I cannot supply reasonable answers. I will tell you that it was rather lovely, and a nice change of pace to all of that rich, oven-roasted food. You know a meal is rich when a salad composed primarily cheese lightens it up. And of course, we had stuffing and our famous twice baked potato casserole (see Rosh Hashanah post for details). For dessert, we had an apple pie and a blueberry pie. Again, ridiculously decadent for six people, but isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about?
Not to brag, but it seemed like all the food came out pretty close to perfect this year. These are pretty standard recipes*, but everything was somehow better than advertised. Perhaps this was the culinary gods trying to clue me in to how thankful I really should be. Ultimately, my priority for Thanksgiving is a good meal, but an extra opportunity to appreciate your life and your family should not be overlooked. And luckily for me, the food was so good that it served as an additional reminder to be thankful for everything I have. Now that I have gotten the sappiness out of the way, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that the featured plate is my brother, Ben’s. We agreed that it was a perfectly lavish Thanksgiving specimen, and we do not agree on a lot. The other photos are the “before” and “after” shots of our feast. It honestly makes me a little ill to see the amount of potatoes that were consumed, but it is that exact reaction that indicates that we not only did a great job cooking, but eating, as well.
*I did not include the recipes because there were so many, but feel free to contact me for them.