I’m not exactly sure when in my adult life that Thanksgiving overtook the other holidays as my favorite, but I do know I love it because it gives way more than it expects from us. Being the least commercialized holiday it really only requires an appetite and hopefully a sense of thankfulness and appreciation. And if you’re hosting, the pressure goes way down if you have your guests all bring the side dishes. Over the years I’ve had people ask me what my Thanksgiving traditions are so I am sharing them here in a question and answer format. I’d love to hear what you like about Thanksgiving and your holiday traditions. I look forward to your comments.
Is Thanksgiving always at your house?
For the last 15 years we have hosted my family. The first few years after I took it over, I had a profound appreciation for my mom and Dad having done the dinner all those years. And then my appreciation submerged again two years ago when we joined my husband’s extended family in Scottsdale Arizona for a warm weather feast by their pool. Hosting is a huge amount of work but I love doing it. The number around our table fluctuates anywhere from 10 to 25 on any given year.
Early or late dinner?
We start gathering around 4pm and eat around 5:30.
Do you all sit at one table?
That’s always my goal, but only possible when we have 14 people. For the big crowd, we convert our living room into a dining room and have two tables close to each other.
Family style or buffet?
Sigh… I would love family style but it’s always a buffet served from our large kitchen island given the number of people.
Does your menu always stay the same?
The turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing/dressing are always the same, but the vegetable or salad changes from time to time. When we were in Scottsdale I was introduced to the Epicurious’ Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad and I’m addicted (and not just at thanksgiving but all winter). Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite ways to take a new look at cauliflower or Brussels sprouts and pickled vegetables and relishes have made a comeback.
Do you do all the cooking or do others bring dishes?
As much as I love to cook, I would not be able to enjoy myself if I were doing all of the cooking. So I do the appetizers, roast turkey, stuffing/dressing, gravy and mashed potatoes. Everyone else brings the side dishes – cranberries, sweet potatoes, green salad or vegetable and pies.
Pops Old Fashioned, of course. But only one for me or else I may not get dinner on the table…
Yes, but not too many or too filling. Pistachio Crostini are just right to take the edge off without over filling, as well as sliced Cougar Gold or Beecher’s white cheese and La Panzanella Rosemary Croccatini crackers. If we have Dungeness crab meat in our freezer leftover from the summer crabbing, I will make crab dip and serve it with small crackers. A simple platter of crisp basic vegetables are also good.
Do you brine your turkey?
No, I’m a traditionalist for roasting it plain and simple – basting it with butter and olive oil as I go.
Rolls in addition to all the other food?
As many carbs as the meal already has, rolls or lefse have always been on our table. My dear Southern friend Juliet introduced me to Red Apple Inn Rolls (the recipe originated from the resort restaurant of the same name located about one hour North of Little Rock, Arkansas) many years ago and they graced our table for many years until my Dad started making Lefse.
What is Lefse?
My Dad’s side of the family is part Norwegian and Lefse is soft flat bread that hails from there. It’s made with potatoes and flour, rolled thinly and cooked on a flat grill pan. Our favorite way to eat it is lightly buttered, sprinkled with sugar and rolled.
Which pies are mandatory?
My Mom is a fabulous pie baker. She always brings pumpkin and apple and has recently introduced chocolate for the die-hard chocolate lovers (we are many) in our family. I am making a blackberry pie this year with ones we picked on San Juan Island this summer and froze. We are having close friends from Florida join us this year and I wanted them to have a little piece of summer at Thanksgiving.
What do you do for the vegetarians/vegans in your family?
The vegetarians – my Dad and sister since 1975 – have been easy to work around because they eat everything except for the turkey and gravy. It’s my brother and my niece who have been vegans for the past several years that are more of a challenge. Last year I bought the meat alternative Beyond Meat and made mushroom gravy, as well as mashed potatoes with olive oil instead of butter and cream. My brother brought wonderful vegan potpies too.
Why do some people call it dressing and others stuffing?
My understanding is they are one in the same but it’s called stuffing when it’s stuffed into a turkey and dressing when it’s baked separately in a dish. I do it both ways to please both preferences. Some people don’t like meat dripping into their stuffing. Others can’t imagine it any other way.
Most favorite dish?
I can’t narrow it to one – it’s the combination of turkey, gravy and dressing all together on my fork .
Least favorite dish?
Mincemeat pie. Ha. Luckily, my Mom stopped making it years ago after no one was really eating it.
Favorite Thanksgiving tradition?
Everyone writes down something they are thankful for at that moment on a small square of paper, folds it and puts it in a bowl. The bowl is passed around the table and people randomly draw a piece of paper out and read it aloud. It’s meant to be anonymous but everyone tries to guess who wrote it.