When you pull up to the Thanksgiving dining table, TV tray or whatever food landing strip you’re accustomed to, what’s sitting there? Better yet, what must be present for this experience to register as a true Thanksgiving meal? Every household has their traditions, some personal, other regional. My Thanksgiving musts fall into both categories. Before you dive into the list, I will preface by saying that most of my musts are side dishes. I simply can’t lump them all into one category.
Dressing. Not stuffing. Dressing.
And before you ask, yes there’s a difference. When I think of stuffing I think of a loosely assembled pile of breading flavored with sage and other spices. Dressing in the South, however, is dense, closely packed and typically baked in a casserole dish (and, COUGH, flavored with sage and other spices.) So yeah, they’re similar but not the same.
A Food Processor
This thing is never not in use at my parent’s house on Thanksgiving. It’s a wonder it’s never set itself on fire from overuse. Need chopped onions for the dressing? Turn on the food processor. Need chopped broccoli for the casserole? Pulse that sucker. A food processor, or my mother’s coveted salad shooter has saved so much time on an already busy day.
Sometimes a good mantra is necessary during the holidays.
I’m going to go ahead and declare mashed potatoes a universal Thanksgiving must. They’re simply a no-brainer addition to the entire meal. They don’t take a ton of effort to make, which is key when you’re trying to orchestrate a meal of this size, and they’re the perfect vehicle for gravy.
Try as I might, I’ve never been good with following a plan or instructions. That’s why I love cooking so much. You really don’t have to follow the directions to make a great dish. Baking, however, is another story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ruined a dish because I thought I could cut corners with the sugar. Take a lesson from my baking disasters and apply that in preparation for Thanksgiving Day. Make a plan: create a list of what you need and have a general idea of how long it’ll take execute each aspect of the meal.
Thanksgiving is pretty much the comfort food Olympics and what better champion to represent the home team but a hefty, creamy casserole? Over the years, broccoli casserole has become a key player on my plate followed by sweet potato. Beyond its comfort capabilities, most casseroles can be made ahead saving you precious time come Thanksgiving Day.
I love my family, I love my family, I love my family. Sometimes a good mantra is necessary during the holidays. Family just knows where all the buttons are and, like a kid hopped up on a pack of Pixy Stix at Check E. Cheese, they press them with frenetic abandon. In short, pack a thick skin on your way to Thanksgiving dinner.