Growing up, my Thanksgiving meals included standard stuffing with the turkey. The first Thanksgiving I spent with my wife, I was introduced to her cornbread-sausage stuffing and I’ve never looked back. It’s a nice counterpoint to the Thanksgiving usuals while still being awesome with the meat of your choice and gravy. While my wife’s recipe is a secret, here is a recipe that is very similar: https://www.jimmydean.com/recipes/dinner/sausage-cornbread-stuffing
Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake
Thanksgiving means pies of all kinds in our house. There’s often too many pies to properly enjoy for one meal so we have had to get creative. One way we do this is to combine the classic pumpkin pie with a cheesecake. Try it yourself:
- ~9 inch pie shell (the real recipe includes a homemade crust, but I know you're busy)
- 1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- In a small mixing bowl combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat well, then add 1 egg and mix until thoroughly combined. Spread onto the bottom of pie shell and place in the fridge to cool.
- In a medium bowl combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Mix well, then slowly pour the mixture over the cream cheese layer.
- Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until set in the center.
- Cool slowly to avoid cracking (leaving the oven door open slightly for a while does the trick).
- Eat all of it and tell your family "Sorry, the pie just didn't come out right. Layers are tricky!"
Honey Baked Ham
Unfortunately I don’t cook. But I am fortunate enough to have a wife that can cook awesome! But if I had to pick something, it would be the “bone-in” ham from Honey Baked Ham in Raleigh.
Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Growing up, my holidays did not usually include the traditional foods one might expect in the USA. I'm half Greek, which means there's a lot of delicious Greek cooking involved! When my paternal grandmother was still having everyone over for Thanksgiving lunch, it was the traditional spread with my dad's side of the family. But afterwards we would go home and my mother would have a nighttime meal as well-- with the Greek side of my family. :) One of my favorite dishes is dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), which we make with rice and beef (though you can sub lamb for beef if you want). I can't share her secret recipe, but this one is very close and should give you a similar result! There's also a nice set of images to show you how to roll them, which a lot of people find to be the difficult and time consuming part. You can use your favorite meatball recipe for the meat mixture if you desire. And the only thing missing from this recipe: TONS of lemon to juice over the dolmades when they are finished cooking. These are awesome hot, warm, and cold. http://www.oliviascuisine.com/stuffed-grape-leaves/
Potatoes Au Gratin
So, two things about ~my~ Thanksgiving meals. Firstly, potatoes; you have to have potatoes. We generally have mashed potatoes, but my wife and I often bring these potatoes au gratin from the Ruth’s Chris copycat world.
- 3 to 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 1 large clove garlic, pressed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch slices, then quarter each of those slices.
- Beat together the cream, milk, flour, garlic, salt and pepper by hand just until well combined.
- Coat the inside of a large baking dish with the softened butter.
- Arrange one-fourth of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Pour some of the cream mixture over the potatoes. Repeat this layering step three more times.
- Cover the potatoes and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 40 minutes or until the potatoes are starting to brown on top.
- Sprinkle grated cheese over the top of the potatoes and continue to bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and slightly browned and the potatoes are tender.
- Sprinkle the parsley on top and serve.
Turkey and Mayo Sandwich
Secondly, turkey. My mother generally makes the turkey, though the first year Ko-Han and I hosted we made it. And, being me, we cheated somewhat. Ko-Han brined the turkey and prepared it, and then for cooking we connected it to the temperature probe from the oven and hit the turkey button. Because all ovens should have a turkey button. It was pretty amazing, so I did what I always do with fresh turkey: sliced it, and made it into a sandwich with white bread and mayonnaise. But I guess I’m a bit odd like that.
When I was a kid, I remember being absolutely mesmerized (and slightly jealous) as I watched my older sister and mom make yeast rolls for Thanksgiving. My mom would always kindly coach her through making a circle with the tips of her middle finger and thumb, and pushing the dough through and tucking the dough into the bottom of the ball as you went along. It would make the most beautiful rolls (the site has images of what of the process I’m describing), and felt like something really special to be a part of.
Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Pecans
From my earliest recollection of Thanksgiving, I have fond memories of cranberry sauce. Everything else would wind up on the menu from time-to-time, but the distinctly tart and sweet sauce only seem to exist that one day. As enamored as I was of the ubiquitous canned concoction, once I sampled homemade cranberry sauce, I was determined to never settle again for gelatinous cylinder. Ever since, I have made my own from a variety of recipes. I have added a number of ingredients to vary the flavor and texture, with orange and pecan being some of my favorites.
Note: I use far less sugar than is typically called for. This will result in a more tart and stronger cranberry flavor. The sauce will also be less firm. For a more traditional cranberry sauce, double the sugar.
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries (washed and sorted)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 large orange
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- Zest orange. Peel orange, separate segments and cut into pieces.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat dissolve the sugar in the water.
- Stir in cranberries, pecans, orange zest, and orange segments.
- Cook until the cranberries begin to pop (around 10 minutes).
- Remove from heat and transfer to bowl.
- Place bowl in refrigerator. Sauce will thicken as it cools.
Sweet Potato Pie
Do you serve it with a meal, or after it? Is sweet potato pie a vegetable or a dessert? Does it really matter? The consensus at DesignHammer is if it is served with whipped cream, it’s definitely a dessert. While I love it, I must confess I never make it myself. When I can buy a 3.5 pound 11" pie from Costco for $5.99 the motivation to put in the effort necessary to make a superior pie never materializes.
Nothing sums up Thanksgiving dinner for my family than a roasted turkey. Unfortunately, as simple as the ingredients would suggest, not over cooling or under cooking, and especially not creating a bird as dry as a desert can be a challenge. This year, I find myself in the tough position of being in charge of preparing the holiday meal’s main dish. I’ve never done one before, so I am relying on one of my go to recipe sources, Cook’s Illustrated. I decided to save myself some effort and start with a kosher turkey rather than brine it myself. Otherwise, I’ll just follow the recipe, and depend on my thermometer (ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Cooking Food Meat Thermometer).