Ah, Thanksgiving. No matter how many times I admonish myself not to overeat, I still do. I suppose we're talking about a true American tradition, here, one which it would be unpatriotic not to follow - so I have an excuse.
Luckily, the most uncomfortable of the stuffed-belly memories are beginning to recede, so I can look through these pictures without feeling that overstuffed fullness that takes days to completely disappear (of course, on Saturday I had to tough out 24 hours of crazy eating in New Orleans, but let's not mention that).
Thanksgiving started off not too early (after all, we needed some time to recover from the oyster extravaganza the day before!) with a beautifully set Southern table.
Logan made fluffy Southern-style biscuits, which were summarily devoured with scrambled eggs and gravy as well as the two jellies you see on the table above. The orange one is mayhaw (here's some information on the mayhaw, famed throughout the South) and the super-dark purple is the elderberry jelly we made.
Thanksgiving preparations begin in earnest after the jump!
Beth and GQ's new kitchen was just wonderful for cooking and visiting. Their months of work have really, truly paid off with a comfortable, elegant space full of light (and storage!). We took full advantage, of course - trust me, that kitchen was packed with people and food all day!
In fact, things became hot and heavy in there almost immediately. Mere moments after finishing up breakfast, we were on to cooking for the eventual crowd of 12. The turkey, from Alexander Family Farm just outside of Austin, was brought out to come up to room temperature before roasting, recipes were located and all hands were on deck for ingredient preparation. I peeled a stack of parsnips, while Crystal mixed up a pumpkin pie filling, Logan chopped huge piles of kale, Beth whipped up a couple of pie crusts, and Brandon got the rise-and-bake rolls defrosting.
Every available surface was soon covered, and all the stove burners were in use.
So we wouldn't faint from malnutrition while the preparations were underway, I brought out my Sweet and Savory Spiced Nuts from Gourmet (I'm still so sad they're gone! What will we do for our holiday menus?) and a cheeseball I'd made up. It was SO easy to make and people loved it! Take 8 ounces of goat cheese, 8 of cream cheese, 2 cups or so of shredded cheddar (I used the food processor). Mix well, maybe with a stand mixer, and flavor with a couple of chopped green onions, chile powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Form into a ball. I made a color-contrasting core out of a basil and walnut pesto cheese spread I'd picked up at Central Market, and I rolled the finished product in chopped macadamia nuts. This took me less than an hour to make, and I'm notoriously slow.
Some of the newfangled appliances in the kitchen were so recently installed that nobody was sure what they were capable of. Justin came to our rescue, going through the manual for the microwave/convection oven.
Meanwhile, Logan was stuffing all sorts of flavorants into the turkey's unmentionables.
Eventually, as the sun started to set, the meal came together. Logan carved the turkey, which was considerably moister than usual after four days of dry-brining.
The table-setters had outdone themselves with leaves and flowers and some ceramic gourd serving pieces of Beth's. My nephew R even added a giant, colorful plastic grasshopper, just like the ones the Pilgrims had at the first Thanksgiving.
We took turns carrying dishes out to the sideboard, which was quickly completely covered.
For posterity's sake (I never remember what we had for holiday meals unless I blog it!) here's the menu, with linked recipes where available:
Cider-Glazed Turkey, which turned out wonderfully though Logan railed against the uneven coloring
Beth's Cornbread Dressing, made with freshly baked cornbread and a whole chicken (!)
Homemade Cranberry Sauce (the simple and tasty recipe from the cranberry bag)
Giblet Gravy (with the turkey giblets and chopped egg - goes great on the dressing!)
Toasted Sweet Corn Pudding (yes, we ordered the Cope's Corn - the pudding was agreeably sweet and had a true flavor of summertime corn)
Cider-Braised Parsips (a recipe Logan got from the caterers on the movie he's on)
Kale with Panfried Walnuts (I insisted on a green, and this easy recipe was perfect)
You'll notice that three of those recipes are from the final issue of Gourmet. I don't know what we'll do next year - we almost always make several recipes from the magazine for large holiday feasts!
The meal was terrific. I think we struck a really good balance of turkey to starch to veggie this year. And we even managed to get some color in there. Thanksgiving meals are usually so beige!
And the company was fun, as always. Every time I see him, it shocks me how much our 5 1/2-year-old nephew has grown!
After dinner, I rested my tummy, but all the smart people who hadn't overstuffed themselves got plates of dessert and cups of coffee. There were two pumpkin pies, and a bread pudding topped with a meringue and a bourbon sauce, and a rum cake. So good.
Another successful Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for this year, I think, and it's always good to slow down and think about that while you're cooking for a crowd. Thanks for sharing it with us!