Planning the Thanksgiving Menu: One Week Out

It may not have sunk in yet, but it is only one week until Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday. I like that it revolves around family and food, rather than the orgy of gift-giving that Christmas has become. And because it is a harvest celebration, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to search out local, sustainable, seasonal foods for the meal. It also gives me an opportunity to stretch myself and try out new dishes.

For me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides. I can’t even remember the last time I had turkey on Thanksgiving. I didn’t eat it for many years, and then when I went back to eating meat, it was always too much trouble to cook a turkey, so we made chicken or salmon instead. Usually, cooking the meat is not my department. I guess that is a man’s job (ha ha).

But Thanksgiving provides the opportunity to make the sides the star of the meal. For everyday cooking, I tend to neglect sides by opting for easier one-pot dinners or just adding a simple salad or some roasted veggies to the plate. On Thanksgiving, each side can shine with those extra-special touches I wouldn’t normally take the time to do.

This year, I am cooking mainly out of Sara Foster’s Fresh Every Day, supplemented by a couple of recipes found in recent New York Times dining sections. With its emphasis on seasonal ingredients and tons of interesting recipes for side dishes, Fresh Every Day is tailor-made for Thanksgiving cooking. This is the second Thanksgiving I’ve turned to it for inspiration for almost the entire meal.

I participate in two Thanksgiving dinners, one on Thursday and one on Saturday. Since I have to travel to both and cook in a strange kitchen, I try to plan well and get as much as I can done ahead of time. I’ll start on Sunday with grocery shopping, planning what I’ll do all week, drawing up packing lists and making what I can, such as dishes that can be frozen or ingredient prep. Then I’ll try to do something each day until T-day, so my holiday can be as relaxing and stress-free as possible.

Here is the way my menu is shaping up:

Appetizers

  • Caramelized Onion Dip
  • Spinach-Walnut Pesto (from the November issue of Bon Appetit)

Soup:

  • Wild Mushroom Soup

Sides:

  • Rosemary Caramelized Parsnips
  • Green vegetable — undecided, probably green beans
  • Orange-Maple Roast Sweet Potatoes and Stir-Fried Sweet Potatoes with Sage Butter (I’m doing 2 sweet potato dishes this year, one for each dinner; the second is a ridiculously easy recipe from Mark Bittman)
  • Cranberry-Walnut Relish (from the New York Times dining section)
  • Skillet Cornbread

Desserts:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars (I got this recipe off the Internet; it looks good and satisfies the cheesecake requirement, a family tradition — even though I personally don’t like cheesecake much)
  • Lemon Icebox Pie

I would love to hear about everyone’s Thanksgiving plans and menus!

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5 thoughts on “Planning the Thanksgiving Menu: One Week Out

  1. Winnie 21 November 2008 at 11:14 am

    Sounds like a delicious menu!
    I will be sticking with basics my family loves such as garlic mashed potatoes, maple roasted carrots, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts, ginger cranberry relish, cornbread stuffing, several salads featuring local seasonal ingredients….for dessert I was going to make lemon pie too (do you have a good recipe?) but I think I am going with apple crisp with homemade caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream and a traditional dessert called “Indian Pudding” which is like a molasses cornmeal custard (never made it before, but it looks yummy)…

  2. Winnie 21 November 2008 at 11:16 am

    Sounds like a delicious menu!
    I will be sticking with basics my family loves such as garlic mashed potatoes, maple roasted carrots, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts, ginger cranberry relish, cornbread stuffing, several salads featuring local seasonal ingredients….for dessert I was going to make lemon pie too (do you have a good recipe?) but I think I am going with apple crisp with homemade caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream and a traditional dessert called “Indian Pudding” which is like a molasses cornmeal custard (never made it before, but it looks yummy)…

  3. pam 21 November 2008 at 9:22 pm

    I’m not adding anything new this year, too stressful! So, it will be a Giada turkey recipe, which I’ve made for the past two years, the green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, some sort of sweet potatoes, moomies buns, and a frozen pumpkin pie.

  4. Shannon 22 November 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Winnie–I’m trying out a new lemon pie recipe from Fresh Every Day. It looks dead easy, which is good because I am not a baker. If it turns out well, I’ll post it.

  5. […] out with his family and getting to try new foods at the Thanksgiving dinner table. And this year our Thanksgiving dinner was one of our best […]

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