I haven't cooked for Thanksgiving in about ten years, since my daughter graciously took over the chore and transported the festivities to her house.
I usually draw the job of concocting a kind of post-Thanksgiving dinner for Friday -- something that will include nothing of Thanksgiving at all -- no poultry, no cranberries, no pumplin pie. Usually I take the easy way out and serve a rib roast with roasted veggies (potatoes, parsnips, carrots and garlic), a big salad and a chocolate cake.
THis year everything will be different. My husband is too ill for a trip, even a short one, so Thanksgiving is coming to him. My daughter will bring her ingredients here (the turkey is already in my refrigerator) and cook everything right here. More about our traditional menu later.
Instead of a post-Thanksfiving dinner (although we'll probably have one of those, too), we're having a pre-Thanksgiving get-together. So on Tuesday night I'm making a very American beef stew, the kind where the base has chopped up carrots and onions and celery and garlic, cooked into the drippings from browning the beef and then everything gently cooked for a long time in red wine and stock, seasoned with thyme and rosemary. Chunks of carrots and potatoes will be added about 45 minutes before we're ready to serve. We'll cook button mushrooms separately and add them with some frozen (!) green peas just five minutes before serving, when we taste and reseason.
The beef stew goes with a salad (I'm torn between our over-the-top Caesar Salad and a refreshing tangle of shaved fennel, sliced Navel oranges, and arugula) and crusty bread. A pear crisp for dessert, I think.
As to Thanksgiving Dinner itself, we stick with tradition. We serve a whole turkey (albeit a small one this year) and giblet gravy made with turkey stock. We must have mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts (so we can make Bubble and Squeak the next day to go with cold sliced turkey) and, of course, some candied yams and two or three kinds of cranberry sauce. We always end with pumpkin pie served with unsweetened whipped cream.
A word about our brussel sprouts. Long before it became chic, we discovered the Ur-recipe for brussel spourts with bacon. It's a lot simpler than they make it sound. You need to either cut the brussels into quarters or (more ambitiously) shred them. (A food processor is good here.) Cut a pound of bacon into strips and brown them, saving the bacon fat and draining the bacon onto paper towels. Toast about one-quarter pound of pine nuts in the bacon fat. Remove them and drain them with the bacon bits. Now, get rid of any bacon fat beyond about an 1/8" coating in the pan (you need a very big saute pan for this). Add the brussels, stirring to coat with the bacon fat and cook until wilted. Pile them into a giant bowl and top with the bacon bits and pine nuts. This is divine. Ouor quantities of bacon and pine nuts assume you're doing five pounds of brussel sprouts. FOr lesser quantities, you'll need to do kitchen arithmetic.
This year we might begin with some nibbles (I'm always ambivalent about whether to serve anything before a meal like Thanksgiving, but it's good to have something around.) I'm thinking of puff paste savories, filled with a dried tomato or basil pesto (or maybe some of each?), some prosciutto, and maybe a few slices of canteloupe or halved fresh figs. Oh dear, I'm detting carried away again.
In any case, a happy Thanksgiving to all of you.