America is gearing up for the foodiest of all foodie days of the year, Thanksgiving. It is by far my favorite foodie holiday. The food is always good and real and seasonal, at least that’s the way I grew up experiencing it. It seems like the one time of year everyone puts in so much effort towards the quality of the food and the menu and the sourcing of ingredients. It’s also the holiday that taught me how to really cook. One year my mom just handed me the Williams-Sonoma guide to Thanksgiving (it was a booklet) and I made just about every recipe in it. From then on, I was in charge of the food and it was magnificent!
I know what some people say about Thanksgiving…it’s loaded with historic context that makes it controversial and I know it’s not an Islamic holiday. I also know that some people just want to spend the day off with their families and eat some really great #halal turkey with other traditional and often times their own ethnic dishes and side dishes.
When I was growing up, we always had a very Sicilian type of Thanksgiving. Of course there was turkey on the table, but you bet there were also a few trays of lasagna or mastociolli as a side dish and pumpkin pies were found among Sicilian cookies on the dessert table.
That said, everyone has the dinner they want or like, and over the years I’ve come to really appreciate making things from scratch because they taste better and the entire feeling of the day and the dinner seems so much more special by putting in the work to make it both beautiful and delicious.
Let’s start with soup…
Pumpkin Saffron Soup is silky and elegant- perfect for guests who are expecting something other than your run-of-the mill dinner soups. It makes Thanksgiving special.
Fig, Pine Nut, Garlic & Herb Stuffing is one of the most flavorful stuffings I’ve ever made for the turkey. Figs are abundant now in the Fall and pine nuts are a bit of a splurge but their nuttiness makes it so worth the addition. Be sure to make your own croutons, too (recipe below).
Homemade Croutons- thank me later. Yes, they are worth making homemade.
Now for the turkey. Ah, the BIG bird. Do you really need to make such a huge amount of meat? Yes and no. Yes, if you’re having a large crowd and NO if you’re not- it’s as simple as that. For a small crowd you can go with one large turkey breast that you can roast and slice for 3-4 people.
This recipe below for roasting a chicken, but it’s one you can emulate with a turkey by following the cooking time and temperature for the size of the bird you’ve got on hand. Of course you can also make a chicken instead….but that would be veering way off the Turkey day menu now, wouldn’t it?
Creamy Mashed Potatoes are one side dish I simply cannot go without on Thanksgiving. And they have to be creamy. That’s why I love this recipe.
Homemade Gravy- don’t skimp on the good stuff- and that means making it with your own turkey’s fat, seriously.
Cranberry Sauce. Do not skip this side dish. If you’ve only ever had the canned stuff, you don’t know what the real stuff is supposed to taste like. Once I made it for the first time from scratch (reluctantly and not expecting to like it at all), it became my favorite side dish and one that I cannot fathom not having with the turkey and mashed potatoes. They just go so well together because they’re seasonally growing at the same time.
Winter Salad with Cranberries & Nuts. Yes, salad belongs on the Thanksgiving table, and when you add some fresh cranberries it makes all the sense in the world.
Pumpkin Pie- just because…and not from the can, please. But if you have to that’s okay as well. Follow the same method.
And for the leftovers, make this. You may have to grind up meat to make this but all you need is a chef’s knife to do that.