My Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes
This past weekend we hosted our 4th annual Friendsgiving. Because we live on the West Coast while most of our family is on the East Coast our friends have turned into our adopted family. Each year we celebrate that with a Friendsgiving. What is Friendsgiving you ask, well it is Thanksgiving +friends = Friendsgiving. It is basically just another excuse to have a Thanksgiving dinner. Since I cooked for 35 people this past Friendsgiving, I thought I would share my menu with all of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes, as well as some tips and tricks for pulling off your best Thanksgiving ever. Since Thanksgiving is 2 weeks away, here is your game plan to make this Thanksgiving your most delicious and easiest one yet.
On the menu:
The key to Thanksgiving is making as much as possible ahead. It is not the time to do anything at the last-minute (Except well maybe the gravy). When looking for Thanksgiving recipes I look for ones that are not only relatively easy to execute but also that don't need to be made the day of Thanksgiving. Here are my favorite Thanksgiving recipes:
Maple Curried Nuts - This is a great make ahead appetizer. Easy and delicious and always a crowd pleaser
Cheddar and Bacon Gougeres - I amended this recipe and added in 1/4 cup crispy bacon "bits". Best part about gougeres is you can make them up to 2 weeks in advance, freeze them, then pop them in a 350F. oven straight from the freezer for about 5 to 7 minutes before serving.
Cheese plate - You can never go wrong with a cheese plate. Make sure to set it out 30 minutes before guests arrive to let the cheese come to room temperature.
Smoked Turkey Breast with Cornbread Stuffing - Full disclosure, I don't like turkey. Most of the turkey I have had is dry and chewy and not all that good. But this recipe is different. First of all it is just the turkey breast. The problem with cooking a whole turkey is that the breast cooks faster than the thigh, resulting in a dry overcooked breast. Secondly the turkey breast is brined in apple juice, salt and herbs. Lastly it is smoked. All of these steps lead to one delicious turkey.
I did mine on my gas grill because I didn't want to get my house all sorts of smokey. (If you want to do this on a grill, simply start the smoking chips on high heat, once they start smoking move the chips to indirect heat. Place turkey on a foil wrapped sheet pan and place in grill. Cover and make sure to keep grill at 350F. The turkey will be done in about an hour ) And don't skip the cornbread stuffing, it is amazing. Also this turkey breast is delicious at room temperature. No need to cook it right before guests arrive. I cooked mine about 3 hours before guests arrived, wrapped it in tin foil and left it on the stove.
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Luke's favorite stuffing - Yes I made two stuffings. I had to. Luke is very particular about his stuffing and since he only gets it once or twice a year, it has to be on the menu. This stuffing is not your traditional stuffing but is seriously delicious. Filled with sausage, crunchy bread, herbs and cream you can't go wrong. (Plus I add mozzarella to the stuffing before I bake it to make it extra decadent and delicious. If you want to add mozzarella, chop up a whole container of the small mozzarella balls called bocconcini or ciliegine and fold them into the stuffing before baking)
Mashed Potatoes - I discovered a new trick for mashed potatoes this year, use a slow cooker. I cooked and riced the potatoes the night before then a couple of hours before Friendsgiving warmed them slowly in the slow cooker with herb infused cream and butter.
Corn Casserole - This recipe is always on my Thanksgiving menu. Don't think about what is in it, just eat it and enjoy it because Thanksgiving is about indulging, right? I like to double the recipe and make it thicker.
Maple and Mustard Roasted Root vegetables - Because you can't just served carbs at Thanksgiving dinner. (I know, bummer right?!) Tossed with maple syrup and whole grain mustard, these root vegetables shine.
Kale Salad with Brussel Sprouts, Persimmons, Apples, Pecans and Goat Cheese -Best part about this salad is that you can dress it about an hour before you eat because the kale and brussels sprouts are so hearty
Cranberry Sauce - Homemade cranberry sauce is so easy and tastes way better than the canned stuff. I swapped a regular navel orange for the blood orange in the recipe.
Gravy - Yes, I bought my gravy. But it is so easy and just as delicious so why not?
Parker House Rolls - You never need an excuse for delicious homemade bread and these Parker house rolls are the stuff that bread dreams are made of.
Caramel Apple Pie - I love a good pie and this recipe is a winner. I added a couple of dashes of angostura bitters to the pie filling before baking and it was delicious. The bitters give the pie a little more depth of flavor.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Toasted Meringue - Along with the corn casserole, this is the most asked about recipe at my Thanksgivings year, after year.
Since the scary part of Thanksgiving seems to be the amount of cooking that is needed for one meal, I thought I would share how I broke Friendsgiving down and made it more manageable (even with 35 people).
Thanksgiving Prep List
Weekend before Thanksgiving
- Make gougeres and freeze
- Make the spiced nuts and store in an airtight container. (This spiced nut recipe will store well for up to 2 weeks)
- Make pie dough and freeze (Freeze your pie dough wrapped in plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator the night before you are ready to use it)
- Make cranberry sauce and store in refrigerator
3 days before Thanksgiving
- Order groceries/go grocery shopping
2 days before Thanksgiving
- Make cheesecake (but not the meringue topping) and refrigerate covered in plastic wrap
- Bake off corn bread for smoked turkey and refrigerate
- Cut bread for stuffing and leave out to dry until ready to make stuffing
- Chop onions, celery and garlic for stuffings
- Choose serving utensils and serving pieces
- Make turkey brine and let cool at room temperature overnight
Day before Thanksgiving
- Brine the turkey and refrigerator overnight
- Make apple pie filling and bake-off pie (store at room temperature until Thanksgiving dinner - I even left mine uncovered and it was totally fine)
- Make stuffing and store in refrigerator
- Make corn pudding, bake and store in refrigerator once it cools down to room temperature
- Make Parker house roll dough and store in refrigerator
- Make salad dressing and store in refrigerator
- Chop vegetables and store in refrigerator
- Cook and rice potatoes (Passing your potatoes through a ricer is easy and makes your mashers oh so smooth)
- Chop salad and store in plastic bags in the refrigerator.
Day of Thanksgiving:
- 9am Set table and set up bar
- 9:30 Bake off stuffing
- 10 am Smoke and roast turkey
- 12:00 Let Parker house rolls come to room temperature then bake
- 1:30 Make meringue, frost and toast for pumpkin squares
- 2 pm Roast vegetables
- 2:15 Make mashed potatoes in slow cooker
- 2:30 Assemble cheese board
- 2:50 Warm gougeres
- 3pm Guest arrive and nosh on appetizers and wine (while they do that, warm the stuffings, corn casserole and root vegetables if they need it. Also dress the salad and since Thanksgiving is best served family style, set out all the food)
- 4:30 pm Eat!