“It is around the table and in the preparation of food that we learn about ourselves and about the world” ~ Alice Waters
The turkey is inevitably the star of the Thanksgiving show. The unveiling of a stunning bird and its placement at the center of the feast is highly anticipated and rightfully so, it has earned that honor, but it does not stand alone. It is heartily surrounded and uplifted by the sides. They are the crucial supporting actors. When the credits roll after the feast, the savory accompaniments served next to the turkey are often what guests gush about. These dishes must be well cast and memorable. What we choose to serve, and the gratitude we show in regards to preparation and use of ingredients gives way to stories of the people seated around the table, their culinary influences and a multitude of beloved, enduring family traditions.
Below I’ve shared a montage of images of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes along with some of the links to the recipes. Our meal is always created with fusion of menu items that I’ve either written or collected from food sites/blogs over the years. I’ve also included some tips that have become a permanent part of my meal preparation.
Lisa’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes
5 lbs of russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 to 1 full stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes (see explanation on amount in directions)
1 cup heavy cream, heated to warm
Salt and pepper to taste
Step 1 Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until fork tender. Drain in a colander.
Step 2 Put cooked potatoes through a potato ricer
Tip: I have been using a potato ricer for years and I purchased mine from William Sonoma (this is not a sponsored suggestion, I just happen to love mine and this is where I got it) It yields very smooth mashed potatoes with no surprise lumps. See photo in gallery below.
Step 3: Add warm cream, butter pieces ( I gave a range on the butter as home cooks can add it to taste or what they feel comfortable with), and roasted garlic cloves. Stir to combine. You can add more or less butter or cream as desired. Season with salt and pepper.
The Roasted Garlic: Our family loves garlic so I always roast a head to add to the mashed potatoes. I do this by slicing off the narrow end of the head, drizzling it with olive oil and adding a generous sprinkle of salt, pepper and fresh chopped thyme. I wrap it tightly in foil and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Let it cool a bit before unwrapping. Squeeze the softened cloves into the potatoes after they have been put through the ricer and are ready to be stirred with the cream and butter.
Roasted Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Crumble from allrecipes. Click here for the recipe. Tip: I mash the sweet potatoes and add a generous pour of maple syrup before stirring them together with the remaining ingredients (and before baking).
Browned Butter Sage Dinner Rolls – I’ve been making these for the last couple of years and they are SO good! The recipe is from my friend and fellow food blogger, Laura. She is the author of the Ways To My Heart food blog (make sure to check out all of her mouthwatering home cooked recipes!). The rolls are made using frozen dough, which gives me a much needed shortcut in regards to prep time. Click here for the recipe.
Let’s Talk Turkey – I strive to use as many local ingredients as possible in the meal. Our turkey is sourced from Ferndale Market in Cannon Falls, MN. I order and pick it up from Lakewinds Food Co-op in Chanhassen. I am always experimenting with different preparations (cheesecloth vs no cheesecloth, basting or no basting etc..) Last year I cooked the turkey on convection roast and it was likely one of my best birds. Bonus: it cooks about 25% faster than with the conventional mode. I would love to hear from readers re: your turkey chronicles. One thing I never change regardless of the size of turkey or cooking method is that I always rub under the skin with a combo of softened butter, fresh chopped poultry herbs, minced garlic, salt and pepper.
Tip: I have a few of sites that I have referenced over the years for turkey guidance: Taste of Home, Food Network, Andrew Zimmern (He’s got a helpful video on how to carve a whole turkey. Watch here), Ina Garten’s Thanksgiving menu from William Sonoma.
Roasted Delicata Squash with Bacon, Local Maple Syrup and Goat Cheese – This is a new dish that I added last year. Click here for the recipe.
Fresh Green Salad Tossed with Sliced Strawberries, Crisp Bacon and Poppy Seed Dressing – This salad has lovingly become known as “George’s Salad” as my sister in-law Georgette brings it every year. The one year that it didn’t make an appearance it was definitely missed.
Slow Cooker Cream Corn from Damn Delicious Blog. This is such and easy and tasty side. The creamy elements come from the addition of cream cheese, butter and milk. What’s not to love?! Click here for the recipe.
Sausage and Herb Stuffing courtesy of Ina Garten – click here for the recipe. Tip: I drizzle some additional chicken stock over the stuffing right before putting it in the oven to prevent it from getting too dry.
Homemade Gravy – Click here for the recipe.
My gravy adaptation: Rather that blending the flour with the oil from the turkey drippings, I use 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter (melted in the saucepan). I also stir in fresh chopped herbs (thyme and sage) to the gravy while it is heating through.
Serving tip: I pre-label each platter, bowl etc… with what it will be used for. It saves time when it comes to dishing up. It is also an easy way to allow others to lend a hand with plating if desired.
“Family isn’t an important thing, it’s everything” ~ Michael J Fox
Sending wishes for a blessed and happy Thanksgiving from The Empty Nesters Kitchen family to yours! We hope you are surrounded by love, laughter and oodles of marvelous food.
I am dedicating this blog to my brother Jim who passed on October 6th of this year. He was my first best friend and table-mate, and the co-captain of many of life’s great adventures. His loss is heartbreaking for us and we miss him dearly. Hug those close to you tightly and tell them you love them, this holiday season and always.
Before you go, test your turkey knowledge with a puzzle from the EAT YOUR WORDS Puzzle book (answers at the end of the blog):
There is a little under a week before Thanksgiving arrives! Reading culinary puzzle clues out loud to guests sitting around the table would be a fun and educational pre or post dinner activity. It also makes a fabulous way to pass the time while traveling over the holidays. The book contains 125 Food & Beverage themed puzzles for Hungry Minds.
- Empty Nester Adventures: 4 Days in San Diego
- Recipes for Inspiration: My New Cookbook Review Column for the Book Club Restaurant Blog
- Thanksgiving Dinner 2022 – Favorite recipes from The Empty Nesters Kitchen
- Empty Nester Adventures In Italy: 4 days in Taormina, Sicily
- Empty Nester Adventures In Italy: Our 5 day Visit To The Amalfi Coast
Let’s Talk Turkey Answers:
“Farm to Table…Ocean to Fork…and Vineyard to Glass. We cast our votes in favor of the planet one bite, one sip at a time” ~ Lisa Patrin