Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Our Thanksgiving Menu, 2012

This year, I am hosting Thanksgiving for two families in addition to my own husband and kids and I'm very excited anxious thankful to be cooking for so many people! I do love to cook for others and what's better than cooking for friends on the biggest cooking day of the year?!

So today, I'm posting my menu to let you in on what I've come up with. I've scoured my many cookbooks, the web, as well as my own recipes and voila! It's a Thanksgiving menu that I'm proud of and one I hope will be a raving success. It includes a brined turkey, deliciously decadent sweet potatoes that really seem more like dessert than a side dish, and a cheesy broccoli gratin! Desserts are aplenty, with three to choose from. Heck, who needs to choose on Thanksgiving - just have them all!

Leelabean's 2012 Thanksgiving Menu

Cheese Plate with Grapes and Chocolate Covered Dried Cranberries
Smoked Salmon with Herbed Cream Cheese and Crackers
Poached Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Main Course
Good Eats Roast Turkey
Ina Garten's Sausage & Herb Stuffing
Absolutely Perfect Cranberry Sauce
No-Hassle Apple Cider Gravy
Amazing Dinner Rolls
Cheesy Broccoli Gratin
Brussel Sprouts with Crispy Bacon
Nutty & Sweet Potato Casserole (also prepared nut-free to accommodate a friend's allergies)
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Apple Pie Cupcakes with Biscoff Buttercream
Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce & Cinnamon-Vanilla Whipped Cream
Chocolate Sheet Cake with Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting

For the cheese plate, I've selected a few cheeses from my grocer's cheese case that I thought were unusual and fun to try. Pairing with these are some grapes and chocolate-covered dried cranberries. Smoked salmon has become such a hit with all my family members this past year, so I thought it should be part of Thanksgiving, as well. Together with an herbed cream cheese and a cracker or small toast, it's simplicity at its very best. The poached shrimp was a selection I put in my menu to ensure the kids had something they enjoyed eating. I paired that with a storebought cocktail sauce. Mixing storebought, ready-made items with homemade ones makes for a much easier preparation on the big day. There is no shame in doing so.
I've never brined a turkey but have heard wonders of the process. So this year, I thought I'd give it a go. A long-standing fan of Alton Brown, I saw his recipe for a Good Eats Roast Turkey and with a rating of 5 stars and 4000+ reviews (!!), it was a no-brainer. This was the turkey I would cook this year. Sticking to the Food Network trend, Ina Garten's Sausage & Herb Stuffing seemed perfect to us. We usually make a sausage stuffing with apples and since this had both ingredients, we are giving it a try. Cranberry sauce out of a can is boring, in my opinion, though as I said before, buying a can to save yourself some time and sanity is worth it. This year, we opted to use fresh cranberries and throw in a bunch of goodies to make it special. Fresh cranberries mixed with big flavor ingredients such as orange zest, ginger, and vanilla can brighten up the flavor quite a bit.
The make-ahead cider gravy was chosen because it's so quick and easy to prepare, tastes delicious, and is much healthier than the traditional gravy made from drippings. The stress of getting the turkey out of the oven, then having to prepare a gravy by separating fats, etc, etc, and at the same time getting the table and the other dishes ready for dinner is not how I like to celebrate Thanksgiving - running around my kitchen like a turkey with it's head cut off! So this year, I opted to make my gravy 2 days before Thanksgiving and store it in my fridge and simply reheat just prior to sitting down to dinner.
The Dinner Rolls I chose look absolutely gorgeous and I have been wanting to try them for quite some time. Buttery, golden brown, and beautifully presented, it seems the perfect dinner roll for such a grand holiday.
When deciding on vegetables to accompany the turkey, I wanted to stay away from my usual side, which is roasted vegetables that roast under the turkey to get a lovely, caramelized, slightly charred flavor. This year, I chose something a little different. Cheesy Broccoli Gratin looked warm and inviting, something the kids (both young and old) could really go for. It helped that when I asked my husband to buy some broccoli for dinner one night, he bought me a monster bag of broccoli from Costco. :-) Brussel Sprouts with Crispy Bacon is a more traditional dish but I couldn't deny roasted vegetables altogether... Brussel sprouts get so sweet and scrumptious in the oven, though I don't think the little kids are going to go for this one.
Lastly, my Nutty and Sweet Potato Casserole is sheer decadence. Baked sweet potatoes are paired with eggs, milk, sugar, some flour and spices to create a custardy sweet side which is taken way over the top with a Brown Sugar Pecan Streusel. This is a must-have at any Thanksgiving or holiday celebration!
For dessert, I wanted to stay true to seasonal flavors - apples & pumpkins. So I am making my special Apple Pie Cupcakes - brown butter cupcakes filled with oozy apple pie filling topped with a rich Biscoff buttercream. Mmmm, I can't wait to have one of those. Secondly, trying to stay away from pies this year, I am making a Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake complete with a Gingersnap Crust. This is heaven on a plate as it is, but I am topping this delectible cheesecake with a sultry caramel sauce and cinnamon-vanilla whipped cream. Lastly, to please the children, and let's face it, what's dessert without chocolate, I'm making a Chocolate Sheet Cake with a classic Milk Chocolate Frosting. Simple, divine.
I will be posting these recipes as well as links to their inspirations and origins in the coming days. I am hoping they all turn out lovely and play a part in making for a truly memorable Thanksgiving this year.
Wishing you a very heartwarming and scrumptious Thanksgiving with your family, friends, and loved ones!