When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of family and food. It’s my favorite holiday of the year and I always dreamt that one day we would host Thanksgiving dinner at our home. This year will be our 11th year hosting dinner for both sides of our families.
You can imagine that when hosting a dinner party for 20-30 people, you need a system in place that works. It took a couple years but we finally perfected the perfect traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu.
Here is the menu our family loves every year;
Sweet Potato Casserole
Ingredients – Casserole
3 cups sweet potatoes, baked and mashed
1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
Ingredients – Topping
1-cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
In a large mixing bowl, beat together first 6 ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch or two 9 x 9-inch baking pans. In a processor fitted with steel knife, combine ingredients for topping until crumbly or use a pastry blender to cut butter into brown sugar and flour until crumbly. Mix in nuts. Sprinkle topping mixture over sweet potatoes. At this point, dish can be refrigerated (covered). Bake uncovered in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes until browned and bubbly.
Cranberry Orange Sauce
1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries
1 whole orange including peel/rind, seeds removed
Chop all ingredients in a food processor or a food grinder and stir to mix. Refrigerate until ready to use. Be sure to let it drain a while to remove the excess liquid before mixing it with Jello.
2 (3 oz.) pkgs. raspberry Jello
2 1/2 c. boiling water
Cranberry Orange Sauce
1 cup crushed pineapple with juice
I cup of finely Chopped Walnuts or pecans
Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Stir in Cranberry Orange Sauce, pineapple and chopped walnuts. Pour into mold. Refrigerate until firm.
Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.
Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.
Turn off the stove and add 1 ½ sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about ½ cup of half-and-half (Or heavy cream). Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt (or roasted garlic cloves) and ½ a teaspoon of black pepper.
Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.
Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in 12-inch skillet.
Cook sausage for 5 to 7 minutes until browned. Add onions and celery and sauté until softened. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Mix in apples, thyme and sage and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add bourbon. *Cook’s Note: When adding alcohol, take pan off flame. Allow to simmer until bourbon is almost evaporated; 1 to 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, add cornbread stuffing, parsley, chicken stock, eggs and pecans. Mix well. Mix in vegetable mixture to bowl. Combine and stir well together. Add to a large casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.
Creamy Turkey Gravy
Turkey pan juices, about 4 cups of hot turkey stock.
Unsalted butter, if necessary
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4-cup heavy cream
1-teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon dry white wine (optional)
Add 5 tablespoons of the reserved turkey fat to the pan (making up any difference with butter), and whisk in flour. Cook for 3-4 minutes, whisking frequently to get rid of the raw flour flavor.
Makes 5 cups gravy.
Makes 2 quarts
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2-teaspoon whole allspice
1-teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 large orange, quartered with peel
2 quarts apple cider
Looking at this list, it may look like a lot of work and it is BUT it is totally worth it. Each year, we spend the week of Thanksgiving cleaning our home, prepping for visitors and cooking. It’s a hectic week to say the least but I wouldn’t trade a second of all the love and laughter that will be filling our home this weekend. I love giving my daughters these memories to cherish.