Thanksgiving Guide Part 1: Planning
This year we are hosting our first Thanksgiving. In years past, I’ve helped my parents cook and I’ve also been a lucky guest at various friends’ homes, but I’ve never had the chance to plan, organize, and cook with just Graham by my side. We’ve been excited about it for months, discussing which dishes absolutely have to be on our table and which ones we won’t mind leaving out. It’s going to be a small party—just me, Graham, and my parents. As such, one of the earliest decisions we made was to roast a petite chicken instead of a larger turkey. I know a glorious burnished turkey seems like an inviolable part of the Thanksgiving meal, but secretly I’ve always preferred roasted chicken to turkey. When I sheepishly suggested the chicken idea, both my parents and Graham admitted that they’d rather have chicken, too. We decided to keep the rest of the menu simple: mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry relish, buttery rolls, and a vibrant, bitter-in-a-good-way salad. There’ll be just one generously spiced apple pie for dessert. For a cocktail hour, we’ll have ice cold sparkling wine and a few bites that won’t fill us up too much.
sparkling wine, olives, cheese, nuts, fruit
salad of mixed chicories and herbs
mashed potatoes and gravy
pull-apart dinner rolls
apple pie and cardamom whipped cream
As for recipes, both roasted chicken and apple pie happen to be in my cookbook, so we’ll use this opportunity to test those again and make sure they really are as delicious as I remember. The salad dressing will be a simple mustard vinaigrette and I think we’ll try following this recipe for the rolls, this one for the mashed potatoes, and this one for a make-ahead gravy.
Here’s how to make a quick cranberry-orange relish: In a medium saucepan, combine one (12-ounce) bag of fresh cranberries, ¾ cup of orange juice, 2 wide strips of orange peel, 6 tablespoons of sugar, and a big pinch of fine sea salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until some but not all of the cranberries burst, 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool and store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.)
I love the ritual of setting a beautiful table. It can be done the day before the meal and it really doesn’t need to be complicated to be inviting. For each person, set out a dinner plate with a fork to the left and a knife to the right (sharp edge of the blade pointed toward the plate). Place a water glass and a wine glass in the top right corner and put a folded cloth napkin on each plate. Arrange a few unscented candles and maybe some greenery on the table and you’re all set.