Every year, in the build-up to Thanksgiving, I swear that this is the year I’m going to host my own dinner. I love meals like this—the planning, the prep, the table loaded with so much food there’s hardly room for plates. The complete overkill. Plus, I’ve been in New York for a decade now, and I’ve never seen the Macy’s parade in person. (Though I have gone to watch them blow up the balloons the night before, and that should count for something.)
But as the holiday gets closer, the thought of spending it without my family becomes less and less appealing, and every year, without fail, I wind up at my aunt’s table with twenty other lunatics, stuffing ourselves silly. It’s probably for the best, anyway—if I were in charge, I’d still be menu-planning and shopping the day before, and we probably wouldn’t eat until midnight. And so, to aid my fellow time-management-challenged home cooks, here’s a little bit of last-minute inspiration from our archives.
If you don’t have a turkey by now, you’re probably pretty much screwed at this point; I suggest changing directions entirely. How about a nice, garlicky pork shoulder instead?
A seven-hour leg of lamb makes the requisite “I slaved all day in the kitchen” impression, a butter-basted chicken keeps things in the fowl family, and, if your guests are vegetarian, this fondue-stuffed roasted pumpkin is a show-stopper.
Let’s not kid ourselves, though—the fun lies in the side dishes. Jill made my mouth water with this oyster stuffing last year, but if you fancy something less traditional, this cheddar-mushroom bread pudding would make a suitable stuffing alternative. Unless you’re feeding a vegan, macaroni and cheese is never unwelcome. This gratin, laden with Gruyère, horseradish, and heavy cream, is like mashed potatoes on steroids; these Dijon roasted potatoes might be a lighter option.
On the greener side of the spectrum, Jill stole my thunder with this garlic-and-cranberry-studded kale; other veggies that came highly recommended included these brown-sugar-glazed carrots, an Asianish take on bok choy, and a Spanish-influenced sautéed spinach. Personally, I loved these mustard-laced Brussels sprouts and this Caribbean take on creamed spinach.
As for desserts, my grandmother’s apple, blueberry, and pumpkin pie recipes are all tried and true; if you have summer fruit stashed away in the freezer, this plum-blackberry version would be a worthy use of precious materials.
No pie-lovers at your table? This pumpkin and chocolate-chip cake is just as good after dinner as it is with your coffee the next morning; for those who believe it’s not really cake unless there’s frosting, you can’t go wrong with carrot cake. Maybe something lighter, after all that gorging? These cocoa brownies will do the trick.
OK. No more messing around. Make those lists and get shopping, or we’ll be eating in the dark tomorrow.