Food for Thought
A confession: I've never cooked a turkey. Sides, yes. Desserts, of course. But a turkey? Nope. I leave that to the experts. For me, turkey is the least exciting part of Thanksgiving. Sure, it may be the perfect vehicle for cranberry sauce. And turkey leftovers do make for a tasty soup, but if I had my druthers, I'd just as soon stick to chicken.
All this turkey bashing is just my way of explaining why you won't find any turkey basting in my Thanksgiving picks below. Everyone has their own method of preparing the bird, and I certainly wouldn't want anyone taking advice from a turkey novice, like myself. But, based on the delicious — and decidedly non-turkey — recipes below, I can't imagine you'll miss it.
So let's begin with a drink. One can't go wrong with bubbles, so I always recommend a glass of Prosecco, Cava, or Champagne to greet your guests (and to keep you company in the kitchen). An NYPL colleague of mine, Jessica Pigza, is partial to the mulled claret for heroes recipe from the Week-End Book, and she has yet to steer me wrong where drinks are concerned. For the more adventurous cocktail seeker, there is the Savoy Cocktail Book. Savoy covers both standards and throwbacks, and your guests will thank you for serving either.
Light snacks are a must to keep the kids calm, and your relatives out of the way. Union Square Cafe's bar nuts are shockingly addictive and super easy to throw together. Warmed olives are wonderful, too. For something a little more substantial, the Food52 Cookbook has an appetite-whetting recipe for creamy sausage stuffed mushrooms which look to be the perfect opening act for the long evening ahead.
But one cannot live on appetizers alone. Sides, on the other hand, are a different story. The fennel and potato gratin from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques is a home-run, especially for those who prefer to forgo mashed potatoes, or simply serve more than one dish of tubers. Molly Stevens' All About Braising is chock-full of recipes perfect for the Thanksgiving table. Among my favorites in the book: savoy cabbage gratin with Saint-Marcellin cheese, cream braised Brussels sprouts (unreal), and, for any pescaterians in your group, braised halibut steaks over creamy leeks. Stuffing is nearly as territorial as turkey, but the Dean & Deluca Cookbook's recipe for bread and butter stuffing with fresh sage is heart-poundingly good (or maybe that's just the heart attack kicking in).
Dessert is easy. Anything with apples, pears (including a pairing with cheese), maple syrup (the Vermont Maple Syrup Cook Book, 1974, is bound to satisfy), or pumpkin is a no-brainer. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home's bourbon ice cream with toasted butter pecan, tres leches ice cream, or cinnamon sugar ice cream would all work wonderfully alone, or sitting atop warmed pie. Speaking of pie, I can't speak of Thanksgiving without providing the recipe for Horn & Hardart's pumpkin pie featured in NYPL's Lunch Hour NYC exhibition. No one has called to complain, yet!