Thanksgiving Quandries

For this year’s Thanksgiving meal, I will responsible for cooking. This also includes planning. We all know that the secret to a successful Thanksgiving meal with numerous side dishes delivered to the table piping hot all at once is….more than one oven! Correct? But unless you live in a hotel or you’re just lucky, you’re like me and most likely have just the one oven.

So, in my mental preparations, I’ve determined what I need is one less side dish that requires cooking in an oven. In a quick Google search, I discovered the Pinch of Yum blog and this dish:

Bacon and Brussels Sprout Salad. Image Source: Pinch of Yum

Doesn’t this look fabulous? The perks: it’s cold and crunchy so no oven is necessary, and it has bacon! Double win.

After discovering Lindsay’s recipes over at Pinch of Yum, I wondered if I, too, could be a food blogger. I’m sure I don’t have what it takes. Seriously though, I could just look at Pinch of Yum’s photos all day long. Everything looks just yummy!

I decided I want to make this recipe in place of the green bean casserole that everyone pretends to like. I’ve tried for years to consume the green bean casserole, placing mere spoonfuls on my plate and leaving them for the last possible moment at which point they were simply too cold to swallow. I have now solved my problem. It’s called Bacon and Brussels Sprout Salad.

If you make this salad, however, don’t be tempted to buy those chopped bags of Brussels sprouts you see at Trader Joe’s, because they are not, I repeat are NOT, the delicate shavings of Brussels sprouts you see in the photo above. And believe me, I’m tempted by the pre-chopped bags. How much of difference is there between chopped and shaved Brussels sprouts? Apparently, a lot. It’s all about the texture, darling, and texture is everything. It always is.

So, how does one accomplish these fine, delicate shavings of Brussels sprouts? I’m so glad you asked. You use a nifty, little cooking tool called a mandoline, which is also capable of crinkle-cuts and playing music if you strum it just so. Kidding okay. Please don’t try that at home.  I understand it’s sharp and possibly a good idea to wear gloves while using the mandoline, so now it seems this recipe has become a bit pricey and dangerous.

Be careful out there. Aside from my this splendid recipe, a tremendous storm is in the forecast in the Sierra Mountains, possibly preventing half our expected party from attending Thanksgiving dinner. While we couldn’t be happier that snow is in the forecast (go snowpack!), it’s coming all at the wrong time. I guess I can’t expect the weather to follow the holiday schedule. Personally, I think the weather knows exactly what it’s doing.

Will I make the Bacon and Brussels Sprout Salad? Will my family make it over the snowy mountain? I just don’t know.

In the meantime, do you happen to have a mandoline I can borrow? Do you eat the green bean casserole? What’s your favorite vegetable side dish?

Wishing you a safe, warm and Happy Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating the holiday. And if you’re not, I still hope you’re happy, safe and warm!

Pass the Gravy…Please


Thanksgiving, a time to give thanks and, let’s face it, a time to stuff our faces. The Thanksgiving meal is one you can screw up. It’s no accident that there are a dozen side dishes that accompany the turkey. We can’t just have turkey, mashed potatoes, and some green beans. No!

We must have sweet potatoes, too, with gooey marshmallow sweetness. The green beans must be lathered in a funky mushroom sauce with fried onions. It’s the only time this dish appears on any menu. I wouldn’t touch that dish when I was a kid. There’s stuffing prepared in all manner of ways, with fruits and nuts and sausages, which don’t belong by the way, especially with raisins. This is truly unthinkable. The cranberry sauce, of course, gets pecked at. A few people bother with it. Hot rolls, salad, another salad, veggies, olives, bread pudding, corn, cornbread, a mystery casserole. Just make sure there’s not one free space on the table and you’ve succeeded.

In fact, it’s this time of year that you’ll use that second oven you have. Yes, you need a second oven on Thanksgiving. Not that I’ve ever had one. Everything revolving around the grand turkey. Everything must be timed just right and be presented on the table, piping hot, ready to be devoured. Sometimes, in all this lengthy preparation, the turkey is neglected or its cooking time miscalculated and the near disaster of your meal has happened and there’s no possibility of undoing it. Your turkey is dry and tastes like pasty cardboard. All that hard work and thoughtful planning, a wasted effort.

There’s only one thing, and one thing only that can salvage this meal: The Gravy! Delicious gravy with perfect smoothness and consistency can transform a Thanksgiving meal from ordinary to extraordinary. Whether your turkey is dry or cooked to perfection, your side dishes cold or rewarding, the gravy will bring a mix of elation and pause to your family and guests.

The gravy comes together in the final hour; in my mother’s kitchen, a time of great mystery and tension. How would it turn out this year? Would it be as good as last year? Would it be a disaster? With lots of stirring, salt, pepper, water, flour, milk, and last but not least, a little magic and artistry, gravy is served.

After much rustling and passing, sometimes around two tables, a kids’ table when younger, my family and friends get situated, all the waiting for the meal has taken its toll, and finally, a full plate of food. The final touch is the gravy, of course, generous ladles of gravy.

A hush envelopes the room, conversation slows. Then you’ll hear, “Mom, this is good gravy. Reeaaallly good.” Everyone agrees and everyone wants more. The gravy is passed around until, “Is this the last of the gravy?” If you’re lucky, there’s more on the stove. Otherwise, well…Thanksgiving might as well be over. I decide I don’t really want that third helping of mashed potatoes after all. Better save room for pie.

I never learned how to properly make gravy. In the times that I’ve made the complete Thanksgiving dinner, the gravy has been hit or miss, and never as good as my mother’s. Oh, I should have paid more attention. Gravy, I took you for granted. My mother does not cook the Thanksgiving meal anymore, and she shouldn’t. I have a feeling from here on out, my sisters and I will be comparing notes in our mission to make gravy like we remember.

Photo credit:


Here’s to laughing with family and friends,

and good cheer

I’m thankful for the ground I walk on

And for my friends in the blogosphere

Happy Thanksgiving everybody, wherever you are!