Thanksgiving week was a whirlwind this year, since we went to three different locations in one week, Evan met my extended family for the first time, there were lots of wedding planning conversations, and we celebrated multiple birthdays.
I help with the Thanksgiving cooking most years. This year, I spent about five straight hours cooking on Wednesday, which meant I got to sleep in and relax on Thursday. You may notice a lot of browning on the vegetables below. Every year, I have problems with my mom's oven, which browns foods extremely quickly and is quick to set off their sensitive smoke alarm. It's strange that I've used many different ovens in many different apartments in New York City and have never had the same kinds of issues. Her oven really doesn't like roasting vegetables.
My mom made her Shoprite turkey, cranberry sauce, garlicky mashed potatoes and a pumpkin pie. She deviated from the pepperidge farm stuffing to a cornbread stuffing that I liked.
Here's what I made:
Kale salad with lemon, almond and parmesan
I shredded two bunches of kale and massaged it in olive oil and the juice of one lemon. Then I tossed it together with: half of a red onion, thinly sliced; a few cloves of garlic, thinly sliced and sauteed in olive oil until crispy; half a cup of almonds, finely chopped and toasted in a dry pan until lightly browned; a sprinkling of salt and pepper and crushed red pepper; and a cup of grated parmesan.
Most of my family had never had kale salad before, and they loved it. The lemon and parmesan give it flavor, while the finely chopped nuts added a light crunch to the texture, similar to the way that breadcrumbs would. The great thing about kale salad is that it can be prepared a day or two in advance without wilting like regular salads. In fact, it's better to give it more time for the vinaigrette to tenderize the kale. The amount above was enough as a side for twelve people, with leftovers.
Roasted brussels sprouts
My grandfather requested the brussels sprouts after enjoying them in 2011. It seems most adults over the age of 35 have only ever had brussels sprouts steamed and are pleasantly surprised by roasted sprouts. Since I was making a lot of sprouts, I decided to separate all the loose leaves and bake them on their own tray. That way I was able to take out the leaves as soon as they were done. I love snacking on the crispy leaves - we put them out in a bowl with the appetizers. Most of the time, through, I just roast the leaves alongside the sprouts.
To roast brussels sprouts:
Preheat the oven to 400. Rinse the sprouts. Chop off the tough ends and then slice each sprout in half (if they are small, don't bother cutting in half). Grease a pan with olive oil, and throw in the sprouts. Shake salt and pepper liberally over top. Stir the sprouts around on the pan until they are evenly coated in the oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange the sprouts on the pan evenly spaced. Cook for 20 minutes until the side facing down is browned. Remove and flip them over. Cook another 10-15 minutes.
Whole wheat dinner rolls
I've made no-knead rolls in past years, but I wanted to go for a softer texture this year by incorporating milk and sweetness. I went with a recipe from The Kitchn for "soft and tender dinner rolls", substituting whole wheat flour for a third of the flour. I multiplied the amounts by 1.5 (including the yeast) to get 18 rolls instead of 12. I like to bake my rolls in muffin tins. I brushed the tops with butter just before baking, but I don't think that touch was noticeable enough to be worth the effort. I thought they were fine, but not amazing - a little softer, but not that flavorful. I made them on Wednesday and quickly reheated them on Thursday just before dinner.
Sage leaf sweet potatoes
This was inspired by Smitten Kitchen's parsley leaf potatoes - same idea but with a different type of potato and herb. I cut ten sweet potatoes in half. I melted three tablespoons of butter in a small pot and stirred in a tablespoon of honey. I coated the bottom of two pans with the melted butter/honey. I lay each potato half cut side down over a sprig of sage. I roasted them at 400 F for 20 minutes and then flipped them over for another 10. Unfortunately, they got burned on their second trip in the oven the next day to reheat them before dinner - so if you're going to need to reheat, don't cook them too long originally. The sweetness was not noticeable enough, so I'd recommend doubling the honey. I think this was a much less labor intensive way of getting flavor into a simple roasted sweet potato dish than hasselback sweet potatoes.
Medley of roasted butternut squash, parsnips, carrots and beets
I roasted the vegetables separately according to like cooking times and combined them afterward. I roasted the parsnips and carrots together, and the squash in a different pan. I originally roasted the beets peeled and chopped in their own pan, but their dark color prevented me from noticing they were burning until it was too late. I had to redo the beets, and opted to go my usual route of roasting them whole in a foil pouch, peeling and chopping them afterward. I do think that method better locks in the moisture and flavor.
For dessert, I made this cranberry torte from Lottie + Doof. Instead of almond extract, which I didn't have, I added the zest and juice of one lemon. Lemon plays off the cranberries well. I recommend adding extra cranberries and mixing half of them into the batter, to get more fruit in each bite. This dessert comes together very quickly and is easy to make - which is helpful when you don't have a lot of time or are busy making too many foods.