What’s Cookin’ – Thanksgiving Day 2012 Menu

Our Thanksgiving Day menu is set.  We are having a small Thanksgiving dinner this year with only 9 for dinner, and the menu is a mix of traditional favorites as well as some changes to tradition.

Namely, I have decided to omit having dressing.  (In the great stuffing / dressing debate, I prefer dressing which I consider to be the bread mixture that is baked OUTSIDE of the bird as opposed to stuffing which is baked INSIDE the bird).  I am the only one in the family that really likes dressing, and I always end up throwing  most of it away.  So . . . it’s off the menu this year.

This year I also decided to make the desserts, too.  Usually my mother-in-law makes the pies, but she is now 84, and I thought I would do them for a change and just allow her to come and enjoy spending time with the kids.

So, I decided to change-up the desserts, too.  We always have Pumpkin and Apple Pie and, depending on who is coming to dinner, a few other pies.  Since we are only having 9 for dinner this year, I think two desserts are enough – one will involve pumpkin and the other will involve apples, but the traditional pies are taking a backseat this year.

Instead of a regular pumpkin pie, I have decided to make a pumpkin cheesecake.  And not just any cheesecake.  I am not a big cheesecake fan.  I also do not like heavy pumpkin pies or cheesecakes.  I ran across a recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake with Candied Crunch and Amaretto Whipped Cream on the Cooking Channel.  This is a mousse-like cheesecake that sounded wonderful.  So, I made one and sent it with DSH for his co-worker’s to sample.  Several of his co-workers not only asked for the recipe, but said that they would substitute it for a regular pie on their Thanksgiving tables this year, too.  Winner!

If you decide to give this recipe a try, here is how I changed it up for my family.  Instead of using a square pan, I used a springform pan.  DSH  said it couldn’t be a replacement for Pumpkin Pie unless it was round.  Traditions sometimes die-hard around here.  I didn’t make the almond crunch – my family just does not like nuts on or in their desserts.  Also, instead of Amaretto whipped cream, I made cinnamon whipped cream (1 cup of heavy cream, 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon).

Instead of a regular Apple Pie, I decided to make an apple tart.  I was torn between a classic French Apple Tart or the Apple Mosaic Tart With Salted Caramel from the Smitten Kitchen website (one of my favorite food websites).  I made both (along with another batch of cinnamon whipped cream) and had some friends taste test them for me.  The votes were in – both were really good, but the preference for a substitute for a regular Apple Pie for Thanksgiving Day dinner went to the classic French Apple Tart.  There are many recipes out there including one in Julia Child’s cookbook.

French Apple Tart

If you are looking for one, try Ina Garten’s French Apple Tart.  I made this version and this is how I changed it up.  I did not buy Calvados for the apricot glaze.  I used rum, but seriously water would work fine, too.  There seemed to be no taste of the rum in the apricot glaze at all.  One batch of the glaze is enough for two tarts.  I also rolled the dough out an inch larger on both sides and folded a ½ inch lip around the edges.  This helped to contain the juices within the tart.

Here is our entire Thanksgiving Day menu with links to my favorite recipes:

Fresh Turkey Brined (My Favorite Turkey Brine from Tasty Kitchen) and Roasted
Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Homemade Gravy
Regular and Spiced Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Salad
This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Green Bean Casserole
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Homemade Parker House Rolls *
French Apple Tart
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Cinnamon Whipped Cream

* I’ll use the Parker House Rolls recipe out of my Joy of Cooking cookbook, but this one from Ree Drummond is virtually the same.

I make mashed potatoes all the time and at Thanksgiving I ramp them up a bit by using plenty of butter and sour cream or cream cheese depending on my mood.  I included Ree Drummond’s recipe in the link above.  It is a good one and includes the re-heating instructions.

I also make mashed sweet potatoes and debate every year about omitting this from the menu because my mother-in-law and I are the only ones to eat them.  Sweet potatoes scream Thanksgiving to me, and they are good for you.  Well, as good as they can be once you add butter and cream to them!  Anyway, I have my own recipe for these that includes a pecan topping and will have to work on sharing it someday.  They stayed on the menu this year.

I make the vegetables in advance and re-heat them.  I do take the time to make homemade gravy while the turkey is resting.  The link above includes the pan gravy in the middle of the roasted turkey recipe and is from Pam Anderson from Williams-Sonoma.  My copy is a tattered old piece of newsprint, but it is the same recipe.

We decided that, since all of our kids are now adults and all but two are of legal drinking age, that they could contribute to dinner by providing the beverages of choice.

The only other decisions will be what to serve for breakfast and what to have for mid-day appetizers before the big meal!

What’s on your menu and how many are you having for dinner?

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving Day holiday with family and friends.  We are looking forward to a loud and chaotic time eating, playing games, and spending time with 4 of our kiddos, Grandma, and one extra friend.

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