Turkey and Stuffing
The O'Dowd Family Way - Turkey with Bacon: For years, K and I were kindly welcomed to her in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey was always cooked simply, but was delicious as can be. Place onion halves, lemon and garlic in the cavity, shower salt and pepper on the skin and lay strips of bacon on top. P and I would try to sneak bits of the crispy bacon right as the turkey came out of the oven, which has skyrocketed toward the top of my list of "best moments of the Thanksgiving meal." The bacon fat drips down in your turkey as well, and MAN doesn't that sound good?
Dad's Favorite Turkey with Sage Cornbread Stuffing: Originally from Bon Appetit, this has been our Dad's favorite turkey prep since I was a teenager, and I think it was the beginning of his achievement of official gourmet chef status. Saute 6 sticks of butter, chopped onion and 3 packages of fresh sage. Set half of mixture aside. Tear cornbread in a bowl with the other half of the mixture, stuff in bird. Lift the turkey skin and rub the bird with the set aside portion, reserving some sage butter to drizzle on the outside of the skin with some maple syrup.
Brown Butter and Rosemary Cornbread Stuffing: A few years ago, I created this stuffing and while it's intensive (so I'm not sure it's making my menu this year), it is one of my prouder recipe creations. You brown butter for both the homemade cornbread and the stuffing itself, so that should be enough information to sway you...
Vegetables and Sides
Crispy Sweet Potato Roast: Deb at Smitten Kitchen is the sisters' collective go-to for recipes, and this does not disappoint. Not a sticky-sweet marshmallow concoction, this recipe lets sweet potatoes shine.
Maple Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts: One year, I tossed some cubed butternut squash (pierce the skin and microwave on high for about five minutes until it softens a bit before chopping into it) and brussels sprouts in olive oil and maple syrup before roasting them until soft and browned, respectively.
Date, Feta and Kale Salad: Another Deb staple, K had this on her menu when we were all together for Thanksgiving last year. We subbed the cabbage for kale, and it was actually a favorite dish of the meal. We liked it even better the day after (rare for salad) and it was a great offset to the rich, the heavy, and the sweet that usually dominate a Thanksgiving table.
Cranberry Salsa: My friend Mandy found this, and it adds a great Southwestern twist to any table. It's rapidly become my favorite cranberry recipe, and doesn't even require a stovetop. I just made a batch to throw in my freezer for this week, and added a substantial amount of extra lime and cilantro. Adjust to taste!
Brussels Sprouts Slaw: Another Mandy find, the brussels sprouts are surprisingly at home in a fresh, bright, crunchy slaw. It's another way to provide needed balance to your feast. I'd consider swapping mayo with greek yogurt, which always spins nicely with lemon juice into dressing.
Baked Brie with Cranberry Chutney: Our stepmother makes this as a classic winter entertaining staple. Spoon on top of a wheel of brie, wrap with a store-bought crescent roll dough or even an extra pie crust, bake until browned, dig into the gooey goodness. Bonus, the cranberry chutney makes extra, so you can serve this as an appetizer, and have plenty for with your turkey or with your leftovers.
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie: Make the pie in this post that has the chocolate ganache on top. The filling is made with honey instead of corn syrup, making a pecan pie that's less tooth-achingly sweet and can handle a rich ganache on top. This also makes a great slab pie, if you're feeding a larger group. Just double the recipe, and roll out your crust in a big rectangle with a nice "handle" for the crust. Bake until the crust looks browned and spread your ganache on top, cut into bars.
Spiced Molasses Holiday Pie: Invented by K years ago, this is a staple holiday pie for us. The "strong and rich" version is my recommendation, and make sure to save some leftover maple whipped cream to stir into your coffee the next morning, or enjoy a strong black cup of coffee with a slice of this pie for breakfast (a match made in heaven.)
Mulled Wine Pear Pie: Another favorite recipe creation of mine. The key is making sure your spice balance in the mulled wine syrup is right on, so make sure you taste as you go!
Cider Caramel Apple Pie: I made this recently after apple picking with some friends. The cider caramel can be finicky, it definitely takes a long time and you need to watch it near the end. I would argue that more than making this pie incredibly caramel-y, the cider caramel amps up the apple flavor in a remarkable fashion.
Salted Caramel Apple Pie: If your goal is a rich, buttery caramel apple pie, choose this one. Caramel is shockingly easy to make. You'll have extra, spoon it on top of your pie and the requisite scoop of ice cream, or save it and drizzle it down the sides of a mug with hot apple cider in it.
Caramelized Pumpkin Pie: If you're making a pumpkin pie, promise me you'll caramelize your filling. It's such a simple step that makes all the difference in the world (I would argue that it makes a bigger difference than pureeing your own pumpkin!). I've been thinking it would be lovely to top this with some whipped cream that has sour cream beaten in.
Nutmeg Maple Cream Pie: The New York Times posted this, then Deb adjusted it, then K made it gluten-free friendly. The crust K suggests here is a great gluten-free option if you are nervous about using gluten-free flour for a classic pie crust.
Vanilla Pudding Pie with Bailey's Whipped Cream: Light, easy, not overly rich, this pie with a gingersnap crust would be a nice balance to spread that includes more dominant pies.
Purple Yam Pie: I've never made this so I can't vouch for it, but doesn't it look like a showstopper? I thought I'd include it as a vegan and/or gluten-free option as well, and the crust is another good alternative if classic pie crust doesn't work for you.
Thanksgiving Leftover Cornish Pasties: I apparently incorrectly attribute this idea to a family I'm friends with who've hosted me for Thanksgiving many times, but regardless of where it came into my head, it is hands down the best thing to do with your leftovers.
Grilled Turkey Sandwich with Smoked Apple Butter and Brie: My friend Melissa recently sent me some smoked apple butter that's out of this world, and this is what I'm dreaming of doing with some leftover turkey to mix up a classic "leftovers sandwich".
Mulled Wine: This is my favorite holiday drink, and I love Ina Garten's citrus and cider version. So cozy, and having a pot bubbling on your stove all day will make your home smell even more delicious than it was already going to. I like to slice oranges into rounds, stick cloves into them, and simmer them on top.
Apple Cider Maple Whiskey - A few weeks ago, I made a reduction of equal parts apple cider and maple syrup for some waffles for brunch (about a cup of each, simmer until it starts to thicken). As I pondered what to do with the extra, a brilliant friend suggested I stir it into some whiskey. Makes for a great fall nightcap, and you can tip some extra cider into the glass if it's too strong for you.
Gin Grapefruit Rosemary: This is another untested recipe for me, but it reminds me of a drink we would have mixed up in our Arizona Thanksgiving days, and drank on the patio in the sunlight to start the temperate November day. Annie's Eats is a trusted source, and has a few other attractive cocktail options (including a cranberry sorbet fizz!) that you can and should check out.