Last Thanksgiving, we were on a trip to Italy with two of our friends (the above photo is from our last night in Rome). It was my first Thanksgiving meal since I was a middle schooler that I didn't cook! It was honestly...such a nice break. We went to Napoleone in Florence and our friend Alan and I shared an enormous ribeye, while Ryan had the messiest pasta with crab. It was so refreshing to not have to cook, but also to eat a different cuisine for a traditional American holiday!
So this year, I originally told my family that I'm retired from cooking Thanksgiving, at least temporarily. And then I started thinking, well, I still want to spend the holiday with family...so we started tossing around ideas of what we wanted to eat. We briefly settled on a big seafood feast, since we're in the Lowcountry, but Ryan's not a big fan and I want to be sure he's happy. I asked him if he had any requests for the Big Meal, and all he requested were what he calls, "Giada balls" - a dish made with leftovers (or a roto-chick & store-bought cornbread). Since these are based on arancini, my mom and I decided we'd do an Italian theme this year!
Like I said in my previous Thanksgiving blog post, I almost never make up a recipe for Thanksgiving. I think I'm going to make up the salad this year, though. Essentially, here's the email I sent my mom when I was thinking about the menu, haha.
We start the day with brunch and cocktails, natch. I saw Michael Voltaggio make this recipe on (my favorite food show right now) Guy's Ranch Kitchen, and it looked super fancy but also super easy (read: can make ahead): Avocado Confit toast with Blackberries
I think I'm also going to make these cocktails, because the simple syrup can 100% be made up to a week before: Earl Grey spritzes
(PS - Uncle Mark and Darryl, if you're reading this...can y'all host T'day brunch? I'll bring the food)
After hopefully spending the day on the beach (if I can get most of my prep done earlier in the week), here's what I'll be serving for our dinner.
Appetizers - classic charcuterie board, maybe these Stuffed and Fried Olives...but wait, I'll be frying the "Giada balls" so maybe not both? I also considered stuffed and fried squash blossoms, because I actually had those on our first night in Rome last year and they were wonderful - there are so many recipes for them out there, but this is the closest I could find to what I actually ate while we were there.
Salad - I have been obsessed with acorn squash lately. I slice it into planks, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and a sprinkle of parmesan and roast at 400 for about 20 minutes. While it's in the oven, I make a pistachio and parsley compound butter that I...honestly...have eaten with a spoon before. So I was thinking about making a panzanella salad (toasted bread salad) with acorn squash roasted in the same way, corn (Ryan's fave), caramelized onions, some fresh tomatoes, and a vinaigrette version of the compound butter. For the vinaigrette, I'll either melt the butter and add some red wine vinegar, or substitute olive oil for the butter. Literally all of that can be prepped at least one day in advance, and then combined while the appetizers are being consumed.
Main - I'm not doing the turkey. I think that was my breaking point when deciding I am semi-retired from making the traditional Big Meal. It takes up so much fridge space and honestly, my mom's not a big fan of turkey, and usually it's the last thing I eat on the plate. Besides it's crispy skin. I eat that while I'm carving it. So this year I am going to make Chrissy Teigen's prosciutto-wrapped chicken breasts*. I can certainly season and pre-wrap the chicken that morning and then just throw it in the oven while we have our appetizers. I am lucky enough to have two ovens, so being able to assemble everything in advance and then just throw it all in there is my goal this year.
Sides - I saw a recipe for cauliflower parmesan but as I type this out, I think the flavors of the heavy tomato sauce will clash with the rest of my menu, so I think that's a no. I would like my lovely parents to make some stuffed artichokes, though! ;) And another CT recipe, balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts with nuts and blue cheese*. I believe the artichokes could be made ahead of time, or at least prepped and ready to throw in the oven when everyone gets to our house. If you like my menu ideas and decide to make the cauliflower parm, it could definitely be made ahead of time as well. And the sprouts I'll throw in the oven with everything else.
Dessert - If you'll recall, I'm not a sweets gal. But on a big holiday, people expect dessert. So what's more Italian than tiramisu? Honestly, I'm not a big fan, but I know people like their sugar, and since this one doesn't involve coffee, Ryan will eat it! I do love me some chai...
I hope this has helped you make a Thanksgiving menu you wouldn't normally try! Or at least given you an update/insight into what our table will look like this year. Thanks for sticking with me!
*I wish I was best friends with Chrissy Teigen and I'm just not. So while I don't know her personally, I do love her cookbooks and just so happen to be using two from her first cookbook, Cravings. I'm definitely not getting paid to promote it in any way.
Food that maximizes flavor and minimizes effort and time.