At the beginning of November, my sister and I begin planning our Thanksgiving menu. I especially look forward to Thanksgiving because it really is one of three times a year that I really attempt to cook. Typically, I just toss a tray of olive oil and cumin coated vegetables into the oven with a previously frozen tilapia filet while I shower and call it a night. But Thanksgiving is the day that revolves around cooking. Instead of going to anyone else’s house, we make Thanksgiving completely about our core family of four (plus my new brother-in-law). We spend Wednesday night prepping, and the entire Thursday in the kitchen (minus the hour spent napping to mentally prepare for the epic eating that takes place in the evening). After careful deliberation and three weeks of recipe examination, my sister sent out our finalized menu a few days before Thanksgiving. This year our dinner consisted of:
- My mother’s cornish game hens stuffed with sticky rice, mushrooms, water chestnuts and Chinese sausage: This is the star of the show. Every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, my sister and I beg my mom to make this. She makes the sticky rice ahead of time, then stuffs the game hens with it before baking so that the rice is flavored with the fat. I intensely love everything about this dish. I imagine that if I ever meet my soulmate, I will know it because I will feel (almost) the same way about him as I do about my mother’s cornish game hens.
- Curried Cauliflower soup: This was absolutely delicious. My sister ended up adding twice as much cumin and tumeric than the recipe called for, and it added much more character to the soup.
- Brussel’s sprouts and chestnuts in brown butter: With crispy bacon added, because how else do you express your love of family but by feeding them fatty pieces of pork. We decided that this dish was worthy of a repeat performance for future family meals. The creamy roux was fantastic and I ended up pouring it over my dressing, mixing it with the biscuit and licking my spoon completely clean.
- Cornbread dressing: This ended up being a huge hit. The cooked apples added a a perfect sweet element that complemented the salty sausage. In the future though, I would add sage to the dish in addition to the thyme.
- Sweet potato biscuits: I was extremely worried when making this because the precision needed for successful baking scares me. I’m the type of person that will say, “there’s 4 tablespoons of butter left of this stick. That’s…. basically the same as 5 right?” An hour later, I’m extremely confused as to why my pastry comes out dry. This recipe made me extremely nervous because it specifically said to mix the dough “using as few motions as possible.” Every time I moved the dough, I started thinking, “this is it. This motion is too much. Can I mix it one more time? Have I overdone it? How many motions do I have left?” It came out surprisingly well! The biscuits were pillowy on the inside, and firm on the outside, and went well with the brussel’s sprouts sauce.
- Butterscotch pot de creme: I thought I would only eat half a pot de creme. Then I looked down at my empty ramekin and laughed at my silliness.
- Pecan shortbread cookies: Crispy heaven.
- Fresh whipped cream: A completely necessary topping for anything sweet. I would put fresh whipped cream on pretty much anything entering my mouth. I have no shame.
It was the perfect meal, and I pushed my stomach to its limits. I went to bed happy, satisfied, and thankful for the elastic waistband on my pajama pants. I always wake up the Friday after Thanksgiving with the desperate desire to repent for the previous day’s gluttony. I tell myself I must eat a diet consisting 80% of vegetables and fruit until Christmas. And like every other year, when I opened the fridge this Friday, I reached for the leftovers. The fruits and vegetables can wait a few more days.