Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tried-and-True Thanksgiving Menu

Nine years ago I gave birth to my third and largest child.  In fact, he weighed as much as a small turkey (10 pounds and 6 ounces)and his head was the size of an ample pumpkin.  At that moment, my husband realized that cooking our own Thanksgiving feast would actually be easier than schlepping all of our young children over the river and through the woods to two different grandmothers' houses.  Plus we are big fans of leftovers.

That first year we used a disposable roasting pan, kept the sidedishes super simple, and somehow prepared a delicious Thanksgiving meal with all of our children underfoot.  I must say, I mostly nursed the baby, occupied the toddlers, and yelled words of encouragement from the fully baby gated fortress that was our living room, while my husband did all of the true cooking.  He's my hero!

This Thanksgiving my husband and I will be collaborating in order to prepare our tenth feast!  Many things have changed during these past ten years - we had another baby, moved across the country, acquired a quality Williams Sonoma roasting pan, and lost all of our baby gates.  We've taken turkey cooking tips from my mother, Martha, Emeril, and Ina, but our favorite method comes from Alton Brown.  Yes, he's wacky and scientific, but his brined bird is consistently moist and flavorful.

The first time we attempted an Alton Brown brined turkey, our biggest challenge was finding a container in which we could soak our bird while simultaneously refrigerating it.  My husband, being the resourceful type, went to the basement, dumped all of our sons' Supermans and Batmans out of their tub, and used that.  Although the site of a giant raw bird suspended in a liquid filled rubber maid container labeled action figures was quite disconcerting, the turkey was the best we had ever had and we've been brining ever since.

My husband makes homemade vegetable stock, just like Alton recommends, and visits the local farmer's market and spice store to get the freshest herbs, spices, and vegetables.  We have retired the action figure bin and now use an Igloo beverage dispenser.  Not only does a large turkey fit nicely down into the cooler, but when filled with ice, it doesn't have to be refrigerated.

In addition to perfecting our turkey brining process, we have also perfected our menu.  Last year I organized all our recipes, task lists, and past menus into a Thanksgiving binder which is on our top-ten-things-to-grab-during-a-natural-disaster list.   It contains our tried-and-true Thanksgiving feast menu which includes Real Simples Dried-cherry and Italian Sausage Stuffing, Pioneer Women's Creamy Mashed Potatoes, my mom's pan gravy, and my college roommate's Slap Yo Mama Good Sweet Potato Casserole.  We also add one new recipe each year and for our 2010 feast it is Bobby Flay's brussel sprouts.  Our desserts includes pecan pie, apple pie, and pumpkin pie.  All of the links for the recipes are listed below.  

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday now.  I love the days of preparation, the hours of cooking with my husband and children, the feast itself, and, most of all, the leftovers.  I am so thankful for all of the blessings in my life.  Thank you for reading Heidi's Recipes and enjoy this tried-and-true menu.

Tried-and-True Thanksgiving Feast Menu


  1. I love that your dessert menu is nearly as long as the main course menu!

  2. I'm trying your sweet potato recipe this year. Mine's only a little different (it calls for a little bit of milk), so I'm willing to make a switch! I'll have to share my super yummy "chocolate chip bourbon pecan pie" recipe with you some day....SOOOOO GOOD!!! :)

  3. Yes, isn't our long dessert menu a hoot. I'm usually too full to really enjoy my pie on the feast day, but I love a sliver of cold pumpkin pie the next morning with my cup of coffee or enjoying the last slice of any of these straight from the pie pan when all the kids are asleep. So many pie rituals:) Kara, yes please do share, I've actually had 2 no-fail pecan pies fail on me, but not this year.

  4. Aren't Alton Brown's recipes so good? Have you tried his ham with the gingersnap crust? Ooh, it's wonderful!

    There's a surprise waiting for you on my blog :)

    Thanks for linking up to my Not "Baaad" Sundays blog hop!

  5. i'm newest follower here, i like your blog,Keep working for us, lol, hope to see you on my page :)

  6. Oh, Heidi, what an inspirational pre-Thanksgiving post! Now I am ready to get myself in gear. Seeing your binder also inspired me to finish my binder project which is in a pile about 18" tall. Ugh. But it will be so nice to have it done.
    Thanks! Heather

  7. Heather I hope you post about what you're serving! A few years ago, when Wade came home with this lovely binder and dividers for all of our Thanksgiving clippings, I was thrilled. I wouldn't have been happier with diamond earrings, seriously! I got right to organizing it and now we get it out every year. Someday we'll pass it on to one of our lucky children, whichever one offers to host Thanksgiving:) Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. I should add ice cream to our menu... love the addition of lemon to the dessert list too!

  9. Your menu looks delicious. I love the large selection of pies. The turkey looks amazing, too. Although we've never brined a turkey, we always have the issue of finding something big enough to put the turkey in, too, since my husband has to carry it outside to his smoker. I've already purchased several of the foil pans to use for transporting and storage. Thanks for sharing on Sweet Indulgences Sunday.

  10. I remember when your nine year old big baby was born! How time flies! I'm thinking we may add the dried cherry sausage recipe to our mix this year. I love the brine idea...even though I think Devon may just have his heart set on deep fried...never tried it.
    Have a great holiday and thanks for linking up!

  11. Dropping by from Fancy Friday. I LOVE your idea of using an Igloo cooler to brine the turkey in! This is my first year of brining a turkey, and I was stumped on what to put it in, let alone how to get it to fit in my refrigerator. Thanks! :)

  12. Love a tried and true thanksgiving! Those recipes can be handed down too, which makes them even more special. Thanks for sharing this post!! I will be pinning and tweeting!