Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I have wonderful memories of my mom “pulling out all the stops” for Thanksgiving.
The entire family got up early that morning and my father was busy chopping onions and apples for the stuffing while I broke up the toasted French bread and the cornbread that my mom had baked the night before.
The turkey went in the oven and the table was set, but that was just the beginning. In addition to turkey “with all the trimmings”, my mother made wafer thin pork chops baked with sliced apples and a New York strip steak roast for the non-turkey lovers (like my father).
There were homemade pumpkin pies, pecan pies and apple pies. There were canned cling peaches stuffed with sweetened coconut surrounding the turkey platter. There were stuffed mushrooms surrounding the sliced New York strip roast and there was homemade, chunky, spicy apple sauce to accompany the pork chops.
There was even a gorgeous jello mold: lime jello mixed with crushed pineapple, sliced almonds and heavy cream. When I think of it, I can still taste the cool sweetness of that jello mold, the crushed pineapple, the creaminess of the whipped cream and the surprise crunch of the sliced almonds. This was not part of dessert, but served with the main meal. It’s one of those things I will probably never make but will always cherish the memory.
It was all served buffet style and the platters were perfect. It was about abundance, family tradition and of course great food. Extended family, aunts and uncles and cousins came to our house. Everyone enjoyed. The pressure of Christmas and gifts and holiday madness was not yet upon us.
Years went by, the cousins grew up, my father passed away and my mother stopped doing Thanksgiving.
After a few years, I found I missed the tradition and asked my mom to cook Thanksgiving with me at my house. I got out all the sterling silver flatware and platters that had been passed down to me and we prepared Thanksgiving together in my kitchen.
It was the start of a new tradition. Instead of extended family, the table was made up of close friends and Thanksgiving orphans. Over the years, I have continued to welcome Thanksgiving orphans and even some Thanksgiving virgins to my home. (This year, there were two.) I “pull out all the stops” and I know my mother is watching it all and beaming with pride.
My menu doesn’t include any lime jello but I do use mom’s recipe for Stuffing and Candied Yams. I update the traditional dishes with Savory Pumpkin Custards, Stuffing Muffins and Gingerbread, Pumpkin Mousse Trifle.
Instead of apple and pecan pies, I made an Apple, Raisin, Pecan Spice Cake; Espresso Brownies; Dried Cranberry, White Chocolate Chip Cookies; Crinkled Pears and some fresh berries to round out the desserts.
My dinner starts with an exquisite Cheese Platter; Ham, Gruyere and Chive Loaf and a glass of champagne. In fact, the champagne flows throughout the night. A pretty great way to celebrate Thanksgiving!