I love the classic French apple tart. It is so incredibly simple and yet there’s something about the proportion of syrupy soft fruit to flakey buttery puff pastry that is just perfect (I really hate the texture of large chunks of cooked soft fruit). I’ve substituted apples for persimmons, which I’ve had a love affair with lately! This is just the type of dessert I like to make for Thanksgiving, easy and half pre-made. I’ve made puff pastry from scratch once and it was the last time I’ll do it. It’s a pain staking task and certainly not worth it on Thanksgiving, especially since you can get really great quality frozen puff pastry. The best is Dufour and I always have a package of sitting around in the freezer. It is pricier than your supermarket frozen puff pastry and harder to find, but if you do, pick up a couple packages up for future use. You can serve this with some vanilla ice cream or, my favorite, lightly sweetened creme fraiche mixed with a little fresh vanilla bean.
For me, the holidays are all about celebration and spending lots of quality time with the ones you love, but over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I usually spend all my time with my family. I don’t get to see my friends for very long around Thanksgiving, especially ones that are in from out of town, so I love the idea of hosting a special dinner just for your best pals. (Plus, I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving this year in New Orleans!). I’ve teamed up with Pottery Barn to host my Friendsgiving dinner and I’ve got some great tips on how to pull off a simple but elegant dinner without getting host burn-out before Thanksgiving day!
- Do a pot luck: Unless you’re an over-achiever in the kitchen, save yourself the energy and do a pot luck. Have each person sign up for a side dish and make yourself responsible for the turkey (since it’s the hardest to transport).
- Keep the table simple: It’s easy to get carried away with self-imposed rules about hosting a proper dinner, but keep it simple with the flowers and decor. I just used a few long-stemmed fall colored flowers, like thistle and marigolds, and placed them in tall simple vases. Because the tablescape is so simple, I used plates and cups that were a little more feminine. I just love this Napoli dinnerware set, the ruffled edges of these linen napkins and these vintage Victorian tumblers!
- DIY it: For the runner, I simply used a long piece of kraft paper and a white chalk pen to write everyone’s names. Instead of a menu, the dish name was written on the kraft paper.
- Add color: Incorporate natural fall fruits where you can for color. I added pears, persimmons and pomegranates to each place setting and sliced persimmons and pomegranate seeds to a clear pitcher of sparkling water.
- Last but not least, make sure to have lots of alcohol and cheese– it’s always a safe bet for a hungry crowd!
When planning my Thanksgiving menu, I like to balance out the insane over-the-top decadence (read, pounds of butter) with a little gut-friendly and refreshing light dish. I always make a big salad and find the raw crunchiness and acidic dressing really necessary for that round three of mashed potatoes. This time I’ve combined some of my favorite fall ingredients into a big hearty salad. Best of all, you can make all this ahead of time, including roasting the beets. I used feta here (my favorite go-to is French feta because it’s creamier and less pungent than Greek feta), but if you’re not scared of a little stink, you could also do a great crumbly blue cheese. The sweetness of the pear and beets really stand up well to a stronger cheese like feta or blue cheese. Top it off with my favorite flower this fall– some edible marigolds– and you have yourself a show-stopping salad for Thanksgiving!
Unless you have 3 ovens, an 8 burner stove and 2 sous chefs, Thanksgiving dinner is probably a real pain to plan and coordinate. Not only do you have to plan which recipes to make, but you also have to figure out timing and which kitchen resources you can dedicate to certain dishes. Almost always, I’m out of an oven due to the turkey, which takes priority. I usually bake any caserole dish right after as the turkey cools. Mashed potatoes are made on the stove along with gravy and pan roasted veggies. It’s a crazy balancing act of checking timing and temperatures and making sure nothing catches on fire. So, any time I can make something the day before and can cook day of without giving up precious stove or oven real estate, I’m all over it! That’s where the Vitamix Professional Series 750 comes in and this incredible kabocha squash soup. For those of you unfamiliar with kabocha squash, I’ll tell you there is no better squash, in my humble opinion. It has so much sweet squash flavor and has such an amazing creamy but firm texture. If you’ve only made butternut squash or acorn squash, I suggest you make the switch– you’ll never go back. The best part of this recipe is that you can roast all the vegetables the day before, pack them in a container and right before you’re ready to serve your big Thanksgiving meal the day of, transfer all the veggies and the rest of the ingredients into your container and blend away! Vitamix is specially engineered to create hot soup; no stove required– how amazing is that? No extra pots, no sweating over a hot stove and no mental breakdown because you burned the stuffing and are a big sweaty mess. Or at least we hope not!
Some of you know that Fiona has a habit of stealing my credit cards. Yep, Daddy’s wallet is already one of her favorite toys! First, she’ll empty the cash. Then the receipts. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch her in time before anything gets shredded to bits. Lastly, she grabs the credit cards. She’ll wander the whole house, a card in each hand, smiling ear to ear. I suppose it’s my fault. Back before we started daycare, she and I used to spend hours at the biergarten down the block. One of the only ways I kept her content (and from eating old food off the ground) was handing over my wallet. Have at it kid! Fast forward to a few days ago at the grocery store – I’m all set to check-out at the cashier with ingredients for this very punch, I open my wallet, and low and behold . . . no cards. Awkward!! I rush home and check her favorite hiding places: under the rug in the living room, down the heating vent, and finally found them inside a pair of Audrey’s shoes. She sure keeps me on my toes, that one. With all that extra running around this holiday season, I probably won’t have time to get too fancy with the cocktails. I wanted to share this quick holiday punch recipe that I’ve been enjoying recently.
It’s a Scott Beattie recipe. I’ve tinkered with a few things here and there – primarily decreasing proportions to suit my little family. As Scott mentions in his book, this is essentially a sangria variation. The addition of the winter spices make it just right for the holiday. There’s not much prep, other than a bit of simmering. Again, easy enough to whip up on Thanksgiving morning.
Potatoes au gratin has been a Thanksgiving tradition and a Chan family favorite for as long as I can remember. Sure, they were most always made out of the box thanks to good ol’ Ms. Betty Crocker but hey . . . potato, potahto. It’s been several years since Karen and I have ditched the dehydrated potatoes for real, hand cut potatoes and it seems like year after year, we’re constantly trying up the ante on this beloved side dish. More cream, less cheese, more herbs. More cheese, less cream, less herbs, more spices. This year, instead of traditionally layering the thinly sliced potatoes on top of each other, I’m stacking them vertically. Tatin style with a hasselback twist. They key here is a mandoline – if you don’t already have one, get one. It’s one of my favorite and most used kitchen gadgets. And with all the visually impressive things you can make by being able to quickly and thinly slice fruit and vegetables, it’ll become your best loved tool too. Dip the potato slices in a mixture of heavy cream, parmesan, and thyme and bake to crispy, yet creamy, perfection. The best of both worlds. I’m thankful.