What kind of Thanksgiving will you have? Elegant with name cards, fine china, silver and crystal? Casual, fun and a tad funky? A football marathon on the couch with a plate full of turkey? A feast like Mom, Nana and Great Grandma used to make – same menu; same tablecloth? Except for the football marathon, I think I’ve done it all. My favorite combines a bit of elegance with some funky casual. It can be yours too. Here are a few tips to make it happen:
For many families Thanksgiving is more than a meal, it’s a reunion. Plan a relaxed day or evening, a marathon not a sprint. Start with an extended cocktail hour while the turkey rests and the kids play touch football or soccer. Keep the hors-d’oeuvres and the drinks light and have plenty of cider available. Serve dinner in leisurely courses, with breaks between and a pre-dessert walk. Finish up in the living room or outside around the fire pit with a sip of grappa or cozy cup of tea.
Do the festivities tend to get out of hand? Perhaps siblings replay ancient rivalries or Uncle Bob falls off the wagon. Consider inviting at least one non-family member, maybe two or three. While, I can’t vouch for your family, we tend to be on our best behavior when an outsider is at the table. Moreover, no one wants to spend Thanksgiving alone, so it’s a win-win.
Feel free to create a seating plan to encourage lively conversation. Separate spouses and significant others as well as quarreling sibs. Play matchmaker and put your cousin next to your new neighbor. For a big crowd, consider switching it up at dessert.
Skip the flowers; a low bowl of gourds, pinecones and acorns surrounded by candles is easy and festive. By the way, save the scented candles for the bedroom. Your delicious dinner should be the only aroma wafting through the house. Don’t forget music. My favorite is old school jazz: Stan Getz, Miles Davis and a bit of Louis Armstrong and Michael Bublé. What about you?
It’s a holiday; think splendiferous and ask your guests to dress smart casual. Your dinner deserves it. In addition, people tend to behave better when they spruce up – see above. As for the chef, after cooking for a day (or three), something stunning will make you feel chic and clever instead of worn and frazzled. Just make sure you tie on an apron before you carve the bird and whisk the gravy.
It’s okay, often expected, to ask for help. When I lived in Switzerland, a couple of friends loved to bake. For many years, I happily assigned them pies. Another guest contributed folding chairs and still another brought along an extra bag of ice or two. Back in the US, Mom has peeled spuds on Thanksgiving morning while Dad makes one last supermarket run and my sister-in-law brings a pie.
Preparing a dozen or more individuals plates is time consuming and stressful. In the heat of the kitchen, it’s impossible to remember who’s vegetarian, who’s gluten-free and who’s just plain picky. Passing platters is an option but they’re heavy and it can be slow going, not to mention complicated. A buffet is a great alternative. Plate and serve the first course, be it salad or soup. Then let everyone line up at the buffet to help themselves to turkey and sides. Place gravy boats, bowls of cranberry sauce, salt and pepper as well as water, wine and cider on the table and double up on everything.
Thanksgiving deserves a little ceremony. Whether a toast or grace, kick off the meal with a few words. Be heartfelt but keep it short, no one wants a cold dinner. As dinner progresses, invite everyone to share their gratitude. Voicing the good things in our lives will keep the conversation upbeat and give everyone a chance to participate.
It doesn’t matter what kind of Thanksgiving you have as long as it is wonderful! Bon appétit!
I served this mousse for several years when I lived in Switzerland. It’s a nice change from a traditional pumpkin pie. An added plus, you can make it a day ahead. Enjoy!
1 tablespoon gelatin
2 tablespoons dark rum
3/4 cup maple syrup
4 eggs yolks
2 cups very cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
1/3 cup cold sour cream
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
Garnish: slivers of crystallized ginger
Prepare an ice bath in a large, shallow bowl and set aside.
Place the rum in a cup, sprinkle with the gelatin and let stand for 10 minutes to soften.
Whisk the maple syrup, yolks, 1/4 cup cream, fresh ginger and spices together in a small, heavy saucepan. Set over low heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the custard reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Remove the pan from heat, add the gelatin mixture and whisk until the gelatin dissolves. Add the butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking until incorporated. Pass the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.
Stir in the pumpkin and vanilla. Set the bowl in the ice bath, and stirring frequently, cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate the custard for about 1 hour.
Stir the sour cream and crystallized ginger into the custard. Whip 1 cup heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the custard.
Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or individual dessert glasses or bowls, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Remove the mousse from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. Whip the remaining cream until soft peaks form. Serve the mousse with a dollop of whipped cream and decorate with slivers of crystallized ginger.
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Four Years Ago – Curried Thai Soup with Turkey, Vegetables & Noodles
Five Years Ago – Roast Turkey with Mom’s Stuffing & Giblet Gravy
Six Years Ago – Penne Gratin with Leftover Turkey
Seven Years Ago – Leftover Turkey Stir-fryOr Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
What about you? What kind of Thanksgiving are you planning? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye,