There are so many things to love about Thanksgiving dinner, but here are our favorites here at BTR!
The Thanksgiving dish I look forward to the most every year is easily my aunt’s sweet potatoes. They are melted, mushy, and a bright festive orange. What’s more, they’re covered in nicely browned marshmallows. There’s no potato skin in the mix, which probably makes it less healthy. Considering this is the one meal of the year where I (and most people) really let loose, though, no skin = no problem in my opinion. When put all together, the combination is as sweet and savory as you’d expect. I’ve loved these sweet potatoes ever since I was a kid, and though I really should have grown out of enjoying something so sweet by this point, they are still what I would consider my favorite.
Every year on Thanksgiving, my mom makes a batch of pearl onions in béchamel sauce. The dish is a mix of sweet from the onions, and savory from the sauce, highlighted with a hint of Nutmeg. It’s the only time of year she makes it, and it never disappoints.
Well…except that one time.
The secret to achieving high intensity flavor is saving the water that the onions are boiled in, and using it for the sauce: this way you don’t lose any of that oniony goodness. One fateful year, my Grandma, who was only trying to help, entered the kitchen and, not knowing what it was, poured the onion water down the drain! The final product was bland, and since then we’ve all kept a careful eye on the pot to make sure no mishaps occur.
In the last few years, Thanksgiving has climbed its way into the top spot as my favorite holiday. Of course I appreciate the sentiment of Thanksgiving. I look forward to sitting around a table with my family and rejoicing in the love and happiness we have been grateful to share together. But let’s be real, what better way to show love than with a fresh, whipped helping of mashed potatoes? In terms of food, Thanksgiving doesn’t equate to turkey. I can do without the bird, honestly. Give me all the sides. Especially mashed potatoes.
Usually, my mom makes this side dish, but I like to help in the final stages, adding more milk and butter to get them to that perfect, creamy consistency. Plus, I’m totally guilty of sneaking forkfuls before they’ve even made their way out of the kitchen. Of all the foods spread across the table on this joyous day, I find myself going back most to these mashed potatoes. I have one fault, and that is that I don’t do leftovers. I like to fill up on this deliciousness while I can until I’ve eaten enough to tide me over until the next holiday.
It’s totally gross, but every year I look forward to the day we break out the canned cranberry sauce. I always do the honors and open it, slapping the bottom of the can until my hands go numb and the red jello plops onto a plate (at this point I have covered the kitchen in splatters of cranberry sauce). Growing up, I was so interested in slicing the cylindrical blob that I refused to let anyone touch a knife. It’s always been absolute heaven for me, cutting the jello in equal pieces and taking bites out of the perfect slices. I almost never finish a can, but as a kid I really enjoyed cutting it up and playing with it. People who make their own cranberry sauce are missing out on the most satisfying Thanksgiving tradition. I’m the only one who likes it, and it definitely does not taste anything like real cranberries, but we still buy a can every year.
My mom’s mushroom and breadcrumb stuffing is beyond compare. I’m serious. When my aunt or sister-in-law decide to organize and helm the Thanksgiving meal, I look at my mother and say, “But you’re still making your stuffing, right?” (She does). So fluffy and warm, savory, and moist, her stuffing has been half of my Thanksgiving plate since I decided I liked mushrooms around age five. Forget the turkey (although it is delicious and never over-done), forget the home-made cranberry sauce, forget the green bean casserole. All I want is a plate full of stuffing, covered in gravy, with my name on it.
My Nana makes the greatest pumpkin pie earth has to offer. It’s a pain staking process which she begins from scratch, putting delicate care into each individual step. She’s a die-hard in the kitchen and never disappoints with this treasured secret, though she was forced to retire it in recent years because the effort required to live up to her established standard was too much to maintain. I never learned the recipe, though I think it required something like three sticks of butter and half a box of sugar. While it’s retirement may well be in the best interest of my overall health, I find myself pining for this Thanksgiving treat constantly.