Last year: for the first time in our relationship, my husband and I found ourselves alone on Thanksgiving. The kids were with their mom and the rest of the family was with in-laws, so we had to wait until Friday for our big Thanksgiving bash. We were oh-so-clever and put together a small semi-homemade Thanksgiving dinner and had a wonderful day.
This year: like just about everyone else on the planet, hubs and I found ourselves alone on Thanksgiving. Here is the story of our oh-so-clever, more than semi-homemade Thanksgiving dinner, and our wonderful day.
We knew that we wanted to do an exact repeat of last year's menu: turkey breast, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, rolls, gravy on everything, and apple pie.
Back in the days when people did huge Thanksgiving meals with their extended families (a.k.a. last year), the shopping was easy. I was able to waltz into the Posh Grocery store in our town last thing on Wednesday night and pick up a stuffed turkey breast and a container of fancy-dancy green bean casserole from the deli. This year required more advanced planning thanks to the ol' COVID. My SILs alerted us that small turkeys were selling out fast and I was sure that turkey breasts would be flying off the shelves as well. Last Saturday I stopped by the local Not Posh Grocery Store for a routine grocery trip and decided to check out the turkey situation for grins. Well, well, well, I was just far enough off the beaten path that they had three-count-em-three turkey breasts just sitting around for anyone to take. Score! The most critical item was secured and the rest was easily taken care of later on.
I spent a fair amount of time looking at small batch stuffing recipes and small batch green bean casserole recipes. The problem was that last year we had more than enough turkey and not quite enough sides, so I didn't want to go too small. And also there really wasn't any cost or time savings to be gained by making small batches...fresh green beans were sold in two pound bags, and the quality loaf of bread that I got for stuffing was enormous, so we were kind of All In from the get-go.
Recipe Round Up/Our Alternations
Ina Garten Perfect Roasted Turkey. My husband is the dedicated Poultry Chef in our house and his coworkers steered him toward this recipe. He skipped the onion/garlic/lemon/thyme stuffing and used an oven roasting bag to keep the turkey and the butter-lemon-thyme mixture close to each other and basking in their goodness. P.S. for reference in the cooking times, the breast was four pounds, bone in.
Shutterbean Sausage Mushroom Stuffing. It was my first time making stuffing, so I followed the recipe to a T. I found that I needed several cups more bread to sop up the broth, but since I had a humongous loaf to start with this wasn't a problem.
Smitten Kitchen Green Bean Casserole (selected based on this review). I decided homemade fried onions were a bit much to take on so I went with store bought and also used half and half instead of cream (personal preference). If I make this again I will thicken the sauce up a bit more, as suggested in the footnotes.
Mashed Potatoes (our standard recipe is my husband's creation...Yukon Gold potatoes, butter, salt, onion powder, sour cream, and a splash of milk)
Gravy. Yes I know it's a "no meat drippings" recipe but since we had drippings...instead of a cup of broth I used 3/4 cup of broth and 1/4 cup drippings.
Texas Roadhouse Rolls from the freezer, purchased from a coworker's school fundraiser. The only "semi homemade" item on our menu.
Apple Pie (hey, my first blog post!)
Last year I didn't really plan our meal out in advance, besides making the pie and starting the turkey several hours before dinner. The result was that I found myself scrambling to make rolls at the last minute and plum forgot to make mashed potatoes. This year I did what accountants do best and made myself a nice lil' spreadsheet with links to the recipes and a timeline.
Wednesday: made pie crust.
Thurs 1:00: took rolls out of freezer, made the tragic mistake of forgetting to grease the baking sheet. Also realized that it was a bit too early to start working on the pie.
1:30: rolled out pie crust, peeled apples, etc ==>pie in oven by 2:00 for a one hour bake time.
2:00: stuffing prep.
3:00: Turkey time! Which means that I stepped aside and let my husband at it (if you're new here, I have a deep rooted turkey phobia related to the Clean Plate Laws that existed when I was a child. It is literally my least favorite food on the planet. Through trial and error I've learned that I can enjoy a few bites of it once a year, but only if I have nothing to do with the cooking or carving. And on the flip side, my husband claims that he hates to cook but if you put a piece of raw meat in front of him he will turn it into a gourmet meal.) The turkey went into the oven at 3:10 along with the stuffing.
3:10 to 4:00 kick back and relax.
4:00 start working on green bean casserole. By rights the stuffing should have been done but it didn't look very crispy so I let it go on longer. Oh hey it's time for the family Zoom call so there was a pause on kitchen activities.
4:20 still listening to the Zoom but got back to the green beans. By the time the green bean casserole went into the oven, the stuffing was at perfect crispness.
5:00 Green bean casserole is done. Start mashed potatoes, turkey isn't quite ready yet.
5:30 turkey's done, just needs 20 minutes to rest. Rolls went into the oven (totally forgot to set a timer but hey it's kind of a visual thing anyway). Put all of the sides (stuffing, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes) in the oven to keep warm while I made the gravy. Learned the hard way that yes you really do need to grease the pan for the rolls.
6:00: My husband carves the turkey while I take the sides out of the oven. We both felt like we were being watched....may I just say that we have the cleanest kitchen floor you will ever see and yes she got a small portion of turkey as a reward.
6:05: we sit down to our feast.
Later that night: dessert!
Recipe Reviews (in order of favorite to least favorite...I mean they are all favorites but let's Take a Stand)
OMG if you get nothing else out of this post, I hope that you will treat yourself to Shutterbean's stuffing. It was too die for. I'm completely not sorry that we have a 9" x 13" pan of it and guarantee you that not one bite of it will go to waste.
Keeping in mind that turkey is my least favorite food on the planet==>YUM! I didn't eat very much of it but it was delicious.
That gravy tho...this was the only small batch item that we made and we will need to make more of it for our leftovers.
If you ever have the opportunity to buy frozen Texas Roadhouse rolls==>you should! They're a popular school fundraiser item around here and I can't make anything that's better than these.
Mashed potatoes are a wonderful vehicle for sopping up gravy.
Keeping in mind that there are no losers here, I have to give last place to the green bean casserole. Don't get me wrong, it was wonderful, but I like my SIL's better (I believe she makes the standard French's recipe).
Schedule Review/Division of Labor
Even though I didn't stick to my schedule 100%, it worked really well to have an "hour by hour plan". I never felt rushed or like I was doing too much at any one time and had a decent amount of downtime.
Our "division of labor" plan had us doing the things that we enjoyed...I loved making the sides, he loved making the turkey. We both cleaned as we went and did a final cleanup afterwards.
The general food safety recommendation for Thanksgiving leftovers is to use 'em or lose 'em by Monday. We will eat as much of our feast as we want and then move on. We're for sure having it tonight and will probably have it again on Sunday and Monday.
Turkey: will be frozen for a future life as creamed turkey or "Stuff on a Shingle" as it is known in my husband's family. No they don't call it "stuff" but I've made the choice not to use certain words on the internet.
We're don't anticipate having any leftover gravy, rolls, or mashed potatoes. We will most likely have leftover green bean casserole and will most likely toss the leftovers.
I really, really hope that we have leftover stuffing. Tracy recommends eating it for breakfast with eggs, and that is exactly what I plan to do with it.
There is 0% chance that we will have any leftover pie;-)