Traditional tends to conjure up dining options and food ideas that verge on the ultra conservative. Just because the holiday is aged, doesn’t mean the setting needs to be old. Consider the formal essentials with a twist. For the table, I like simple place cards made from recycled paper (hand-written, no calligraphy, or printing - seriously, simple legible handwriting), small unscented votives so you can see Mr. and Mrs. Fancy Pants, herb or field flower arrangements, and only the necessary place settings (too many forks equals too many opportunities for a guest to feel self-conscious). Serving the meal in courses add a lovely polished touch and allows guests to enjoy and digest the epic meal. Naturally, the highlight will be the turkey, roasted chicken or an incredible vegan alternative (chickpea veggie loaf, anyone) - I like, thyme roasted mixed vegetables with goat cheese, cornbread walnut stuffing and white wine marinated mushrooms as memorable sides.
Entertaining, much less Thanksgiving, can bring out the perfectionists in us all. Our fretting over what to prepare for a wow-worthy dinner can be exhausting. Despite our mission to “get it right” with our extensive meal planning and considered styling, there is a tendency to abandon both good practical sense and the innate charm of just being ourselves. Here are a few “bread-breaking” suggestions to creating and participating in a luxuriously green, entertaining and unique holiday without losing your mind and sense of humor.
Today’s extended and adopted families (friends and colleagues who are very much a part of our close-knit unit) can make negotiating where to dine on Thanksgiving a challenging choice. Many opt to create a sort of Friendsgiving or moveable feast which entails going to friends and families homes for specific parts of the meal – cocktails at Jane’s, sit-down or buffet at Jack’s and dessert at Juliana’s. This can be arranged as a collective house rotation where everyone participates, or your own way of working out the logistics of being in several places on the same day. What to prepare for such an event? Depending on where your house sits on the Lazy Susan - salmon cakes with lemon dill baguette breading, anti pasta platter, curried lentil dip (starters/cocktail party), herb butter turkey, lemon rosemary roasted chicken, goose, apple-walnut stuffing, port-cranberry sauce, roasted acorn squash with maple glaze, yellow pepper soup (dinner), chocolate mouse cake, cranberry-apple tart, pumpkin-latte cheesecake, or a fig-nut and cheese platter.
Having lived abroad for many years, I’ve observed that every Thanksgiving, all of my fellow patriots get a sudden urge to mash potatoes, order turkeys and obsess over cranberry sauce recipes. Instead, why not embrace where you are or the diverse company you keep, by including more international foods, influences and table-top textiles into your repertoire. My favorite translatable dishes ... roasted sweet potato with poached egg, Tuscan white bean soup with sun-dried tomatoes, and Moroccan-spiced lamb ravioli. Key words for this kind of dinner are easy, fun and relaxed. If you are traveling during this holiday, currently live abroad or just feel compelled to represent the pilgrim version of USA, prepare dishes you can make ahead of time and can easily reheat - creamy pumpkin soup with sherry, fig and olive tapenade, roasted turkey and garlic green beans with almonds. Sure, that last part may be cheating, but when in Rome...
Enjoy the holiday!
Let me know in the comments below, what your favorite "green" Thanksgiving Day dish is.