For the last few years, I've hosted a somewhat non-traditional Thanksgiving feast. I love this holiday. I look forward to inviting family and friends over for a casual, kid-friendly get together. I call it a Thanksgiving open house since I try (key word - try) to keep the food as warm as possible so people can come by as they can and not worry about walking in on everyone sitting down to a formal Thanksgiving meal. My main struggle with this event has always been the turkey. Personally, I'm not a fan of the big bird and really only like the dark meat. Also, with people coming throughout the afternoon/evening, I don't want the involved part of carving a turkey or worse yet, the turkey drying out, etc. So this year, I've found the perfect replacement - Butterball's turkey roast. It's a combo of white and dark meat, which keeps it extra juicy. I realize butterball doesn't sound that exciting, but I found a great marinade and it cooks on the bbq. In this Marinated Turkey Breast recipe, you first rub the meat with a mixture of garlic, fresh basil, and pepper. Then pierce each breast with 3 whole cloves and marinate them in soy, lemon juice, oil, and brown sugar. The instructions are to marinate for at least 4 hours, but I let these roasts go for a full 24. They were moist and had an excellent flavor. I sliced them up and served them in an electric skillet with accompanying cranberry sauce. No gravy this Thanksgiving.
All in all, I think I cooked about 14 items; some were winners and some were just okay. Hopefully those folks reading my blog that were at our house that day, will agree with me on my selection of dishes to highlight :) One hands-down success was the Rosemary Roasted Cashews from Ina Garten. These were slightly sweet and slightly spicy since they were tossed with fresh chopped rosemary, brown sugar, and cayenne pepper. A definite keeper.
I also enjoyed the Citrus, Fennel, and Rosemary Olives (at the far left of the picture) as well as the Winter Fruit Compote (in the middle bowl).
Another fun make-ahead dish was Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato Fougasse. Extremely enjoyable for me since I hadn't made a yeast bread in years. The smell of fresh bread baking was to die for. This would probably go better at a cocktail party type of function, but I must say we are enjoying the leftovers!
One very big success was the Awesome and Easy Creamy Corn Casserole. This was probably the simplest dish I made, and was also a huge hit with the kids. I did tweak the recipe a bit, but only by adding green onions and a few dashes of green jalapeno pepper sauce. I also made this one day ahead and took it out of the refrigerator about 1 hour before putting it in the oven. So easy and very comforting. This next dish was actually better the second day - Caramelized Onion-Potato Gratin. The topping of breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and lemon zest was definitely not crunchy the second time around, but when reheated, melded beautifully with the potato, onion, and cheese flavors.
A strange, yet flavorful addition to the Thanksgiving menu, was a dish true to my Lebanese heritage - Kibbeh Meatballs. Ground lamb mixed with bulgur, shallots, parsley, and spices. Mix it all in a food processor, shape into balls, brown them in a pan, and serve with a cucumber yogurt dip. These were excellent when eaten right away, but did tend to dry out as they sat in the electric skillet (note to self). Those of you who read my post from New York may recall the raw kibbeh (kibbeh nayye) that was also made from minced lamb and bulgur. I highly doubt I'll ever attempt serving kibbeh nayye to any guests (especially at Thanksgiving!), so kibbeh meatballs is about as close as I'll get.
As for dessert, I only made a couple of items since I knew others were bringing some. Pistachio Sour Cream Cookies and Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes. The cookies were a great combination of a not-so-sweet cookie and a fairly sweet frosting (pictured at the top). If you do attempt to make the cookies, just know that it is basically impossible to find pistachio paste. Your best bet is to make it yourself by grinding up pistachios, powdered sugar, and a little bit of water in a food processor until it is the consistency of marzipan. The Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes are a Paula Deen recipe. That may say it all, but for those of you who don't know Paula, she could easily take the name "Butter Queen", then you add the word "butter" in the title of the recipe, and you've got to believe these pumpkin bars are loaded with it! These were rich and decadent and completely satisfied my pumpkin pie craving.
I sincerely hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and please feel free to share any of your wonderful recipes with me! Now onto making Mexican won-tons for Christmas...to be explained in my next post.