Giving thanks for Thanksgiving

So you'll quickly become aware that Nick and I both love to cook. For me cooking and baking has become such a joy and it's even more wonderful when I get to share that with others. Soooo....

Check out my new "nice" dishes and table whatnots! (Thanks Goodwill)

Nick and I decided to host Thanksgiving. This is the first holiday either of us have ever hosted.
We've had the occasional dinner parties with friends, but having family over for a holiday meal?
That's throwing down a whole new gauntlet. Since we are both crazy about food, a food centered holiday seemed like a good fit.

The original plan was to finally get our families together under one roof. We offered to get hotel rooms for my parents and my brother and his family. Unfortunately, it didn't work out...this year.

Honestly, I think that turned out for the best. Even though we ended up cooking enough for 12 people, fitting them all into our small apartment and keeping them entertained would have been .... terrifying. 

So, this was a nice starter Thanksgiving with Nick's parents, his sister and her boyfriend.
Nick and I both had our stressed out moments, but they didn't seems to extend past a frustrated hour or two. This is a particular achievement for me because when I get stressed, I can get really unpleasant. I think the fact that cooking calms me probably helped quite a bit.

Anyway, it was a success! I had a blast and learned a lot about little hosting things (THANK YOU INTERNET.) We did food prep starting on the Sunday before so we weren't overburdened with cooking projects when the guests arrived. I also woke up at 6:30am that morning which was actually unnecessary but I was anxious and excited.

I could go on about the whole experience and how elated I am that it actually went well, but I wanted to write about the food. OH THE FOOD!

So let's begin:

The bird. The centerpiece to the whole meal. Can we be real here?
I haven't had a lot of really fantastic Thanksgiving turkeys in my life. 
After making a recent transition to a vegetarian to pescatarian to flexitarian (still can't digest red meat, but I'm all about birds and fish) it's become much more important to me that meat actually tastes good instead of just eating it to eat it. I mean, why bother? If it doesn't taste good I can just load up on some quinoa or tofu and call it a day.

So, I wanted the bird to be delicious and after some serious research I decided that this was the way to go:

Don't panic.

That right there is a spatchcocked turkey and it cooks HOT (450 degrees) for only 90 minutes.
Yeah, no early morning wake ups, no basting, just express some of your existential rage by cutting out it's backbone and flattening it out.
Serious Eats was the best source I could find on the whole process.
We also tried a dry brine, which is simply rubbing the thawed bird down with salt, herbs and a little bit of baking powder (for a nice crisp skin) covering it loosely with plastic wrap and letting it sit in the fridge for at least 1 day (we did 3.) 
You can learn all about that here.

Can I tell you something?
When we went to carve that beast, juice was squirting out of it. It was moist and tender and full of flavor and I am so glad I made way too much because leftovers are to die for.

I highly recommend this. The turkey gets carved no matter what so don't stress if it looks weird because it tastes AMAZING.

Ok, ok I've already went on for too long. Here's a run down of what else we served:
Nick's dirty mashed potatoes - the ultimate comfort food in our home.
 He basically roasts a bunch of new potatoes, skin on, with garlic cloves and pearl onions and then throws them in the mixer with the paddle attachment with some butter and OMG.


Nick also made stuffing by mixing a bunch of recipes together and then following his heart.
  You'll learn that this is a trend for him. It usually turns out to be delish.

Nick also roasted up some carrots and parsnips (from his dad's garden) which was a welcomed simple side dish.

I am a spaz and spent most of the week before the big day doing food prep. 
Oh and I labeled it all. AND that whiteboard that's out of focus in the background, that had the whole menu, a checklist, oven times and a timeline for the morning of Thanksgiving day.
I can't turn off the producer/AD/director ... or whatever.

I'm so ready!

Not to be outdone by Nick, I prepared about a billion more calories in the following form:
Butternut squash and caramelized onion galette.

Wild rice, cranberry and pecan salad (for fiber)
Brussel sprout, apple and pomegranate salad. Honestly, I think I just picked it because it was so pretty, but I think it's usually good form to have some roughage on the table (this might be my former vegetarian self coming through)

Beautiful, delicious and guilt free. I'm fine with having a ton of this left over.

Over the past few years I have really begun to LOVE making my own breads.
The only bummer is how time consuming it can be, and I still have a lot to learn so sometimes that time (and the bread) can go to waste. 
I really wanted to make my own dinner rolls for Thanksgiving and since I wasn't going to go through all the effort to just make some plain old boring rolls, I found these:
Mini scallion pancake challah buns.

Weee!

I also made my own gravy for the first time ever which was a lot easier than I thought.
Nick's mom and sister provided some amazing pies for dessert and we all ate enough to hold us over for an entire week... but that didn't stop us from eating pie for lunch the next day.

Apple pie = best lunch ever.

I'm probably forgetting a few things, but MAN we had a great time.

Personally, I'd like to keep hosting this holiday. Hopefully next year we'll have a little more room so we can have more family and friends over.

That was easily my biggest regret. I wish everyone could have enjoyed the afternoon with us, ate too much and enjoyed each others' company.

Next year?

I sure hope so.
 

Arlo, our butler, got to enjoy some extra goodness in the kitchen.