Seitan "Turkey" and Rice Dressing with Portabella Mushrooms
Mushroom Herb Gravy
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans with Walnut-Cherry Vinaigrette
Classic Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce with Blueberry Lager
Sweet Potato Pie
Each year, our Thanksgiving menu gathers together a balance of traditional dishes, the ones we always know will be on our family's Thanksgiving table, and the new dishes that delight in the opportunity to experiment for the festive occasion at hand. When I took over the majority of the family cooking duties as a young teenager, our Thanksgiving menu became very Irish. I'm not entirely sure why my passion for Ireland fixated so intensely upon Thanksgiving, but for the majority of my latter childhood, soda bread and "sunshine" mashed carrots and parsnips graced our table holiday. I put leeks and cabbage in the mashed potatoes, and gazed longingly at the velvet hills and rocky cliffs in my Irish cookbooks as my mother patiently arranged the table setting and remarkably said not a word despite our total lack of Irish heritage.
To this day, carrots and parsnips are mandatory on our Thanksgiving menu. Just this year, though, I allowed myself to modify our adopted Irish Thanksgiving tradition just a bit, when I read of a roasted carrots and parsnips recipe in Cooks Illustrated. The dish turned out incredibly, of course - everything Cooks Illustrated creates is flawless, and all vegetables simply become 100% better when they're roasted. Oh yes, and the recipe contains rosemary, too, which is my favorite herb - and always readily available thanks to The Giant Rosemary Bush presiding over our back garden. The prep is a breeze, simply entailing slicing the root veggies into strips (there are somewhat terrifyingly detailed directions in the Cooks Illustrated magazine on exactly how to achieve the proper-sized slices, but I'm not quite as fussy as the Test Kitchen recipe authors, and was content with simply making slices of uniform size), tossing with a bit of herby-butter, and into the oven to caramelize into roasted perfection.
One recipe I always create anew for Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce. Each year my mother fixes a blessedly enormous batch of classic whole-berry cranberry sauce, which our entire family adores, and I set out to make the most unusual cranberry sauce/relish/chutney I can concoct. This year, I made one with beer. Anyone who's attempted to count the number of versions of beer bread I've posted over the years can attest to my fondness for inserting beer into any sort of foodstuff. Including cranberry sauce!
Because holidays are a time for traditions... and for giving heartfelt thanks for the bounty in our pantry, which allows us to create delicious new experiments too!
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Rosemary
(Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, November 2010)
1 lb parsnips
1 lb baby-cut carrots
4 T SmartBalance Light or butter, melted
1 T finely minced fresh rosemary
~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
~ Slice the parsnips into approximately the same size pieces as the baby carrots. If any of the baby carrots are especially huge, slice them in half length-wise.
~ In a large bowl, toss the parsnips and carrots with the melted SmartBalance Light (or butter) and the rosemary. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
~ Scatter the carrots and parsnips in a single layer across a large baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil, sealing the edges well.
~ Bake, covered, for 15 minutes.
~ Remove the aluminum foil covering, and bake for another 15 minutes.
~ Stir gently, and bake for 15 more minutes - until the veggies are very tender and golden brown around the edges.
~ Serve warm!
Cranberry Sauce with Blueberry Lager
(Adapted from Cooking Light November 2010)
12 oz Wild Blue blueberry Lager
1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
12 oz fresh cranberries
~ Bring the blueberry lager to a boil in a medium saucepan.
~ Stir in the sugar, orange zest, and cranberries, and adjust the heat to a simmer.
~ Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened but the cranberries are still somewhat intact - approx 15 to 18 minutes.
~ Transfer the mixture to the fridge, and serve chilled!