“For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.”
Thanksgiving, also known as “Turkey Day,” is one of the most important “food” holidays of the year. Thanksgiving, a harvest holiday celebrated in the United States and Canada, has traditionally been a day of giving thinks to God for all material possessions and mostly, for a bountiful harvest. Most modern Thanksgiving traditions originated with the first Thanksgiving dinner which took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. This Thanksgiving dinner was modeled after traditional harvest festivals which took place in Europe at the time. There is evidence that the harvest for the first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, providing food for over 50 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. This first Thanksgiving feast included: seafood such as cod, eel and bass; shellfish (clams, lobster, mussels); wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and TURKEY); venison; berries and other fruits; vegetables (peas, beetroot, possibly onions); harvest grains; beans; corn; and lastly, squash.
There were irregular Thanksgiving feasts after the first Thanksgiving, with an even larger one occurring in 1623 after a great drought. Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony described this Thanksgiving in his journal which was published as Plymouth Plantation, writing,
And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving… By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty … for which they blessed God. And the effect of their particular planting was well seen, for all had … pretty well … so as any general want or famine had not been amongst them since to this day.
– William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation
Today, Thanksgiving is still celebrated every year in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November. It was originally celebrated as a religious holiday but it is also celebrated as a secular holiday and has been a National Holiday since 1863. Though the modern Thanksgiving dinner varies by region and culture, a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner will typically include a roasted turkey, some kind of stuffing, mashed potato, vegetable, and pumpkin or apple pie.
The thought of making a real Thanksgiving dinner intimidates me and I know I am not alone. There’s a reason why more and more restaurants are staying open on this holiday and offering complete takeout Thanksgiving faux home-cooking dinners. Making a Thanksgiving dinner can be costly, time consuming, and scary! But it doesn’t have to be. And this year I made sure that I was going to take on the challenge to prove to myself and my readers that not only is it possible for even an amateur chef to prepare an entire traditional Thanksgiving meal that tastes good, but it’s also fun!
Here is an elegant menu that I used for my first home-cooked Thanksgiving.
|My Thanksgiving Fairytale Feast
Fairytale Feasts Thanksgiving Menu
Stuffed Turkey Roulade
Cranberry Fig Sausage Stuffing
Potato and Turnip Gratin
Oven Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Orange Cranberry Sauce
Chocolate Pecan Tart
Traditional Pumpkin Pie (Store Bought)
THANKSGIVING PREPARATION SCHEDULE
OPTION A: TWO DAY PREP
1 Day Ahead:
1) Prepare Pumpkin and Acorn Squash Soup.
2) Prepare Stuffing for Turkey Roulade.
3) Prepare the Potato Turnip Gratin. You have the option of baking it in the oven and reheating next day. OR you can just prepare it and let it sit in refrigerator and bake it the following day.
4) Set the table.
1) Prepare the Turkey Roulade.
2) Roast turkey and excess stuffing.
3) Prepare the chocolate pecan tart and bake in over after turkey and stuffing are done.
4) Heat the Potato Turnip Gratin in the Oven.
5) Prepare the Orange Cranberry Sauce.
6) Prepare and bake the Chocolate Pecan Tart.
7) Roast the Parsnips and Carrots.
OPTION B: ONE DAY PREP
1) Prepare the Pumpkin Soup.
2) Prepare the Turkey Roulade Stuffing.
3) Assemble the Turkey Roulade.
4) Roast turkey and excess stuffing.
5) Prepare Potato and Turnip Gratin. Set aside.
6) When Turkey Roulade and Stuffing are finished, bake the Potato and Turnip Gratin.
7) While Turnip Gratin is baking, prepare the Chocolate Pecan Tart.
8) Bake the Chocolate Pecan Tart.
9) Prepare the Cranberry Orange Sauce.
10) Prepare and roast the Parsnips and Carrots.
If you are looking for an easier, less time consuming take on this traditional Thanksgiving staple, try this elegant recipe for a stuffed turkey roulade. The roulade itself is so pretty and elegant to serve, not only on Thanksgiving, but on other holidays or special occasions. I adopted from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. You can view her original recipe here.
Fairytale Stuffed Turkey Roulade
3/4 cup figs
1 cup cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups of chopped sweet cooking onion
1 lb uncased sweet Italian sausage
1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary
3-4 cups of seasoned stuffing mix
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 large egg
1 large turkey breast (or 2-3 halves of the white meat), deboned and butterflied (about 4-5 lbs)
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter (to pour over turkey)
Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish
Add the figs, cranberries, orange juice and water to a small sauce pan and bring mixture to a boil. Simmer for two minutes and set aside.
Melt butter in large skillet over medium high heat and add in the onions and celery. Saute until softened. Add the sausauge and crumble into small pieces, sauteeing for about 10 minutes until all the pieces are browned. Add the figs and cranberries (with the liquid) to the sausage vegetable mixture. Add the chopped rosemary and mix well.
Place the stuffing mix in a large bowl. Add the sausage vegetable mixture, chicken stock, egg, and salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lay the butterflied turkey breast down on a tray or cutting board (if skin, skin side down). Place saran wrap over the turkey and pound together with a mallet until flat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing over the turkey, creating about a 1/2 inch layer. Be careful not to put in too much stuffing! Now roll the turkey over into a cylinder and tuck in all the stuffing that falls out. Use kitchen twine to secure the turkey roll’s shape.
Place the excess stuffing in a buttered gratin dish and bake for about 40 minutes. Place the turkey on a sheet pan or in a roasting pan. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until the turkey reads 150 degrees in the center. In a regular oven, this will take about 1 1/2 – 2 hours depending on the size and width of your turkey. Using a convection bake oven, this takes about an 1 hour. Baste the turkey roll with the juice from the pan while it is cooking.
Cover the turkey roulade with foil and let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve sliced on a platter and garnish with fresh rosemary. Serve the leftover stuffing in the gratin dish.
And remember, if all else fails and your Thanksgiving Fairytale turns into a Thanksgiving nightmare, “It isn’t so much what’s on the table that matters as what’s on the chairs.” ~ W.S. Gilbert.