When you think of Thanksgiving, what images come to mind? Roast turkey? Pumpkin pie? Watching football? Perhaps the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? I think of those things too, but more so I look forward to designing a tablescape that will say “welcome” to my guests and creating a menu that will delight their palates.
This year, the turkey didn’t take center stage as our entree but made it to the soup. Brussels sprouts weren’t a side dish but made their appearance in a salad. Sweet potatoes weren’t a side dish either but when combined with pecans and spices became a dessert. Pumpkin co-starred in a mushroom lasagna that served as the entree and made an appearance in the dessert as well. Get the picture? I changed things up a bit.
Why? I like the element of surprise and another roasted turkey as the entree didn’t excite me. Though I switched things up somewhat, the bountiful menu was grounded with traditional fare.
Speaking of tradition, it’s been customary that friends, Billa and Luci, contribute to the dinner. This year Luci made the Brussels sprouts salad and Billa made a pumpkin roulade for dessert. Both were visually enticing, as well as scrumptious. The entire menu is below.
As for the table setting, I typically use my special dinnerware. I say usually because, this year, and you won’t believe this, I bought plates and soup bowls in Dollar Tree. You read that right! I was shopping there for something else and came upon a set of colorful and beautiful patterned dinnerware. I bought what I needed (at an amazing price of $1.25 each) and created my table design around them. For the centerpiece, I painted an old ceramic orange pumpkin blue to match the pumpkins in the dinnerware. Luci had lovely fabric pumpkins and white pumpkin napkin holders that I borrowed to complement the tablescape. The end result delivered a colorful and welcoming table. Filled with texture and color, I think this tablescape was one of my best!
Pickled Pepperoncini Deviled Eggs
Caramelized Apple and Fennel in Pastry Cup Drizzled with Thyme Honey
Roasted Turkey and Spinach
Pumpkin and Mushroom Lasagna
Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Cranberries and Pistachios in White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Sweet Potato Spiced Cookies
Pumpkin Roulade with Mascarpone and White Chocolate
Below are guidelines to several of the recipes:
ROAST TURKEY & SPINACH - The Soup
Turkey didn’t star as the entree this Thanksgiving. I opted, instead, to use it in a soup. The best part was that it could be made days prior to the holiday. A Taste of Home Turkey Soup recipe was my inspiration (www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/turkey-soup) with a few tweaks. In lieu of using a leftover 14-pound turkey carcass as noted in the recipe, I roasted a 3-pound bone-in turkey breast and used the bones to make the stock. The end result was not what I had hoped. The stock didn’t deliver the richness I expected, and the white meat was dry and lacking the depth of flavor of dark meat. I added spinach to the soup, giving it a healthy kick and good color.
Reminder to myself, dark meat rules!
PUMPKIN & MUSHROOM LASAGNA – The Entree
The entree should star, and it did! It was a vegetable lasagna made from a combination of recipes I found online. The result was a luscious and creamy lasagna with complex flavors and just the right texture. I layered with bechamel, lasagna sheets, pumpkin, mushrooms, cheese and more bechamel sauce on top.
a) A simple bechamel sauce with added grated Gruyere cheese to round out the flavor.
b) Roasted pumpkin, mashed with a touch of butter and cream.
c) A variety of mushrooms, including shiitake, baby bella and dried chanterelles.
After reconstituting the chanterelles, I sautéed a large shallot and a few cloves of garlic,
I added in all the mushrooms and cooked until the mushrooms began to soften and
sweat. Then, I added some good, fruity red wine and thyme and cooked until the
mushrooms were tender and fragrant. Finally, I added salt and pepper to taste.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS – The Salad - By Luci
Raw Brussels sprouts make a great salad. Like other cruciferous vegetables (arugula, cauliflower, kale, turnips, and watercress among others) they harbor a mildly bitter component and are a wee bit sweet with terrific crunch.
Dressing: Equal parts evoo and white balsamic vinegar, 1/8 teaspoon grated garlic, 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
Other ingredients: Fruit and nuts and cheese make a great supporting cast. Dried fruits, especially cranberries, cherries or apples provide the feel of fall, although other ingredients, especially ruby-red pomegranate seeds, can do the same. Pistachios or pine nuts are a good choice. As for cheese, parmesan is a favorite, but others such as cheddar or gouda would work as well.
SWEET POTATO SPICED COOKIES – The first Dessert
These cookies combine sweet potatoes, brown sugar, toasted pecans, cinnamon and nutmeg deliver an autumnal flavor. I followed a recipe from Delish.com and instead of using canned sweet potato puree, I made my own.
Here’s how - pierce two medium size sweet potatoes all over with a fork then microwave on high for 4 minutes. Turn potato over, then microwave for another four minutes or until fork tender. Let cool then scoop out 1/2 cup of flesh. Follow recipe accordingly.
PUMPKIN ROULADE – The second Dessert - By Billa
Billa chose to make Martha Stewart's pumpkin roulade with macarpone and white chocolate. It was tasty and beautiful.