Our Thanksgiving Plans (And a Recipe for Dressing)

We're sticking around here for Thanksgiving this year, which is a mixed bag of emotions for me.  I am so excited and thankful that our little family is forming our own traditions.  We have the opportunity to have some friends stay overnight with us (friends from Virginia who now live in Rhode Island), and our dear Fellow Southern Transplants are also going to join us for a big dinner on Thursday.  Yes, we miss extended family so much - especially at big times like holidays - but a home overflowing with friends is a blessing not to be overlooked.  We have much to be thankful for.

Family Thankful Tree: Heavy-laden Tree, indeed!
Thankful for these two bright souls!
Our food roundup this week is going to be pretty straightforward, as far as Thanksgivings go.  I am preparing the turkey.  I have pretty consistent success with brining turkeys when I've prepared them before.  Brine is basically concentrated salt water, and the bird sits in the solution for a lot of hours (18-24 is what I'll be going for).  I will bake it in an oven bag on Thursday morning, and the Mister will be in charge of carving it up.

Here is a brine recipe that I will probably use as a starting point: Good Eats Roast Turkey by Alton Brown.  But, let's be honest ... I don't have allspice berries hanging out, and it's unlikely that I'll go out and buy them.  In fact, I'm not sure that my palate is distinguished enough to notice a mere 1 1/2 teaspoons of ginger either in a giant bird.  That's why I'm loosely bound to this recipe.  So, my brine will be salt, a little sugar, and peppercorns.  When the bird goes in the oven, there will be some celery, onions, lots of garlic, and most likely an apple in the cavity.

If you're really not sure about brining a whole turkey, you can try the technique on any other kind of meat at a time that is less emotionally loaded ... take a whole chicken, a roast, or other cut of meat, and submerge it in saltwater for some hours.  The salt in the water acts as a tenderizer and moisturizer.  Really ... it's hard to beat.

Other than the bird, I am in charge of making some gravy and a pan of dressing.  The Homeowners are bringing a pumpkin dessert, homemade cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes.  The Fellow Southerners are bringing all the delicious vegetable sides: squash, green beans ... be still, my beating heart.

Here's a side note: I have recently learned that "dressing" is a southern phenomenon.  Yankees (and perhaps everyone else that does not have southern roots) do not eat "dressing," they eat "stuffing."  Dear friends, I will be preparing dressing.  I never identified myself as a "southerner" until I moved away.  But by golly, I will call myself any kind of Southerner if it means I get to eat this:

Crumble up 1 pan of cornbread, 6 slices of lightly toasted white bread, and 10 baked Hungry Jack biscuits in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, combine 5 cups of broth (any kind), 2 1/2 cups chopped celery, and 1 large onion, diced.  Pour the broth mixture into the bread mixture.  Divide between two 9"x13" pans.  Beat 3 eggs and pour over the dressing.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until brown and set.

Since our friends (The Strategic Family) are going to be staying overnight with us, I am also planning some meals for Friday that won't require me to be in the kitchen for hours.  Breakfast will (most likely) be a make-ahead pan of apple-cranberry baked oatmeal.  I plan on putting this Hunter's Minestrone in the crock pot on Friday morning for a warm lunch along with some grilled cheese sandwiches.  And dinner will be turkey leftovers (perhaps in sandwich form?  Leftover dressing is a great alternative to sliced bread).
Apple-Cranberry Baked Oatmeal
What about you?  What's your Thanksgiving table looking like?

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