But weirdly, I kind of like it, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been doing it for years.
The first time I hosted Thanksgiving was about 20 years ago and I think I fed around that many people. My mom came over the day before with a couple of my sisters and we all worked side-by-side peeling pounds of potatoes and chopping apples and celery for the stuffing. I didn’t grow up doing these kinds of things with my family — Thanksgiving dinner just kind of appeared – so it was a great team-building exercise, watching my mother stir the butter into the bread crumbs and monitoring the amount of half and half we poured into the potatoes. When we sat down to dinner the next day, we were pleased with the creaminess of the potatoes and nodded to each other as we tasted the apples and sausage in the stuffing. We gave each other a collective pat on the back.
Now that my girls are older, they have become my Thanksgiving soldiers. Our chopping and stirring is in lockstep. There’s no one I’d rather go into battle with than those girls.
Over the years I’ve kept copious notes of my Thanksgiving prep efforts. What worked and didn’t work. Different centerpieces that I tried. The Paula Deen sweet potatoes that made everyone swoon in 2006 and how a homemade pie crust would have been a better match than the Pillsbury affair I paired with the delicious filling in the apple crumble I made in 2007.
This year, we’ll be making dinner for a much smaller crowd than usual. On Thanksgiving it will be my kids and their dad sitting around the table and honestly, I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d rather gather and give thanks with. Unless Oprah wants to come. There’s always room for Oprah.
There are a few staples in my Thanksgiving menu. My stuffing is always a sausage and apple combo (the carmelized onions are the secret-sauce); Barefoot Contessa’s pumpkin banana mousse tart is so delicious you forget pumpkin is involved; and it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without cauliflower served with a white béchamel sauce on the side.
One thing that I’d never change are my mashed potatoes because not only are they consistently perfect (using a ricer ensures the smooth consistency), they can be made the day before. Go ahead, give them a try. And happy Thanksgiving.
Mrs. Pezzuti’s Mashed Potatoes
5 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes
8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. half and half
1 stick butter
1tsp. onion salt **
1 tsp. seasoned salt **
1 tsp. salt **
¼ tsp. pepper **
Peel potatoes cook until tender and drain. (Here’s where the ricer comes in.) Beat softened cream cheese, seasonings, and hot potatoes and butter with hand mixer. Blend well and add half and half.
Put in a buttered 2-quart casserole (preferable a shallow one). Brush top with butter.
Bake at 350-degrees for 30 minutes (can be made 1 to 2 days ahead and refrigerated). Place on foil on cookie sheet, may bubble over.
*If making in advance, give ample time for reheating, taking dish out of fridge well in advance and heating in oven for at least 30 minutes.
**Season according to taste. I use a lot more than what the recipe calls for.
[This is pretty much the same recipe if you’re the sort who needs a video.]
What are your Thanksgiving staples? Share in the comments below!