It makes perfect sense that I’m offering Thanksgiving sides by RR4 this year. Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite meal of the year. Every dish – turkey, stuffing, potatoes, Brussel sprouts, even the relish tray – makes me so, incredibly happy. And over time, I’ve perfected several recipes, some new and some passed down through family, to create a delicious, comforting meal.
Of course, food aside, Thanksgiving is rich with so many memories and traditions. When we were kids, Thanksgiving meant my family traveled from Abilene, Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri. That was big time for the Johnson kids. All my mother’s family gathered for a long day of snacking on Aunt Mary Lynn’s cheese straws and Seville olives, Grandad’s ham salad with Ritz crackers, and of course lots of bloody Mary’s for the adults. We sat down to a formal table – adults at one table, kids spread across two. Grandad led prayers after which the grandkids promptly dove into the relish tray and covered every fingertip with black olives… then we washed them down promptly with sparkling cider served in Mary Lynn’s crystal. So fancy!
The menu included cornbread stuffing, a smoked turkey, beef tenderloin, THE MOST decedent mashed potatoes topped with Corn Flakes and lots of butter… oh, it was so, so good! I’m sure there was a veg in there somewhere, but the beef and potatoes trumped any recollection today.
So, over time, I’ve tried to keep some of these traditions and recipes alive, while experimenting with others. Just after my husband and I were married, we hosted “Friendsgiving” with some of our closest friends. It was my first turkey and I must say, I nailed it! But I must give all thanks to the Queen herself, Martha Stewart. That year, I discovered the beauty of the brine, and how to get the perfect browned bird by soaking a cheese cloth in chicken stock and covering the bird with it while roasting.
Then a couple years later, we hosted our families in our new home. That was the Thanksgiving I made Giada De Laurentiis’ Chestnut and Pancetta stuffing. I think I won over my mother-in-law with that meal. We’ve never had a Thanksgiving without it since. And although I strayed from my brine that year, it was okay because that very next day I learned I was roasting another little bird of my own… our first son, Luca who was born later that summer. Lots to be thankful for that year.
My butternut squash soup also has a very fond memory attached. It was given to me by my dear friend and former neighbor Lourdes Cano. Lourdes, Jonathan and their children are truly family. We miss them dearly since they moved, but I always think of her when I make that soup and am comforted by both the warmth of the soup and the many memories our families shared while we were neighbors.
So now, I’m pleased to offer some of these recipes to your family and friends this Thanksgiving. I hope by using RR4 to create your side dishes, you can relax and soak in all the goodness that is this wonderful holiday: Thanksgiving.