I grew up eating the same meal every Thanksgiving. Turkey, natch, with a simple bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, creamed onions (much better than they sound), and the ubiquitous green bean casserole. You know, the one with cream of mushroom soup and canned French-fried onion rings on top. We’d also have freshly baked rolls, my mother’s sweet pickles, canned ripe olives that we would stick on our fingers, and lots of pie (pumpkin, of course, but usually mince and often something like gooseberry, too).
My mother and grandmother would spend all day in the kitchen. When I was young my job was feeding oranges and fresh cranberries into a meat grinder to make our traditional relish (this was pre-Cuisinart), and trying to keep the bright red juice off the floor. While Uncle Olie watched football on TV, Aunt Margaret sipped a vodka cocktail and came in only to make the gravy, which she did using nothing fancier than a big wooden spoon.
Call me sentimental, but I still prepare the same meal* every year. I heard Jacques Pepin say that Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday because it’s about sharing good food with people you care for, and I have to agree. You don’t need to impress anyone with exotic preparations or pretensions of fine dining. Just serve real good food.
Roll over the Thanksgiving tab under Real Good Recipes above for my T-day recipes; if you don’t want to cook a whole turkey, try turkey thigh confit.