Today we'll go from the dining room to the kitchen, and I'll share what I've learned when it comes to planning a menu and preparing a meal in a rental house. Since we drive to Charleston, we have a bit more freedom to pack than if we had to fly somewhere. If you're flying to your Thanksgiving destination, you'll need to narrow down this list. (Hint: Don't bring that knife.)
Not traveling? There's still some sanity-saving advice and plenty of recipe ideas.
Plus, one of my favorite recipes for Brussels sprouts.
Thanksgiving is the perfect day to showcase fall food, so look to dishes that use traditional flavors and pick out a few that have ingredient overlap. Cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, thyme, maple syrup, brown sugar, port, cranberries and pumpkin are found in plenty of Thanksgiving dishes, and you'll reduce cost, waste, and likelihood of forgetting to add it to your grocery list if you double up on some.
Carrot soup with carrot top pesto via Love and Lemons
Quinoa salad with roasted sweet potato, kale, and pesto vinaigrette via Cookie and Kate
Sweet potato pound cake via Design Sponge
Bring a sharp knife. (Unless you're flying.) I have never been in a vacation house that had decent knives. Sharp knives are easier, safer, and infinitely less frustrating to use than those dull knives you find in a rental kitchen.
Read your recipes beforehand and take note of any special equipment they require. In this case, special means anything beyond a plate, a fork, or a cutting board. My sweet potato roll recipes uses muffin tins, and you can be sure that I bring a few with me.
Oatmeal cranberry brulée via Culinary Envy
Sweet potato dinner rolls via The Splendid Table
3. KEEP IT SIMPLE
I love a complex recipe. Julia Child begins one of my favorite recipes with "a note on the order of battle." I mean, that's awesome. But Thanksgiving is not the day. You don't know what the counter space will be like, how well the oven will work, or how many other people will need that oven for their dishes. Choose recipes that have some wiggle room, and that don't call for obscure utensils. Leave the chinois and pasta roller at home.
Maple cayenne Brussels sprouts (recipe below)
The ultimate guide to roasting your vegetables via Bon Appétit
Glazed pearl onions and grapes via epicurious
Cranberries, probably. I make my cranberries a day or two before we leave, and pack them into a cooler for the drive down. They're actually better made in advance.
Cranberry chutney via epicurious
Roasted beets with sesame and marjoram via Bon Appétit
Know of a bakery nearby? Well there's your pumpkin pie. It's OK to leave a few things to the experts.
I will never make that mistake again.
MAPLE CAYENNE BRUSSELS SPROUTS
1 lb Brussels sprouts, rinsed and sliced in half lengthwise
2 tbs bacon fat, or, if you don't keep a jar of bacon fat in your fridge (you should start), olive oil or butter will do just fine
2 tbs maple syrup
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
Heat the fat of your choice in a cast iron skillet on medium high. Place Brussels sprouts on skillet, cut side down, in a single layer. Sear a few minutes, until the cut side a rich brown. (It's important to keep the sprouts in a layer and not to pile them up - you may need to do this step in batches. If so, simply place browned sprouts in a bowl until all are done, then add them back into the skillet for the next step.)
Once sprouts are browned on one side, toss them in the skillet with syrup and cayenne pepper for about 30 seconds. Sprouts should still be have bright green leaves and be pretty firm. Take the Brussels sprouts off the heat, season with salt to taste, and serve.
What are your Thanksgiving plans? Who's traveling? And any recipes I must try?