Like a lot of you, I've got Thanksgiving on the brain, 24-7. It's been that way for about a week or two, ever since we got the wonderful news that our L.A. friends, Claire and John, plus their two kids and one dog, will be joining us for the holiday. We've also got some other fabulous friends coming (and their dog) plus my mom, of course. So in a matter of a few days, our Thanksgiving went from a small, maybe-no-turkey affair to seven adults, two children, and three dogs.
I know some of you host much larger dinners, but for us, this is big. And exciting!
I've mentioned Claire before; she's an old friend. We've been through a lot together but these days are bound primarily by our shared ridiculous sense of humor and our mutual love of food. If there are better things to adhere a friendship, I can't imagine what they would be.
We've been having a grand time planning the menu. Appetizers have been a great topic of discussion. I originally asked Claire, who is from Texas, if she would make her famous cheese pennies, which she agreed to do, in two flavors (plain and smoked paprika). She then suggested another dish which I can't help but think of as uniquely Texan: pink onion Earl dip served with Fritos and gherkins.
"Or midget pickles," she mused thoughtfully as I stared at the phone in disbelief. I was still mentally digesting Fritos as part of a recipe. Midget pickles?
She's also making Cajun pecans, and something she keeps referring to as a Pickle Plate. My understanding is that this is not simply a plate of pickles, midget and otherwise, but various vegetables, pickled. It's actually a good idea to have something tart and briny next to the richness of sweet potatoes and gravy.
Lest you think I am simply pretending to host Thanksgiving while forcing my friend to cook everything, I am indeed going to cook a few things, though not a lot in the way of snacks. My meager contribution to the appetizer table is going to be stuffed mushrooms. I had the idea that this was something fun and festive and simple to make; plus they can be served at room temperature. After a little searching, I decided on this recipe from Ina Garten.
I tested it last night, subbing chicken-garlic-basil sausage for the pork sausage, since Claire and her family aren't huge meat eaters.
The mushooms turned out nearly perfect. I am definitely going to make these for Thanksgiving, only I won't stuff them as full as Ina suggests. It made them a little tough to eat. And, I may opt for smaller mushrooms. Although big ones are easier to work with on the front-end, little ones are better for eating.
I hope you all are having fun planning your Thanksgiving dinner. There's much to think about, even just when it comes to the turkey: Organic or free range? Stuffing or dressing? To brine or not to brine? However, in the midst of all the chaos, I think even the fussiest cooks are usually able to lighten up and appreciate the real centerpiece of the holiday: being together. And pie.