The holy four-day weekend known as Thanksgiving is upon us and if your family is anything like mine you turn to your tried-and-true staple dishes every year. There’s a certain comfort and familiarity in preparing the same dishes and the same way: you know exactly what to plan for, how much to buy, and who hates what. Our family has been eating pretty much the same dinner for as long as I can remember. For the last eight years or so we’ve been hosting the dinner at our house so in addition to much of the dinner I’ve also been in charge of appetizers. Family drives in from far away bringing their special, unchanging-dishes in with them while we plan in advance to create the bulk of the meal. Until Thanksgiving was hosted at our house, appetizers were an afterthought.
Since my family doesn’t eat lunch on Thanksgiving Day we rely on appetizers to hold us over till dinner. I love to plan the appetizers because I can change them each year as they are not bound to tradition. Here are some of the ideas I’m considering for this year:
One of my favorite appetizers is one I can’t always eat: stuffed jalapenos wrapped with bacon. Sometimes I can indulge my love for these and sometimes I can’t. It depends on the heat of the peppers. But they are so, so good. The cream cheese becomes molten to match the jalapeno-pepper fire in your mouth. I don’t even need to add that the bacon just makes the whole thing taste that much better. Recipe can be found here.
I am not embarrassed (thought maybe I should be) to admit I’ve eaten whole wheels of baked brie for dinner, let alone indulging in it as an appetizer. I blame my mother in law for introducing it to me. What you do is you take a wheel of cheese. Butter the top and sprinkle it with sliced almonds. Drizzle it with honey and set it in an ovenproof dish. (I plan to have several attractive vintage ones up in the shop soon.) Put it in an oven preheated to 350 F and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cut through the rind and dip into the gooey goodness with poached asparagus spears, pear or apple slices, or my favorite: crusty bread.
Healthy, green, fresh… edamame are perfect for guilt-free snacking. These beans are the young version of the soybean. Boiled and salted they are quick and satisfying. You can often find them in the frozen food section if your grocery does not stock them in the produce aisle.
I’m sure everyone’s seen the incredibly dumb edible arrangements ads on TV. I shake my head when I see them thinking wow, they’ve made something good into something mediocre. For an edible fruit arrangement to be good, it has to be fresh. Then it’s not just good, it’s spectacular. My friend Julie is amazing at putting these together, like this one that she made for my baby shower. If you want to cement your friendship with anyone who is pregnant, prepare fresh fruit for them and they will love you forever. First she wedged a head of ice burg lettuce into a bowl that just barely fit—the heavier the bowl, the better, because that will counter-balance your skewers. Then, take bamboo barbecue skewers and thread fruit such as strawberries, orange crescents, grapes, and pineapple wedges on it. (This exact fruit arrangement led me to realize I was mildly allergic to pineapple while pregnant.) In addition to being perfectly delicious as is, fresh fruit always benefits from a slight sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of chocolate, or an avocado citrus dip.
SWEET POTATO FRIES
Our Thanksgiving meal is fixed in nature and varies only very slightly from year to year. One thing we never have on the menu is sweet potatoes. That American concoction with the scorched marshmallows on top? I’ve never had it. So I was thinking of making sweet potato fries at appetizers. As a bonus they can be prepped (peeled, sliced, even doused with oil and rolled in seasonings) and frozen in advance. I don’t have a double oven and space is an issue sometimes, but I can make do. I particularly love curry powder on my sweet potato fries. Bake at a 400 F oven for 25-30 minutes. If you want to go all out, fry them.
My family is full of health nuts and vegetable lovers (myself included). We always, without fail, have crudités as part of our appetizer spread. We do like to change up the dip from time to time. Recently I’ve been infatuated with spinach dip although homemade guacamole always goes over very well.
I’ve been contemplating doing soup this year. Nothing too heavy, but something that can be sipped on that will tide you over till dinner. The added bonus is that soup could be prepared in advance, frozen, and then thawed and reheated the day of. Pumpkin is a natural choice, unless at this point you are all pumpkin’d out. Which is quite un-American of you, really.
How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?