Our First Thanksgiving: A Photo-Log of Our Meal Together

November 30, 2010 § 19 Comments

Growing up, my grandma hosted our extended family — some years, up to 25 people — for every holiday. On Thanksgiving we’d eat her mushroom stuffing and bring a veggie side dish to share. For the past few years, my grandmother shifted some of the holiday hosting responsibility to my parents (who did Thanksgiving) and aunt and uncle (who handled Christmas).

This year, my husband and I took on the mantle and hosted our first family Thanksgiving. My husband’s parents, brother and sister-in-law and their two-year-old, my parents and my grandparents all flew in to celebrate together.

I guess it could be a little daunting to host your first family holiday get-together, but I was just excited. Obviously, I love cooking, and cooking for 11 allowed me to make things that aren’t physically possible for my husband and me alone to consume before they go bad. I also enjoy showing my love through cooking. It’s a trait I learned from the women in my life — my mother would cook my favorite Indonesian chicken soup and sukiyaki (a Japanese stew) when I came home from college; one grandma would make lodeh, an Indonesian vegetable soup when I came to visit; and the other grandma would bake pumpkin bread or lacy oatmeal cookies for afternoon snacks. And finally, I was pumped to add a few tiny twists to the traditional menu (including time-shifting the holiday from Thursday to Saturday, as my dad had to work on Friday).

So, since some of you asked, and in case any of you need ideas for your winter holiday gatherings, here’s our menu and my plan for preparing everything in time (here: Stephanie M’s Thanksgiving 2010 Menu & Plan) and a photo-log of our first Thanksgiving, where we made nearly everything from scratch.


Our kitchen sink clogged the night before everyone arrived. Awesome. So my brother-in-law, in charge of injecting and deep-frying the Cajun-spiced turkey, resorted to doing his duties in the bathroom sink.

The turkey getting rinsed...

...and injected

Lots of Soft Scrub used after that!

For appetizers, I didn’t make cocktail nuts because most recipes have some form of sugar, and I didn’t want to exclude my grandpa, who has diabetes, from being able to eat them. So I roasted these simply, at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, mixing each batch of nuts in half an egg white before tossing with seasonings. (There’s nothing like freshly toasted and hand-ground pepper — more on that in a later post.)


Roasted almonds with Kosher salt

Roasted walnuts with toasted pepper and salt

I also mixed and baked my husband’s favorite, gougeres — cheese puffs made from a choux paste, an eggy batter flavored here with Gruyere and cracked black pepper.

An army of gougeres ready to be baked

Gougeres, light, warm and crisp from the oven

I used the method from Simple Bites (recipe below) to roast the heritage breed turkey, because it was similar to my favorite simple roast chicken recipe (I’ll post that someday too).

Slathering a stick of butter all over the bird

After melting sliced leeks in butter for 35 minutes, cubing and toasting challah into croutons and layering both with an egg, milk and nutmeg custard and snipped chives and thyme…

Leek bread pudding ready to be baked

…I realized I’d miscalculated our oven height by half an inch. With the 11-pound turkey in there, there was no way the bread pudding was making it inside. Hubby had the brilliant idea of putting the bread pudding on the grill.

Smoky, toasty bread pudding ready to be eaten

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law lowered the other turkey into the deep fryer…

Turkey going into the hot oil

And after some snacking and chatting, the turkeys were ready to be carved and served with fresh cranberry sauce…

Roasted turkey resting in the pan my aunt and uncle sent since they couldn't join us

Gingered cranberry & orange sauce with Grand Marnier

…dinner was served, and before it was over, I had become a turkey convert. I’ve never liked turkey, but the hype about the heritage turkey is true: the meat was denser and more flavorful, and the salt crust and initially high oven heat crisped the skin delectably.

As expected, people were stuffed. But we valiantly moved onto dessert…

Homemade vanilla bean ice cream

Apple pie, decorated with leaf molds courtesy of my friend, Eric

Walnut pie, which was everyone’s favorite

We also had pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, made from a recipe by Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake, Epic Roasthouse and Top Chef.

By the end of the night, we’d used most of the dishes and silverware we owned, there was a vat of peanut oil in my backyard, and I was dead tired. But it felt amazing to have hosted our first family holiday, to have both of our families together instead of having to choose, and to have everyone happily and lovingly fed.


In case you want to make any of these yourself, here are links to the recipes or recipe sources (click on the food items):

Gougeres and pie crust – From the Tartine cookbook

Leek bread pudding – From the ad hoc cookbook (though I’d double the amount of leeks in the recipe)

Roasted turkey

Walnut pie, very easy yet elegant and delicious, made without the chocolate

Apple pie – From the Joy of Cooking cookbook (though I use 3 pounds vs. 2 1/2 pounds of apples and increase the other filling ingredients by 25% too)

Vanilla bean ice cream – From the ad hoc cookbook, using the KitchenAid mixer ice cream attachment

Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting


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