Everyone who knows me in real life knows that in my house, Thanksgiving is Serious Business. I start thinking about a theme months in advance. In early October, I start thinking about menus and planning my guest list. As soon as the Bon Appetit November issue comes out, I snap up a copy, drag out my old editions, and start bookmarking recipes to try to pull together a cohesive menu. I look through all my cookbooks with the selected theme in mind, and I comb the internet for centerpiece ideas and interesting cocktail recipes.
By the first weekend in November, I have my guest list narrowed down, my invites done, and my recipes more or less selected. The next week, I write up a giant, handwritten grocery list broken down by dish so that I don’t forget to buy anything. I cross reference this list with local grocery stores, so that I don’t end up at a store where they don’t sell a particular item. This is especially important in the Juarez/El Paso area, where only a few stores carry “specialty” items. Finally, I work up my master schedule of cooking/baking. The goal of my schedule is to do as much as I can in advance and to minimize extra prep work. For example, I set aside one evening to chop all the onions, carrots, potatoes, etc for all of the recipes. Everything gets measured and put in a labelled ziplock bag in the fridge, which is organized shelf by shelf. This sounds like an insane process, and I’ll be the first to admit that it kind of is, but I love love LOVE it.
The first few Thanksgivings we hosted, I provided the turkey, stuffing, and dessert but as the years have passed, I’ve slowly started providing more and more. My ultimate goal is to host a full Thanksgiving where I just invite people to show up with a bottle of something tasty and their appetites. This year, I made the turkey, gravy, stuffing, traditional Scottish skirlie (a type of oat-based dressing), 2 potato dishes, 3 veggie side dishes, 2 desserts, 2 appetizers, and a signature cocktail.
Last year’s mega-party (17 guests!!) was super fun but so exhausting so I decided this year to do something on a much smaller scale. I handmade paper invitations and delivered them to a very small group of friends and I asked everyone to contribute a single side, appetizer, or dessert that went with the theme, which was Agave, Tequila, & Mezcal.
My husband flew in on Thanksgiving day mid-morning so I had to pop the turkey in the oven early before heading across the border to pick him up. Initially, I thought that I’d really need him to be sous chef for me, but I actually had things pretty well in hand. I had pre-cut, pre measured, and pre-made almost everything and I got up early to put together the few things that had to be done last-minute. Of course the last hour is always insane, as I have yet to manage to input adequate time in the schedule to shower and get myself ready for the formal event. It’s the one thing I consistently forget to plan for and I really should just take whatever amount of time I figure into the schedule and double it to give myself a few minutes of downtime before the party starts.**
The event was spectacular, if I may say so myself. My friends are all amazing cooks and bakers, so we had some pretty incredible items to choose from. Here are some of the things that were on the menu:
Tequila Queso Fundido with tortilla chips
Mashed potatoes with agave caramelized onions
Apple sage stuffing with tequila glazed croutons
Kale & Brussels sprout salad with agave glazed nuts
White-chocolate mezcal ice cream sandwiches with gingersnap cookie crusts
Apple tart with mezcal-salted caramel sauce
It. Was. Awesome. Great food, great company, all-in-all an excellent way to spend a holiday. I can’t wait for next year, when the theme shifts from Mexico to the Middle East!
**Future Self: Take note!