Still working on your holiday menu? Same here. All this week, we'll be bringing you our favorite mains, sides and desserts, made with ingredients in The Perfect Pantry.
Half of our Thanksgiving guests are vegetarians. The other half travel from great distances, even from other countries, fully expecting to find a turkey on the table. And the third half are kids.
My cousin hates beets. Our son-in-law hates black olives, but not all olives. The granddaughters don't eat salad; the grandsons don't eat vegetables.
I still get flashbacks to the year my cranberry sauce unmolded and slid down the sink drain, and I haven't wanted to make it since. The pies are coming from a school fundraising event, so we're not quite sure what we're getting.
Menu planning? It's complicated.
Fortunately, lots of great turkey dishes and vegetarian entrees use ingredients we already have in the pantry. And there's no better place to start planning than with the entree.
I'm not a huge fan of sliced turkey, so I always keep ground turkey in the freezer. Turkey meatballs appeal to the child in all of us, and turkey, cranberry and basil meatballs can be made ahead of time, frozen, and reheated just before dinner. We also love Greektown turkey meatballs served on large platters of grilled or roasted vegetables, with a bit of yogurt sauce.
A few years ago, my husband Ted and I made a cranberry-studded turkey meatloaf with fig gravy for Thanksgiving. The gravy brought tart sweetness to mashed sweet potatoes, too. And, like all meatloaf, this one was perfect for sandwiches the next day.
America isn't called a melting pot for nothing; we welcome people of any culinary heritage. In our house, we celebrate those cultures at our Thanksgiving gatherings. We've had traditional "American" feasts, but we've also created tapas, Chinese, and Italian Thanksgiving dinners.
The next time I plan a Mexican holiday meal, I'm definitely going to feature turkey mole chili as the centerpiece. It's another great make-ahead main dish. A big pot of rice and a crisp green salad will round out the meal. Or maybe I'll make Tex-Mex turkey lasagne or turkey and white bean chili. Both recipes can be doubled or tripled to feed a crowd.
For vegetarians, I like to cook something substantial and beautiful, like this black bean and sweet potato stew or our favorite South End Deep Root Chili, served with a polenta dome or polenta and cheese loaf. The pantry always has canned and dry black beans, cornmeal and orzo.
Paella always makes a dramatic presentation on the holiday table, and it's easy to make, especially if you have valencia or bomba rice in the cupboard. Try one of our two favorite vegetarian versions: mushroom and asparagus paella; or vegetable paella with garlic sauce.
Finally, slow-roasted tomatoes (top photo), a staple in the freezer, transform an ordinary mac and cheese into a holiday-worthy main attraction that even the grandchildren will love.
Next: our favorite side dishes (because, honestly, Thanksgiving is all about the sides).
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