Like most Americans, our Thanksgiving table is heaped with traditional fare and family favorites. With just a few tweaks and upgrades, we pretty much eat the same meal, year after delightfully satisfying year.
And like most cooks responsible for this celebratory meal, I find myself writing out the same shopping list year after year, trying desperately to remember every last necessary item - from the plastic cooking bags for the turkey to the toothpicks needed to keep the plastic wrap off the top of the cheesecake.
There are a lot of details to manage, and every year as I'm wracking my brain to remember whatever it was that caused me to make last-year's eleventh-hour Wednesday night trip to the grocery store, I find myself asking, "Why don't I just write down one master Thanksgiving shopping list and keep it from year to year?!?"
Ta daaaa. At long last, here it is.
The Main Event
We are all about that white meat and get a manageable level of leftovers from the breast alone.
+ fresh turkey breast
+ roasting bag
Pan drippings are the essential ingredient but I use chicken stock to boost the quantity, and corn starch for thickening. I come from a long line of anti-flour gravy makers.
Stalwart traditionalists, we abhor any additives such as garlic, herbs, or cheese that muddy the pure mashed potato waters.
+russet or Yukon gold potatoes
We stuff our dressing into a casserole dish rather than a whole bird, and use a bit of chicken stock to keep it moist. Orowheat 12 Grain and Oatnut are our go-to bread choices.
+two loaves bread
+two large onions
Homemade is so easy and a billion times better than the canned stuff.
Biscuits or Rolls
I cut corners here by picking up a roll of pre-made dough and tossing it in the oven at the last minute. Please don't tell my grandmother.
+roll of prepared dough
Green Bean Casserole
Oh, I know. This dish is a total cliche and a mash-up of oversalted, overprocessed foods. But we love it and that's that.
+8 cans green beans
+2 boxes french friend onions
+1 large can mushroom soup
Mac and Cheese
My first-born loves this family favorite so much that she offers it a place of honor at the holiday table. Recipes vary from year to year, but the foundational ingredients remain the same.
+Panko bread crumbs
Holiday feasts can be healthy too. This simple fare brings balance to the table.
When she was tiny, my eldest daughter fell in love with a picture book about Christmas in England. The protagonists helped their mom make a spongy trifle for dessert and she wanted to try it too. Every since, we've made this pretty dish part of our holiday table and it's a pretty fabulous tradition.
+angel food cake
+cook and serve vanilla pudding
Apple or pear or blackberry or cherry are all acceptable options. Even pecan. But we don't do pumpkin.
+fruit of choice
+vanilla ice cream
Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Pie
These two decadent desserts have become standards at our Thanksgiving after party. The former is a favorite of my second born, who often bakes one cheesecake for our family to enjoy and a second to share at work on Black Friday. And my third-born advocates for the chocolate pie and has often whipped up an Asian version of the recipe to share at Vietnamese and Korean Thanksgiving celebrations.
For two cheesecakes:
+2 premade graham cracker crusts
+8 eight-ounce packages cream cheese
For that creamy chocolate pie
+premade Oreo crumb pie crust
+1 package cream cheese
A sparkling sip of crispy apple goodness cleanses the palate and settles the stomach between bites of a long, hearty meal. And a mellow glass of wine helps relax the adrenlaine-charged cooks into relaxation.
+sparkling apple juice or cider
+chardonnay or pinot grigio
* * * * *
Now I'm off to start my shopping for this year's feast. There will be carts to push, bags to drag in to the house, overflow items that won't fit into the fridge (thank goodness for a cold garage), and a billion dishes to wash before these ingredients coalesce into a delicious meal.
But they will. Just as in so many years past, my family and I will soon sit down to a Thanksgiving table groaning with all our favorite dishes and our plates will look comfortingly familiar.