I love the largesse of Thanksgiving. In the past, when I have had a dozen or more people at the table, the checklist was easy: turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes (we weren't a sweet potato family), vegetable casserole (generally ignored), cranberry sauce, rolls and pie — apple, pecan and pumpkin (also generally ignored).
In recent years, the table has become smaller. It took a while for my portions to adjust to the population. A defining moment was the Thanksgiving that a dear friend spent with friends in Chicago. He came home miserable, appalled that he had been served a deli spread of meats and cheeses instead of his beloved turkey dinner. I invited him over for a post-Thanksgiving dinner which he relished. But I had enough leftovers for eight people.
From that experience, I learned we can have all the familiar dishes on your table, just scaled down. Instead of turkey, little chickens, for example. I always like to add something new, too; it sparks conversation. The Brussels sprouts gratin would serve that purpose as would the roasted butternut squash. They could also be substitutes for a green bean casserole or mashed sweet potatoes. There is no dishonor in using a packaged stuffing mix; my go-to is Pepperidge Farm Original Herb Blend. Or refrigerated mashed potatoes to which I add a bit of butter and swirl of cream while they're heating. I always make the cranberry sauce; it's so easy. If I'm in the mood, I'll bake pies, but I have often bought one, or even tarts, from a bakery. Predinner, you don't need much. I serve seasoned mixed nuts and pack some in jars for takeaway gifts.
I splurge on flowers. My friend Brian Redman of Redman-Steele Floral Design Studio creates the most gorgeous arrangements, and I commissioned him to do one for this photo shoot. It has all my favorite flowers. And, as usual, it's the star of the table.
Contact Lennie Bennett at [email protected]