First it was going to be very non-traditional: poblano chiles stuffed with ricotta custard and herbs, creamed chard, potatoes and sweet potatoes roasted together (I cut them in chunks, toss in garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil and roast till they're very slightly golden), and crispy-fried polenta with an ancho-chipotle sauce. I made one concession to tradition -- sage dressing. Because I love it and Thanksgiving is the only occasion I have to make it or eat it. Oh, and J was going to make his famous Grand Marnier cranberry sauce.
I was looking for some kind of vegetarian entree -- I'm not a vegetarian, but J is and our kitchen is. But it seemed like we had invited more meat-eaters than vegetarians, so I thought about roasting a turkey (another thing I love but hardly ever get to eat) but J was obviously uncomfortable about the idea when I brought it up, so, after giving it some thought I dropped it for the simple reason that I don't want an uncomfortable Thanksgiving. Who does? In the meantime, I had come across a recipe for a mushroom barley pie with a puff pastry crust. It's pretty easy, sounds festive and delicious, so I put that on the menu for our entree.
I thought, since we were having the bready pie thing, I'd drop the dressing. But when I told J that, he said, "Well then I'm not going to make cranberries." I said, "Why?" and he said, "Because it goes with the dressing." I wasn't willing to go without the cranberry sauce, so I put the dressing back on the menu. And then I started thinking about succotash, which wasn't a family tradition for me (the recipe came from a restaurant I worked at in my twenties in New York called Mike's Bar & Grill on 10th Ave and 46th St.), but I had been making it for Thanksgivings on and off since the 80s, when my ex-boyfriend B and I had dinners for sometimes as many as 25 people at our apartment in Ft. Greene. It's really simple and so good: just corn and baby lima beans, butter, cream, and red pepper. And I was thinking how something really nice about Thanksgiving is that you eat stuff you usually don't have occasion to eat. So the succotash was back on the menu.
And then last night as I was drifting off to sleep, I realized that if we have dressing, we need gravy. No turkey, but I can make a really good mushroom gravy by deglazing the pan after I sautee the mushrooms for the pie. And if we have gravy, we'll all be thinking, "Where are the mashed potatoes?" So, this morning, I'm thinking that I'll roast the sweet potatoes alone and do mashed potatoes. And we didn't get the chard I expected from our CSA last week, so instead I'm going to sautee green beans, which might be vaguely suggestive of the notorious green bean casserole (which I love, and I used to make a great scratch version of it, but I've already got too much stuff in the oven).
Somehow, except for the lack of turkey, I'm back to a pretty traditional Thanksgiving dinner. (I will not however puree the sweet potatoes and bake them with marshmallows.) I'm still going to make the fried polenta, but as an appetizer. And the stuffed poblanos have evolved into a roasted poblano and goat cheese appetizer. So at least my appetizers are not traditional.