We don't normally do the big Thanksgiving meal. I love it, and always loved it growing up. But it was never practical when Brandon was travel nursing. Our Thanksgiving tradition became going to out eat. . . usually for Thai food.
We briefly flirted with the idea of doing the big family meal this year because my parents mentioned the possibility of visiting. But when their visit didn't work out, I assumed we would do like always and just go out to eat. There's a Thai restaurant nearby that I've been dying to try. I've been saving it specifically for Thanksgiving.
But today (Tuesday, as in two days before Thanksgiving), I mentioned to Brandon that I've really been missing my grandmother's dressing, and that I might make a batch this week. Brandon heard that and thought I was offering to make Thanksgiving dinner. His eyes lit up and he said, "Yeah, I would be totally fine with that. Some dressing, maybe some sweet potato casserole. You could do a chicken if you don't want to cook a whole turkey just for us. But if you do the turkey, we could use the leftovers for turkey noodle soup or something like that."
"Oh," I stammered, "You mean. . . me cook the whole meal instead of going out to eat?"
"Right! That was a great idea. Thanks, babe."
. . .
So, two days before Thanksgiving, I headed to the commissary. At 5:00pm.
Without a meal plan, a grocery list, or recipes. Without the faintest idea of how to cook a turkey.
I'm an idiot.
My grocery shopping trip was chaotic, to say the least. I walked the entire store four times. I bought items totally on instinct. Thanks to my Food Network addiction, a decent sensory recall, and several opportunities to scope out the shopping carts of women who obviously knew what they were doing, I managed to walk out of the commissary with every single ingredient necessary to make all of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes.
I even had one miraculous stroke of luck, and one moment of brilliance.
The miraculous stroke of luck came when it was time to pick out a turkey. Obviously, they were pretty picked over this late in the game. There were a handful of HUGE frozen turkeys, and several frozen turkey breasts. Neither one felt right for us. I wanted a small-medium size whole turkey. I was seriously regretting not ordering a restaurant turkey, like I had thought about when my family was possibly coming.
I happened to glance into another shopping cart and saw it. A reasonably sized whole turkey, fully cooked. What?!? Where were those? I had been up and down every aisle in the store and hadn't seen anything like that. As it turned out, there were a few secret, hidden turkeys. Fully cooked, smoked turkeys that weren't actually out on the floor. Thanks to a very kind manager who took pity on me (it probably didn't hurt that I asked him, a man, if he could tell me how to cook a turkey), I scored the very last one. When I first asked him about cooked turkeys, he said they didn't have any and that I had probably seen someone with a rotisserie chicken. But when I said, "Okay, so this frozen raw turkey. Do I just, you know, put it in the oven?" he said, "You know, we actually did have some smoked turkeys in the back, let me see if we have any more left." He brought it out and said, "You can just heat this in the microwave." Hahahahahaha. I was so, so grateful to him for finding me the perfect turkey.
The stroke of genius happened when I was thinking about cranberry sauce. I definitely wasn't going to make cranberry sauce from scratch. Neither of us really even like cranberry sauce. I just take a little each year because I do like having something light, bright, and fruity with my turkey and dressing. So, I started thinking about pomegranates instead. My first thought was to get a couple of pomegranates and use the seeds in a little salad. But since they were out of pomegranates, I had my little moment of brilliance-- cranberry pomegranate martinis. Perfect, right? You get the cran and the pom, those perfectly tart Thanksgiving flavors, but in a yummy pre dinner cocktail. Oh yes. I'm pretty sure martinis will be our new Thanksgiving tradition.
When I texted Brandon that I had bought a turkey and was going to cook the entire Thanksgiving dinner, he was so excited. He wrote back that he couldn't wait to have our first "real" Thanksgiving together. I realized he was right-- we had never had the full Thanksgiving experience together.
So with that, here is the menu for our very first "real" Thanksgiving:
Pomegranate Cranberry Martinis
Watergate salad (a family fave)
Smoked turkey with dressing
Green bean bundles
Sweet potato casserole
Sugar Free chocolate pie
I'm thrilled about our new traditions!