All the classics of this holiday meal, scaled down for a socially distanced celebration.
My mom’s idea of Thanksgiving dinner was a far cry from the traditional turkey, stuffing, and apple pie suppers my school pals were having. Mom opted for Empire Kosher chicken (roasted with no seasoning whatsoever), canned asparagus, and, if we were lucky, an Entenmann’s cake shaped like a turkey. In my adult years, Thanksgiving became what I call an orphan supper. I’d invite my friends over who either had no family or wished they didn’t, and put together a bountiful potluck supper laced with love. (If you don’t get the family you want by blood, get it by choice—this is especially true in my gay community.) Of course, lots of issues come up with T-Day: on the top of my list is how friggin’ horrible its colonial roots are. Plus this year, we’ve also got Corona to contend with! Which means swapping large, glorious gatherings for intimate settings. So I’m cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for two, using it as an occasion to be grateful for my chosen family, the indigenous history of the land I live on, and the foods I find most comfort in. (If you’re decolonizing your diet, take only what works for you!) Then I’m inviting a slew of my favorite people to join me from their own suppers on Zoom.
Yum Town Turkey Thighs
I think white meat turkey is an abomination. I’m a thigh girl all the way—the dark meat is so much sexier and more interesting. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Dry two turkey thighs with paper towels. Rub all over with salt, pepper, and paprika. Melt a stick of sweet butter, mix with a few smidgens of chopped fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, and a good plop of mustard (any kind will do). Toss the seasoned turkey thighs in the herb mustard butter, getting it under the skin, too. Slice up two white onions. I like to cut them into half-moon shapes, but float your boat.
Drizzle a little olive oil into a baking pan and spread it around. Put the onions in the bottom and lay turkey thighs on top, skin side up.
Roast for about one hour, or until your meat thermometer says 170 degrees. I always baste once or twice along the way with drippings. Let the thighs rest for 10 to 15 minutes tented under foil before carving—it makes it way better.
Simple, Glorious Baked Sweet Potatoes
I’ve tried all kinds of fancy shmancy Thanksgiving sweet potato dishes, but I always go back to simple, baked spuds. Wash (I mean really scrub) and dry one average-size sweet potato for every person you want to feed (leave that gorgeous skin on, it’s got loads of nutrition). Poke holes with a fork around the potato, a few times on each side. Lay on a baking pan lined with parchment or foil, because it will get messy! Roast at 400 degrees F until a fork stuck into the sweet potato comes out easily, probably 40 to 50 minutes. Cut open that sweet potato and slather with butter or vegan butter, salt, and pepper—it’s pure heaven.
Gotta Love the Sprouts
Buy one bunch or package of fresh Brussels sprouts. Trim hard ends and any funky outer leaves, then cut each sprout in half the long way. Toss sprouts in olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Lay them on a baking sheet and roast in oven at 400 degrees F until sprouts look brown and feel soft, about 30 minutes. Sprouts may look a bit burnt—that’s fabulous. Eat them plain, or mix a few dashes of Sriracha with a good plop of honey and toss the hot cooked sprouts in it for sweet and spicy glory.
Basic, Fabulous Cranberry Sauce
In a saucepan over low heat, mix up a half coffee cup of sugar, a few smidgens of brown sugar, a half coffee cup of orange juice, and a half coffee cup of water. Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Dump in a bag of fresh cranberries. Cook until the cranberries are all soft, about 10 minutes. Then turn up the heat a little and cook until the cranberries all burst. Reduce heat to low and cook until everything looks nice and cranberry saucy (another 10 to 15 minutes more). I like to throw in a good pinch of salt to even out the sweetness and a good pinch of fresh ground black pepper for a little zing. I have also been known to toss in a dash of hot sauce. Hey, why not?
By Chef Rossi
Photographed by Ify Yani
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