Six Delicious and Doable Thanksgiving Menus


Late last week, when I was writing my tips for a budget-friendly Thanksgiving for Domaine Home, I realized that this year is my 10th anniversary of hosting Thanksgiving dinner! I’ve never followed that rule that many entertaining experts always quote – the one where you should not make something new at a dinner party – because one of the first major dinners I did all by myself was Thanksgiving in 2004. In Spain. I was 23 and had never made turkey or gravy or pumpkin pie, but I was determined to introduce my Spanish friends to my favorite American holiday. I also had to source a turkey in a country that doesn’t traditionally consume them – luckily, I had already developed a great relationship with Diego, the local butcher who thought my request for a turkey was hysterical. My apartment’s oven only heated on the bottom or on the top broiler, so I had to cook the bird in a friend’s oven. All of these things and more made this Thanksgiving, my first, one of the most memorable meals of my life. I can still remember what I wore!

I’ve gone on to host many more successful Thanksgivings and dealt with plenty of bumps (burnt cranberry, gravy that doesn’t thicken, just made homemade stock strained into the sink, to name a few) along the way. One thing that remains consistent is the inconsistency of my menu: I change it up every year! Before I start to plan the current year’s menu, I look back over what I have served in years past. Since I’m figuring out this year’s menu this week, I’m sharing my last six years of menus and the recipes I used with you. All of these are the actual dishes I made and served, so they are completely doable menus. Happy Thanksgiving planning!

-3Thanksgiving Menu 2013
Fall Classic Cocktail
Smoked trout spread, warm brie, and artisinal crackers
Pomegranate gremolata, spicy greens, and pear salad

Perfect roast turkey
Classic gravy

Barely risotto
My Dad’s old-fashioned Stove Top stuffing
Sweet potatoes with blue cheese
Brandied cranberries

Deep dish caramel apple pie
Vanilla ice cream from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Thanksgiving Menu 2012
Kale Chips
Tuscan mashed chickpeas with homemade pita chips
Smoked salmon and prosciutto

Deep fried turkey with homemade vegetarian gravy

Mashed sweet potatoes
Spinach and artichoke stuffing
Haricots verts with white beans
Cranberry sauce with bourbon and vanilla bean

Pumpkin cream pie

-2Thanksgiving Menu 2011
Foie gras on toast points
Spicy and smoky almonds
Onion puffs

Brined rosemary crusted turkey with pan gravy

Mushroom and bacon dressing
Lemony kale salad
Sweet potatoes with blue cheese
Sherried cranberry sauce

Pumpkin butterscotch pie

Thanksgiving Menu 2010
Appetizers by Inger*

Grilled turkey with Italian sausage stuffing

Classic cranberry**
Creamy cognac gravy
Spicy bacon and sweet potato souffle
Goat cheese mashed potatoes
Green beans with kale and parmesan

Caramel cream pie

-4A Down-Home Thanksgiving Dinner Menu 2009
Sizzling garlic shrimp
Baked goat cheese and crostini
Euphoria cocktail

Deep fried turkey and bacon dijon crusted turkey

Chorizo cornbread stuffing
Chipotle sweet potatoes
Blue cheese mashed potatoes
Turkey wing gravy
Classic cranberry*
Champagne, Chardonnay, Beaujolais Nouveau

Pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust and marshmallow topping
Sherry-cask Canadian whiskey

Thanksgiving Menu 2008
An assortment of raw oysters with classic Champagne mignonette
Baked oysters with garlic and parmesan
Artichoke crab dip with crostini

Bourbon-glazed turkey with classic gravy
Orange cranberry sauce with dried cherries
Bronwyn’s sweet potatoes
Whipped cream cheese mashed potatoes
Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts
Pinot Noir

Dessert by Inger*

*Inger is my grandfather’s girlfriend, an integral member of my family’s annual Thanksgiving feast.

**I just realized my classic cranberry sauce recipe is not online anywhere. Looks like I will have to make it and share it here!

Michael Mina’s Tailgate is Excellent Excess

bloodymaryIf you’re a 49er’s fan and a food-lover and you’ve got plenty of cash to spare, get yourself down to Levi’s Stadium to check out Michael Mina’s Tailgate. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the exclusive party that happens before and during every home game. The Tailgate is not open to the public; only season ticket holders who have applied and paid for the membership have access to the party. It has an outrageous price tag, but the event is lavishly wonderful.

kellerEach week a different guest chef (when I went it was Thomas Keller) is invited to come cook with Mina and make a signature dish inspired by the opposing team’s home town. I know nothing about the cuisine of Kansas City, but Keller’s lamb and white beans were flavorful and downright delicious.

quailThere’s also several signature dishes by Mina, like succulent lobster pot pie and plump finger-licking good quail, a massive raw bar with oysters, shrimp, and Alaskan king crab legs, a charcuterie and cheese station, a spread of desserts including made-to-order-with-liquid-nitrogen butter pecan ice cream, and a kid’s buffet with insanely crispy chicken tenders.

meatBut wait, there’s more! Chef Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats was outside manning the grill where he served up baby back ribs and a spicy, but addictive cheddar jalapeño hot link. Back inside, a whole pig was being roasted in a giant rotisserie. It’s meat was pulled and tossed with a fragrant KC sauce before being piled onto buttered, toasted ciabatta.

seafoodOf course, all this food must be washed down with something, right? There are servers everywhere — it seemed like there were as many waiters as their were tailgaters — who were eager and ready to take your drink order, be it a shot of vodka or a glass of Delirium. Michael Mina’s wife, Diane, offered her secret recipe for bloody Mary’s made with fresh heirloom tomatoes. There are flat screen televisions everywhere, even outside! If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it!


All images courtesy Nader Khouri Photography.

Join Me to Celebrate the Madres


I wanted to personally invite you to an event I’m helping my sister throw, Una Noche Dominicana. It’s this Thursday, October 23rd at the Gauntlet Gallery on Larkin in between Sutter and Post in San Francisco. Una Noche Domincana is a fundraiser for my sister’s nonprofit, the Madres jewelry collective. There’s going to be Caribbean-inspired food from Cha Cha Cha, wine and beer (graciously donated by my employer’s company, Plumpjack), salsa dancing, and of course the jewelry! Tickets are $10, but $5 of the purchase is a credit toward any piece of Madres jewelry. I’m manning the bar, so it should be a super fun night! Hope to see you there and if you’re not in the area, consider ordering some of the Madres jewelry online. All of the pieces are made by a group of Dominican and Haitian woman and the proceeds are their income.

Kale Grilled Cheese

Since I spend plenty of time cooking for other people at work, I sometimes arrive home in the evening and wish that someone was cooking for me. When this happens, I make something that is quick and easy — a dish that is simpler than pasta, like scrambled eggs or a pita pizza. If the resulting meal happens to be incredibly delicious and I happen to have the ingredients in large quantity, I end up making it over and over again.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve had this kale grilled cheese four times in the last week! The first time I threw it together and I didn’t think it would be anything special. A mediocre grilled cheese perhaps, but nothing to praise on this website. However, after the first bite, I was surprised and happy. It was way more scrumptious than I had imagined. The bitterness of the kale is balanced by the sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes; the creaminess of the cheese balanced by the heartiness of the bread.

It ended up being so satisfying that I immediately wrote out the recipe and vowed to make it again the next day. And the next and the next. This recipe makes one sandwich, but it’s not rocket science, so increase the amount of cheese, kale, tomatoes, and bread to make more sandwiches. Let me know if you enjoyed it as much as I did!

Kale Grilled Cheese

2/3 heaping cup of good white melting cheese (Monterey Jack, havarti, manchego, mozzarella, etc.), grated
2/3 heaping cup of small kale pieces
2 tablespoons minced sun-dried tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of butter, room temperature
2 slices whole wheat bread

1. In a medium bowl combine the grated cheese, kale pieces, and sun-dried tomatoes. Toss everything to mix well. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

2. Spread butter on each slice of bread on one side.

3. Place one slice of bread, butter side down in a small skillet. Top with all of the cheese and kale mixture. It will be heaping and seem like way to much, but cheese melts and kale wilts, so bare with me. (See photo below.) Top with the other slice of bread, butter side out. Press to flatten with a spatula.

4. Place the skillet over a burner set to medium low heat. Cover the skillet and sandwich with a lid. Cook for 4 minutes. Remove the lid and press down on the sandwich. Flip the sandwich and cook, covered, for 5 minutes taking care not to burn the bread. Remove the lid, press sandwich down and flip. Cook, covered for 2 more minutes on this side. At this point the cheese should be perfectly melty and the kale wilted. Set aside to rest for 2 minutes, then slice in half on the diagonal and enjoy immediately.

Makes 1 sandwich.