By Jules Clancy, The Stone Soup
Here in Australia we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving and I think we’re really missing out. When I was living in California it was easily my favourite time of year. And of course being a complete newbie to Thanksgiving, I made plenty of rookie mistakes. So here are my best tips to help you avoid the most common Thanksgiving disasters
Get the Tips
Too much food – I know celebrations are meant to be about abundance and treating your loved ones to a special meal. But it can be easy to go overboard which not only adds stress to the cook in getting it all ready. It also makes the meal cost way more than it needs to.
How to avoid it? Plan a simple menu and resist the urge to serve multiple different sides and desserts. Do like my friend Henry does and focus on keeping the main event special.
Underestimating how much time it will take – You know that scene in Eat Pray Love where everyone’s fallen asleep before the turkey is finally cooked? When you’re not used to creating a huge feast, it’s really difficult to know how long things are going to take.
How to avoid it? First, read through your recipes and add up how long you estimate it’s going to take. Then take that figure and double it and you should be about right. Another trick is to prepare as much ahead of time as you can.
Trying to do it all yourself – There’s something about hosting that makes some people (like me) feel the need to make everything myself. From scratch. Don’t fall prey to this rookie mistake.
How to avoid it? First, take a leaf out of the Parisian host or hostesses book, don’t be afraid to buy in good quality preprepared parts to the meal. Or better yet, take up any offers to help. If someone offers to bake a pecan pie, let them help! And if you don’t have any offers to help, take matters into your own hands and delegate. Ask Aunt Mary to bring a salad or whatever you need.
Trying to make restaurant quality food – Here’s the thing, fancy restaurant meals are brilliant fun when you’re out at a fancy restaurant. But not so much when you’re in somebody’s home. And especially not when it’s the holidays and what everyone really wants to eat are the tried and tested home cooking favorites.
How to avoid it? Tell your inner Gordon Ramsay to take the day off. Keep your meal plan simple and fun and remind yourself it’s more about everyone getting together to give thanks than the host showing off his or her cooking prowess.
Getting the temperature of your food right – A hot main course with multiple sides also served hot can seem like a good idea when you’re planning. But trust me, when you’re trying to squeeze another tray into your already overflowing oven, you’ll be wishing you planned otherwise.
How to avoid it? When you’re planning, choose sides that don’t need to be super hot. That way you can focus on getting the turkey or whatever your main attraction is cooked without having to stress.
Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato with Sour Cream
Food blogger Jules Clancy of Stone Soup recommends being generous with the seasoning to make these sweet potatoes taste like dessert. Make this dish ahead of time to avoid the five common Thanksgiving mistakes that Jules also explains how to avoid as well.
- 1 large sweet potato
- 100g (3.5oz) pecans
- 2 large handfuls freshly grated parmesan cheese
- small bunch thyme
- 30omL (1.5 cups) sour cream, to serve
- Preheat oven to 200C (400F).
- Scrub sweet potato and slice into 8 rounds, about 1cm (1/3in) thick. Discard the small ends.
- Place slices in a single layer on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle generously with olive oil.
- Finely chop the pecans leaving a few chunky bits. Combine pecans with cheese and about 1 tablespoon thyme leaves and 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil to moisten. Season.
- Divide pecan mixture between the sweet potato rounds, pressing gently but not to compact it too much. Sprinkle with remaining thyme sprigs.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is deeply golden and the sweet potato is tender. Check after 30 minutes and if it’s browning too quickly cover with some foil.
- Serve hot with sour cream passed separately so everyone can add their own.
- Budget – replace all or part of the pecans with coarse soft breadcrumbs and use a cheaper parmesan style cheese such as grana padano
- Vegan / Dairy-Free – replace the cheese with soft breadcrumbs and be more generous with the olive oil. Serve with a tahini sauce (equal parts lemon juice, tahini and water) instead of the sour cream
- Pumpkin / Winter Squash – replace the sweet potato with thin slices of butternut pumkin (squash)
- Different Nuts – swap the pecans for almonds, brazil nuts or walnuts. Or choose a mixture of these
- Carnivore – serve draped generously with OR serve as a side to a glazed ham
- Less Decadent – serve with a good quality natural yoghurt instead of the sour cream
Meet the Author
Jules Clancy loves red wine, red shoes and blue cheese. She blogs about delicious healthy meals in minutes over at The Stone Soup.