Second thought. Cooking Thanksgiving while hosting relatives adds a whole new dimension of balance that I did not anticipate.
And having said that, hosting my first Thanksgiving was not easy, but was wonderful and warm and delicious.
Appetizers included roasted shrimp cocktail, brie in a puff with mixed berry compote, and homemade (by a friend) tapenade with pita chips. All three were big hits and easy to prepare in advance; the brie was cooked in the toaster oven and the shrimp were roasted in the morning -- leaving the oven free for dinner preperation. With the appetizers, we served 1+1=3 Cava, a great value and wonderful way to open the evening, by loosening up both the high-energy chef (that would be me) as well as the family exhausted from touring the national zoo in the rain.
And now onto dinner. First off, the rolls. James Beard's sweet potato rolls were absolutely the star of the show. While prep took half a day, owing to the dough rising twice, I was able to prepare two days ahead, par-bake, and then finish on Thanksgiving. This is a recipe that I found in the Washington Post's Thanksgiving Food Section. I highly recommend this for any holiday meal, but allow ample prep time and do not attempt to do the day-of.
Next, the Washington Post came through again with their recipe for apple cider glazed root vegetables, which are phenomenal, relatively easy to make, and allow otherwise bland overlooked vegetables like the turnip, shine. Just be sure to use enough nutmeg. The mashed potatoes were improvised yet simple but won more acclaim than expected; red potatoes, skins on, with melted butter, sour cream, chives, green onions, and a dash of Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper.
And the turkey. And yes, I caved, got nervous, and ordered a pre-cooked (gasp) or in this case smoked turkey from Rockland's Barbecue in Arlington. And I acknowledge that this a bit of a wimpy way out, but I did not have a chance to cook a turkey prior to the holiday and when I entertain I am a much better host if I am confident, so Rockland's fit the bill. $45 for a smoked turkey with gravy. And B and his family loved it. I am more of a turkey traditionalist, but the turkey was tender, had a great smoky flavor and aroma, and the reheating instructions easy to follow.
For the stuffing I redeemed myself and made one of the stuffing choices from this year's Thanksgiving Bon Appetit: whole wheat stuffing with pancetta, chestnuts, and parmesan.