Across America, seasoned cooks have already finalized their Thanksgiving dinner menus, and double-checked their order for a fresh turkey. Less experienced cooks are summoning up the courage to take on their first big meal, excited about starting new family traditions of their own, but nervous about how it will all come together. The rest are finalizing their travel plans or are plotting to find a spot at their hosts.
Thanksgiving is a North American holiday so the Dowager may well ask “What is Thanksgiving Dinner?” The British don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the same way. Instead, harvest festivals are held across the UK during the month of October, and there is traditionally no big holiday meal. In Canada, the Thanksgiving holiday is held the second Monday in October, presumably since our growing season is shorter. It has nothing on American Thanksgiving as I learned from living in the US. As an outsider, it occurred to me that this holiday has greater significance as a time to gather family and friends than Christmas. For that, America, you really do need to give thanks to those who are able to gather on the holiday weekend.
The Pressure of Deadlines
Deadlines have a wonderful way of either snapping you out of procrastination or pulling you deeper into denial. First-time hosts may find themselves in a bind when they discover that all the free-range fresh turkeys were all ordered weeks ago, that they have no idea how to cook a turkey and that they really want to spend their time on is scouting out the deals for Black Friday. If this is you, you might consider making a baked ham. You essentially just put in the oven on low heat for hours on end.
November does mean that Christmas decorations are on display in stores counting down to Christmas. Mrs. Patmore would already have been fussing about getting fruitcakes made and on Stir Up Sunday (the last Sunday before Advent) prepare the Christmas Pudding and Mincemeat made.
Adding a Touch of Downton to Your Holiday Table
Downton Abbey fans looking to add a little bit of Downton to their holiday meal might wish to browse these suggestions to change things a bit, include new traditions, and make your holiday a little more healthy.
I have a number of “traditional” Thanksgiving” recipes which you can quickly find here in one click, but there are other dishes that will suit your holiday entertaining. Some dishes have the distinction as having been served on the ill-fated Titanic, which can make it quite the conversation starter (or move the topic away from politics, religion).
- Breakfast/Brunch: Some great breakfast foods to fuel your Black Friday shopping, some you can cram in your pockets and eat inline:
- Dinner: Roast Beasts
- Downton Side Dishes
- The Next Day
Here are some options for family members who have specific dietary needs.
- Vegetarians: click here for vegetarian options to inspire.
- Gluten Free: low carb recipes do double duty by being gluten-free.
- Low Fat: many of my recipes have already been adapted for heart-healthy concerns.
- Keto/Low Carb: Many of these dishes can be served to all your guests and no one will know the difference.
Tools of the Trade
Having the proper tools to prepare your holiday meal is a great step in the right direction. If you have run out of time for Thanksgiving, use what you have and make a note for what you need for your Christmas dinner. Many experienced cooks take years to assemble all the tools that they can rely upon so start slowly, and buy quality.
Open Roasting Pan: This is my pride and joy roasting pan which I use for my large roasts. Non-stick makes life easier, particularly since I make gravy right in the pan while the roast is resting. Mine came with large forks to help remove roast from the pan.
Covered Roasting Pan: This is Lord D’s favourite roasting pan as he prefers to cover his roasts to let the steam help to the cooking. He also spices his pan, puts veggies in the pan, closes the lid and that shakes the whole pan to season everything.
Gravy Separator: You can’t make great gravy without a gravy separator. The spout is at the bottom so you can pour out the broth and leave the fat behind. Having one changed my life and I starting gifting to family and friends until they all had one.
Carving Set: Some people love electric carving knives, and we bring out Mom’s harvest gold set every Christmas. Me, I am a traditionalist. Give me a sharp carving knife set and I am good to go.
Downton Abbey Essentials
The Downton Abbey Movie is now available for pre-order!