Thanksgiving is the most important family holiday celebrated in the United States – even  more important than Christmas. Thanksgiving is the celebration of the roots of the nation, and is a time we all come together to give ‘thanks’ for what we have – family, friends, home and good food. I could always get away with not coming home for Christmas, but not Thanksgiving.

turkey cooking on the rotisserieIn the U.S., Thanksgiving celebrates the first meal between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts in the early 1600s. It represents the bountiful harvest and sharing with those you love.

cranberry sauceEvery Thanksgiving you’ll find airports jammed with college kids making the last minute dash to get home; supermarkets crammed with last minute shoppers picking up cranberry sauce and the makings for pumpkin pie, and Mom (or increasingly, Dad) at home fussing over what to have for dessert  – and making sure the turkey, and all important stuffing, are just right.

toasted almond green beansWhen I ran the Rattlesnake Grill in Sydney, each year we would host a Thanksgiving dinner for our American friends – and, more often than not, their Aussie mates. I used to love re-creating that experience of sitting round the table with loved ones, delighting all our guests with a veritable feast and providing an opportunity to stop and express our gratitude.

Some of my favourite Thanksgiving dishes to prepare are:

  • Candied Sweet Potatoes with cider and brown sugar
  • Cranberry Sauce with Raspberry Vinegar
  • Bacon and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Beans with Walnuts and Walnut Oil
  • Buttered Carrots with Apple Brandy
  • Steamed Broccoli with Lemon Peel
  • Roast Turkey with Herb Rub and Shitake Mushroom Gravy
  • Italian Sausage, Apple, Fennel and Pecan Stuffing

For desserts I can’t go past:

  • Spiced Apple Pie with home-made vanilla bean ice cream
  • Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream
  • Fresh Seasonal Berries

For Thanksgiving this year I’ll be keeping it quite small, serving just the “have to haves”. We’ll be doing the turkey on the rotisserie (which is amazingly fast and totally juicy) with a few simple sides of baked “stuffing” (not actually cooked in the bird) and green beans and cranberry sauce as above.

Next year we’ll be back to our annual Friends and Family dinner with the lot! (Last year we had 16 of us!)

What would be your ideal Thanksgiving feast?