Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays (Christmas being my absolute favorite), but truly Thanksgiving is so special to me on so many levels.
For as long as I can remember, my mom always hosted Thanksgiving at our house in Long Island. She always outdid herself, cooking up a small feast for family, friends, random drop-in’s, basically anyone with a mouth that came in any close proximity to her kitchen. Everything was made completely from scratch (just like with all of her meals), and not only was the food absolutely incredible, but she was an exuberant host, always making everyone laugh, and bringing the whole family together.
It is a tradition and holiday that means family to me.
When my mom got too sick to host Thanksgiving anymore, I decided to step up, and take over the onerous task of filling her shoes. So in 2011, I hosted my first Thanksgiving at our apartment in downtown Manhattan. My husband and I had just gotten engaged 3 months prior and had never spent Thanksgiving together, so we made this our first official Thanksgiving as a family coming together…we had my mom and dad, Justin’s parents and my 2 wonderful Grandmas over.
I decided to make a lot of my mom’s classics (her Turkey, gravy, stuffing and corn fritters) and when mom arrived she helped show me her process for each (a lesson that would prove invaluable to help me recreate her treats each year). It wasn’t your average Thanksgiving meal sitting down at a huge table with a spread of food – our apartment was in total 500 square feet, so the “adults” all sat at a small table disguised as a legit eating surface and Justin and I set up two folding TV table trays at the end to extend our “dining room table”. It was totally makeshift and totally perfect – I wouldn’t have changed anything about it.
After that Thanksgiving was over, my mom went onto Facebook and wrote the following status update:
“I have officially passed the chef's baton to Sara who prepared a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner. I can't thank her and Justin enough for making my favorite holiday sooooo wonderful. I love you both.”
That statement speaks volumes for anyone who knew my mom…and filling her shoes is still something I think about anytime I host people at our home.
So 2011 was the first official Sara NYC Thanksgiving, and since then the tradition has carried.
Me & My Parents
On to 2012….Well right before Thanksgiving landed, so did Hurricane Sandy. Justin and I were still living in our Downtown Manhattan apartment… in flood zone A … in short, our apartment building was completely flooded and we were evacuated and not allowed to come back until July. Well, that was most definitely not going to stop me from hosting the perfect Thanksgiving. For anyone who knows me, knows, when I have my mind set on something, it’s happening. Tenacity at it’s best when food and family is involved.
So I got straight to work trying to find us a new apartment. I found one, and we moved in less than a week before Thanksgiving. Our furniture arrived 2 days before Thanksgiving, and in that span of time, I unpacked the entire apartment and created my second Thanksgiving. Thank god for my unrelenting energy and my absolute love for this holiday, because it was a miracle that not only was there food on the table, but there was even a table to sit at.
This Thanksgiving was a particularly meaningful one for me because I had lost my mom earlier that year, and it was my first holiday season without her. I know she was there, guiding my hands to create the meal that my family so deserved – and so we had our second annual Sara NYC Thanksgiving.
My husband's Amuse Bouche - absolutely delicious!
On to 2013. This was a great Thanksgiving! My brother-in-law, niece and twin nephews came down to NYC to join our table! We had the whole family under one roof, and it was truly the most enjoyable evening.
This year, 2014 we will have a reprise of the same crew coming over for Thanksgiving! My dad, his girlfriend Cara, my Grandma Mary, my mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, niece and nephews – a full house! I am so excited to make the fourth annual Sara NYC Thanksgiving another fun success!
Now on to the menus…every year I switch up at least a few items on the menu to keep it interesting but the staples are always Turkey (obviously), pan gravy, my mom’s Stuffing and my mother-in-law brings her Homemade Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Bread for dessert.
I always start off with a few appetizers for when people first walk in and are getting a drink and whatnot. Last year I did Arancini and Bacon Wrapped Dates. This year I am thinking of doing Jamon Croquettes and the Bacon Wrapped Dates (my Thanksgiving must have at least 1 pork product present otherwise it is not a true Sara event).
Once everyone’s all settled we start with a soup course. I know people sometimes shy away from soup but you don’t have to serve a vat of it to your guests, just a cup portion size is perfect without filling everyone up.
My soups to date:
-2011 – Potato, Pea and Bacon Soup
-2012 – Lobster Bisque
As an entrée, always the Turkey and Gravy (made from the pan drippings from the turkey), and my mom’s stuffing (an Italian take on traditional stuffing). I like to then switch up the side dishes each year – always a vegetable and a starch option – Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Mac n Cheese, Corn Fritters, Mashed Potatoes….you get the idea. This year I will be adding a surprise Stuffing to the Menu.....I could tell you what it is, but then I'd have to kill you.
Dessert – I love doing some form of Apple Pie – 2011-2013 I have done my Classic Apple Pie – but this year I am doing more of an Apple Crumble (the filling of a classic apple pie, topped with this awesome Pistachio Crumble that I make – recipe to come!)
In addition to the food, of course there are the beverages – wine (red and white), beer, sodas, etc etc.
Sometimes the most important thing to remember is that Thanksgiving is more of an event than a meal. I like stretching out for the whole day. Everyone comes over at 1pm, and by the time all the food is done, it’s 7-8pm. THAT to me is the essence of Thanksgiving – a whole event, centered around family, with great food, drinks and lots of laughs – and trust me, with my family, there’s always laughing.
Our dogs, Dex & Yoshi after 2011 Thanksgiving - Food Coma.