In many ways it can seem more stressful to cook for Thanksgiving than Christmas. My reasoning goes like this: The meal is something of an afterthought at Christmas. At the very least, it’s secondary to the excitement of all the gifts. But on Thanksgiving, the meal is the main event. The holiday season is a bit like a marathon: Thanksgiving is the starting line and late December the finish. Weary and exhausted, we’re all just happy to get to the table.

Here’s a strategy that’ll help you come out of the gate strong at Thanksgiving and finish strong, too. Here’s how you can serve an impressive holiday meal without breaking a sweat: Make these few simple sides and a delicious Pumpkin Pound Cake with Bourbon Glaze, and let the pros around town take care of the turkey and the rest of the trimmings. The truth is, you can farm out the whole meal, if need be. It’s totally up to you and what suits your needs best. 

I love this approach because, while the rest of the world has been slowly returning to a post-pandemic normal, restaurants are still struggling. Almost three years later, they continue to face staffing shortages and supply chain issues. Supporting your favorite local food purveyors is one of the best ways I know to show gratitude for everything they do to nourish and feed our families, and the whole region, all year round. These folks will make your holidays so much tastier and a breeze to boot. Friends helping friends—now that’s the very definition of the quintessential American holiday. Here are our insider tips on all the best resources.

Girasol Cafe & Bakery: Chef Jessica Higgins and crew make homemade, fresh foods with care and love—and they’re offering an entire holiday menu (including dessert!). 3201 S. Coulter St. 806.322.0023 

Kind House Ukraine Bakery: Baking with a purpose. If you haven’t tried the fantastic baked goods and breads from this not-for-profit bakery, Thanksgiving would be a great time to start. Be sure you order ahead. 2100 SW 60th Ave. 806.220.8115 kindhousebakery.org

Edes Custom Meats: Get all your meaty needs covered here. Order a ham, boneless or whole smoked turkey, and some of the best prime rib around.  6103 Hillside Road, Suite 400 806.352.4242; 6700 W. McCormick Road 806.622.0205 edesmeats.com

Sweets & Meats and The Local Wedge are two new go-tos for starters and gorgeous charcuterie.

Sweets & Meats: 3300 S. Coulter St., Suite 5  806.331.0105 sweetmeats.com

The Local Wedge: 5461 McKenna Square, Suite 102 806.676.4875 thelocalwedge.com

Order-ahead take-and-bake stuffing and casseroles: Belmar Bakery (3325 Bell St. 806.355.0141 belmarbakery.com); Olive Branch Cafe (3313 SW Sixth Ave. 806.678.8647); United Market Street (2530 S. Georgia St. 806.468.6000 marketstreetunited.com)

Order-ahead homemade rolls: Belmar Bakery (3325 Bell St. 806.355.0141 belmarbakery.com); Delvin’s Restaurant & Catering (1300 N. Hughes St. 806.310.9410 delvinsrestaurant.com); Blue Crane Bakery (3223 SW Sixth Ave. 806.322.3233 bluecranebakery66.com)

Order-ahead pies and other sweets: Scratch Made Bakery (118 Sixth Ave. 806.731.4477 scratchmadebakery.com);  Belmar Bakery (3325 Bell St. 806.355.0141 belmarbakery.com); Delvin’s Restaurant & Catering (1300 N. Hughes St. 806.310.9410 delvinsrestaurant.com); Ms. Piggy’s Custom Bake Shoppe (6030 W. 33rd Ave. 806.353.9983); The Ruffled Cup (3440 Bell St.,
Suite 100 806.318.3961 theruffledcup.com); Sweet by Cara Linn (7406 SW 34th Ave., Suite 2A 806.290.5777 sweetbycaralinn.com)

Keto-friendly and gluten-free baked goods: Blue Crane Bakery (3223 SW Sixth Ave. 806.322.3233 bluecranebakery66.com); Sweet by Cara Linn (7406 SW 34th Ave., Suite 2A 806.290.5777 sweetbycaralinn.com)

Make-Ahead Mac & Cheese

This recipe is perfect for the holidays because it’s a cut above normal mac & cheese, but the real advantage is that you can do the work up to five days ahead. If you toast the breadcrumbs in advance, store them at room temperature in an airtight container. Sub your favorite cheeses to make a dish your crowd is sure to love.

1 pound penne pasta
½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
4 ounces cream cheese
5 cups milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 ½ cups (10 ounces) shredded gruyere cheese
4 ounces Brie or other soft-ripened cheese, cut into chunks
Cooking spray
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Cook pasta in boiling salted water for 7 minutes or until almost al dente; drain. Rinse pasta with cold water and set aside. Meanwhile, melt ½ cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and garlic powder; cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Add cream cheese to pan, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly. Gradually add milk to pan, whisking constantly; bring to a boil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until sauce is smooth and thick, whisking often. Remove from heat. Add mustard, gruyere and cheeses; whisk until smooth. Add cooked penne to saucepan with cheese sauce. Coat a glass or ceramic 9- by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour pasta mixture into prepared dish. Cover with foil; chill 8 hours or until ready to serve. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko; cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until toasted, stirring often. Remove from heat. Stir herbs into breadcrumbs. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover baking dish and sprinkle toasted breadcrumb mixture evenly over top of mac & cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil; bake, uncovered, for 20 more minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Pumpkin Pound Cake with Bourbon Glaze

I love the boozy flavor of the bourbon glaze. It reminds me of hard sauce that’s often served with bread pudding. If you want to omit the bourbon, substitute with apple juice.

6 ounces Plugra butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (6 ounces)
½ cup cake flour (2 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground dried ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup whole milk
¼ cup half-and-half
¾ cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
Baking spray
1 ¾ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon

Using the paddle attachment, cream together butter, cream cheese and sugars in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer at medium speed until blended; scrape sides of bowl. Increase mixer speed to high and beat until light and fluffy; scrape sides of bowl. With motor running, add eggs, one at a time, beating until egg is fully incorporated after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and next 5 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a small mixing bowl. Combine milk and half-and-half. Add flour mixture to batter alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in pumpkin. Coat a (10-cup) bundt pan with baking spray; scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack; cool completely. Whisk together powdered sugar and bourbon. Stir in a pinch of salt. Drizzle over cake and allow to stand at room temperature until set. 

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Hot-Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts

The hot honey provides a subtle background sweetness and an ever-so-slight kiss of heat. Mike’s (and other brands of) hot honey are pretty widely available these days, but my favorite is from King Arthur Flour. You can use plain honey, if you prefer. Always blanch Brussels sprouts in boiling, salted water before roasting them because the color is more vibrant. Then roast in bacon drippings and finish with a little butter for great flavor.

3 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ tablespoons hot honey

Arrange the top oven rack to 7 inches below broiler element. Place a large metal roasting pan in oven. Heat oven and pan to 425 degrees. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Blanch Brussels sprouts 1 minute in boiling salted water; drain. Pat Brussels sprouts dry with paper towels. Carefully remove heated pan from oven and melt bacon drippings in hot pan. Add Brussels sprouts to pan. Sprinkle Brussels with remaining ½ teaspoon salt; toss to coat. Roast 6 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Heat broiler to high. Meanwhile, add butter to pan with Brussels sprouts; drizzle with honey. Toss Brussels sprouts and return to oven. Broil Brussels sprouts for 2 minutes, or until slightly charred.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Potato-Poblano Gratin

I like to use red-skinned potatoes for this dish because you don’t have to peel them. You can use any waxy potato, such as Yukon golds, if you prefer. Roast the poblanos while you slice the potatoes and shallots, and do all the prep for this recipe. Be sure to pop the potatoes into a bowl of water once you slice them, and drain them just before you’re ready to assemble. This prevents them from turning brown.

2 medium-size poblano peppers
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Cooking spray
3 pounds red-skinned potatoes, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 medium shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Arrange the top oven rack 7 inches below the broiler element. Preheat broiler to high. Broil poblanos for 12 minutes, turning to brown on both sides. Place roasted peppers into a small bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let stand 8 minutes. Remove stems, peel poblanos, and finely chop. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees. Stir together salt, cumin and paprika. Arrange a third of potatoes in the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with a third of salt mixture. Scatter half of sliced shallots over potatoes; top with half of chopped poblanos. Sprinkle a third of grated cheese over shallots, poblanos and potatoes. Repeat layers once, ending with cheese. Arrange remaining potatoes over top; pour cream over potato mixture. Sprinkle remaining salt mixture evenly over potatoes; top evenly with remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, and bake an additional 15 to 18 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and golden brown. Let stand 8 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Author

  • Julie Grimes

    Julie is a cookbook author, recipe developer, food writer and editor. She was Senior Food Editor at Southern Living and Cooking Light magazines, and her work has appeared in Garden & Gun, Women’s Health, and Fine Cooking, among others. Grimes has deep roots in West Texas. She’s a Texas Tech graduate and recently relocated back to Texas, settling in Amarillo where she’s looking for her next food adventure.

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