(MEDIA GENERAL) – Full disclosure, Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. Christmas has its flashy charms and summer holidays allow me to show off my semi-professional grilling techniques, but Thanksgiving is a day devoted to spending time with family, relaxing, stuffing your face and watching football – three of my favorite things to do! (Kidding, mom!)
The menu sets Thanksgiving apart from every other holiday and is part of what makes it great. I love a strong, traditional Thanksgiving feast. But not all dishes are created equal. So here’s my order of best Thanksgiving dishes.
DNQ: Green Bean Casserole, Sweet Potatoes, Stuffing
I know. I KNOW! I have the palate of a 7-year-old. I’ve never liked vegetables. Ever. I wish I did! But I don’t. So save your angry emails, I’m not badmouthing these dishes, I just can’t rank them in good faith because I pass on these 99 percent of the time.
Look, corn, you’re fine. You’re absolutely fine. But you hit your stride in summer with fresh corn on the cob. By November? Just accept your role as a background player. I will eat you IF there is room on my plate or if I decide I should try to have one remotely healthy food on my plate.
7. Mac and Cheese
It turns out mac and cheese may not be the Thanksgiving staple a lot of people believe it to be. Growing up, my family never served mac and cheese — or any pasta dish, for that matter — at Thanksgiving. But homemade mac and cheese — when done right… I’m getting sweaty just thinking about it.
Regardless, when I think Thanksgiving, I don’t think mac and cheese.
Hot take: More homemade mac and cheese needs gorgonzola or bleu cheese. The smellier, the better! Give it more flavor!
6. Cranberry, etc.
Cranberry dishes were never the star of the show at my family’s dinner when I was a kid, but as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to respect a well-assembled Cranberry dessert. I see you, cranberries.
I remember the first time I learned many families ate ham as well as turkey on Thanksgiving. I felt like I had been missing out; like I was somehow robbed of a very specific joy and only now learning of the letdown. A well-prepared ham is heavenly and will have room on my plate every day of the week.
But Thanksgiving is a turkey holiday and therefore ham sits lower on the list. Sorry, ham. I’ll see you at Christmas.
Pie is great, but I don’t go to the table to breeze through my meal to get to the pie. In many ways, pie is the afterthought. I forget about pie until I’m midway through my second helping of potatoes and realize my stomach is quickly approaching capacity.
Hot take: Pecan > pumpkin. Come at me, internet! This isn’t even a bold opinion, it’s just a fact.
3. Mashed Potatoes
We are firmly into the “everything is awesome” portion of this list. Mashed potatoes are so good! Drenched in gravy? Shove some bits of corn and turkey scrapings in there? Hoo boy!
Things can get a little dicey, however, when some people get a little too creative with the potato dish. I understand everyone’s desire to get creative but don’t use me as your crash test dummy. I want recipes that have been tried and tested. I don’t want to swing and miss on Thanksgiving.
Hot take: Don’t serve lumpy mashed potatoes. I want creamy, buttery mashed potatoes that were prepared with love. Sore shoulders are just another sign that you care about your family.
Hotter take: The instant potatoes out of a box are fine. If you have to skimp somewhere and dedicate time to another dish, instant potatoes work for me. Again, I fully acknowledge I’m a Neanderthal.
The few, the proud, the people who openly admit that turkey is delicious. If you read 10 articles about Thanksgiving meals, odds are seven of them will say turkey is trash and no one actually likes it. That is blasphemy.
You know what, turkey haters? I feel sorry for you. I really do. When prepared properly, turkey is a juicy meat with a decent flavor profile that is ENHANCED by gravy. It still stands just fine on its own. Perhaps instead of dissing a perfectly respectable meat you should work on learning how to stop drying out your bird.
If turkey isn’t No. 1, it’s because someone brought homemade cornbread or fresh rolls or straight-from-the-oven biscuits. … I think I need to go lay down. Accompanied with a healthy (unhealthy, actually) swipe of butter, any of the three perfectly compliment the rest of the meal.
I’ve had biscuits, cornbread and rolls at Thanksgiving meals over the years and they all are amazing in their own unique way. The flavor in a dense, crumbly corn bread is so filling and delicious. A warm, buttery biscuit hits all the right notes for me. A soft, pillowy roll may be the most ideal Thanksgiving bread – perfect for splitting in half to make a mini turkey sandwich a few hours after dinner.