I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year, and I find my emotions swinging wildly between ecstatic (my sister is coming! With nieces!! Michael’s family will be here! With oyster dressing! And rolls!!) and sad (it’s my first Thanksgiving without my mom). But mom feels like she is constantly with me over the past few days. I can definitely thank her for the table decorations (not my forte, but looking pretty good) and hundreds of happy memories of bringing family together through food.
I’m hosting a big group (22 or 25, depending on the day). And the perennial question for all my wonderful guests: what can I bring? My answer — based on the excellent guidance of a good friend — whatever you will miss if it’s not here! For my brother-in-law, that’s pork loin and oyster stuffing. For my father-in-law: the cranberry sauce in the can. For my mother-in-law: homemade rolls (well, to be perfectly honest, her grandchildren would probably revolt because for so many years, that was all they ate at Thanksgiving… and when you’ve achieved perfection in a baked good, you better be prepared to bring it forever!).
Two years back, COVID meant we spent Thanksgiving at my friend’s instead of home for the first time since college for me. And when I asked a question I had never contemplated: what can I bring? She answered perfectly: whatever your family can’t “Thanksgiving” without. In other words, whatever reminds you the most of home and family and celebration.
So I thought about it. For me, that numbers exactly three dishes, only one of which I grew up with (Spinach Madeline). The other two I’ve found my way to over the years. First, there is the perfect Thanksgiving dessert: pumpkin cheesecake (with a gingersnap crust… that you can make 2 days in advance… seriously, it is THE BEST). And then finally, there is this salad.
I know — salad on Thanksgiving? I mean, who even cares.
And normally I’d agree. Except this one is so perfectly fall. So bright and crisp and fresh, but packing enough of a punch to hold its own among the Thanksgiving heavyweights.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (of course… and her Thanksgiving list of recipes… well, it only makes me wish I could do this holiday twice!)
*I am doubling this for my crowd, but this will happily serve 8-10 Thanksgiving portions… and should there be any left, it is my go-to for a post-Thanksgiving lunch.
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced small
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 cups shredded brussels sprouts
- 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
- 1/2 Honeycrisp apple, diced
- 3/4 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the onion and put it in a small dish. Cover it with the apple cider vinegar and place to the side.
- Shave the Brussels sprouts. You can use a mandolin or (my preference) a food processor. Place the sprouts in a large salad bowl.
- Toast the pecans. I do this in a nonstick skillet until they smell fragrant. Allow to cool, then chop and add to the bowl.
- Chop the apple and toss with a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning. Add the apple and pomegranate seeds to the bowl.
- Make the dressing. In a mason jar, combine the honey, olive oil, lemon, salt, red pepper flakes, and pickled onions (with the liquid). Set aside until a few hours before you plan to serve. Shake vigorously to combine before dressing the salad.
- 2-5 hours before serving, toss the salad with the dressing. About 2 hours before, you can safely remove this from the fridge.
- Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving!