Big Joe’s Big Thanksgiving Dinner — Part One
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I love Christmas, but Thanksgiving was always very, very special to me and my family. I’ve always had a big table of family and friends and I always cooked.
It was a four day event to prepare for the big day and then it seemed that once the food was on the table it was gone in ten minutes! I hated that part of the day. I always tried to have as much done in advance so that I could be more social and entertaining to my guests. I tried but I never left the kitchen.
Invariably everyone congregated in the kitchen just to watch me do my thing and to talk. My mom would come over early to help and watch the parade, and then get mad with me because I wouldn’t let her do any of the prep work. When I was younger, mom and I spent so many Thanksgivings at friends and relatives and once I had a place of my own, and nieces and nephews to cook for, it was always at my house.
My favorite memories are making Thanksgiving dinner for my mom and my nieces and nephew, my cousins and friends. One Thanksgiving my cousin Chip and I made dinner for 50 of our friends and family. We held the dinner at the Little Silver Fire House and used their big kitchen. We had over 20 different dishes, we hired a karaoke dj and it was a blast, what a party.
One of my favorite traditions that I enjoyed is being up at 6:00am Thanksgiving morning cooking and prepping for the big day, early in the morning a couple of my friends and cousins would show up for a bloody mary. My friend Big Bob who has since passed was the best, he would bring this special bloody mary mix and we would toss a few back to get the heart going. My buddy Jimmy would stop by and have a cold one and a bloody mary. It was terrific, but on one certain Thanksgiving morning there was a string of friends and family who all came over to celebrate the tradition at staggered times, and you have to imbibe when sharing a Thanksgiving moment with those you enjoy. Well by the time noon rolled around I started to feel the effects of my tradition, whew, getting that dinner on the table that year was a chore.
I enjoy the whole day, the morning tradition, the work, the smell and then dinner hits the table and it’s gone in world record time. I would sit at the table in disbelief that all this work is gone in such a short time.
The enjoyment after dinner was watching all my guests go into a tryptophan coma spread out in my living room like mustard gas had seeped through the vents. There I would sit by myself with the last glass of wine overlooking the carnage in my living room from filled content bellies watching them drool in their nap and I would smile and say another great Thanksgiving dinner. This Thanksgiving will be a little different this year but I hope that you spend this holiday with family and friends even if only virtually and that you enjoy the day as much as I do. Happy Thanksgiving!
Cousin Laurie’s World Famous Broccoli Bake
This dish was always a fan favorite amongst my nieces and nephew, I made both these vegetable dishes and they love them, so do I! These came from my terrific “cousin-in-law” Laurie. Laurie’s the best; I get a kick out of the work that Laurie and her daughter Alyx, who I adore, put into decorating for any holiday.
You’ll see 200 – 300 bunnies around Easter, hundreds of scary creatures around Halloween and Christmas; forget about it, it looks like Santa’s East Coast workshop. Laurie made this dish at a holiday dinner I attended and just I just loved it. I make it a part of my Thanksgiving side dishes every year but it would also go great with steak, pork and chicken. This is very easy to make too!
2 – 10 oz Packages Chopped Broccoli
1 can – Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ cup – Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
1 Small Onion, Grated
1 cup – Grated Sharp Cheese
1 package – Pepperidge Farm Seasoned Stuffing
½ cup – Butter
Cook broccoli keeping it al dente’, drain. Beat egg lightly. Then put into 3 quart casserole. Combine soup, mayonnaise, onion and cheese then mix. Toss stuffing with melted butter, spoon over Broccoli. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Big Joe’s “Too Sweet” Sweet Potatoes
These sweet potatoes are one of my favorites that I love to prepare for Thanksgiving. They also work great for serving as a side dish to pork, chicken and steak. Serves 10 – 12.
¼ cup – frozen orange juice concentrate, still frozen
½ cup – maple syrup
¼ cup – molasses
1 ½ sticks of butter
1 tsp – cinnamon
1 tsp – pumpkin spice
1 dash – vanilla extract
1 cup – brown sugar
10-12 sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, halved, and then cut into 8’s.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium sauce pan, heat all ingredients except the potatoes. Bring to a slow boil, constantly stirring. Place sliced potatoes in a well greased baking dish. Pour the mixture generously over the potatoes, covering them. Place the dish covered with foil into the heated oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Remove from oven and baste the potatoes again with the mixture in the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the dish with foil and cook for 1 more hour. Remove from the oven and baste the potatoes with the mixture again. Increase oven temperature to 425 and cook for another 30 minutes uncovered.
Remove from the oven to cool for 10 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!