I must confess that while I adore cooking, I am a computer science major. I don’t see cooking as a future career. I do, however, see a career with enough of a work-life balance and extraneous funds for exploring cooking as a hobby.
But I argue that there is much overlap between these two interests. As a software engineer, I am constantly breaking down big problems into smaller, more manageable problems. As a project manager, I perform the same tasks but further consider timelines and resource allocation. And as an amateur cook, I am breaking down the most notable meal of the year in the same way.
During my sophomore year, I attempted a Thanksgiving meal in the Wren kitchen by purchasing one sheet pan and borrowing two pans and some knives from friends. Even with limited resources, you can compose a beautiful meal through planning.
After three years of being away for the holiday, I received permission to begin planning our Thanksgiving dinner (truly an upgrade). My planning skills have graduated from a collection of Notes app jottings to a Google Document with an outline and integrated Gantt charts.
So now, what you’ve been waiting for: the menu…
- Green bean casserole
Upon recent cravings for this 1955 classic recipe, I was ecstatic to see Eric Kim dive deep into variations before producing his own version. I am interested in attempting his version, but may ultimately choose a crock-pot version to preserve oven space.
- Marshmallow sweet potato casserole
This is a once-a-year Thanksgiving day recipe. This indulgent combination of cream and mashed sweet potatoes is topped with marshmallows before being browned in the oven. I’m interested in attempting Millie Peartree’s version because it adds a crunchy, textural component with cornflakes and pecans.
This is the one dish that my father requested. If I had unlimited resources, I’d opt for Claire Saffitz’s Sausage and Leek Stuffing, but I may end up choosing Lidey Heuck’s recipe because it bakes at the same temperature as the sweet potato casserole.
- Caramelized brussels sprouts
Claire Saffitz returns! While brussels sprouts can never go wrong (except when boiled), her technique complements the arc of the meal. A sheet pan of brussels sprouts can join the stuffing and sweet potato casserole in the oven. While those two dishes cool, crank up the oven for 10 minutes so the brussels sprouts may caramelize.
- An acidic salad
A bright, acidic salad has the power to slice through the warm, rich components of the meal and offer a refreshing bite. Of all of the components of the meal, I have only an abstract vision of what this can provide. A citrus salad? A citrus dressing? I have only a week to decide.
As any great project manager knows, it is necessary to delegate, and I am delegating the turkey to literally anyone else. My family usually ends up putting it in a crock-pot and it usually turns out pretty good when paired with gravy and cranberry sauce.