Yay! Another pen and paper exercise or maybe if you’re wired weird and serving a bunch of people it’ll be a Google spreadsheet. I’m still being teased for that, if you must know.
Today’s exercise is not the final menu. This one has three versions, your ideal Thanksgiving dinner, the one that would make everyone happy (you know with Granny’s Waldorf Salad, Aunt Teppy’s Green Bean Casserole, etc), and then the compromise that is the reality of the holiday. On the compromise menu make sure you include at least one item that will bring you joy. Know full well as you add that item to your list that everyone else may hate it, but that does not matter; add it to the list anyway.
When planning a menu for a large meal, look for flavor ties between dishes to create a flow. Take a peek at the spreadsheet and I’ll explain some of them. The Cajun seasoning of the turkey is part of the sausage of the cornbread dressing and sausage is also in the collards. I swapped out the pecans for almonds in the apple, sage, cranberry dressing to tie it with both the broccoli salad and the green beans. Cranberries are in the sauce -duh- the apple, sage, cranberry dressing, and in the broccoli salad. This works best if there are very different textures with the involved dishes. Crisp turkey skin, contrasted with soft dressing, or the crispness of stir-fried green beans next to the soft baked feel of the apples in the other dressing. It’s not the easiest technique for me to explain, so feel free to ask questions in the comments. Not every dish in your menu has to fit the flow, but it’s best if they don’t come from too far afield. If it seems out of place, see if there is a way to alter it slightly so it carries some component of the other dishes. In my example the mashed potatoes receive turkey gravy and the macaroni and cheese was topped with bacon (also in the broccoli salad) and green onions (onion flavor was in many of the dishes).
Have fun! Of course, maybe I’m the weirdo here who enjoys thinking about food almost as much as eating it.