Far away fanksgiving.
Well here I am again, a vegetarian Welsh chick living in NZ and somehow I have again been drawn into hosting a combined Midwinter Thanksgiving/Christmas for 4 people I know well, 4 I know a bit and 7 friends of friends. The nationalities are Canadian, Kiwi, American, British, Dutch and German. The oven is small, but the turkey can go in the BBQ so that'll make things easier. Oh, and there are 4 vegetarians. I am seriously sceptical about the Nigella recipie for sweet potatoes (or kumara as they called here, which apparently are the same things as yams in the states) with a marshmallow topping. That doesn't look right to me. Or maybe I'm just too conservative? How many dessert choices? Will there be panic becasue I don't have fried onions in a tin from a pigglywiggly?! What if the requested tiny onions aren't tiny enough? Will there be an issue with serving proper cranberry sauce and not the 'real' stuff in a tin? If I could find the fried onions in a tin and the jellied cranberry in a tin which then gets cut into round discs I would gladly serve it- each to thier own..... it'll be fine, it'll be fine, it'll be fine. Sorry, just had to get that off my chest in a safe and understanding place!
During the years I lived abroad and hosted Thanksgiving dinners for various known, barely known and unknown ex-pats, I generally asked people to bring that one dish or dessert that made it truly Thanksgiving for them. People loved it -- they didn't have to miss out on their favorite thing and got to share it with others. And if you tell people now they have plenty of time to source whatever ingredients they need. (One year a friend talked someone into bringing her a suitcase of acorn squash when returning from a business trip Stateside.)
As a Kiwi living in the US, I would definitely not advise you to use kumara (purple/reddish skin) to make the sweet potatoe & marshmallow dish. NZ kumara is totally different from sweet potato. I know most supermarkets sell sweet potatoes over there now - try looking for the one with the orange skin. Yams are also different - they look more like a little knobby finger than a sweet potatoe. Totally delish though when roasted.
Yeesh, you should totally make the American cook! :)
One dessert is plenty. Pumpkin / sweet potato / yam pie is traditional, but in a crunch, any pie will do. Or pudding. I have from-scratch recipes for pumpkin and sweet potato pie somewhere if you can't find the canned stuff or just want to make from scratch.
No need to use fried onions for the green bean casserole; breadcrumbs / panko are a great substitute.
My family usually serves creamed corn pudding... in the past two years, I've been making corn spoonbread (a southern US dish).
I make a wild rice dressing (not stuffed in the turkey) with nuts and dried fruit, since we usually have a few vegetarians and the extra protein is great for them.
I usually skip the yams at my holiday dinners, since no one really likes 'em 'cept me.
I'm not sure one dessert is enough, if it's pie. That's not much for 15 guests. Apple pie is another T-day biggie in North America, and pecan is popular in the US. I wouldn't say mince pie is very common in NA these days, but when it's served it's usually at Thanksgiving - so it could do double duty as Christmas dessert for the Brits. (In the US, it's usually one big pie, not mini size as in the UK.)
Whatever you serve will be great--don't worry about it!
Our menu usually includes:
-Cranberry Sauce (we need both in our household; I like real, husband likes canned)
-Stuffing/Filling (very important); I usually make mine vegetarian (no need to stuff bird w/this; better in the oven)
-Sweet potato (kumara) casserole; check whether the marshmallows are vegetarian; if not, make a small container w/o marshmallows or direct the vegetarians to the pumpkin pie
-Green bean casserole (if you can't find the Durkee onions in a tin, try an Asian shop--you can usually find bags or small containers of fried onions)
-Lots of chairs and couches for people to pass out on while watching the football game
It's also normal for the host to accept pies (and other desserts) from guests to be served.
I've had small (4 person) Thanksgiving meals. No one really cares what's served--the point is having friends and/or family to enjoy a great meal together!
It's traditional on my husband's side! When we made it for my family, it cost an arm and a leg (SF: $60/qt oysters), but on the east coast, a pint of shucked oysters can be had for $11!
Heavy cream, half and half, butter, crumbled saltines, drained oysters, baked in a casserole dish. Very rich!