For Thanksgiving we have a menu we love. Roast turkey, corn bread stuffing with Italian sausage, shiitake mushrooms and Turkish apricots, baked sweet potatoes with butter, cranberry sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts and sautéed string beans with garlic-toasted almonds. Since I started doing travel writing, I like to include one dish I've learned to make on a trip.
On a recent month long trip in Switzerland, I enjoyed dozens of meals. Since I was researching local Swiss wines, those meals were wine-paired. Needless to say, I had a very good time. At one of the first stops on the trip, our group of six journalists was treated to a dinner at the chef's table at restaurant Le Mont Blanc at Le Crans in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. One of our group was a vegetarian. We always envied her meals, especially that night when she was served risotto with hazelnuts.
That dish made an impression. So, last night I made risotto and hazelnuts. The combination of creamy rice and crunchy nuts is hard to beat. I'm thinking it would be a great Thanksgiving side dish.
Thanksgiving is almost here and it's time to nail down those menus. Serving homemade bread is one of the best parts of the holiday meal.
We have so many choices when it comes down to what kind of bread or roll to serve. For me, it comes down to how many people I have to serve and what flavor am I looking to add to the meal.
Since Thanksgiving has so many savory dishes, I am always looking to add a little more sweetness to the meal. I love when dried fruit is added to stuffing. It helps give diversity to the meal. Since I often add the dried fruit to the stuffing, I thought maybe I would try adding it to the dinner rolls instead. It's always fun to change things up a bit.
I did not want the rolls overly sweet, so I added a little bit of cinnamon and only a half cup of dried cranberries to my regular dinner rolls recipe. It. Was. Perfect. The slight hint of cinnamon and a bite of dried cranberry smothered in butter was the perfect way to round out the meal.
This year, in our house, we're cooking our version of Suzanne Goin's succotash. Of course, Suzanne Goin doesn't call it succotash; in her book Sunday Suppers at Luques, she calls it sweet corn, green cabbage and bacon. We call it succotash because we throw in some lima beans and way more butter:
Cut 6 thick slices of bacon into small pieces and cook in a casserole until crispy. Remove and drain. Melt 1 stick of butter in the remaining bacon grease and add 1 sliced onion and some salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes, then add half a small green cabbage, sliced, and cook until wilted. Add 2 packages of cooked frozen lima beans and 2 packages of frozen corn. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring, till the corn is done. You can do this in advance. Reheat gently and add the bacon bits. (Of course you might be able to get fresh corn, in which case feel free to overreach.)
- Recipe courtesy of Nora Ephron
Choosing a wine for the Thanksgiving table does not have to be as difficult as many make it seem. With the variety of competing flavors of Thanksgiving, it may seem difficult to find the perfect pairing. Finding a wine that goes with everything is key. And there are plenty of wines available in the market that accomplish the task. But you definitely don't want an overpowering wine or a lightweight wine that doesn't stand up to the many different dishes. Look for a fruity medium-bodied wine with good tartness or crispness. It has to cut through the rich autumnal flavors as well as complement the roast turkey. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are among the best wines for Thanksgiving, but a few other, more unique choices are available too. The following wines are all fruit-forward, food-friendly, and suitable for a whole range of tastes. Surprise your guests with one or more of these picks.
Beaujolais Nouveau is one of the most popular wines this time of year. Every third Thursday in November France releases it into the world with much lauded fanfare and drop ships it to locations worldwide. After the grapes are harvested, the juice is only fermented for a few weeks before becoming wine. The wine from négociant Georges Duboeuf is the easiest to find in wine stores across the country, but many other brands can also be procured. Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape in the Burgundy subregion of the same name. The resulting wine is very fruity with a light to medium body with nice tartness but low tannins. It's the perfect red wine to go with poultry, especially turkey or chicken. This wine is possibly one of the only reds that can benefit from slight chilling, but try it at different temperatures to see which is more appealing. Drink it while it's young, the wine is not meant for aging.
Every family has their traditions. The things that make the holidays particularly memorable to them. When it comes to Thanksgiving those traditions almost always revolve around food. What graces the table is just as important as who sits around it. While some people may choose to experiment from year to year some things just aren't allowed to change. Usually it's a side dish. Sometime it's not very healthy or even classy, but it must be made.
In the case of my family it's Jell-O Salad. It has graced our holiday table for as long as I can remember. I have tried to trace the origin as it is distinctly American and probably a recipe that came from the company itself. It certainly is not something my very Polish grandmother would have created on her own. She was an expert baker and this is just too pedestrian for her talents. The closest version I came to finding online had it published in 2000. That's about 30 years too late. That version also included walnuts, which just sounds gross. They would totally mess up the the smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the dish.
I can only imagine she started making it to placate the unrefined palates of her four young grandchildren. I mean, who would ever pass up Strawberry Jell-O with bananas. It seemed more like a dessert than a side dish and added a little sweetness and color to our plates. Even when we were older we had her continue to make it, because it just wasn't the holidays without it.
You certainly don’t need me to tell you that the Big Food Holiday is next week. Everywhere you turn you see tips, tricks and ideas for Thanksgiving so you’ll understand me when I say that I’m going to join the chorus!
What are your plans? I’m giddy just thinking about our week: my parents fly in Monday, my sister joins us Tuesday, and we’ll all be celebrating a giant Thanksgiving meal here at our home. Adam will do the bird, I’ll be in charge of music, decor and the hosting duties, while we’ll be joined with our friends, neighbors and extended family.
We will toast a guest’s birthday, share what we’re thankful for, and wish my parents a 50th wedding anniversary all at the same time! While the exact anniversary isn’t until the end of December, I’d be a fool to not take the time to wish my loving folks the best of celebrations a bit early. When you make it to 50 Years you almost deserve to have those around you toast you many times over!
Stuffing is never my department. My mom has always made the stuffing (another one of my dad’s favorites) and she ALWAYS stuffs it in the bird.
I must admit, I have never made stuffing before making this recipe. I made it last year as a test, prior to Thanksgiving, and it was so good that Eli ate half the pan.
Regardless if it is Thanksgiving or 90* outside, if I ask Eli what he wants for dinner, his answer always has stuffing in the sentence.
Last year marked a new tradition; our holiday menu isn’t complete without this dish.
I have always been a big proponent of deep-frying a turkey. It has been, until now, the juiciest turkey I have ever made. However, the biggest turn-off of the whole deep-frying process is the $50 of oil you need to buy and then have to dispose of...it's kind-of-a-pain and always feels like a big waste.
However, there is nothing better than not tying up the oven on Thanksgiving Day with a turkey that needs four hours to cook. Therefore, deep-frying the turkey continued for a few years until I just couldn't get myself to buy those large vats of oil anymore. So the turkey made it's way back to my indoor oven and last year I did make one of the most delicious turkey's ever.
But, over the past year I kept seeing this Char-Broil The Big Easy Electric TRU Infrared Smoker and Roaster everywhere I went. Mostly at large warehouse stores like Lowe's. Seeing it so many times wore me down and I finally decided to buy one. It was a sign, right? I wanted to get the turkey cooking back outside where it belongs. This way the oven is reserved for all the beloved side dishes. Good idea? Yes. I thought so too.
This past weekend I finally fired it up to give it a test run. It requires a 30-minute seasoning cycle before using, which was not a big deal to complete.
I wanted to make a "no-frills" recipe. No exotic rubs and/or seasonings. No brining (which I always do). And no expensive free-range, local, special-fed, gobbles in seven languages turkey. I wanted to see what this machine could do on its own with a simple, frozen Butterball, rubbed in peanut oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. That's it. The results were kind of astonishing.
There are ten of us for dinner this year, ranging in age from 2 ½ to 91. My granddaughter, who is clearly her mother’s daughter in terms of her young culinary interests, feasts solely on (in this order) pumpkin pie and cranberries. At least two other guests besides the two pescatarians opt for salmon. Five traditionalists dine on turkey and sweet potatoes. Everyone except the two-year-old has several helpings of green bean casserole, that holdover from the fifties that is about as healthy as—but even more delicious than—Twinkies. I have a large and lovely glass of the wine selected by my daughter-in-law and contemplate the table.
The plates are Fiesta, in shades—in homage to the season—of yellow, orange, and green, to mirror the last leaves on the maple tree outside the window. I have been careful, however, to make sure that my mother’s setting is pink. My granddaughter has a plate that features Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. She doesn’t believe me when I tell her that it used to be her Uncle Ted’s favorite plate. The water glasses—an anniversary gift—are from Spain; the wine glasses are from a set my husband and I bought for a housewarming party for our first home.
Me: I should post the turkey sandwich with the cranberry sauce. Everyone will have leftover cranberry sauce to use up.
Me: Nope. Too much like Thanksgiving. I'll go with the Southwest sandwich.
Me: But cranberry sauce won't be around much longer; habanero Gouda cheese is around all year.
Me: No, no. Too much like Thanksgiving.
Me: I'm just gonna post both; that way, people can decide for themselves.
Jeff: Who are you talking to?
This Turkey, Cranberry, and Gruyere Sandwich with Sage Mustard is all about opposites attracting: toasty, fragrant rye bread and moist, savory turkey; tart cranberry sauce and mild Gruyere cheese; earthy sage and tangy mustard. Somehow, they all come together in perfect harmony.
Has anyone noticed that there's no debate this year? To stuff or not to stuff... To brine or not to brine... Yes, you can fast-cook a turkey at high-heat but should you? I think we all have debate fatigue; election fatigue; Washington gridlock fatigue -- and it's all somehow spilled over into Thanksgiving. We're going to the mountains so even the debate about whether we should have a second "fried" turkey (since we're sort of in the middle of the forest), is off the table as we'd probably burn the hills down. Steven Raichlen (the Beer-Can Chicken guy) does have a great BBQ'd turkey recipe, I've been told, but for the above reason we won't be trying that this year either...
Not to start a debate, but Thanksgiving is either the coziest or the most dysfunctional holiday on the planet -- and this year, we're all hoping that the ceasefire holds.
Lately, we have spent a lot of time contemplating the ways to explain Thanksgiving to Dane. We are diving into the stories of Pilgrims and Indians, but what I deeply want to convey to her this year, are the two sides of thankfulness - to give thanks for what we receive, while also finding joy in giving, so that we may create thankfulness in the hearts of others. I tend to teach her in ways that are tangible, so when I thought of our activities this week, the Thanksgiving feast came to mind.
"Would you like to make something for our Thanksgiving feast? Something all your own, that you can share with everyone?" I asked her.
To which she replied with excitement, "Of course! What can I make?"
"Butter!" I told her.
After all, butter is the binding creaminess passed from hand to hand and across the table with love. With each lick of butter shared, Dane may understand the heart-swell that comes with bringing contentment to others. Can't you just see hand-fulls of children shaking jars of fresh butter together on Thanksgiving Day!?
From the LA Times
The annual Thanksgiving feast is a time when home cooks enjoy pulling out all the stops and preparing copious amounts of tradition-loaded dishes to share with friends and loved ones. This excitement often leads to preparing enough food to satisfy roughly twice the number of guests you plan on hosting. But that's not necessarily bad, because it has spawned another equally beloved culinary tradition: Thanksgiving leftovers.
If the traditional Thanksgiving feast is inherently American, then the ongoing use of the surplus it generates is really a nod to the custom universal to good cooks, of making the most out of each ingredient's every part.
Experimentation and exploration are the true loves of any successful cook. This year I challenge you to move beyond your typical leftover-based dishes and to consider broader possibilities. Don't let anything go to waste, not the vegetables or the stuffing or the bones and trimmings of leftover turkey. This doesn't mean repeating the same old things over and over. Use this as an opportunity to push yourself beyond comfortable dishes and explore new flavors. And look afresh at the familiar and see what new forms it might take.
These recipes provide you with a starting point. They are ideas that take into consideration what kinds of leftovers you might have on hand and what kinds of meals you plan to serve.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a whole turkey to make gravy. However, you must slow-roast turkey to get good gravy.
I have to admit I have witnessed some pretty seasoned cooks have complete breakdowns at Thanksgiving when it comes time to gravy making. There is just too much going on at that moment; the bird is out of the oven, they are trying to deglaze the pan, the side dishes are almost ready or are getting cold, there are too many people around...let's face it, gravy anxiety is real.
However, all of this pandemonium can be eliminated with a little planning. The secret is turkey wings from the grocery store. Every store has them and they are so cheap. When you roast the wings with celery, onions and garlic, you have the makings of a perfect turkey stock which you will make into the perfect gravy. This can be done months ahead and frozen, taking out the stock when you need it.
On Thanksgiving you can make the gravy while the bird is in the oven as opposed to when it's out, which many of you know is a very stressful activity.
This recipe is a combination of technique and ingredients from Cook’s Illustrated and Joy of Cooking, which I suppose now makes it my own. There are tons of recipes with exotic flavors and ingredients, but if you’re looking for that classic Thanksgiving stuffing, this is the recipe to use. Drying the bread before making the stuffing is an important step for texture and flavor.
If you plan ahead, you can just leave the bread cubes out on the counter for a few days to become stale. I usually just spread them out on baking sheets and dry in a 300-degree oven for 30 to 60 minutes. Let the bread cool before using in the stuffing. You can substitute three 14-ounce bags of plain dried bread cubes for the homemade dried bread cubes, but you'll need to increase the amount of broth to 7-8 cups.
This recipe can easily be halved and baked in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish for a smaller crowd.