No matter what you say, my mother made the best Thanksgiving. It was not at noon or at four; we ate at dinner time when it was dark. Stuffing was my favorite part and still is unless you make creamed onions. When it's my assignment I use this recipe. One reason it doesn't taste quite like hers is that I don't have old bread. She calls it turkey stuffing but that can't be right because she never made turkey, only capon. My father did not eat turkey and nobody knew from brine.
Esther Kaufman's Long Island Simple Stuffing: 8 cups stale white bread cubed, no crusts; 1 cup minced onion, 1 tablespoon salt, ½ cup butter, 1 cup diced celery with leaves; parsley, sage, thyme and pepper. Dry out the bread at 325°F but don't let it brown. Cook the onion in butter, add the seasonings. Add the celery, cook 3-5 minutes. Pour over the bread, mixing well, and stuff the bird. It was perfectly okay to stuff . . . then (after seat belts and before helmets were fitted at birth).
Doris Kanter's LA Fancy Stuffing: In her collection I found this recipe from her friend Doris. It only lists ingredients and has no directions except "not diced, cubed." Fluffy fresh bread, water chestnuts, celery, walnuts, bacon, margarine, onion, poultry seasoning, garlic salt, pepper and milk. This is exactly why Encino is way more fun than Long Beach.
Mom's Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallow: In our house it was the only time there were marshmallows for dinner. Although we grew up in the same house, when I served it to the very same brothers not so long ago, they, their wives, assorted brothers- and sisters-in-law and the children made a to-do about how my marshmallows spoiled the sweet potatoes. It went on and on, not in a good way, and although I like it I never made it again.
Amherst Holistic Squash: Now it's squash. One butternut squash cut in half lengthwise, take out the seeds. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place on large baking sheet face up and roast 20-30 minutes. Scoop it into a bowl and add a serving spoon.
Brookline Company-Friendly Squash: as above and I top with a small amount of butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper. What's good about this is if you have a pre-made bird, it makes the house smell very "I've been slaving all day, I cooked the bird earlier, pour me more wine" and no one will notice at all.
Susan Valentine's Roslindale Black Friday Turkey Soup: Susan took everything and I mean everything that was left and dumped it in to a large pot: the carcass, the gravy, stuffing, all the potatoes, squash and the cranberry sauce. I made salad with Caesar dressing and Parmesan cheese that wasn't quite finished and that went in too.
Ellen Kaufman's Mansfield Perfect Thanksgiving: One year Ellen got Sailor to bring turkey, fancy stuffing and gravy - and me to bring everything else: simple stuffing, creamed onions, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cooked cranberry sauce, wine and pie. I cooked, packed, carried and drove 30 miles. I only did this once.
What wine do I serve at Thanksgiving? People are always asking wine guys what goes with turkey? What wine goes with football? Is your dinner at one or at four? What is everybody wearing? Did you brine the turkey? Are you deep frying it? Are there more than two kinds of cranberry sauce and is one chunky? Are there lumps in the mashed potatoes? In the gravy? Did you peel the potatoes? What's your green vegetable? Is there salad? How about rolls? Do you put sausage in the stuffing? How many kinds of pie? What about pecan? Is the whipped cream real? What kind of ice cream? Is anyone helping with the dishes? Are we taking a walk? We think about this every year and we think that once the turkey's in the oven, it's okay to drink early and often.
Kitty Kaufman is a Boston writer. You can read about her food adventures at Corporate Edge.