It’s that time of year when I have an excuse to get the kitchen really messy. We have a family tradition of spending the whole of Thanksgiving Day cooking together. For normal everyday cooking I tend to make the same 20-or-so recipes over and over, although every time we move I change things up to reflect which ingredients are cheap and easy to find where we live. But for Thanksgiving, I like to try new recipes every year.
I’ve come a long way from our first Thanksgiving as a little family, in which my freshman sister Hannah arrived just in time to prevent me from sticking the turkey in the oven completely unseasoned and with the giblets still inside their plastic bag in one of the mysterious cavities.
Our most adventurous Thanksgiving was the year we had gone all-raw. It was weird how even in the unchangeable climate of San Diego I started to crave hot food. Especially the smell of food cooking. By the time Thanksgiving came around, we had compromised with ourselves and switched to being just vegetarian. We stuffed a pretty impressive pumpkin, and had some yummy mushroom gravy, but I can’t say it was the best Thanksgiving ever.
Now we’re back to being regular old omnivores, so our Thanksgiving choices are a little more extensive. For recipes, I turned, as usual, to my normal go-to source for recipes, Epicurious. Like any self-respecting foodie site (well at least any American one), they have an extensive section devoted to Thanksgiving. I had quite an enjoyable time clicking on their menus from different parts of the U.S. I’ve only lived in California, the Northwest, and now the South (although I’m told that Florida is not really The South), so it was interesting to see what is normal to eat in other places (rice stuffing anyone? oysters? what about Maple Gingerbread Layer Cake with Salted Maple Caramel Sauce?) The coolest idea I found was stuffing the Turkey with Tamales. I would totally consider it if we were living back in California and awesome tamales were easy to find.
After an afternoon of serious deliberation (and before the list is pared down by Tony and his unerring sense of the [im]practicality of cooking a dozen different dishes on one day to feed a grand total of four people), I give you our Thanksgiving menu!
Pickled Okra . Yes, this might sound like kind of a weird recipe, but it was the only one off the “Southern” menu that sounded good to me. Plus, it’s supposed to be made beforehand, so it won’t be competing for oven space on the Big Day.
Pigs in a Blanket. I found a recipe for this in the Afternoon Tea Recipe Book I’ve been drooling over lately, and told my kids about eating it when I was a kid. Back then, we used vienna sausages for the pigs, and we thought it was so cool that they came in a package of seven. They were obviously a food tailor-made for our family. I don’t know if I could eat vienna sausages now without gagging, so I think we’ll just use regular sausage.
Heirloom Squash Farrotto. This one just sounded delicious, especially with the cumin yoghurt sauce. I don’t know what my odds are of finding reasonably-priced farro anywhere around here, but there’s always pearl barley.
So, I saw this picture on Facebook a few days ago, and thought it looked pretty impressive:
I looked over a couple of recipes though, and found them unconvincing. Enter Pancetta-Sage Turkey with Pancetta-Sage Gravy. Instead of wrapping the whole thing in bacon, you make a delectable sounding pancetta butter to slather all over it.
Italian Sausage and Bread Stuffing and Apple, Sausage and Parsnip Stuffing. Actually, I’m going to combine these two recipes, since the first one sounded more flavorful, but I loved the idea of adding apples and parsnips, and I think it will go swimmingly with the pancetta-sage turkey.
Not Your Mother’s Green Beans. From Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, and one of my favorite recipes ever. Just-tender green beans tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, toasted pine nuts, scallions, and herbs. I’ve made this recipe in dozens of variations: orange juice or other flavored vinegars instead of the balsamic, walnuts, pecans or almonds, garlic or thinly-sliced red onion, butter instead of the olive oil, etc. It’s easy to whip up in a few minutes, but dressy enough for company (or Thanksgiving dinner).
Roasted Winter Vegetables. This is our only real traditional recipe. We make it every year because it’s just so delicious, and it feels so much like fall.
Bubble-Top Brioches. These look yummy, and my grandma used to make rolls in triplicate like this. Actually, she also made some delicious cheesy rolls that were rolled up like little cones. I’ll have to ask my mom if she has the recipe.
Berry Streusel Pie. Tony wanted either berry or apple, and I’m not fond of apple. Also, I’m not very good at pie crusts, so it’s better to just have a single rather heavy pie crust than a double one. Plus, streusel!
Key Lime Pie. O.K. I have never even tasted key lime pie. But we are living in Florida, and I saw real key limes at the grocery store last week. So I thought it would be a terrible opportunity to waste. For those of you who are key lime pie purists, which topping is more authentic? My recipe has whipped cream, but I’ve also seen meringue (I’m assuming whipped topping is out?). Also, fifteen minutes in the oven? That’s not really long enough to cook a custard. I’m pretty sure it’s not a mistake, since I saw some recipes where the filling wasn’t cooked at all. Maybe this is just my cultural ignorance showing (and I’m no one to judge, since I can put away as much unpasteurized cookie dough as the next baker), but is this dessert actually composed of raw egg yolk mixed with lime juice? Please enlighten me.
What are you having for Thanksgiving, dear readers? Do you make the same recipes every year, or do you like to try new ones? And have you ever cooked a turkey with the plastic giblet bag intact?