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Getting Ahead of Thanksgiving

November 17, 2011

There are some people who think Thanksgiving is about doing something new. They flip through magazines, and pore over cookbooks. They might even get desperate enough to go online and start reading blogs. I’m not opposed to trying new things. I’m not closed off to new experiences. In fact, I delight in venturing out into the unknown and embracing the weird.

But not on Thanksgiving.

It’s important to have traditions. It’s important to have rituals. Sometimes these things take on the form of holiday meals. Granted, this is easy for me to say since I get to go to my aunt’s house every year, and she’s a great cook. But if she ever changed stuffing recipes or neglected to make her creamed onions, something would feel uncomfortably out of place.

All the same, there are people out there who may be making Thanksgiving dinner for the very first time. Young families, just starting out, who are trying to make new traditions for themselves. Anyhow, in the past I’ve given my holiday advice in the days leading up to the holiday.

Today is different.

Or maybe it’s not. I don’t know. But I’m curious, since I’ve never actually cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner. For those of you who are taking the plunge, is it already fully planned? I hope not. Because today I’m sharing a few ideas for you to consider.

My intent is not to change anyone’s rituals or traditions. Rather, if you are here for ideas, I have one or two.

Like for example the best stuffing I’ve ever had. Stuffing that is so good it could be a holiday meal in itself. It has all four food groups: Pork, butter, booze and bread.

It’s from The Nantucket Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase and the recipe can be found online here. And just in case you are curious, I wrote extensively about this stuffing back in 2009 when I called it the centerpiece of Thanksgiving. Turkey is merely the canvas.

In the cookbook, the author recommends eating the stuffing by itself with a glass of sparkling wine. I think that’s a splendid idea, and bubbles go great with Thanksgiving, but I’ve been a long time proponent of dry gewürztraminer for the holiday.

Last year there was a battle between California and a top Finger Lakes producer. You can read all about it here, which also includes a showdown between two storied Finger Lakes Riesling producers. Or you could click here and read more about my thoughts on this white wine’s versatility.

But your stuffing might be locked-in and the wine might be someone else’s responsibility. Many people are looking for some kind of side to bring. And for that, I have to point to my old friend Chef Cory. He has an amazing recipe that he graciously shared for Brussels sprouts.

Or maybe you make desserts. I paired the chocolate bread pudding mentioned in this post with a cocoa bourbon sabayon. To make it appropriate for Thanksgiving I used Wild Turkey for the bourbon.

That’s all you are getting from me for now.

Maybe as we get closer, I’ll consider something a bit last minute. But there are still plenty of juicy food topics to cover. In the meantime, should you have any questions leading up to the big meal, don’t be afraid to ask. I’m here to help.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    November 17, 2011 11:09 am

    As far as I’m concerned, as long as there is 1. turkey; 2. bread stuffing; 3. mashed potatoes; 4. gravy; and 5. cranberry sauce, everything else is optional/negotiable.

  2. November 17, 2011 3:14 pm

    I think there should always be a little room for innovation — tradition is good, but so is me having the opportunity to try out things for what will eventually be my own version of the traditional meal. I’ve been trying to make one thing for the meal every year, so there’s one new thing on the table. A few years ago, it was a sweet potato casserole (no marshmallows, just a nice crumble topping). Last year, it was from-scratch green bean casserole (no canned soup here — yum!). This year, I’m doing dinner rolls.

  3. November 18, 2011 12:58 am

    To me Thanksgiving is merely the prelude to the after Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich: sturdy white bread (sourdough ideal) slathered with Durkee’s dressing and piled high with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and wilted leftover salad and topped with a ladle of gravy.

    In my youth in Texas we used to eat Thanksgiving dinner around noon then fall asleep watching football on TV. This timing was great because you could be hungry enough to have your sandwich the very same evening. More recently we’re eating Thanksgiving dinner around 4 pm which means the sandwich has to wait for the next day. Still good.

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