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22 September 2010

I'm making Thanksgiving dinner! I'm so excited, I have never made it before. My mom is doing the cranberry sauce, everything else is on me! I want to make the classics: turkey, stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pie... What else? Anyone have any fabulous recipes for American Thanksgiving dishes? I found what looks like a good recipe for mock mashed potatoes made of cauliflower.[More:]I know it's two months away, but I need something to look forward to at the moment.
Sorry this is American-centric...
posted by amro 22 September | 20:32
All of the world deserves turkey and mashed potatoes!!! USA! USA! USA! USA!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 22 September | 20:50
Starting the planning now is really a very good idea. Green bean casserole has become a classic thanks to the marketing powers of Campbells Soups. If you want to give the meal your own distinguishing touch, make your stuffing from scratch. The options there are endless.
posted by Ardiril 22 September | 20:51
Ooh, green bean casserole, that's a good idea.
posted by amro 22 September | 20:55
I make a crazily good sausage stuffing. It's pretty much my favourite part of the meal!
posted by richat 22 September | 21:12
cranberry orange relish: one bag cranberries, washed and the bad ones removed; one medium sized orange, peel and all; one cup sugar

chop all and put through food processor until about the consistency of a chutney or relish. Let sit overnight in fridge before serving.
posted by tortillathehun 22 September | 21:15
Mashed cauliflower in now way replaces mashed potatoes. Only do it if you'll also have mashed potatoes. Mashed cauliflower can be good when that's when you're in the mood for - as a replacement for mashed potatoes it's rather lacking. I will occasionally use it as a mashed potatoes replacement but only because nothing would make me happier than having mashed potatoes every single day forever.

(I actually prefer the mashed cauliflower made with sour cream and heavy cream more than the version with cream cheese, ymmv - especially if you like cream cheese. I only really like cream cheese as frosting or in cheesecake. I also like to roast the cauliflower instead of boiling it. Roasting it gives it a fun nuttier flavor. Since cooked cauliflower has basically no taste I find that it helps to give it some smoky/nutty flavor.)
posted by fluffy battle kitten 22 September | 21:22
Ah, I should add that I am trying to be at least somewhat sensitive to the fact that my dad is diabetic and can't eat much sugar or carbs. Hence the cauliflower instead of potatoes. Also, neither of my parents eat pork products or shellfish, so they're out too. Somewhat limiting, especially trying to keep the carbs low.
posted by amro 22 September | 21:27
Yeah, that does present some challenges! I think most of my favourite things at a thanksgiving meal are likely not the best!
posted by richat 22 September | 21:35
Perhaps something like Green Beans with Sesame Vinaigrette instead of green been casserole?
posted by gomichild 22 September | 22:36
I was going to suggest a Waldorf Salad, but that won't help with carbs. But it is a nice addition that "cuts" some of the heaviness of the meal.
posted by deborah 23 September | 01:30
Do you like brussels sprouts? Roasted brussels sprouts are delicious.

I was going to suggest Tyler Florence's Creamy Mashed Potatoes (they are the best!), but that's out.

I make this roasted turkey breast by Ina Garten a lot. It's delicious. If your guest list is small, a turkey breast might be all you need. If not, you can use this herb concoction on a whole turkey.

I make pumpkin gooey cakes every year too. They are not healthy in the least but are a huge crowd pleaser.
posted by LoriFLA 23 September | 07:09
Here is Ina's Perfect Roast Turkey recipe for a 12 lb turkey.

I am a huge fan of Ina Garten. She consistently has the most delicious recipes.
posted by LoriFLA 23 September | 07:12
Damn shifting playing field!

Otherwise you could simmer your Thanksgiving sauerkraut with brown sugar and caraway seeds like my mom did.
posted by Hugh Janus 23 September | 08:20
Also it's best if you rinse the sauerkraut before you cook it.
posted by Hugh Janus 23 September | 08:23
Oh dear. Last night I typed up basic recipes for cranapple crisp and sweet potato casserole, but both of those are aggressively anti-diabetic-diet so I looked for modded versions (because they are both easy to make and so tasty).

Here's a good looking version of the crisp. We usually end up using a bag of fresh cranberries and Fuji apples because no one ever remembers to buy special baking apples and it turns out delicious. This Sweet Potato Casserole looks right as well. Brown sugar substitute for both. Avoiding the topping when portioning it out will cut the carb count pretty drastically.

For a starter, maybe try this apple and butternut squash soup.
posted by notquitemaryann 23 September | 10:40
This thread makes me want Thanksgiving RIGHT NOW!!!
posted by youngergirl44 23 September | 11:25
right? I've been wanting turkey and gravy and green bean casserole for a week. This thread is not helping.
posted by toastedbeagle 23 September | 12:09
Ah, I should add that I am trying to be at least somewhat sensitive to the fact that my dad is diabetic and can't eat much sugar or carbs. Hence the cauliflower instead of potatoes.

Over the years, I've learned that many of my favorite Thanksgiving foods aren't the sweet, rich, starchy ones, but the leaner, lighter dishes with a brighter flavor. My family always pokes fun at me for bringing simpler dishes of greens or beans or roasted vegetables, but they always get gobbled up because they're so refreshing to a palate jaded by stuffing and mashed potatoes and rich casseroles. I'll eat a bit of each rich dish, but I like lots of simpler veg dishes to balance it out.

Here's my write-up of our first Thanksgiving at home; there aren't any detailed recipes there, but lots of ideas and a few basic templates for dishes. (Because I wrote it in response to searches asking what to serve a vegetarian at Thanksgiving, it includes a lot of veg-friendly tips, but you can disregard those.)

I too have been craving turkey lately, and this is pushing me over the edge. I might have to roast a chicken or something.
posted by Elsa 23 September | 13:13
Coincidentally, there's a chance that we, too, will be hosting the family gathering for the first time ever this year.

I've never had stuffing at Thanksgiving--we make a cornbread dressing instead. In typical traditional recipe fashion, I can give the outlines but not the precise recipe. Start by making a recipe of cornbread in a cast iron skillet. Cool and crumble. Next take an onion and about half a stalk of celery, chop them and saute in a stick of butter until soft. Combine with crumbled cornbread, half a dozen beaten eggs, lots of chicken stock, parsley, and black pepper. It should be pretty soupy. Bake at 450F for 45 mins or until set in the middle. It should be light, moist and souffle-like, and not dry and dense. My wife and I disagree strongly about whether sage has any place in dressing. It doesn't.

I prefer smoked turkey to other preparation methods. Whatever cooking method you choose, brining overnight with Alice Waters's brine recipe will do wonders for the juiciness of the finished bird.

For gravy, I make a roux of 3 TBS flour and 3 TBS butter, then add 2 cups of chicken stock, and cook, stirring, until thickened. The real secret is don't be shy with the black pepper so it has a nice bite. It's so easy, I just don't understand why they sell gravy in a jar.

For the past few years, my mom and sister have been baking diced sweet potatoes with whole fresh cranberries, maple syrup, and butter. Bake at 400F until sweet potatoes are soft.

Finally, I have really come to like Pumpkin Flan for dessert instead of pumpkin pie. It's all filling, no worries about substandard pie crust, and you get the bonus of caramel sauce. I doubt I'll ever make pumpkin pie again.
posted by fogovonslack 23 September | 13:42
amro, here's a long-ago thread in which users discussed favorite Thanksgiving dishes, gave a few recipes, and laid out timelines for prep and cooking. It might be helpful!
posted by Elsa 23 September | 14:03
Duh, I linked directly to my own comment. Here's the start of the thread.
posted by Elsa 23 September | 14:09
Yes, brine that turkey! It makes all the difference in the world.
posted by cyndigo 23 September | 19:09
I didn't mention it earlier, but I really love seeing all the regional variation in holiday menus. Keep it coming!
posted by fogovonslack 23 September | 20:16
These are all good ideas, thanks! I think it's just going to be my parents and I for dinner, so a turkey breast makes sense.
posted by amro 23 September | 20:19
Stupid question about brining: Do I refrigerate the turkey while it's soaking?
posted by amro 23 September | 20:21
Not stupid: crucial. Brining isn't a preservation method, despite the salt. It is necessary to keep the turkey as cold as it would be in a fridge.

The problem, of course, is that most home fridges don't have enough space for a brining turkey and everything else you'll have on hand for a holiday meal.

My own solution* in previous years has been to store the brine bucket in a cooler in the unheated garage and to keep the brine itself cold by adding many bottles of ice to it.

Anytime in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, take many empty plastic bottles (water bottles and the like), strip off the labels, and clean them well. Now don't quiiiiiite fill them with water, cap 'em, and freeze 'em solid. Now you have plenty of ice to put into the brine. Bonus: because they're closed, they won't dilute your brine.

Check a couple of times through the brining period and make sure the brine is cold. You have to keep it below 40F to keep the food safe. If you have a probe thermometer that registers that low, it's ideal to keep track of the temp.

If this is your first time brining anything, check out the basics from Cooks' Illustrated. That page also mentions the different weights of various brands of salt, which is very simple but very important in brining.

* Ha, "solution." A brining joke.
posted by Elsa 23 September | 21:19
Sorry, that's obviously not Cooks' Illustrated; my hands typed that on autopilot, which says something about my cooking habits, I guess.

Also, I see now that you're doing a turkey breast, in which case you'll be able to fit it into your fridge with some careful packing. Yay!
posted by Elsa 23 September | 21:28
oy vey (aka the 5PM MST cannot come soon enough thread) || Calibro 35 -- "Notte In Bovisa"