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Anyone else thinking about Thanksgiving?

  • t

I don't know why I am thinking about it so early but I am starting to think about Thanksgiving. I've actually started some pre-planning for the menu. One menu for DH and I, if it is just the two of us, and one if relatives come to town. Both Osso Buco and Coq au Vin are contenders as is pumpkin pie from the pie and pastry bible. Any one else thinking about Thanksgiving?

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  1. Ooh... can I come to your Thanksgiving?!? Both of those sound much better than turkey!
    I've been thinking about it a lot! I was thinking about playing around with a pumpkin cheesecake instead of the old standard, but I don't know... my brother might kill me!
    A couple of years ago we had a turkey with garlic and onion jam that was a Martha recipe and it was wonderful... I have lost the recipe since then, but I would definitely make it again if I could find it again!
    Everything fall has been sounding good to me lately and Thanksgiving has a lot of the quintessential fall foods. I've also been attracted to fall colors lately... it's in the air! Apple cider, here I come!

    1. Yeah, it looks like we're hosting the extended family this year. I'm a confirmed turkey hater (I mean, if it's so good why do we only eat it once a year?) and have in the past - with a somewhat more selective group - been able to get away with, for example, rib roast or fresh ham, the latter being the best alternative I can think of to feed a crowd. Turkey white meat has got to be one of the most inedible substances known to man, and even though I restrict myself to a small portion of the dark I don't even like looking at the stuff. And no, I don't overcook it to the sawdust stage in spite of being brought up that way. Unfortunately, misplaced thoughts about "tradition" among prospective guests will probably force me into gobbler-mode and I dread it.

      14 Replies
      1. re: FlyFish

        And I'm a ham-disliker (way too salty for me), so whenever Christmas is at my sister's, she always makes sure there's a turkey breast for me and any others who would like something other than ham.

        So why not make both (using a smaller turkey and ham so you don't have a ton of leftovers) if your extended family is coming in? That way, you're happy with the ham, and traditionalists get their turkey.

        And while I haven't done it, many here have had great success in brining turkeys and then roasting them, with the brine keeping it nice and moist.

        1. re: Linda W.

          Fresh ham is totally different than a cured ham. Think leg of pork with lots of wonderful skin to turn into cracklings.

          I have found roasting a smaller turkey instead of one of those huge things gives me much moister and flavorful turkey. If you have a crowd just roast 2. 4 drumsticks! But if I had to choose turkey or fresh ham, it will be fresh ham every time and it can feed 10-12 people easily.

            1. re: Candy

              I always do 2 turkeys just for that reason! My brother in law thought I was crazy but he was happy when he didn't have to fight over the drumsticks and when there was plenty of dark meat to go around.

              I have also found 2 smaller birds come out moister, are easier and faster to roast and are easier to brine since I don't have to dig out a garbage can to fit the d*mn thing into.

              I love thanksgiving and have also started planning my meal. I am just getting ready to make my yearly batch of cranberry vodka to make cranberry bogs!

              1. re: foodiex2

                If *no one* in my family eats dark meat, I suppose I'm better off with one big bird instead of two (?)

                Regarding your cranberry vodka (yum!), do you just place fresh cranberries in vodka for a few weeks, or do you add other flavorings?

                1. re: Funwithfood

                  If no one likes dark meat skip the bird all together and get 2 good size turkey breasts. Brined they would be most and perfect!

                  I make the vodka just like you said- fill a good size mason jar 3/4 of the ways with fresh or frozen cranberries, cover with a good quality vodka and put in a cool dark place for at least 2 months to up to 6 months. I like mine to deep pink color so tend to go longer whenever possible. I then drain well and store in the freezer. Makes an awesome cosmo. And don't throw those cranberries away either!! Store in the freezer for a nice garnish when serving the vodka. If you prefer a liqueur just sweeten the flavored vodka to taste using simple syrup. (Both make great gifts!!)

                  1. re: foodiex2

                    The cranberry vodka sounds great. I am ready to make it this weekend. Can you tell me how much vodka you use?
                    Thank you

                    1. re: Vickie

                      It depends on the size of the mason jars you use. It is a very forgiving recipe. One year I made over a gallon!! I usually buy at least quart of vodka and use a quart size mason jar. You will have a little vodka left over since some space will be taken up with the berries. Whatever size you use just fill it at least 3/4's of the way up with the berries and then fill to the top with vodka. Good Luck!

                    2. re: foodiex2

                      I had better start my infusion now (are fresh cranberries for sale yet?)

                      Regarding the turkey, how would I make my turkey soup without all those bones!

                      {I finally discovered the trick to un-gamey turkey soup (never understood why it tasted gamey after being frozen??). Leave out the thigh and leg bones. Perfectly delicous soup!}

                2. re: Candy

                  I know fresh ham; my stepfather always made it for Christmas when he still with us - I love fresh ham.

                  It's the cured hams that my sister tends to get (or the spiral-sliced hams) that I just don't like. Or if it was the only meat on the table, I'd have the smallest piece (literally no bigger than my palm), and then she got upset because I "wasn't enjoying my meal." And I'm usually fine with the assortment of veggies!

                  So several years ago, when she noticed I was mostly having vegetables, she asked, and I told. From then on, she always has a small turkey breast - and her husband confided in me that he likes both turkey AND ham, so he was glad I told her I wasn't crazy about ham. And now that she makes both, most everyone at the table have both ham and turkey on their plates...except me. :-)

                3. re: Linda W.

                  One of my most successful turkeys, pre-brining, was one where I made a very rich stuffing and mounded it deeply under the breast skin. It both insulated and basted the breast meat, so that it cooked no faster than the dark meat and came out wonderfully moist and tender and succulent. Considering that this was the largest bird I'd ever done before (or since!) at around 24 pounds - it was in fact so big I had to partially de-bone it to get it into my biggest roaster! - and I was feeding 18 people what was basically an experiment, it was a stunning success.

                  And we do NOT eat turkey just once a year - we eat it whenever I take the notion to cook one, or various parts. I just wish small ones - 5-10 lbs - were easier to come by. I love those.

                4. re: FlyFish

                  I am a died in the wool turkey fan and years ago I would balk at not having turkey but recently I have really enjoyed alternatives to turkey. Last year I made the 6 hour pork roast from epicurious and another year I did some cornish game hens with morrocan flavors/seasoning. On both occasions the main dishes worked well with the more traditional or modern fall oriented sides. I don't think anyone missed the bird, but I have a very small, accomodating family. During the rest of the year I don't have a lot of time to putter around in the kitchen, so thanksgiving is my day to putter it seems so redundant to do turkey when I can try something new.

                  1. re: FlyFish

                    There's only one person in our family that is in love with turkey-so we usually make goose or duck. There's nothing quite like a roasted goose - maybe you could trick the traditionalists with a substitute bird?

                    1. re: gini

                      Ooh... I'm thinking pheasant! Yum! Any excuse to eat pheasant!

                  2. Yes, actually! I like to start planning early even though I am only allowed limited experimentation (cranberry sauce, veg, dessert). Stuffing is my husband's favorite food, so I have to make a huge amount (full 7.5q Le Creuset) and always in the same manner (a sort of homemade Pepperidge Farm approach: crisped white bread chunks, turkey and/or chicken stock, onions and celery sweated in quite a lot of butter, some garlic, a LOT of parsley, sage, thyme, S&P).

                    The vendor from whom I buy meat at my farmers' market is raising some heirloom breeds of turkey, so that should be interesting.

                    Last year I made a cranberry sauce with a lot of minced fresh ginger that I found at the farmers' market--very nice and refreshing with a heavy meal. I also made pumpkin creme brulee instead of pie, which I thought was a huge improvement over the standard. Happy to post a recipe if anyone is interested.

                    And--chowishly appropriate--my birthday falls on Thanksgiving this year!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: LindaMc

                      The pumpkin creme brulee sounds delicious. Please post the recipe.

                      1. re: Jen

                        Here is a link to the recipe I used. It worked really well, and since everything but the torching is done ahead of time (I made and cooked the custard the day before), it allows for a relaxed end to the meal.

                        Enjoy!

                        Link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                      2. re: LindaMc

                        My birthday is around Thanksgiving too, it is very appropriate time for a food lover.

                      3. I haven't thought about Thanksgiving yet but I know that I should since I am having 25 people coming over! I have never cooked for that many people! I think (hope) I can handle it. Looking into brining our Turkey but not sure where to find a pot that big to soak the turkey. The current issue of Fine Cooking talks about dry brining but not sure if that would be as good as "wet" brining. Anyone try that before?

                        Gee, now I am getting nervous and need to go home and start planning my menu!

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: ssssssandy

                          See below,and get 2 turkeys not one of those big things you will have better turkey and they will be easier to brine and will roast more evenly.

                          I have a really good pumpkin bread pudding with coffee flavored whipped cream if anyone is interested. It is more tart like than regular bread pudding made with bread slices layered in a pie plate. It is quite light.

                          1. re: Candy

                            Yes please on the bread pudding. We're going to my sister and brother-in-law's, but I'm sure I'll get to do some desserts.

                          2. re: ssssssandy

                            I brined a really large bird (would rather have done two small, but it was a symbolic thing for some people) in a large food-safe bag set into my roasting pan. I put the bird in, had someone hold the bag up around the bird, poured in the water, tied it tight and put in the fridge overnight. Worked fine.

                            Link: http://seasonalcook.blogspot.com

                            1. re: curiousbaker

                              I went to a restaurant-supply place about three years ago (Smart & Final, in this case) and bought a five-gallon food-grade vinyl bucket with a lid. This was right after my pa-in-law informed me that he's abdicated as TG Chef-in-command, and that I was now IT. Thanks. Pops... anyway, I could brine a suckling pig in there if I wanted to, but it handles a 20-lb turkey (plus the two extra leg quarters the family demands) just fine. I have an old monitor-top GE fridge in the garage into which the tub and bird fit perfectly.

                              I have learned, however, to carry the tub of brine and the turkey out separately. First time I carried it all in one load and damn near killed myself...

                            2. re: ssssssandy

                              I've heard of people doing it in a big cooler chest, like you use for soda and beer, that's what I would use if I tried it.

                            3. I had a friend ask for the Ruby Red Grapefruit and Tarragon granita again. While typing it up for her I got to thinking how good it would be between courses at Thanksgiving dinner and it can be done well in advance.

                              Combine 1 1/2 C. water with 1 1/2 C. sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 heaping Tbs. finely chopped fresh tarragon. Allow to stand and steep 20 minutes. Then stir in 4 C. ruby red grapefruit juice. Stir and pour into a shallow dish and place in the freezer. Stir it every once in awhile while freezing.

                              After it is frozen just scoop it into a container with a tight fitting lid so that it does not pick up other flavors.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Candy

                                Have you ever run this base through the ice cream machine to make a sorbet instead of a granita? Would you change the recipe any to do so (other than cooling the mixture entirely before putting in the machine, of course)? It does look good.

                                1. re: josephsm

                                  I have not done that, I like the grainy texture of the granita, but why not?

                              2. Well now I am! This is what I love about hounds; you all think about Thanksgiving menus w/ the first whiff of fall...

                                May be going to my sister's this year in AZ, so she may be more "in charge", which is just fine by me this year. I can hopefully contribute a couple of side dishes, maybe dessert. I always love potato gratin and sweet potato pie for this holiday...mmmm...carbs.

                                Regardless, I'm going to buy a 10-12 lb. turkey just for me and the husband so I can experiment w/ dry brining and we can have all the leftovers to ourselves for sandwiches, chili, divan, soup....

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Carb Lover

                                  What is "dry brining"?

                                  1. re: foodiex2

                                    I seem to be singing the praises of dry brining alot lately. See link and subsequent responses for more info...

                                    Zuni Cafe cookbook and recent Fine Cooking issue are other resources.

                                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                2. My wife and I have Thanksgiving Dinner with our daughter and her family. A whole turkey and a turkey breast are roasted for that feast (It's an Italian household, so you know that there's too much food for an army including at least one pasta dish).

                                  I look forward to the Friday after when I make a large stockpot of turkey broth from the carcasses which I bring home after the meal. The broth is made simply by simmering the bones only in water, and then strained before freezing. No aromatics or seasonings are used. This is done so that I don't have to remember what stuff was added to the broth.

                                  Aromatics and seasonings are added when the broth is used. I use the broth for risotto for which I have no standard recipe. Different aromatics and seasonings may be used from one preparation to the next. That's because I belong to the 'What If...?' School of Cooking specializing in Impromptu Cuisine.

                                  1. j
                                    Jane Hathaway

                                    Oh yes. I've been thinking about it for weeks. I'm actually already contemplating my holiday baking so I guess I'm excited for the holidays this year! Then again, I have an 18 month old baby so I have to be very organized in advance.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: Jane Hathaway

                                      I don't have any kids so I have no excuse for my obsessive compulsive thinking, but I've been thinking about my holiday baking too! This year: an homage to my Great Grandma for all the ladies in my family- her name is Mildred and I found a coffee shop called Mildred's so I'm going to buy mugs from there and make goodies that my Great Grandma used to make. Maybe carrot cookies or raisin bars, even though I don't like raisins, everyone else raves about them! I think it should be an appreciated and fun gift!

                                      1. re: Jane Hathaway

                                        Yes, I am pondering how to replace the Pillsbury crescent rolls that my husband insists on (because he grew up with them on the Thanksgiving table) with the infinitely superior, flaky, Southern-style biscuits that everyone, even my husband, loves. Scheming . . . .

                                        I'm also thinking of having a pie buffet this year. Maybe seven or eight homemade pies, all our favorites, to eat all weekend long. We would have pumpkin, apple, sweet-potato, chess, Japanese fruit (coconut, pecan, and raisin in a chess filliing), buttermilk, butterscotch, and maybe chocolate chess.

                                        Otherwise, the menu is set. It's the same every year, at the risk of death and dismemberment.

                                        1. re: Browniebaker

                                          Love Thanksgiving. We have a "pie buffet" every year- usually the standard- apple, lemon merange (sp?), pumpkin, mincemeat, chocolate cream, pecan. We also have a large fresh fruit bowl, a trifle and homemade chocolate truffles. WE usually have about 20-25 for dinner, people stop by after dinner for dessert, and we have lots of company for the entire weekend. I make a turkey soup on Friday, and we can have soup or turkey sandwiches, along with dessets for any company that drops by. Try it- I'll bet it will become a Holiday tradition

                                          1. re: macca

                                            Oh, how could I have forgotten dear old pecan pie?!

                                            I'm liking the idea of a pie buffet more and more. Yours sounds delicious!

                                            1. re: Browniebaker

                                              Just have to make sure you have lots of company. And you will need lots of storage space!! I live in the Northeast, so the weather is usually cold enough for me to get away with my fruit pies temporarily stored on the back porch.
                                              Funny about the pecan pie- I don't really have a taste for it- much too sweet for me- but it is the favorite for a lot of people, so we have it every year.

                                          2. re: Browniebaker

                                            Browniebaker, I'm not American and don't live in the US - but I really like the sound of that Japanese pie - do you have a recipe?

                                            Any idea how it got that name?

                                            1. re: Athena

                                              Athena,

                                              Japanese Fruit Pie is definitely a Southern thing, by which I mean the southern part of the United States. It's not Japanese at all, and some Japanese people get a bit miffed at the misnomer. It's called Japanese only because when coconut became available in the South, coconut was considered exotic or foreign. In fact, there's also a cake in the South that's called Japanese Fruitcake, and it's a layer cake with coconut, pecans, and raisins in it.

                                              I grew up in Tennessee after my parents moved there, and my mom got this recipe for Japanese Fruit Pie from a native Southerner. I do love this pie because to me it's the taste of home. (I modified the recipe to use half the amount of butter; the original recipe calls for a whole heart-stopping stick of butter!)

                                              JAPANESE FRUIT PIE

                                              pastry for 9-inch, single-crust pie
                                              1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
                                              4 large eggs
                                              1-1/3 cups sugar
                                              2 tablespoons cider vinegar
                                              1/4 teaspoon salt
                                              1 cup raisins
                                              1 cup toasted chopped pecans
                                              1 cup moist, sweetened, flaked coconut

                                              Place oven-rack at lowest level in oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together butter and eggs until blended. Whisk in sugar, vinegar, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Stir in raisins, pecans, and coconut. Pour into unbaked pie-crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Cover edge of crust to prevent excessive browning. Turn down thermostat to 350 degrees. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or just until center of filling is firm and metal tester inserted in center of filling comes out clean. Remove from oven. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, with cream, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream if desired. Store at room temperature. Freezes well.

                                              I do hope you'll try this pie. It's delicious.

                                              1. re: Browniebaker

                                                Browniebaker,

                                                Thank you for taking the time give both explanation and recipe - I have cut and pasted it. I'm familiar with a lot of Southern food, but had never heard of this one.

                                          3. re: Jane Hathaway

                                            There are never many in my brood unless I am alone for the holiday and beg off on friends and my kids make me make pumpkin pie and pecan pie or sometimes chocolate pecan and one year I made a apricot/cranberry tart with a hazelnut crust that was a pain to work with but came out really delicious...I wish someone else would make that one and I could just indulge!!!!

                                          4. Hell yes. I am already thinking about doing an apple pie spice tiramisu with cavados and cinnamon.

                                            Link: http://dcfoodblog.blogspot.com

                                            1. Yep. It's still steaming here in Florida but once September rolls around, I start thinking about the Jewish holidays and then Thanksgiving. My goal for this year was to get apple pie down before Thanksgiving so that I could unveil it for the family. But I never got around to it. I've never made a pie crust so I'm a little intimidated. As for the main attraction, I've had success the last couple holiday meals w/ Empire kosher turkeys. I have to get up early to pick all the pinfeathers out, but it comes out really moist and I actually find the plucking relaxing. An added bonus is no need to brine.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: twinmommy

                                                Try the all butter pie crust in The Way to Bake, Malgieri's book. It is quite supple and forgiving and tasty too.