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call for Thanksgiving debriefing: the good, the bad & the ugly. Please share your greatest successes and also any duds to learn by

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biggest hits for our night:
-- wild mushroom, leek, turkey sausage & baguette stuffing adapted from an epi recipe
--very high temp roasted (halved) brussells sprouts w/ rough-chopped garlic & chestnuts, finished with a little lemon juice and parmesan
--my MIL's tsimis, traditionally made for Rosh Hashanah but perfect for thanksgiving (long stewed yams & carrots w/ citrus, prunes, etc.
--the turkey (a combo of about 20 different recipes) also pretty good
--in the desert department, epi's super easy pumpkin tiramisu beat out the traditional pumpkin pie hands down

I'd love to hear how everyone else's hard work paid off

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  1. Interesting post - can't wait to see more responses.

    Biggest hits for me - pumpkin pie, using the all-butter crust from last week's NYT - flaky, easy to work with, fantastic! I thought the back-of-the-Libby's-can filling would be too sweet, but it was actually perfect - guess they know what they're doing after all these years.
    -make-ahead gravy, with the turkey drippings added - stress free and so delicious. I added a dash of dark soy to deepen the color and no one was the wiser.
    -pureed mushroom soup - I used a blend of button, dried porcini and a dried "wild" mixture - fantastic! Added a little cream and sherry.

    Biggest miss - the turkey. I overcooked the darn thing! I shouldn't have pushed it up to 165, but taken it out at 161-162 and allowed it to rest. Still, everyone ate and enjoyed. It was a great Thanksgiving.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Petitpois

      I took my turkey out when it reached 170 and it wasn't done..the
      juices of the resting bird ran not clear enough..wrapped it up and
      tossed it back in a cooler oven for a while. Conclusion..thermometer may well be
      off as yours might be.

      1. re: serious

        My uncle, who cooks the turkey every year for Christmas (for about the past 15 years), told me tonight that he takes the turkey out when the innermost temps measure 160, then tents it until it comes up to 165, which it does once out of the oven.

        His turkeys are always giant birds, and always come out juicy and delicious.

        1. re: serious

          Was your bird stuffed or unstuffed? Where did you stick the thermometer, if I may ask? If it's stuffed, I think you're supposed to check the thigh AND then the stuffing itself. Just wondering how you took the temp.

          1. re: Val

            My turkey was unstuffed, 13 lbs, and at 3 hours @350 it had reached
            170 on thermometer stuck in middle of the breast. For last 10
            minutes I needed a bit more browning so turned temp to 450.
            Looked perfect but..had to put it back in the oven and did this
            wrapped in foil,@ 250 for about 15 minutes.

            1. re: serious

              The breast temperature is almost always 20-30 degrees higher than the thigh, or the innards of the bird. To measure temperature on a turkey, you want to get low-down and inside. The breast, if you've roasted it breast up, is not the best measure of whether the bird is done.

              It's actually a long-standing debate in the turkey cooking community -- cook breast up or breast down? But over all, if you've cooked breast-up (the most common way to cook a turkey), you cannot calculate the temperature of the bird from the breast.

              1. re: DanaB

                for the first hour and half I cooked the turkey, as I
                usually do, upside down (breast down)..and only put thermometer
                in after I turned the bird up - breast up.

          2. re: serious

            Yes, good point. My turkey (unstuffed) got to 165 on the thigh... next time I will take it out at 160-ish and let it rest up to 165.

            1. re: Petitpois

              Cooked mine to 155 in the thickest part of the thigh. Pulled it out and allowed it to stand, un-tented until ready to serve, almost 2 hours. Tenting makes the crisp skin turn soggy IMHO. Turkey was moist, tender and delicious. No basting but I did make a paste of butter, chopped fresh sage, thyme, parsley, sea salt and freshly coarse ground pepper to rub on under the skin.

            2. re: serious

              I always calibrate my thermo before use.

          3. We went to a big Thanksgiving feast with lots of friends who cook. There was waaaaay too much food, all of it rich and decadent. Here's my opinion on the spread:

            Biggest hits:
            -Cornbread Stuffing with bacon and other tasty things. I could have eaten the whole pan! I was promised the recipe.
            -Mom's chocolate cake--won out over three kinds of pie!
            -Brussel Sprouts, blanched, split and roasted, seasoned with salt and pepper, and dressed with a little olive oil.
            -Plenty of "to go" containers to pack up leftovers for guest to take home.
            -An excellent cheese plate, based on "Something old, something new, something goat and something blue." Thanks to the Hound that posted that one once upon a time!

            Biggest misses:
            -Mainly that there was no master menu planner, so there was too much of some things and none of other things. The only pumpkin pie was the store bought one that we bought as back up "just in case." There three kinds of turkey and a pork roast, but no mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or cranberries. There was a whole pan roasted lobe of foie gras, but it was served after the main course, when everyone was full. That was a big bummer.
            -The overseasoned, brined turkey, that tasted of orange, cinnamon, lemon, anise, pepper, thyme, lavendar, and roasted jalepeno. Sometimes its best to just let a turkey be a turkey. Luckily, there were two other turkeys to eat.

            Lesson learned:
            Next year, I'll host Thanksgiving at my house.

            1. the tandoori rubbed rotisserie turkey i had was amazing. so juicy. But the rest was just the same old thanksgiving stuff.

              Ps: just joined chowhound and i can't wait to go to all these great restaurants i'm seeing.

              Mpap

              2 Replies
              1. re: mpap89

                Do you have a recipe for that tandoori turkey?

                1. re: Atomica

                  its my friend's mom's recipe, i'll try to get it for you.

              2. Hoo boy, where to start...the turkey? Dry-salted as per this year's LA Times kitchen rec, a 13-lb freerange Whole Foods-branded hen, plus a whole 'nother set of landing gear, two legs and two thighs, because this is not a white meat sort of family. Turkey took about three hours to come up to 165 in the thigh, and then proved to be still downright raw at the hip socket. Damn. But the extra pieces were very well done, though still very moist and succulent, so the method is a really good one. And the thighs were no longer raw by the time I was packing up the leftovers. I think we won't bother brining any more.

                Scalloped oysters: what the hell happened here? I had exactly as much oyster and cracker crumb and cream and butter as required, and they should've been perfect - but there was a recurring kind of acid, metallic taste that was just wrong. All I can think here is that we need to save up our money for good East Coast oysters, since those are the only real variable.

                Potatoes: saw Shirley Corriher in a program the other night, and she said the smart way to get good hot mashed potatoes is to do them ahead of time and reheat them (with plenty of cream and butter, of course). And if I hadn't been doing eleventy-seven other things when it was time to take the reheating spuds out of the oven, they would've been great instead of kinda scorched and dry...

                But the gravy was good! As were the dressing (cornbread and sausage), succotash, and Ma-in-law's congealed salad. And when the tumult and the shouting died and everything was either packed away or in the dishwasher, I found they'd left me two glasses of Beaujolais, which was EXACTLY enough.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Will Owen

                  I enjoyed your post. My mother was the last person I ever heard say "eleventy- ," and that must have been about 20 years ago!

                  I miss Thanksgiving since I moved out of the States. Couldn't get the day off work, but next time I'm going to do it on a Saturday and invite everyone around--show the Brits what it's all about!

                  1. re: Kagey

                    There is a hilarious SNL Celebrity Jeopardy skit where Toby Maguire playing Keanu Reeves bets "eleventy billion" in final jeopardy infuriating Alex Trebek played by Will Ferrel.

                  2. re: Will Owen

                    Interesting, I too had a 13 lb bird, and the inner thigh came to 165 after 3 hours (I was expecting to leave it in another half hour), and I didn't notice until I was disassembling the leftovers after the meal, but it too was pretty undercooked at the thigh joint. But the breast was just about right, would not have wanted to cook it any longer, as well as most of the dark meat.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      All of these comments about problems with turkeys are cheering me up a lot. We ate at my brother's, but I cooked a bird yesterday so we would have leftovers and a carcass. And I guess I let my hungry family agitate me enough that I took the bird out earlier than I wanted to, although the thermometer said it was ready, I thought it needed a bit more time. But I couldn't take the pressure. So out it came, and yeah, the thigh (my favorite part) was undercooked. We cut off enough for dinner and I covered the bird and threw it back in, and roasted the hell out of it. Dried it to bits.

                      But the stuffing I made was good, and the gravy, and cranberries. And the pies I made to take to my brother's. Although the chocolate mousse had a texture I didn't think was ideal-- a little too egg-whiteish, ie, a little gummy (is that the word I'm looking for) instead of whipped creamish (fluffy).

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        I need to follow up on this, because we went to my niece's place in San Diego the next day for TG2. When we did this last year her new in-laws, both about my age and Peruvian, were there cooking up a storm, Papa Seca and the like, and it was stunning. This year they couldn't come, and her husband had to work all day anyway, so she'd just gotten a Feast-In-A-Box from Marie Callender's. Far from being disappointed, I was looking forward to seeing how one of these things would work out. The turkey, about a 10-pounder, was cooked according to directions in a pan and covered with foil, so it was essentially steam-roasted. The potatoes and other sides were in oven-ready or microwaveable containers. The potatoes, though whipped and therefore a bit gluey, were pretty good, and the dressing I thought maybe better than mine, but the gravy was grossly overseasoned, with chemically-enhanced overtones. The streusel-topped yams were much nicer than I'd expected - I like my sweet potatoes with butter, salt and pepper, thank you very much - and the cornbread of course much too sweet. But at only twice the price of my own feast, and a mere two and a half hours' cooking time, it was a pretty decent feast. The kids certainly liked it. Best of all, Uncle Willy got to take home ANOTHER carcass (it's so nice to have a cooler in the car!), plus a good quart of juice from steam-roasting that turkey, from which I made a quart and a half of very good gravy the next day.

                      2. Everything turned out well this year. First time ever. We usually have one dish that doesn't work out every year. Last year it was the cornbread. The year before it was the gravy (a minor accident switching the white pepper and the gravy mix boxes).

                        Turkey: 30lbs, brined overnight with 2cups salt, 1cup sugar, basil, italian seasoning and 1 orange. Baked to perfection. We went up to 180F which worked for this oversized bird. Plump, moist white meat and perfect dark meat.

                        Hits: seafood rice/risotto, yams, cornbread, Roasted garlic mashed potatoes
                        Good old standbys: spicy eggplant, mushroom soup w/white cabbage, mac&cheese (for the kids), cranberry sauce, stuffing

                        1. Mine was a moveable feast for 3 that I brought to MIL's house.
                          She has a self professed bland palate so with the exception of the sweet potatoes all the dishes adjusted to her tastes.

                          Hits: 1/2 turkey and two drumsticks in a reynold's oven bag. I used plenty of herbs, veggies and a little wine to give it flavor. Turned out great. Very moist without tasting poached.
                          -Sausage stuffing from a Paula Deen (yes, that Paula Deen)recipe: The recipe had MIL written all over it. It was comfort food at its best.
                          -Succotash: got some great pointers in a previous post. Added ginger and used baby limas as recommended. It was exactly the type of dish I was trying to achieve.

                          Misses: Neither were huge errors.
                          -Sweet potato chipotle gratin was a little too spicy. DH loved it, thought the heat was perfect.
                          -Chocolate mousse: my tempering went awry so the texture was wrong but the flavor was great. I caught MIL licking her bowl.
                          I'll attempt to make it again this weekend. After all, DH needs a reward for his review of the sweet potato dish.
                          Overall, the meal was great. Although it was uncomplicated it hit the spot and made everyone happy.

                          1. Another salted turkey success here. The meat was tasty, moist, and nicely seasoned. Cooked quite nicely on the grill, with a minimum of fuss. It worked much better overall than my previous attempt, which involved slow-smoking a brined bird.

                            I iced the breast per Cook's Illustrated, but found that the thighs actually cooked faster than the breast in the end. Note that this may be due to the fact that I was indirectly grilling a wide bird--the breast was above the drip pan and thus was only getting indirect heat, whereas the thighs stuck out a bit and were probably getting some direct heat.

                            The major drawback of grilling seems to be that you can't effectively deglaze the drippings when using a foil pan (particularly when some ash inevitably gets in there).

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Evan

                              For future reference, I usually cook a 20# bird on the Weber and have to shield the legs with foil after it has cooked for a while.

                              1. re: yayadave

                                Back when I was doing a lot of birds on a big kettle Weber, I always put them into an iron skillet and set that in the center of the grill. A really big turkey would be a problem, but I never cooked anything over 14 lbs. that way. The pan shielded the legs and wings from direct heat, and so it really was like combining an oven with a smoker - excellent results every time.

                                My best effort was a pair of domestic ducks, cooked out on the front porch on a bitter cold day. The birds were beyond wonderful, but I'd not thought about the grease spatter and so had not put newspapers on the floor underneath as I should have. That was ten years ago, and I'm sure there's still a grease ring in that concrete porch floor!

                            2. Hits:
                              #1* - One of my guests contributed HELP - hired someone to serve and clean and I was freed to sit with my friends and family. Extravegent? Well yes, and made for best holiday dinner ever.
                              #2 - menu was well coordinated and balanced, thank you ME. I told those who offered to cook what to bring.
                              #3 - Turkey was perfect and I conclude that the secret starts with buying it from the right source. A first rate butcher.
                              #4 - Epicurious site has recipe for cranberries with port and figs. Really good.
                              Mistakes:
                              I made a cake recipe that sounded wrong and was. This is a great meal to try new versions but experience and common sense
                              should be brought in as consultants.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: serious

                                Oh, isn't HELP great?? We started hiring a college student to work our annual Christmas party - just pick up dishes, wash a few and run a load in the dishwasher and it has seriously increased our enjoyment of the party.

                                1. re: Andiereid

                                  Wondering....do you let the college student eat with you?

                                  1. re: rcallner

                                    Oh, sure. It's a buffet dinner, so we just let her help herself to whatever she wanted. It was pretty informal. We did not offer her any alcohol, since she was only 19. She was a student of one of my husband's colleagues who was at the party, so she mingled a bit while she was helping. I think she had a pretty good time.

                                2. re: serious

                                  And I can also attest to the hit-making power of the Epi recipe for Cranberry Sauce with Port and Figs; the family potluck we attended had two other choices on the table, but my contribution was the only one completely consumed. It's been my go-to sauce for at least five years.

                                3. Hits
                                  Appetizers: Most of the fruit and nut platter (sweet pecans, dates, figs, apricots) Golden Savory Almonds (as per the board) and I did not get along. I don't think I ever got them right, despite two batches.

                                  Cheese Pennies; the Dubliner cheese with its nutty sweetness made these perfect. So easy, and so good, that my husband thinks I should just keep them on hand for every day. These were accidentally withheld from service until just a few minutes before dinner, but still disappeared.

                                  Dinner: Garnet yams. I wrested control of these from She Who Cannot Cook after years of undercooked, under seasoned, blich. Baked long in a hot oven, mashed with copious butter and topped with carmelized cinnamon bananas. If there were leftovers I would be all set for breakfast.

                                  Succotash. The responsible party forgot to make it. It's never been so popular-I swear, every plate didn't have it :P

                                  Ramekins Forestiere. I've been making this for twenty years for good reason. Earthy flavors complement the dinner well.

                                  Desserts:
                                  Uh, nothing succeeds like excess. 1 cake, 1 kugel, 1 cheesecake, 7 pies, + cookies for 16 people. Tres Leches Cake and Banana Cream Pie were the standouts. I guess breakfast is set, afterall.

                                  Misses: Balsamic Roasted Parsnips and Carrots. Truly yummy, but balsamic makes the parsnips in particular look terribly burned.

                                  Way too much dressing. Do we blame Atkins, Weight Watchers, or South Beach for this mistaken idea that it isn't good for us?

                                  Turkey. Can't blame Alton Brown. I need a new thermometer; it was beautiful looking, but woefully undercooked. Skin, btw, was plenty crispy. SWCC made two boneless turkey breasts which were carved prior to the apalling discovery, thank goodness.

                                  Ham. Guests apologized for not bringing their usual Honey Baked Ham. I prefered this. HBH has the mouthfeel of marshmallows, and they ain't dinner.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: BarefootandPregnant

                                    On the balsamic roasted parsnips I would suggest white balsamic, It worked for me on pasta salad that I substituted turkey and ham for the usual pepperoni and salami

                                    1. re: atomicdogs

                                      Thank you for the suggestion! My dad is diabetic and has lost much of his sense of taste, so beyond my own affection for this preparation, there is a commitment to keeping them on the menu as he can (miracle of miracles) *taste* them. To not have them be scary looking would just be terrific...

                                  2. Our feast for 2 was a success. Here was our menu:

                                    *Dried Apricot and Date Stuffed Turkey Breast with Marsala Glaze. This was absolutely delicous and perfect for 2. From the Thanksgiving issue of Fine Cooking. I'd reccommend others to try the stuffing part with chicken or cornish hens. (The stuffing also had hazelnuts and sage)
                                    *Baked Sweet Potatoes with Maple Pecan Shallot Butter. Also from Fine Cooking. This is also a definite keeper - the butter and potatoes were yum!
                                    *Old Fashioned Stuffing - traditional and always great
                                    *Make Ahead Gravy
                                    *Mashed Potato Casserole
                                    *Strawberry Pretzel Salad - pretty much the only dish with jello that I love.
                                    *Cranberries - this is the dish I am still trying to perfect.
                                    *Vega Sicilia Valbuena - amazing!
                                    *Spiced Pumpkin Semi-Freddo - were too stuffed to eat. Tonight's treat with leftovers...

                                    I guess the only thing that could have made it better was hired help to clean. (post above - great idea!!!)

                                    1. We had a great dinner. The turkey was perfect. I took it out at 155, tented it and let it sit. It was juicy and cooked in the ;half hour or so it sat- and it was a 28 lb bird! The Tyler Florence sweet potatoes were a big hit- made with butter, banana, and honey- topped with crisp topping. My apple pudding pie was gone- really good- made with apples, applesauce, eggs, bread and yogurt. One of my SIL brought her clam chowder- will definitely have some of that today. Also, the gravy was perfect. We used two turkey thighs to make a nice stock, and it made plenty of gravy.
                                      We had lots and lots of containers for take home, and lots of desserts for choosing. And- the men did the clean up.
                                      Not so good- I really don't eat much when I am hosting a big dinner- so I will enjoy my favorites today.

                                      1. We joined our friends and other guests at their house, outside of Pátzcuaro, México. The dinner was traditional (although, thankfully, no canned cranberry sauce and especially, no green bean casserole.)
                                        The relish trays were very attractive. The turkey was moist and delicious.There delicious, straight-ahead mashed potatoes and a sweet potato casserole dressed with shreds of coconut.
                                        Our contributions were the potato dinner rolls and some pumpkin-toasted walnut-ancho chile scones. I thought the scones were too rich.

                                        Our hostess had made a classic American Southern Ambrosia, something we enjoy eating on occasions such as this. It was light, not too sweet and very good.
                                        We also brought dessert. The pumpkin pie was near perfect, but a deep dish camotes (Mexican sweet potato) pie, with sliced, cooked camotes covered with camote custard, was a bit stodgy and starchy. The flavor was good, if a bit dominated by the fresh orange zest and I juice I'd used in it.
                                        The bread dressing was a bit heavy, also, but we compensated by ladling on more gravy.
                                        There was less emphasis on food fussiness and more on friends gathering together; as it should be, IMO.

                                        I could go for an open-faced turkey sandwich with gravy right about now!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Anonimo

                                          Michael, you wouldn't happen to have the recipe for the scones would you?

                                          My aunt used to make an abrosia at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year with a mixed of canned and fresh fruits and a cooked dressing. It was very, very good and becuase we only had it a couple times a year everyone liked it and no one got tired of it as a "special occasion" dish.

                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                            DD; the recipe from which I based my Pumpkin Scones is this:
                                            http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,184,1...
                                            I made a double batch, but deliberately used only the amount of sugar in the origiinal. As I had walnuts and not pecans, I used the former, toasted lightly and cooled before chopping coarsely. Lightly toasted piñones might be even more appropriate.
                                            I also soaked two largish chiles anchos in very hot water for 15 minutes, and pureed them with enough of the soaking liquid in the blender. I added all that puree to the dry ingredients, along with the pureed, cooked pumpkin. You may have to adjust the amount of flour slightly, as this is a fairly moist dough.
                                            I find that giving the dough a couple or even three 3-folds, on a heavily floured work surface will firm it up a bit.

                                            Gilding the chilies, I also applied an egg and milk wash to the tops of the cut scones/biscuits, sprinkling on a little sesame seeds, just before putting them into the oven

                                        2. Our in-laws oven wasn't working properly so after 5 hours of cooking our turkey was an interesting medium rare texture. Also this year, in his wizdom, my father in law decided to add chunks of turkey liver to the gravy. I'm a fan of liver but after this experience I realize I'm not a fan of turkey liver. However, the sides were great, and there was nothing wrong with the wine, beer or company.

                                          1. Hubby always does the turkey and stuffing, but this year had the stomach flu and I had to take over as a last minute substitution. I had not roasted a turkey nor made dressing in 8 years (see: hubby Thanksgiving control freak)but boasted with more confidence than I was feeling.

                                            Hits:
                                            -Turkey. It was gorgeous and very, very moist. The key IMO (aside from the fact it's a fresh, free range turkey) is that I let it sit over an hour before carving. Took it out of the oven at 155 degrees.

                                            -Dressing. Because I didn't have all the ingredients I would have used if I'd had more notice, I was really winging it and did a simple, traditional herb dressing and it was much better than Dh inconsistent, mediocre stuff. My stepdaughter, who thought she did not like dressing because she grew up with Dh's, was scarfing this down.

                                            -Bought a Smithfield country ham ball on a whim from a local grocery (yes Virginia, I'm in Virginia) and it was phenominal and the troops scarfed it down.

                                            The misses:

                                            The mashed potatoes. They just weren't as good as usual and not sure why. They were awful or anything, just not as good as in years past

                                            The pies. I got them from a local butcher/bakery and I should have bit the bullet and made my own.

                                            1. Our untraditional TG dinner served in courses consisted of:

                                              With champagne:

                                              1. dried apricot with goat cheese, honey, fresh thyme & candied walnut (fantastic)

                                              2. wine salami with marcona almonds (easy, simple & tasty)

                                              3. red lentil soup with mint & aleppo pepper sizzle & croutons (the sizzle & homemade pita crouton livened this simple soup)

                                              4. endive salad with persimmon & toasted pecans with champagne vinagrette (I liked the contrast of slightly bitter endive with sweet meaty persimmon but husband didn't)

                                              With Rhone style red wine:

                                              5. Main course: my multi-day cassoulet with homemade duck confit. (THIS ROCKED even if it did take 4 days to make) Bittman-Lahey no knead bread was a perfect accompaniment

                                              6. Fresh pear with goat cheese w/truffle and pear brandy. (The cheese w/truffle in it didn't go well with the pear)

                                              7. 70% dark chocolate bit to end it all.

                                              BLISS. It was one of my most successful TG dinners and was really a pleasure to make.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: huruta

                                                Um, can I come to your house next year? ; )

                                                1. re: gridder

                                                  Sure! But next year will be doing an entirely different menu...probably on a different continent. Mole may be present.

                                                2. re: huruta

                                                  Your menu sounds fantastic - wine salami?
                                                  Also, I've always wanted to make champagne vinagrette.

                                                3. Hits: My smoked trout dip as an appetizer. I thought my father-in-law was going to just grab the bowl and a spoon and go to town. I sent what little was left-over with him.

                                                  The turkey was great. It was my first big bird - 20 lbs. I usually do a small 10 pounder because it's usually just us and my husband's parents, but this year his sister and our nephew came too, so I wanted leftovers to send with everyone. Did not brine, got a free-range organic gobbler and took it out at 160 and let it rest for a good while before carving. It was beautiful and perfect.

                                                  My MILs rolls - they rose just the right amount and the bottoms weren't burned, even though the oven had been on all day and it's a cheap POS. Yay!

                                                  The dressing was good, as always. Simplest dressing recipe I've ever seen and my MIL loves it. Of course, the recipe is old and vague and it's become a Thanksgiving tradition to have several phone calls between me here in NC to my brother in Denver and my mom (visiting my brother from Arkansas). We evidently all have slightly varied copies of the original recipe. "How many eggs does yours say?" "Are these 8 oz. packages of Pepperidge Farm, or the 16 oz.?" "How much liquid are you using? Are you doubling or tripling?" You'd think one of us would write it down, but I think we enjoy the phone calls, truth be told.

                                                  Big hit: Hooking the laptop up to the stereo and playing the XM Classical Christmas station. Everyone in our family is really ready for the Christmas holidays this year.

                                                  Misses: The butternut squash soup was good, but I didn't reheat it thoroughly enough, and it was too cold when I served it. Tasty, but only lukewarm.

                                                  My MILs pumpkin creme brulee experiment. The custards were dry, and she and my husband didn't melt the sugar topping well enough with the torch and it was just kind of a crystalline mush instead of the nice hard brown crust.

                                                  and finally, biggest miss:

                                                  I ate too much and my husband drank too much booze! One too many pre-dinner whiskey sours for him on top of wine with each course laid him pretty low. He's still in bed sleeping it off. As for me, despite trying not to eat too much, I still went to bed a wee bit green from overindulging in food. Today all I want is a big green salad!

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Andiereid

                                                    I would love to have your smoked trout dip recipe, if you're willing. TIA.

                                                    1. re: bryan

                                                      No problem!

                                                      Andie's Smoked Trout Dip

                                                      1 package smoked trout, crumbled
                                                      4 ounces cream cheese
                                                      6 ounces sour cream
                                                      2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
                                                      1 teaspoon dijon mustard
                                                      1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
                                                      fresh cracked black pepper

                                                      Mix all ingredients together and chill until serving.

                                                  2. Well... my first Thanksgiving in our new house - cooking in a big, well equipped lovely kitchen, my first wedding anniversary and I am about to give birth to my first baby - so it was quite a feat, as well as a feast! LOL

                                                    Somehow managed to find the energy (I hear they say you get a surge of energy before delivery) to start cooking at 8 am and though we had planned to eat at 3pm, we ended up sitting at 4pm. Not bad at all!

                                                    It was a small group, only four of us but the smallest organic bird I could find was almost 15 lbs. Did I mention that two of the four are vegetarians? :-) Since my husband and I are holed up finishing the nursery and such, we are thrilled to have lots of leftovers. I am also having a few friends over tonight who want to see us, or should I say the "belly" and we will have a post-Thanksgiving splurge as well.

                                                    Menu: (very simple and tradional):

                                                    Roast Turkey: We made a wet rub of butter, minced/paste of garlic, minced onions, sage, thyme, rosemary, kosher salt and pepper. Rubbed inside and out and every crevace liberally. Tied her up and popped her in to a 450 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, breast side down. Flipped her over, lowered the temp to 350 and though we were counting on 3-3 1/4 hours, it turned out closer to four. We took the bird out at 161 degrees (I read a bunch of different takes on the temp and went with my gut) and then tented it for a half an hour, a bit more maybe. Bird turned out absolutely prefect! Tender, juicy and oh so tasty! We basted every half hour or so. Tented about two hours in to keep skin from burning.

                                                    Stuffing: (veggie and non veggie)
                                                    Chestnut, mushroom (with traditional add-ins) all around and worked with vegetable and chicken stock/ turkey giblets to finish off. Left out the sausage this year and it was still terrific. Baked til it was crispy, I think overly, brother and hubby like it very crispy. So delicious!

                                                    Garlic mashed potatoes:

                                                    Went with the Yukon Gold after the post about which to use, worked out perfectly as well. Roasted the garlic for 45 minutes and then created a paste with kosher salt. Stick of butter, low fat milk (had to make up for the butter LOL), salt and pepper. Baked it til it was browned and crispy on top. Again, turned out perfectly.

                                                    Glazed sweet potatoes:

                                                    Used a combo of the recipes collected the last few days on CH. Mixed brown sugar, honey, water, butter, etc. til boiling. Poured over parboiled (slightly more) 3/4 inch slices and baked on high. Another terrific dish!

                                                    Lastly...string beans with almonds:

                                                    Toasted almond slices in butter til golden brown, then sauteed with cooked stringbeans, salt and pepper and that was it. Another hit!

                                                    Not sure how it all came together so well, but I was so proud of how things turned out. String beans could have been slightly firmer, sweet potatoes could have gotten a bit more carmelized (they will upon re-heating, YUM!) but overall it was a huge success and I was so pleased.

                                                    Veggie and turkey gravy, both NO LUMPS! YAY!

                                                    My husband was a huge help! Peeled, cleaned, etc. non stop. Store bought desserts were even terrific! Even though I bought homemade ingredients, it was too much for me, we realized this halfway through the cooking so he ran our local supermarket (open til 4pm) with a wonderful in-house baker (gotta love the 'burbs for that!).

                                                    NB: Appetizers were simple. Cocktails, spread of various nuts and cheeses, chips, etc. Football food, taken up a notch! Easy and well received!

                                                    Turned out to be a great day, slept better than I have since my fifth month! LOL

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: Michele4466

                                                      Congratulations on all those firsts :-)! And it sounds like you had a fabulous meal as well.

                                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                                        Thanks so much! As a matter of fact, we painted the baby's room yesterday and in between coats we had one of those "special" sandwiches. Fresh sliced wheat bread, so soft - filled with warmed turkey slices and stuffing covered in gravy. OMG!

                                                        Took a break from turkey last night but I may have to go for one of those sandwiches again tonight.

                                                        Happy Thanksgiving to you!

                                                        1. re: Michele4466

                                                          Congratulations. Your post brought back very good memories for me as my first child was born on December 17th. These memories will be etched in your mind forever :)

                                                          1. re: Funwithfood

                                                            Thank you as well...

                                                            Funny thing: Both my aunt and my brother were born ON Thankgiving, years apart but the same day. They were both rooting for me to go into labor that day as well. LOL

                                                            Well...he (I am having a boy) is still holding out, I kinda wish he would hurry up. :-)

                                                            Happy Holidays to you and yours!

                                                    2. Great ideas for next year everyone!

                                                      My wife's persimmon and pomegranate salad was awesome- fresh and crisp, taken from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/1...

                                                      Did a turkey breast in a dry rub with cayenne, onion salt, cumin, oregano, chili powder, salt, pepper, allspice...yummy! Plus the gravy made from the drippings and the rub recipe added a terrific kick. The oregano kept the flavor this side of our traditional rosemary/thyme flavored bird. Roasted the breast at 350 which worked well with the rub to create a crispy skin. Coupled with brining the breast overnight left the breast deliciously moist.

                                                      My MIL's corn souffle and butternut squash soup were delightful.

                                                      My SILs vegan pumpkin pie was almost as good as the real thing- almost.

                                                      I did miss my cornbread/sausage stuffing this year, but with dinner at MILs, what can you do. At least she let's me do the turkey (yes, I can be a control-frek husband at Thankgiving)

                                                      1. Nothing fancy, but every aspect of my meal was well-executed. We have my wife's side over, which is just my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and her fiance.

                                                        Turkey: I ran a hybrid of the directions on the fresh Butterball I picked up at Stop & Shop Monday night (325 for around 3 1/2 hours, tented for the last hour or so) and vague recollections of a Barefoot Contessa "perfect roasted chicken" episode. I jammed into the body cavity one of those "poultry mix" fresh herb packages, plus a halved lemon, and two small heads of garlic, halved. Tons of kosher salt and cracked black pepper inside and out, brushed all over with extra virgin olive oil, and into the oven it went, on a bed of carrots and celery. Besides opening to tent in the last hour, didn't go near it until the cooking time was up. Perfectly cooked, temp was great, juices clear. This year, I actually made an effort to carefully carve the bird, as opposed to my usual style that somewhat resembles landscape laborers clearing brush. I cut out each whole breast and cut them cross-wise, which ended up being a neat presentation with the legs. I had a casserole dish sitting on a heating pad (thanks Alton Brown!), so it stayed warm until dinner was ready.

                                                        Potatoes: Similar method to Will Owen--I cooked them before all the last-minute craziness. Took the yukon golds out, put them back in the dry pot for a minute to dry them out, then rehydrated them gradually with a warmed mix of heavy cream and unsalted butter. Put bowl on pot filled with a small amount of water, covered with foil, put oven on low. Put a couple more pats of butter (thanks, Paula Deen, and food network by osmosis for what seems to be most of my cooking skill) in there--hey, nobody said this was health food!

                                                        Sausage stuffing and brown sugar-glazed carrots: There's not much I can say that can't be said in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook--because that's where I got both recipes. The stuffing, which I make with from-scratch cornbread and homemade bread cubes, received rave reviews for the second straight year.

                                                        I also randomly cooked a cast iron skillet full of caramelized onions, which went really good with the potatoes.

                                                        The gravy came out nice--skimmed off a lot of the fat, cooked the remaining fat with some flour, poured in the rest of the juices and some chicken stock, salt-pepper, good to go.

                                                        pumpkin pie--another Better Homes and Gardens number, but with a graham cracker crust, and whipped cream on top. Also received rave reviews.

                                                        Wine--2004 Laboure-roi Les Sangliers Pinot Noir Reserve. I was the only one drinking it, and I say it was good with the turkey--and it was good last night with some of the extra cornbread I had from the stuffing recipe.

                                                        Thanksgiving--nailed it.

                                                        1. Came to Boston to visit relatives and found out they were expecting me to do all the cooking. Did a pretty standard spread with turkey, ham with cider-bourbon glaze (turkey they bought was too small so my wife ran out to get a backup), mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans with roast onions and bacon, pureed sweet potatoes with toasted pecans and free range marshmallows (Whole Foods does not sell Kraft), and salad.

                                                          Best dish was the salad which I based on what 7,000 restaurants are selling these days: goat cheese medallion drizzled with honey, diced roasted beets, grilled red onions, and greens dressed with a vinaigrette with herbs and a dash of A-1 sauce, W Sauce, and dijon (it was what was in the fridge).

                                                          Worst was the stuffing, the worst I've made in years - not enough fat. That said, I made a sandwich late last night with turkey and stuffing, et al. that was so good I immediately made another. The Hellman's must have restored the stuffing to appropriate fat levels.

                                                          Best moment of inspiration that will pay dividends another day was I taught my sister-in-law how to make gravy.

                                                          1. Surprised people are still having so much trouble with turkey roasting. The keys to success for us have been brining the turkey first,making a mix of butter or olive oil with garlic and a mix of herbs, peeling away the skin from the breast and thighs by hand and spreading the butter or oiled mixture all over the surface of the meat under the skin before roasting. Then roast initially at high temp breast up x 30 min (425-450), then turn bird breast down, temp to 350 or 325, baste q 30 min, total time probably circa 15-20 min/lb depending on how long out of fridge, but monitor carefully and use thermometer to check breast and thigh before declaring victory.

                                                            Made a stuffing that was a riff on Mark BIttman's bread stuffing, adding sauteed mushrooms, a bit of minced poblano pepper for zing and pancetta that worked well.

                                                            1. I cooked a 14# free range turkey at 325 and after 3-1/2 hours I thought to get out my Polder thermometer which read 244 in the thigh! Yikes! I didn't mention to guests -- (adage: cook should never apologize) and it was great! Maybe my thermometer was off.
                                                              I had nothing to baste with since pan kept cooking dry though I added chicken broth -- poured over bird since there was nothing in the bottom! Had to remove burnt lumps to make gravy, which was superb w/ turkey broth I made with neck, wing tips and mirepoix while bird was in the oven.

                                                              I could use ideas for what to flavor outside of bird with -- rubbed butter and then olive oil over the bird, and seasoned w/ S&P, Bell's & Old Bay. It was dry and boring on the outside. But meat was very flavorable -- I think those natural birds are very forgiving.

                                                              Stuffing was the star -- toasted semolina and white bread, onions, celery, tons of butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, savory, parsley, mushrooms, chestnuts & chicken stock. Yum!

                                                              1. These posts are hysterical. I love hearing about everyone's faux pas and revealations. The person who wrote about the entire lobe of fois gras served AFTER the meal got my biggest "awwwww."

                                                                I had a similar situation, but in the wine department. Like a fool, I brought 8 carefully selected bottles of my favorite (and expensive) wines to a crowd of people who not only barely drink, but could have given a rat's @!* that any wine was on the table. I should have known better. My two gorgeous bottles o Jocelyn 02 cabernet sat in the pitcher as I left. All I could do was die inside as I parted thinking, "would it be rude to take it back with me????"

                                                                Hits at our Lithuanian / Nebraska crossed familial gathering:

                                                                Waldorf Salad - Emeril receipe
                                                                Creamed Sweet potatos with crust of walnuts and cinnamon
                                                                Turkey - I didn't taste it. So NOT into turkey.........
                                                                Di Stefano Moscato d'Asti 05 - thank God everyone really liked the dessert wine, which I describe as "a mouthful of violets." Soooo yummmy. We actually consumed two bottles between 12 people.
                                                                Chocolate/walnut/mocha layer cake -- oh yeah, super yummy and better yet with a gulp of cabernet sauv.

                                                                Misses:

                                                                Lobster Mac n Cheese (which I made) - Epicurious receipe that tasted more like a fish cassarole than the delectable childhood indulgence of mac 'n cheese with a adult shellfish twist. boo hoo.

                                                                Lesson of the day:

                                                                Never share great wine with people who could care less. It is a joyless experience.

                                                                Thanksgiving in my family is not so much about a delicious meal, but the hours spent afterward around the table catching up and watching the kids play.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: MalibuAly

                                                                  Ditto the wine experience. My husband had already wiped himself out with whiskey sours, my FIL and SIL don't drink at all, my nephew is only 12 so... that left me and my MIL, and she'd rather just drink chard than match wines with a meal. I won't do it again for that crowd.

                                                                  1. re: Andiereid

                                                                    Another ditto on the wine story; middle son,25, and I are the only ones who enjoyed the Chateau Souverain Zin that he bought for dinner yesterday (but there were only the 4 of us, so there was more for the 2 of us, I guess).

                                                                    1. re: Andiereid

                                                                      My mother had a giant bottle of very inexpensive merlot ready to go with the turkey... I wish my family was more interested in wine, too.

                                                                      1. re: Terrie H.

                                                                        Too funny - we thought of pairing a wine with each course and then thought again of our audience. Sigh. One day we'll have a wine lover's Thanksgiving. . .

                                                                  2. Day-after report with 11 people descending on our house.

                                                                    Hits -- Cranberry-chipotle compote (instead of cranberry sauce), Cornbread/green chile dressing, grilled turkey breast rubbed in cinnamon and marinated in onion juice (from a Turkish recipe we've used several times)

                                                                    Misses -- Calabacitas (had to adapt the basic recipe to work as a casserole, came out too watery instead of a nice sauce), guajillo-tamarind smoked turkey (it wasn't bad but too much work for the result)

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: zebcook

                                                                      Would you post the cornbread/green chile recipe on Home Cooking? :-)

                                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                        Yes, would you? Please?

                                                                        1. re: prunefeet

                                                                          Well, there's not much to it and you should treat all the measurements as estimates. It's a recipe you can jigger around pretty much as you please.

                                                                          Cornbread and Green Chile dressing

                                                                          10-12 cups of stale cornbread in 1' chunks
                                                                          1.5 cups of chopped onion
                                                                          1 c. chopped celery
                                                                          5-6 chopped New Mex green chiles, mild to hot according to your taste, roasted, peeled and seeded (We used hot. If you're using mild chiles you might want to increase the amount)
                                                                          2 tsps. of dried sage (I'm guessing here, I didn't measure)
                                                                          3 bay leaves
                                                                          1-2 Tbl. fresh thyme
                                                                          8 Tbl (1 stick) of butter
                                                                          1 cup of cream
                                                                          About 3 cups of stock (turkey, chicken, vegetable, whatever)
                                                                          1-2 eggs
                                                                          Salt and pepper

                                                                          Melt 4 T. butter and saute the onion and celery until translucent. Beat the egg(s) with the cream and stock and mix with the cornbread in a large bowl. Add the onions, celery, chiles and herbs and work it until well mixed. Try not to break up the cornbread too much. It should be moist and clump together, but not drippy. Salt and pepper to taste. Generously butter a baking dish and fill with dressing. Dot the top with the remaining butter. Optionally you can top it with queso cojita for a crust. Bake at 350 until nicely browned on top, probably about 30-45 minutes.

                                                                          I didn't use any meat (one of the kids was a "no obvious meat" vegetarian, but I would happily have added some smoked bacon or chorizo, sliced up and fried. About 1 cup after the fat is drained, I'd guess.

                                                                          Using cumin and Mexican oregano instead of sage and thyme might be an interesting variation.

                                                                    2. JenMarie: I'd love your recipe for "wild mushroom, leek, turkey sausage & baguette stuffing" Sounds yummy

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: MalibuAly

                                                                        it's actually prety close to the epicurious mushroom and leek stuffing 'cept I started it by cooking 2 large turkey/sundried tomato sausages slipped from casings and finely mashed , then followed the recipe but I bought the baguettes 2 days in advance to let them get nice & stale before cutting them into 1 inch dice. Also used a variety of mushrooms in place of the buttons and used lots of fresh thyme and fresh rosemary, and prob. used more like 2 or 2 1/2 cups leeks than suggested 1 1/2. Also chicken broth instead of wine since I was hosting people who don't consume any alcohol, but maybe it was even better that way...
                                                                        here's the original recipe:
                                                                        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                                                                        1. re: JenMarie66

                                                                          I made this recipe this year too... I think because of you recommending it on another thread Jen! It was fabulous... everyone says it was the best thing there, although that's not really saying too much! ;-) This year was at my MIL's house with my parents and brother in tow as well. My husband and I counted 24 dishes to 16 people and 3 of those were little ones!! It was definitely quantity over quality this year! I made the stuffing, cranberry sauce, apple dumplings, and spiced pecans this year and they all turned out good but it was a fairly disappointing year overall! Oh well! There's always next year! :-)

                                                                      2. I've been cooking Thanksgiving dinner now for so many years it's pretty much down to a science. For the last few years I've only been cooking for my mother and aunt and their preference is for "traditonal", as in the stuff I grew up eating. Both of them are actually fairly adventurous eaters for women in their late 80s, but this is the one meal that I can't tinker too much with or serve more modern or trendy versions of the usual stuff.

                                                                        The pies were especially good this year. I changed the crust recipe and used one out of my mother's ancient - well at least older than me - Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, circa 1946. It was perfect as was the Pecan Pie recipe from the same book, and the Pear & Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Creme Anglaise, not from the same book.

                                                                        The stuffing, mashers and gravy (with finely mince giblets this year) were outstanding. And there were no leftovers on the fresh asparagus spears. I made the wrong cranberry recipe but it was pretty good and we made a pretty good dent in that as well.

                                                                        My grandparents owned a poultry farm for years and when my grandmother used to tell us to go ask our uncle for "an old hen" it usually meant chicken and dumplings for dinner. Unfortunately, I think "old hen" is the operative word to describe the turkey. It was perfectly done, the white meat not sawdust and actually quite flavorful. It was, however, dreadfully TOUGH. I had difficulty carving and all 3 of us had difficulty cutting even thin slices with a knife. I will be visiting my butcher today or tomorrow to let him know that for a fresh, free-range bird that was not inexpensive, the one he sold me was a dog.

                                                                        1. We were 6 at table and a 12.5 lb. turkey. Started with a rose champange and potted ham and croissant crackers. Dinner was turkey, oyster dressing, cornbread-sausage dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, watermelon pickle, cranberry quince compote, homemade potato rolls, green beans with mushrooms-cream-thyme-butter and sherry. Served that all up with Las Rochas Garnacha. Dessert with strong coffee was pecan tassies, pumpkin pie, and pear mince tart.

                                                                          I was disappointed in the oyster dressing. When preparing it before adding the oysters i purposely kept it on the dry side knowing that the oysters would add more moisture. I under estimated how much the oysters would add. It was pretty soggy. That was one leftover that just went away after dinner was over.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Candy

                                                                            You are to be commended for "disappearing" the dressing. After our feast, which I cooked then transported to my parents', there was much whining and groaning about the "excessive" leftovers. So, uh, why keep ALL of the two dressings-one of which was pretty good (cornbread with cranberries and toasted pecans) and one (Dad's Pep. farm based recipe) was too salty. I far prefer to make the honest decision to outsource cruddy food storage to the dog's bowl, the garbage can, or the disposal, to the consignment of such misses to the back of the fridge/witness protection program of blue green furry mold....

                                                                          2. I think our biggest hit was Soup of Two Squashes, buttercup and golden nugget squashes, roasted and then blended with an emulsion mixer with onion and garlic and butter (deglazed with French brandy) and hot stock and finished with cream and each bowl served out of a lovely new tureen, topped with a spoonfull of caramelized leeks.

                                                                            Second biggest hit: clove scented creme brulee with maple sugar. Ten year old daughter made it in lovely old pre-occupation Japanese cups (her choice after a pirate mission to loot the china hutch) and her care and attention to detail made it taste even better. She strained the cream twice. Love that!

                                                                            Biggest miss? Creamed peas. Peas were fine alone. Cream sauce wasn't thick enough.

                                                                            Second biggest miss? Gluten free gravy. Corn starch will never even come close to approximating what happens with butter and flour and hot stock or milk. The taste was fine, but the texture was just so not gravy. Love the celiac, hate the sprue.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Lee Ashwood

                                                                              "Love the celiac, hate the sprue" is my new favorite phrase.

                                                                            2. turkey/mushroom gravy w/ those baby portobellos was fantastic

                                                                              i was supposed to do the turkey salting 3 days ahead ala LA Times recipe, but i was really busy and forgot (oops) so someone else took over on TGD and put compound butter on the breast and salted the whole thing and threw it in the oven at 350 for about 2.5-3 hrs until breast was 160. he also tented foil over the breast so it wouldn't overcook. best non pre-salted turkey ever.

                                                                              this year we decided to make way too much stuffing and mashed potatoes because of complaints last year that we didn't have enough. used 10lb bag of potatoes for 7 pple. and 4 loaves french bread for the stuffing. this year we finally had some leftovers (yay).

                                                                              also we put 1/4 tsp of baking soda in the cranberry sauce to cut down on the acid. it also meant that we only had to use less than 1/2 the sugar which is good because one person has problems with stomach acid after eating too much sugar. this works for fruit pies and crisps too. got the idea from the tightwad gazette.

                                                                              all in all a hapy thanksgiving.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: choctastic

                                                                                Thanks for the baking soda tip. Both DH and MIL have diabetes so I have been cutting back on the sugar because desserts cause them lots of problems and I know MIL has issues with acid. I don't like sugary pies so I'll definitely give it a try next time.

                                                                                1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                                                                  splenda is a good substitute too. i think i might try both for the next pie i make for a diabetic friend

                                                                              2. The food was excellent. Mr B's dad had the Thanksgiving meal catered. Tender smoked pork baby back ribs, smoked beef brisket that was moist and succulent, ham (that I didn't touch) and potato salad. Not a vegetable in sight.

                                                                                I tried to screw up the pies, but somehow saved them. Made the pumpkin pie, poured the filling into the shells and put them in the oven. Five minutes later, I realized I forgot to add the salt. In a frenzy, I rushed over, measured out the right amount of salt, whipped open the oven, prayed the fillings hadn't started setting, sprinkled the salt on and mixed it in best I could with a spatula. Amazingly enough, it mixed enough to work.

                                                                                Didn't bake the pecan pie long enough. It was my first time with a pecan. Middle was still a bit runny. We didn't take that one to dinner. I call it my pecan pie with molten butterscotch sauce. Mr. B doesn't care and is eating it anyway. He's so good.

                                                                                Turkey and stuffing leftovers for dinner. It was a good day.

                                                                                1. Overall, I report a great meal. Biggest success? We didn't leave any of the side dishes in the oven, in the microwave, or on the counter! (Yes, it's happened before.)

                                                                                  We do a very traditional spread. The only real thing we've added over the years are different veggie sides. Roasted brussels sprouts are the latest wonderful addition.

                                                                                  Misses: The pies. I used home cooked pumpkin this year, and unlike other years, this one just had no flavor. I miss pumpkin pie so much, I'm making another one today with the can of pumpkin I have on hand. Sorry I didn't use it yesterday! I also experimented with a new pecan pie recipe - not an unusual one, just a different one for me. No go. I'm writing margin notes in that cookbook today!

                                                                                  1. no complaints.
                                                                                    smoked turkey with a thyme and maple syrup brine.
                                                                                    intense smoked gravy with applejack and reduced apple cider.
                                                                                    my mom's squash rolls.
                                                                                    cornbread stuffing with mushrooms, fried sage and dried cranberries.
                                                                                    roasted brussels sprouts with carmelized shallots, anar dana, mace, white balsamic and maple syrup.
                                                                                    sweet potato souffle with parmesan, hazelnuts and ancho chili.
                                                                                    my sister-in-law's potato gratin.
                                                                                    great organic teenage greens(mustards, some fall lettuces) with pomegranate anils, frizzled leeks, and apple cider-mustard vinegarette.
                                                                                    three cranberry sauces(homemade gelled, raw, and a cooked with mustard seeds).
                                                                                    chestnut puree.
                                                                                    2 of Dorie Greenspan's Twofer pies(pumpkin-pecan)
                                                                                    and a guest brought an amazing cranberry-key lime pie. almost painfully tart but so delicious.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: ghbrooklyn

                                                                                      I made Greenspan's Twofer pie. Tasted good but it didn't set properly. Wondering if yours did, or if I messed up. Thanks.

                                                                                    2. Dinner was at SIL's. She was helped by her two adult children, and her SIL and her SIL's daughter-in-law brought vegan dishes for the two vegans and one vegetarian.

                                                                                      Dinner was awful - rubbery overcooked turkey, squishy potatoes with gluey gravy, overcooked boiled green beans and boiled broccoli, bready mushy stuffing, candied yams swimming in syrup and topped with marshmallows, pureed squash with lots of sugar. I passed on the vegan stuff which did not look at all appetizing. I managed to make my plate look full by spreading out a piece of turkey, a spoonful of squash, a few green beans and a spoonful of stuffing on it and eating everything very slowly.

                                                                                      Desserts were vegan mince pie, pumpkin and apple pies. I had some apple and pumpkin pie, both with soggy pastry, canned fillings and too much sugar.

                                                                                      It was so bad DH apologized to me on the way home. I like his family but good cooks they are not. I'll be making our real TG dinner tomorrow, for just two of us.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                                        Oh man, this entire dinner sounds awful! Glad you and your DH are having a "real" Thanksgiving dinner - you should post the successful dinner below. :-)

                                                                                        1. re: cheryl_h

                                                                                          Somehow there is nothing worse than bad food...especially on a high expectation day like TDay. Bummer. Vegan food CAN be amazing. My experiences with a cook named Beatrix Rohlsen, were memorable. She has a cookbook called The Art of Taste. She cooked at a retreat I went to once and I was BLOWN AWAY at the variety, gourmet aspects, imaginative combinations....

                                                                                        2. We had a huge Thanksgiving with friends. We're in AZ, the weather was beautiful and we ate dinner outside in the 77 degree sunshine with just enough cloud cover to make it perfect!

                                                                                          There were 17 of us and it was fab! It wasn't at my house, but everyone did contribute.

                                                                                          We had three turkeys, two fried and one smoked. I'd never had a fried turkey before and I was a little leary of it. I'm eating crow now, because it was delicious! I loved it. One of the best Thanksgiving turkeys I've ever had.

                                                                                          Other hits:
                                                                                          My mom's rice dressing -- we're from LA, it's tradition
                                                                                          Good old fashioned white bread dressing -- made in a crockpot since you can't stuff a fried or smoked bird. It was great though, nice and moist and tasted like it came out of the bird.
                                                                                          My chocolate pecan pie -- devoured first!
                                                                                          My new invention -- cranberry bundt cake with white chocolate chips and orange zest with an orange glaze was divine
                                                                                          Hot apple cider -- so simple and yummy!
                                                                                          Mac & cheese with fontina and marscapone
                                                                                          Homemade yeast rolls -- wow!

                                                                                          Misses:
                                                                                          Instant mashed potatoes -- no explanation needed
                                                                                          Sweet potatoe casserole made with pineapple -- too runny and sweet for me. I actually prefer plain baked sweet potatoes.

                                                                                          Overall, great and tasty.

                                                                                          Happy Holidays!

                                                                                          1. Delicious turkey .. made the epi ROAST TURKEY WITH PROSCIUTTO-HAZELNUT CRUST.
                                                                                            Will absolutely make again .. the gravy was also very good

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

                                                                                            1. I've only been making Thanksgiving for the past five years, so every year I learn what's a keeper and what I wouldn't do again. This year we did the fried turkey ourselves instead of picking it up locally, I finally cut down from the too-many appetizers I usually do, tried a couple of new side dishes, and used the crockpot technique for warming up potatoes.

                                                                                              Baked Brie en croute with cranberry compote - always a hit (brie with top rind removed, piled with whatever cranberry sauce I make, wrapped in puff pastry, baked and served with crackers). Did this the first year. Easy and a Keeper.

                                                                                              Blue cheese and caramelized shallot dip with rosemary potato chips. Another easy do-ahead recipe (Epi). Keeper.

                                                                                              The other app was a delicious hummus with kalamata olives and spiced pita chips that my SIL made.

                                                                                              Salad:
                                                                                              Really glad that this year, I didn't make a salad. Mom is really the only one who eats it, and she made a great one with blue cheese, avocado, and nuts with a raspberry vinaigrette. Saved me the work of another dish, and everyone was happy. I'll be delegating this from now on.

                                                                                              Main Meal:
                                                                                              Dijon, orange, and mango-chutney glazed ham. The one year I didn't make the mustard sauce to go with since no one really eats it, and my dad asked for it. Oops! Keeper (glaze recipe from Barefoot Contessa).
                                                                                              Deep Fried Turkey and do-ahead gravy (added a splash of port). Both keepers.
                                                                                              Grand Marnier, Dried Apricot, and Sausage Stuffing - Silver Palate recipe to which I added some dried cranberries and chopped chestnuts. Keeper, though I'll leave out the cranberries next year. Made it the night before, put it in baking dish, and covered with buttered tinfoil.
                                                                                              Creamed Peas and Pearl Onions (husband's request every year), but I still can't find one I love. Just fine - added some mascarpone and sauteed leeks - but not a keeper.
                                                                                              Mashed potatoes with leeks and fresh thyme - Keeper. Note: I will try the crockpot warming method again, but would make the potatoes thicker and add any further dairy the next day. It was the perfect texture the night before, but after a couple of hours in the crockpot on T-Day, it thinned out.
                                                                                              Braised carrots with parmesan (Hazan). Not a Keeper. I love these carrots, but for the amount of work (though it's all beforehand), I wouldn't do it again for Thanksgiving. These are so good but get lost on the plate with all the other items. I'll probably go back to the quick cider, orange, and maple glazed carrots. But will definitely make Hazan's again for simpler meals.

                                                                                              Cranberry sauce with Marsala, cherries, and rosemary. FunwithFood posted this last year. Definite Keeper. If possible, I liked it even more this year - my all-time favorite cranberry sauce.

                                                                                              Bread:
                                                                                              Crescent rolls (husband's request) and frozen cream cheese biscuits. Unless I make my own one year, these biscuits are a Keeper - pricey but time-saving and convenient, and oh so good (frozen Meetinghouse 72-layer cream cheese biscuits).

                                                                                              Both desserts were winners - brandied pumpkin pie (Epi) and mom's tiramisu cheesecake.

                                                                                              I asked my husband what his two favorites were this year (besides turkey/ham), and he said the mashed potatoes and the pumpkin pie. For me it was the stuffing and the pumpkin pie (it came out perfect this year).

                                                                                              Tips I've started to do:
                                                                                              Before we went to bed, I took the meat off the turkey, then threw the carcass in a crockpot with carrots, celery, onions, a bay leaf, some fresh thyme and parsley, covered with water. Woke up and strained the stock this morning. I needed to make more gravy since everyone took all the gravy home along with their leftovers! Also am really trying to do lots of do-ahead dishes to save time in the kitchen, and serve buffet-style. This was the first year I could actually sit down when everyone got there instead of being in the kitchen the whole time, and enjoy relaxing cocktails and apps. I baked the ham earlier in the day and covered with foil. And one of the reasons I've switched to a fried turkey - frees up my oven, and covered with foil, it stays warm for hours, and the skin stays crispy. I only needed about 1/2 hour of prep before the meal (warming up veggie dishes, baking biscuits, slicing the turkey). Oh, and I bought some Gladware in different sizes and just put them on the table and let people choose their own leftovers before they went home. Much less chaotic than asking my guests and trying to do it myself as everyone is leaving.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Rubee

                                                                                                Definitely with you on the extra gravy. I made a BUNCH this year to send home because everyone wanted it. Even my MIL who "doesn't eat gravy" and "only eats 'sauce'". Whatever. I also bought the ziploc containers, but I didn't ask people - I just divided the food among the families and said "Hereyago".

                                                                                                1. re: Rubee

                                                                                                  Love the Gladware idea! Super smart.

                                                                                                2. Made three heaping platters of cut veggies: three colors of peppers; cucumber, celery, and carrots' and a beautiful green bowl with cauliflower chunks and red radishes mixed in. One small bowl of french onion dip for each plate and we ate them all day long.

                                                                                                  And the mocha pecan pie was great too:
                                                                                                  Line a pie plate with a single crust, unbaked; chill it while you prep the filling:
                                                                                                  In a blender or food processor, mix eggs, sugar, maple or corn syrup, semisweet chocolate chips (or grated chocolate), vanilla, a couple of tablespoons of espresso or strong coffee, a little butter, flour, and a dash of cinnamon if desired. Stir in toasted pecans and pour into the shell. bake at 400 for 10 minutes plus another 30 minutes at 350, or until set.
                                                                                                  Let cool for 30 minutes before eating. (adapted from Mollie Katzen's Sundays at Moosewood cookbook)

                                                                                                  1. This was actually my first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner (and to make it a little more interesting, I have a really small Boston apartment kitchen), but overall, I think it was good.

                                                                                                    Biggest hits:
                                                                                                    Apple cider gravy (adapted from Epicurious recipe) - savory and just sweet enough to complement the turkey - normally I am kind of neutral on gravy, but I put this all over everything
                                                                                                    Apple and Sausage Stuffing - more like a savory bread pudding - not too dry and lots of flavor (cooked separately - not in the turkey)
                                                                                                    I also made my grandma's pumpkin pie recipe the night before and then immediately before serving we put a bit of sugar on the top and bruleed it with a torch - it was gone this morning when I ate it for breakfast, but last night it added just the right texture to complement the creamy, spicy pumpkin goodness.

                                                                                                    No big misses, but the breast was a little dry by the time the thigh got to 155 (for a final temperature of 165).

                                                                                                    1. No misses to report really....except that I added a bit too much half-and-half to the mashed potatoes and they were a little more runny than I like. But they thickened up as the evening went on. :)

                                                                                                      Turkey -- did a simple recipe from Food & Wine as my 16-year-old son wanted to cook it this year. Came out fabulous. My thermometer was a little off, so we relied on the pop-up thingy in the turkey...yes, my non-antibiotic, free-range, not-injected-with-anything bird came with a pop-up thingy! Glad I relied on it...the bird was cooked perfectly. It really showed me that you don't need to do anything fancy or complicated. I've tried a gazillion things over the years -- draping the breast in cheesecloth soaked in wine and melted butter..basting every half hour...you name it. This recipe was simply stick the bird on a rack, surround with the neck and giblets and herbs, onions, garlic, celery, carrots...add 2C water to the pan and let it go. No basting, no nothing. We got crisp skin, moist breast, fabulous dark meat. When the breast meat is still moist after being sliced and chilled overnight, you know it was a good bird!! (And NO brining necessary!!!!)

                                                                                                      Gravy -- made stock the day before using 7# of turkey wings and thighs. Did the roux thing in the roasting pan using the fat from the drippings. Added the stock, salt and pepper and drippings. The one thing about adding water to the pan is that you don't get the really dark drippings that I'm used to. But the gravy was still pretty good. Then my son said, "How about adding a little cream?" Didn't have any, but we put in a splash of half-and-half and that sent it over the top. YUM.

                                                                                                      Stuffing -- tried a new recipe this year from epi....cornbread, sausage and cranberry with pecans. YUM. It used leeks instead of onion. Really tasty. Had some of it stuffed in the bird and the rest baked to crunchy goodness in a casserole.

                                                                                                      Spuds -- Ina Garten's Parmesan Smashed Potatoes. Always a winner.

                                                                                                      Green Beans -- steamed then sauteed in butter and olive oil with salt and pepper and lemon zest...squeeze of lemon juice. YUM.

                                                                                                      Desserts -- Pumpkin Pie using sweetened condensed milk and brown sugar. I do love it, though the pumpkin flavor does get a bit lost in the caramelized goodness of the milk and sugar...not to mention the spices. But I love the thick texture of the custard. And then our traditional Upside-Down Apple-Pecan Pie, which is one of the few things my husband insists on every year "or it's not Thanksgiving!" He so rarely asks for specific food, so I've made this for the last 15 years or so. It's a winner!!

                                                                                                      1. I am SO over Thanksgiving. I swear next year we are going out for Vietnamese!!!!!

                                                                                                        1. I amazed myself by planning ahead pretty well. The only dish that took too long was the turkey. But all in all, it was pretty stress free.

                                                                                                          Turkey - Cook's Illustrated salted roast turkey. My turkey was 13 lbs and I thought I followed the instructions exactly. My oven temp supposedly was right on. Nevertheless, Cook's said to roast 45 min at 425, back side up, then 1 - 1.5 hr at 325 breast side up. My turkey was not done. I took it out 1/2 hr later (after 2 hr 45 min total time), thigh was 170 degrees, let it rest, and... it was pink near the bone. OK, I served it anyway. They eat it like that in France, right? I'm not sick today :) But still, I wasn't totally sure about it. Two different thermometers both read the same temp in the thigh, and I tested several other locations which were higher (breast was 180, despite ice).

                                                                                                          Gravy - Cook's again, but didn't put veggies into roasting pan. Nevertheless, it was lump-free and delicious.

                                                                                                          Stuffing -
                                                                                                          http://www.epicurious.com/features/en...
                                                                                                          It was yummy. I halved the recipe and used cubed stale baguette (which I had in the freezer), then ended up adding more cornbread than called for (to use it up), so I had to add more liquid too, but it turned out great.

                                                                                                          Mashed Potatoes - Cook's (russet potatoes, butter, half & half) - always great.

                                                                                                          Sweet Potatoes - Ina Garten's without apple topping; one dish untopped for me, one dish topped with marshmallows for hubby.

                                                                                                          Green beans sauteed with shallots

                                                                                                          Pumpkin Pie - Tartine's flaky tart crust, partially baked (I had the dough in my freezer), Libby's filling but with 3 eggs instead of 2, brown sugar instead of white, plus a bit of nutmeg (similar to Martha's recipe). How could it be bad? The crust was super flaky, even though I made the pie a day ahead.

                                                                                                          It was baby's first Thanksgiving and he loved it all.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Anya L

                                                                                                            I have been reading that pink near the bone is not a sign of being underdone. Mine was too and I kind of freaked, but all the other indicators were right on. If you google it you will get information about hemoglobin blah blah blah that basically means it is not a sign of undercooking necessarily.

                                                                                                            1. re: gridder

                                                                                                              Thanks, I was hoping that was the case. At least the turkey was juicy! Still, next time I will plan to cook it just a little longer because people tend to freak out when they see pink. Fortunately the lights in the dining room were low :)

                                                                                                          2. As a vegan, my mom makes the turkey and I make the sides. I made a vegan pot pie with celeriac, tofu, carrots, peas, and parsnips that was great.
                                                                                                            For dessert I made an Apple Cranberry Pie highlighted with ginger
                                                                                                            Both were big hits and quite simple

                                                                                                            1. This was the first year in a while that I didn't host the dinner. The family went up to my dad and stepmom's since my dad is sick. They don't cook so we had a lot of prepared foods. I did insist on contributing the cranberry sauce (the cabernet recipe famed on this board) and two homemade pies. Pumpkin pie with a sweet crust and apple pie with a traditional flaky double crust- both from the book How To Bake, and both delicious. The pie-crust-making experience was so non-intimidating that I think I finally got over my fear of baking.

                                                                                                              1. Great meal this year. I didn't brine the turkey and it was much better than previous years. Did the turkey stuffed with lots of fresh veggies and lemons, put sage butter under the skin and stock and wine in the bottom of the roaster. Made for a wonderful moist, flavorful turkey and great gravy. Also left turkey stand untented (tent it and the the skin doesn't stay crispy) for 45 min.
                                                                                                                Stuffing was bacon, apple made with my no-knead sage bread. Really, really good..Candy's cranberry recipe was terrific.
                                                                                                                We have lots of wine left, since almost no one drank any, but that's 0-k, I know it won't go to waste.
                                                                                                                Most of us didn't want my pumpkin custard pie either since even after several hours we were still too full, but everyone did enjoy the coffee and chocolate truffles.
                                                                                                                I still had several people here today and we had a slice of the pie this afternoon---it was excellent.
                                                                                                                All in all, the food and company were great-a real day to be thankful for!

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: jackie de

                                                                                                                  Glad you liked the cranberry sauce. This year since I am on a quince kick I made a cranberry and quince compote. Going to a dinner in a couple of weeks and I will make a quince tarte tatin with the last of my stash and some good Dufor puff pastry.

                                                                                                                2. The best hits were the dressing (mom made it from Prudhomme's cornbread dressing recipe, except adding andouille sausage, and removing the egg and the evaporated milk, it was perfect), and the cheese crackers from the November Gourmet -- those were completely fabulous, and I'm definitely going to make that recipe over and over again.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                    You really liked the crackers? I made them and while they were good, I think they just aren't my thing. (And none of the guests commented on them at all.)

                                                                                                                    1. re: gridder

                                                                                                                      I LOVED them. I'm just thrilled that we have another log in the fridge to make for ourselves over the next few days. We didn't do the different kinds of seeds for flavoring, though -- just made the whole recipe with some black peppercorns and a little cayenne. They're just like homemade fancy Cheez-its, and Cheez-its are my favorite snack food, so it would follow that I would love them.

                                                                                                                  2. I made 4 dishes, 3 for the first time, and they all came out great.

                                                                                                                    No-Knead Bread - my second attempt, and it was wonderful, even better than the first. went well with the camembert someone else brought

                                                                                                                    Classic Green Bean Casserole from Cook's Illustrated - fantastic! fresh mushrooms cooked in cream added great flavor, and fresh beans made the dish crunchy. I don't normally love crispy casserole toppings, but this mix of fresh bread crumbs, butter, and canned fried onions was quite tasty.

                                                                                                                    Pumpkin Bread Pudding (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...) - quite easy and very tasty. It didn't need the caramel sauce, and it was nice contrast to the very sweet apple pie and cherry pie that were also there. I couldn't find egg bread, so I used French bread, and it was great. I think the key is making sure the bread soaks up the pumpkin mixture before it goes in the oven.

                                                                                                                    Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...) - again delicious, even better that the Julia Child mashed potatoes from The Way to Cook.

                                                                                                                    I'm thankful that the turkey wasn't my responsibility!

                                                                                                                    1. This is all just wonderful. So many ideas I will be thinking about for next near.

                                                                                                                      What was really special about this thanksgiving was having 3 Iraqi friends over for their 1st ever turkey day. It was ALL new to them. The Giant Chicken with bread inside... the tiny cabbages (brussell sprouts) roasted in the oven... the turkey soup to be poured over the meat... the cranberry sauce... the desserts made from big squashes... and of course, the great American tradition of an entire family standing around the table and critiquing the person carving the turkey...

                                                                                                                      I'm not being condescending -- I've had wonderful meals in Iraq that are very traditional but were totally new to me. What made sharing this thanksgiving really special, I think was the fact that it is the one American holiday that's not about religion, it's purely about FOOD and family and friends.

                                                                                                                      We all ate too much & had a blast.

                                                                                                                      And (as I wrote on another post) I would have been lost putting this meal together if not for constantly searching & consulting on this board.

                                                                                                                      Thank you chowhounders!

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: JenMarie66

                                                                                                                        I did that with a Vietnamese family a couple of years ago. It was great fun introducing them to the holiday and cooking up all of the traditional foods. The next day their children were clammoring "mama you make us turkey" the cranberries were a big hit too. It is a very reewarding way to share a holiday.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Candy

                                                                                                                          I took a friend from India to my uncle's for Thanksgiving some years ago. My uncle's response was "Great. (Your cousin)'s been studying Indians and Pilgrims in school -- now he'll really be confused." My friend had a great time, and particularly enthused about the sweet potato casserole with little marshmallows on top. But of course, when the cousin inadvertently knocked the Indian corn decoration down, all eyes turned to my friend.

                                                                                                                      2. Went up to Janet's in Reno, and there were no misses. Everything was great, the food was delicious, she makes *the best* apple pie...and while I enjoyed nephew's girlfriend's Japanese pumpkin salad, her Japanese rice salad with sesame dressing was outstanding!

                                                                                                                        Given all this talk on turkey roasting, I have to 'out' my sister on one count, however: She doesn't own a meat thermometer! (I suppose because they don't cook meat as often as many of us do). So, anyway, I was biting my tongue, trying not to be the control freak, and fretting about it, but it didn't matter in the least: she followed Alton Brown's brining recipe, cooked the recomended time per pound in that recipe, took the turkey out, let it rest for half an hour or so, and it was at the exactly right level of doneness! (not to mention delicious, flavorful and moist)...If she always does that well on timing no wonder she sees no need for a meat thermometer....

                                                                                                                        Hubby and I contributed the wine (this was a crowd that apprciated it, fortunately) and some very simple appetizers (deviled eggs, the fried-potato-slices-broiled-with-Raclette cheese thing I learned on CH, hummus, veges: the five college students in attendance assured that all disappeared in no time flat:-)...

                                                                                                                        Anyway, other than the above, the two big hits that stand out for me;

                                                                                                                        1. My nephew (one of the college students) showing up with his own disposable foil pan, so that he could take home his care package of leftovers...

                                                                                                                        2. Talking on the phone with my daughter down in LA, listening to her blow by blow of how she roasted her first turkey ever, for her fiance, and that it came out perfectly, thanks to the Joy of Cooking I gave her for Christmas one year, with a little help from 'all these great recipes I found on the internet'. Then fiance endeered himself to me by getting on the phone to tell me what a great cook she was and how much he enjoyed one of his first Thanksgivings (he didn't grow up in the US)...I think next year my Thanksgiving will be in Los Angeles.... I can get used to this idea of giving up the control freak role and letting someone else do the cooking! :-)

                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                          oh yes, one more hit: really liked Jerry's 'Indian Brussel Sprouts', usually I prefer roasted to top of stove, but these were very nice and added a bit of kick to the meal. Also, it is nice to have less in the oven when it is already overcrowded...Janet, can you post the recipe?

                                                                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                            Yes, I will. And lol, I was about to out myself about the meat thermometer...I was going to comment that the turkey was fine and I was surprised at how concerned Susan was that I didn't have one....

                                                                                                                            Trust me, Jerry would not LET me serve undercooked meat. Heck, why do you think I rarely serve it (he thinks red meat should NOT be even pink inside....). I have learned to time it well. Its a gift....

                                                                                                                            I also was greatly amused at my son's foil pan! And agreed that the black rice salad was wonderful. I will try and get a recipe.

                                                                                                                            The other thing that came out great were the mashed potatoes. Just delicious...must have been all the cream I added :-). And although of course the apple pie was delicious (It's kind of my speciality), I'm glad I followed my last minute hunch to make pumpkin as well. Several people preferred it, including Susan's husband, who said it reminded him of (his home state) Pennsylvania. In a good way. Whatever that means :-)

                                                                                                                            The brussel sprouts recipe will be posted shortly.

                                                                                                                          2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                            Sweet story about your daughter. Funny .... when I was 17 and moved out of the house for the first time, my Mom gave me a copy of The Joy of Cooking too!!! That book is as tattered and worn as can be. It's been my bible forever (even though I've finally broken down and used Ruth Reichl's "new Joy of Cooking," The Gourmet Cookbook.

                                                                                                                            1. re: MalibuAly

                                                                                                                              I have waaayyy to many cookbooks, but the Gourmet Cookbook is not one of them. However, I am thinking of taking a look and trying a few things from it: a friend who was thanking me for a favor I had done her recently came over to the house and made us a wonderful dinner highlighted by butternut squash soup, an eggplant dish, and crown roast of lamb, all following recipes from the Gourmet Cookbook. (what can I say, it was a fairly big favor and she is a good friend. :-))

                                                                                                                          3. Hits:

                                                                                                                            - Last year, we bought a natural, fresh bird that turned out to have a few worms in it. Ick! This year, we went for the frozen Butterball. It was delicious, and everyone felt comfortable knowing the bird was safely frozen from processing plant to the fridge. I had also read a taste test article where Butterball won out over other turkeys (brined, injected, Kosher, etc.) It means you can't have fun experimenting with your own brines, but the upside is that it is less work and stays moist on its own.

                                                                                                                            - Once again went for the covered pan method suggested in the LA Times last year. The turkey is very moist when you go this route, and will brown nicely with the cover off the last 30 minutes.

                                                                                                                            - I have the gravy down to a science now!

                                                                                                                            - Bell's stuffing imported from New England. (We are in L.A.)

                                                                                                                            - We had to rush out to make a movie, and ended up doing the dishes on Friday. Much better than trying to do them after that big meal!

                                                                                                                            - Last year we had too many appetizers. This year, we decided just to have some chips and dip, and a pumpkin soup.

                                                                                                                            - After reading a Wall Street Journal article on wines, found a good one at Pavilions for $10. We don't drink too much wine, and the advice was helpful given that there are so many cheap wine choices now.

                                                                                                                            Misses:

                                                                                                                            - Did not thaw out turkey early enough. It was still a little icy when we started, and for that reason I think the innermost parts of the turkey were not done as well as the outside. This also could have been due to not flipping the bird.

                                                                                                                            - Should have made the pumpkin soup and stock the day before. As the main "chef" I had less time to relax and chat this year, as I was busy in the kitchen. (Was very busy on Wednesday.)

                                                                                                                            - As usual, the leftover ratio is uneven. Too many potatoes, too much turkey, not enough stuffing, not enough green beans, not enough squash.

                                                                                                                            - This isn't food related, but seeing people SHOPPING on Thanksgiving day was nauseating. The whole "Black Friday" garbage is bad enough, but to open up on Thanksgiving itself?

                                                                                                                            All in all, Thanksgiving is such a great eating day. We had a wonderful time as usual!

                                                                                                                            1. Hits-
                                                                                                                              Brined Deep Fried Turkey
                                                                                                                              Bacon, Italian Sausage and Portuguese Sausage stuffing.

                                                                                                                              1. What wonderful reports!! As I gleefully announced last week, SO had to work in Thanksgiving and I hate turkey, so I took advantage of the situation and made a dinner around Lobster (Because I think they are yummy and the Pilgrims had them too! :)) but to add fun California twist, we would BBQ them (Which meant we’d use California Lobsters). Here’s our meal

                                                                                                                                Starter:

                                                                                                                                * Portuguese Kale Soup: Yes, this is a Rachel Ray recipe and it isn’t COMPLETELY authentic, but it was GOOD... Of course it does help to simmer the soup for a while so everything blends (This was the first thing I made) and to add great Chourico (In our case we used a Salpicao from the Famous Portuguese Sausage Marker.) SO also added a splash of dry white wine during the final simmer, which helped lift everything and made him feel like it was his recipe now instead of Rachel’s... LOL!!

                                                                                                                                http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                                                                                                                Main:

                                                                                                                                *Oyster Stuffing: Since I went already went into the gutter to use a Ray Ray recipe, I decided I might has well use Emeril’s for the Oyster Stuffing. Truth be told I looked at a lot of our and stuffing recipes and these were indeed the yummiest sounding to me... and I admit, I like Esscence!!! LOL!! :) Anyway, to make things up, I used six SUPER fresh Hama Hama Oysters with their liquior that I had gotten from Quality Seafood in the morning into the bread cubes that I were previously a baguette SO made for me a few days before. Putting basically double the Oysters, I was a bit concerned about it being a bit TOO briny... but it really wasn’t... the baking and all the spices really helped balance things out and the touch of heat was just PERFECT!!! (Especially since I used El Yucateco... YUM!!) . It wasn’t as good as our typical Sausage, Sage and Sourdough dressing, but it worked perfectly with the lobster... :

                                                                                                                                )

                                                                                                                                http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                                                                                                                *Cranberry, Apple and Jicama Salad: This recipe sounded SO good, but it was a ton of work due to the fact that the Carrots, Apples and Jicama aren’t necessarily Manodoline friendly, so I had to hand chop everything... Plus, in the end we ended up with a TON of salad. This was a great accompaniment, tasted wonderful, not to sweet, very fresh and lots of flavor coming from each element. But I dunno if I’d do it again with such a time crunch (This was the VERY last thing I made with it being done just 5 minutes before we began plating!!)

                                                                                                                                http://www.raleys.com/apps/recipes/re...

                                                                                                                                *BBQ California Lobster: And of course, the BBQ lobster. I got a 2lber at Quality Seafood that morning. It was SUPER easy and quick to prepare, but once the ball starts rolling, there is no turning back... We served along with a Butter sauce made with Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic, Parsley and Chives. And yes, it beat turkey 1000000x

                                                                                                                                http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                                                                                                                Finally... Dessert:

                                                                                                                                * Buttermilk Blueberry Tart: I get so much more intimidated by tarts that I do with pies... I have no idea why, but I took this one, a careful step at a time. Even so, the crust got a bit toasty... but thankfully not burned. The filling was SUPER easy, and the use of frozen berries (Trader Joes Wild) were just fine. The biggest surprise was the amount of Lemon and tanginess that shown through. It truly was a great tart, that I would do again and again (especially when fresh berries get into season). Although I’ll watch the crust more carefully. :)

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

                                                                                                                                And in typical fashion, I did manage to snap some pictures, here’s a mini step by step... :

                                                                                                                                )

                                                                                                                                http://tinyurl.com/ylk8tp

                                                                                                                                All in our traditional, “non-traditional” Thanksgiving dinner was a success... and tomorrow we start over again with a dinner we preparing for my parents. :) I’ll be sure to report about that later too! :

                                                                                                                                )

                                                                                                                                --Dommy!

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: Dommy

                                                                                                                                  EP!! P. just told me that the picture link doesn't work. :(

                                                                                                                                  http://tinyurl.com/yhh6bk

                                                                                                                                  Hope this works.

                                                                                                                                  --Dommy!

                                                                                                                                2. Another great dinner prepared by our wonderful niece-by-marriage melding a family of Danish/French Canadian, Scottish, African American, Japanese, Jewish and Ugandan members delving into fried turkey (the sixth year in a row of successful frying) just delicious plus greens, dressing, real mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce homemade, garlic rolls (from my Persian neighbor's restaurant), best sweet potatoes, the best. Desserts were the children efforts age 9 (first apple pie, a winner) and age 10 - famous pecan pie bars - everyone dived into those, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie.

                                                                                                                                  Best part was the arrival of a guest from Japan who comes every year but who wa absent the first half of the meal and came through the french doors carrying a huge pink orchid. Everyone cheered - the kids said "He know what the rules are, you MUST be here each year".

                                                                                                                                  ZoeZ

                                                                                                                                  1. We had a nine person gathering from ages 2 1/2 to 76. Our menu consisted of Roast chicken with gravy, green bean casserole, mashed butternut squash, homemade mashed potatoes, apple stuffing, spicy spinach, machine oven oatmeal bread, and pumpkin pie.

                                                                                                                                    Biggest hits -

                                                                                                                                    1. The roast chicken. Why haven't we done this before? Our 8 lb. roaster simply tastes better (or at least less bitter) than turkey and is much tenderer. And we still ended up with enough leftovers to start a new Chowhound thread discussing the best uses for leftover roasters!

                                                                                                                                    2. The mashed potatoes. It's a simple recipe of boiled potatoes, butter, pepper salt and milk, but we've been adding a teaspoon of baking soda to it lately, and the "puffed up" effect created while mixing it on "high" made it a very popular item particularly with the 2 1/2 year old and the 75 year old.

                                                                                                                                    3. I'm very sorry to report that the WAY-overused Campbell's soup green bean casserole is still a huge hit. (We use the Cream of Celery soup instead of Cream of Mushroom, but that's hardly an adventurous thing!)

                                                                                                                                    4. The bread machine bread was very tasty. It was made by my dad and the recipé came from an internet site. Very good, and enjoyed by all.

                                                                                                                                    5. The pumpkin pie was made by one of our friends from scratch using their display jack-o-lantern pumpkins. Spectacular. All that work though and it was gone after about 5 minutes.

                                                                                                                                    MIDDLING...
                                                                                                                                    1. Nobody commented, but we did notice that the chicken dripping gravy (add flour, heat, water, onion powder, salt and pepper) was all eaten. I'm just not a big gravy fan so my wife kind of made it quickly at the last minute...tasted fine to me, but no one mentioned it.

                                                                                                                                    2. Butternut squash... what did I do wrong? It came out kind of liquidy and chunky! Guess I need to beat it harder? (The recipé was from "Joy of Cooking", and asked for butter, ginger, brown sugar, cream, and salt. It suggested raisins, but we didn't add them. Mistake?)

                                                                                                                                    MISS...
                                                                                                                                    1. The spicy spinach. Maybe spicy food doesn't work when every other food on the table is comparitively bland?
                                                                                                                                    2. The stuffing. Pepperidge Farm herbed bread crumbs, with added apple usually works. This came out a bit dry. What should we add next time? (Please don't say "water"!)

                                                                                                                                    We might have prepared too many things; it seems like we have a lot of leftovers!!

                                                                                                                                    Scott

                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: bunnyr

                                                                                                                                      I use the pepperidge farm crumb stuffing sometimes ( we use whole loaves of bread to make TG stuffing). I use chicken broth, onions, celery, bell's poultry seasoning butter and an egg. Easy and really tasty.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: bunnyr

                                                                                                                                        I think spicy with comparatively bland works well. Besides Janet's brussel sprouts, there was her cranberry chutney; which is always a hit and great on sandwiches the next day. What were the ingredients in the spinach?

                                                                                                                                        I've never had a problem with dry stuffing, and have used Pepperidge Farm. Perhaps not enough butter or fat? I also typically add both some chicken broth and a half cup or so of wine to my stuffing...

                                                                                                                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                          Ah, now I *like* the white wine addition (or even sherry) to the stuffing. However, I have a couple of people in our group who are very sensitive to alchohol (including a 2 1/2 year old). My wife was not happy that I didn't at least try an extra 1/2 cup of vegetable broth or even a chicken boullion [sp] cube.

                                                                                                                                          I like your suggestions and will remember them for next time.

                                                                                                                                          Spinach came from one of the friends at the table. She added curry (red curry I believe), lemon pepper and salt (and one other thing that I can't remember) to the spinach. HCHCHOT!!
                                                                                                                                          I was the only one (and this included the cook) who liked it.

                                                                                                                                          My mom usually makes a fabulous cranberry apple salad (found in one of those "what can you do with jello" books), but we seemed to have enough food this time around. Next time!!

                                                                                                                                      2. I want to start by being clear to those who do not believe it, that one can have 33 annual Thanksgiving meals with the green bean casserole and survive the 34th without it. I am pleased to report not only that I am alive and well, but that I am sated. (And I love the greenbean casserole, especially mom's version with the added pound of cheddar, waterchestnuts, and worcestershire).

                                                                                                                                        We had 8 for TG with several people contributing dishes. Here's the menu:

                                                                                                                                        THE DRINK
                                                                                                                                        Cranberry champagne cocktail (cran juice, champagne, sparking apple from Trader Joes)

                                                                                                                                        THE STARTER
                                                                                                                                        Griddle cakes with gorgonzola and pears (from Fingerfoods by bay books)

                                                                                                                                        THE MAIN EVENT
                                                                                                                                        Turkey (organic from Whole Foods, using an under and over the skin rub based on Ina Garten's roasted chicken recipe)
                                                                                                                                        Marsala wine gravy (oh my, how I loved this)
                                                                                                                                        Cranberry sauce (from the bag, but with the juice of one orange)

                                                                                                                                        THE SIDES
                                                                                                                                        Parmesan biscuit rolls
                                                                                                                                        Green beans in butter, salt and pepper, and almonds
                                                                                                                                        Wilted spinach with garlic
                                                                                                                                        Corn pudding (Ina Garten)
                                                                                                                                        Risotto
                                                                                                                                        Two potato gratin
                                                                                                                                        Garlic mashed potatoes
                                                                                                                                        Ciabatta stuffing and dressing

                                                                                                                                        THE DESSERT
                                                                                                                                        Pear cranberry pear tart with amaretti crumble
                                                                                                                                        Pecan bars (Ina Garten)
                                                                                                                                        Pecan bars (Gourmet)
                                                                                                                                        Pumpkin pie (Cook’s Illustrated)
                                                                                                                                        Baklava – Greek version with honey and walnuts (combined recipes from the web)
                                                                                                                                        Baklava - Lebanese version with pistachios, rosewater sugar syrup (several from the web)

                                                                                                                                        What Went Well:

                                                                                                                                        GRIDDLE CAKES: Great flavor combo and texture dance
                                                                                                                                        TURKEY: I loved, loved, loved the turkey. It was quite flavorful and moist.
                                                                                                                                        GRAVY: Homemade chicken broth, turkey drippings, flour, S&P, and marsala - YUM!
                                                                                                                                        COCKTAIL: Refreshingly tart and light
                                                                                                                                        DRESSING/STUFFING: Peppreidge Farm doctored with more veggies, spices, and egg and some amazing ciabatta
                                                                                                                                        PEAR CRANBERRY TART: As good as it sounds, maybe better.
                                                                                                                                        PECAN BARS (INA GARTEN): Ina Garten's pecan bars were so amazing. Beautiful soft crust with just enough fight in it and very nutty filling

                                                                                                                                        MAYBE NOT AGAIN
                                                                                                                                        -salad was ignored and unexciting with so much on the table
                                                                                                                                        -we could do without the Gourmet pecan bars given Ina's were representing well
                                                                                                                                        -I had never made baklava before and really wanted to try when I had the time to do so. Both versions turned out wonderfully, but it seems wither baklava is a bit odd for this crowd or it just didn't fit for the event. In the future, I might make them for a dessert party or something similar.

                                                                                                                                        The good news is, while we were playing around in the kitchen, we discovered a few tastes that will become part of our next menu: Toasted ciabatta with melted gorgonzola and a brush of orange blossom honey may be the best bite I have had of anything in a long time. The salty cheese, the nuances of the honey, the crispy yet yielding bread. Oh my.

                                                                                                                                        After making the baklava, I was eating a juicy pear left over from the tart and griddle cakes. I drizzled a bit of the cardamom honey on the pear and took a bite. Juicy, fruity, spicy, sweet. A stunning new flavor combo for us.

                                                                                                                                        >>should close by saying thanks to all who are posting -- lots of inspiration here from the simple or traditional to the downright acrobatic-- glad to see people enjoying both food and the communities we form around it <<

                                                                                                                                        Edited to add that my SO did the pumpkin pie crust from the best crust recipe we've ever found from Bon Apetit so the pie was not totally Cooks Illustrated.

                                                                                                                                        1. We go mostly traditional with Thanksgiving meals - it's rare we can deviate from the norm, so roasted turkey, green beans with toasted almonds, glazed carrots, mashed potatoes and mashed squash, stuffing (which we forgot in the oven), and homemade gravy tends to be our dinner every year. Sister added a Carando ham, which turned out pretty good.

                                                                                                                                          The turkey was done an hour and a half before it was supposed to be, according to my sister, so we took it out at 160° and tented it with foil. Let it sit for about an hour while we made the sides, and the turkey ended up being perfect - very moist and cooked just right. And making the gravy (of which I'm the one in the family to whom the responsibility has been abdicated) was pretty easy, because my sister has an Advantium microwave oven, so things that would have normally be on the stovetop while I was making the gravy were in the Advantium. The gravy came out perfect, if I do say so myself.

                                                                                                                                          My sister actually bought half-and-half for the mashed potatoes this year (she's lactose intolerant, so doesn't usually even have milk in the house) so the Yukon Gold mashed potatoes came out very creamy and nice - a whole stick of butter helped as well. I would have liked some roasted garlic in there as a personal preference, but they were good nonetheless.

                                                                                                                                          Another hit was Mom's Pumpkin Pie - just the standard Libby's filling, and based on my taste-tests of the filling in the past (because she's losing her sense of taste) she almost doubles up on all of the spices - so it was nice and gingery.

                                                                                                                                          My apple pie was good (homemade crust from Better Homes & Gardens cookbook from 1976) except the pie was a bit more watery than I would have liked - as well as being the first "flat" apple pie I've ever made. I used a mix of Macouns, Honey Crisps, and Granny Smiths, and I think the Macouns weren't good in my area - at least not the ones I picked up at Whole Foods. They seemed softer than they should have been, and ended up collapsing during cooking, so I didn't have the "overstuffed apple pie" my family is used to - plus the Macouns were more watery than the Honey Crisps and Granny Smiths, so the filling was softer than I prefer. Still a good tasting pie, just not up to my standards.

                                                                                                                                          So no real misses - I think that's because we don't deviate from what everyone expects. :-)

                                                                                                                                          Edited to say I think this was also the most RELAXED Thanksgiving holiday our family has ever been. My sister's in-laws, sister-in-law and niece-in-law were late in getting there, and my sister started to stress, but her DH and I just said "If they come in when we're sitting down to dinner, then they come in when we're sitting down to dinner! They knew what time to be here!" They got there about a half hour before dinner, and it was just a nice relaxing dinner and enjoyable time with family.

                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                            I have a lactose intollerant friend and one year I made mashed potatoes for her that I now like as much as the traditional kind. They do have goat cheese in them, but for mysterious sciencey reasons, she (like some other lactose sensitive people I know) has no problem with goat cheese.
                                                                                                                                            The gen. recipe:
                                                                                                                                            boil up a bunch of potatoes as for a normal recipe (I leave the skins on these days -- I like the texture & it sure makes it easier)
                                                                                                                                            while they're cooking, warm a whole lot of olive oil (this is truly a guess but maybe about a
                                                                                                                                            1/4 - 1/2 cup for 8 potatoes?) and add a whole lot of chopped garlic to the oil (according to your taste). don't get the oil too hot -- just hot enough so the garlic releases its flavors.
                                                                                                                                            drain potatoes, add olivie oil & garlic and as much warmed chicken broth as you would usually use milk, and a small log of soft goat cheese (or a container plain chavrie), S&P. mash all together, adding more broth as necessary. you'll never mis the butter & milk.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: JenMarie66

                                                                                                                                              JenMarie - thanks, I'll have to remember this for the next time I maked mashed for myself. Anything with goat cheese works for me!

                                                                                                                                          2. I did learn a few things this Thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                            How to make sweet potatoes--never did this before. I learned they are harder than heck to slice--they're more like slicing carrots than potatoes. I made wonderful roasted curried sweet potatoes, and discovered how good the traditional flavors of orange juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice goes with a good dollop of garam masala.

                                                                                                                                            That gorgonzola cheese smells simply awful when baked in a recipe. I discovered this when my sister-in-law made stuffing from this month's Sunset magazine stuffing recipe. The stuffing was actually pretty good--lots of leeks in it, and the cheese gave a wonderful taste. But boy it sure gives the house an odd aroma of cooked poop.

                                                                                                                                            We also had a Costco ham and I have to say that thing had even better smoky taste and sweet crispy glaze than Honeybaked. Going on my list for our next ham.

                                                                                                                                            Our old tradition of having our turkey cooked at our LA Farmers Market is still a winner. Buy the turkey at this fresh poultry butcher, walk a hundred feet or so over to the BBQ Pit place, hand it to them, and pick it up the next day all juicy and brown and delicious. Then just a matter of carving it up into aluminum trays and reheating later. Every year I think it's time I really should cook my own turkey but after tasting it's hard to convince myself it's worth the effort.

                                                                                                                                            1. Made the Alton Brown brined turkey recipe. Came out absolutely flawless. Every bit of meat on the turkey was juicy and perfectly done. Was a little skeptical judging from the huge amount of smoke produced in the first 30 minutes at 500 degrees, but all was well.

                                                                                                                                              Also made his recipes for pan gravy, corn bread pudding, and cranberry sauce. Again, all were winners. Got rave reviews from all in attendance.

                                                                                                                                              Also made a sweet potato/parsnip casserole with pecan crumb topping and candied ginger. Another winner. All in all, easily the best thanksgiving meal I've yet made, in terms of consistency and overall quality.

                                                                                                                                              I would definitely use Alton's brining and searing method again. The foil triangle over the breast worked surprisingly well at ensuring all the bird was done at the same time.

                                                                                                                                              1. Hits:

                                                                                                                                                Brined local turkey cooked on convection

                                                                                                                                                Chocolate cream tart and strawberry/raspberry tart with vanilla pastry cream from Dorrie Greenspan's latest cookbook.

                                                                                                                                                Traditional (for my family) potato stuffing

                                                                                                                                                Sweet potato casserole

                                                                                                                                                1. Huge Hits:
                                                                                                                                                  The Cornbread-Sage-Sausage dressing -- we used two Pyrex glass baking dishes (9" X 13" X 2") so that there was greater surface to brown. None left. Solid raves.

                                                                                                                                                  The fruit salad dessert featuring Fuyu persimmons, granny smith apples, bosc pears, shaved aged parmessan with a drizzle of traditional modena balsamic. There was resistence aplenty for using the balsamic but once my daughter-units showed that there was nothing to fear, the more-conservative adults all tried it. Converts one-and-all. I wish there was a year-round source for Fuyu; this would be an excellent summer dish. Alas, my tree only sports its bounty in fall for 15 days.

                                                                                                                                                  Turkey: brined and roasted. Everything came out moist and falling from the bones.

                                                                                                                                                  1. My favorite dishes from our feast for nine plus baby were: Cook's Illustrated green bean casserole, a jicama with beet and ginger salad, stuffing including dried cranberries and cashews, sweet potato mashed with brandy, the NPR recipe for Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish (with horseradish), bread pudding with raspberry, and a lime-clementine pie. I really don't think there were any misses and the whole day was quite relaxed.

                                                                                                                                                    1. My mother has decided for two years now to make stuffing in muffin tins. She saw an article in a health mag about portion control. In concept it's interesting, everyone gets a muffin sized stuffing ball. And they look kind of cool. But trouble is, they are dry as desert rock. Next year I'll offer to make sutffing. Nice, fluffy, moist, stuffing. No muffin stuffin'!

                                                                                                                                                      1. Thanks to some help from Chowhounds, and a lot of planning, everything went really well. In fact, it was so easy I kept thinking I was forgetting something.

                                                                                                                                                        Per a Chowhounder suggestion, I brined my 14lb bird in a pre-made brine mixture (got at Whole Foods) in a brining bag for 20 hours. I took it out, towel-dried, stuffed and put in a roasting bag. It was fully cooked in 3 hours flat at 325 degrees.

                                                                                                                                                        The stuffing was a great success: Corn bread and Andoullie sausage stuffing recipe I got from Epicurious. I added some candied pecans to balance out the spiciness. It was excellent and shall become my regular stuffing moving forward. I couldn't even find the andoullie, tho, so I used spicy Italian mixed with a sage breakfast sausage, and added a couple of heaping teaspoons of Tabasco. Perfect!

                                                                                                                                                        For veg, I also got some suggestions from Chowhounders on how to make corn interesting. I made a succotash with shallots, butter, corn and sugar snap peas. I bought the frozen "roasted" corn at Trader Joe's, and a bag of stringless snap peas at Whole Foods. Easy as pie, and delicious.

                                                                                                                                                        I made up my own mash potato "smash" - red skinned potatoes, garlic, chives and cream, all smashed together. Made gravy by making a rue then adding hot juices from the turkey and cooked giblets.

                                                                                                                                                        Dad brought his homemade pumpkin pie with a sugar/sour cream topping.

                                                                                                                                                        All in all, a very excellent meal. Thanks to everyone who helped with all the ideas.

                                                                                                                                                        1. We had to go to her family in NJ, where the mistress of the house is a notoriously bad cook. I was dreading it.

                                                                                                                                                          But the mistress wasn't feeling well, so she delegated the job of cooking the turkey to her other half, an equally bad cook. He was so nervous at the thought that he bought a fancy thermometer, the better to guage the doneness of the boid. When we arrived, he was futzing around, trying to figure out if the leg was done, underdone, overdone, or any combination of all three. He decided that it was overdone and took it out to rest. Uh oh, we're in for cardboard breast meat, all dry and leathery, or so I thought.

                                                                                                                                                          He must have hit it perfectly, because it was one of the best roast turkeys I have ever tasted. The breast was moist and rich. The legs were a touch underdone, which was fine. They tasted great. And I managed to snag some leftovers which we had for sandwiches yesterday. Funniest thing of all was his declaration that the thermometer was fine for the likes of Alton Brown, but he was going by a recipe book next time.

                                                                                                                                                          Since I was taking one for the team, this had an unexpectedly good outcome.

                                                                                                                                                          - Sean

                                                                                                                                                          1. Thanksgiving was our family of four at home, as always.

                                                                                                                                                            This is my tenth year at cooking my own Thanksgiving meal, and I was amazed at how good I've gotten at orchestrating the cooking and baking and cleaning of the day. The first of four pies goes in the oven at 5 am, the next pie at 6 am, the next pie at 7 am, the last pie at 8 am, until the turkey goes in at 9 am, we sit down to eat at 2 pm, and my linens, china, and silver are all washed and stored away by 7pm. What a great day! Our menu, the same as always:

                                                                                                                                                            Turkey
                                                                                                                                                            Giblet Gravy
                                                                                                                                                            Cornbread-Sausage-and Pecan Stuffing
                                                                                                                                                            Mashed Potatoes
                                                                                                                                                            Brussels Sprouts
                                                                                                                                                            Sweet-Potato Pudding
                                                                                                                                                            Peas
                                                                                                                                                            Orange Congealed Salad
                                                                                                                                                            Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
                                                                                                                                                            Cream Cheese Biscuits, shaped as crescent rolls
                                                                                                                                                            Pumpkin Pie
                                                                                                                                                            Chess Pie
                                                                                                                                                            Japanese Fruit Pie
                                                                                                                                                            Chocolate Pecan Pie
                                                                                                                                                            Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Ice-Cream
                                                                                                                                                            Sparkling Cider

                                                                                                                                                            Everything was delicious, and I had a few innovations and revelations:

                                                                                                                                                            Turkey: The Empire kosher turkey was superb. Moist and flavorful. This was the second year in a row we've gotten this brand of frozen turkey, and we love it. I always cook a 15-pounder partially covered at 350 until the thigh reaches 145, then cook uncovered at 450 until the thigh reaches 160.

                                                                                                                                                            Cornbread-Pecan-and-Sausage Stuffing: Tried Jimmy Dean Bold sausage for the first time, and it adds greta flavor to the stuffing.

                                                                                                                                                            Cream-Cheese Biscuits: These rich biscuits were great shaped into crescent rolls. We still had to have Pillsbury Crescent Rolls to satisfy my husband, but I got to have my favorite biscuits instead. Rolled out, cut into wedges, and rolled up into crescents, the dough baked up into savory, pull-apart crescents that were very more-ish.

                                                                                                                                                            Chocolate Pecan Pie: I substituted 1/2 cup Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chunks for 1/2 cup of the pecans, and the result was a rich and delicious treat for the chocolate-loving half of the family.

                                                                                                                                                            Sweet-Potato Pudding: On the advice of the Sweet-Potato queens (I forget which of the many books by Jill Conner Brown), I added sweetened flaked coconut to the pecan-praline topping, and it was indeed the "luxury" Brown said it would be! But I put coconut on only my half of the pudding, as I am the only real coconut-lover, and this move also ensures me leftovers of this pudding all to myself.

                                                                                                                                                            All hits and no misses! A great day it was.

                                                                                                                                                            I must say, I love the taupe, linen, harvest-patterned damask tablecloth and napkins I got from William-Sonoma a few years ago: the pattern and color hide any stains you can dish out!

                                                                                                                                                            1. Just posted my review of our great rotisserie bird but wanted to add what is now going to be some new traditions in our house.

                                                                                                                                                              #1....On Fri. night, We gathered some other friends to bring over their leftovers and we switched and tasted options at other's celebrations. It was so much fun! We even had the "moistest leftover turkey" contest!!!!! We won, I think.

                                                                                                                                                              #2......Sat. morning, we followed the lead from something we saw on the Today show but put our own twist:

                                                                                                                                                              We made an amazing Post-Thanksgiving Brunch Hash:

                                                                                                                                                              Sauteed onions, diced turkey, stuffing and vegis (all leftovers) all together in a large saucepan adding a little stock and olive oil to add moisture. Topped it with 2 poached eggs and a touch of cranberry sauce on the side (kind of like a chutney or relish). The guy on the Today show added Bernaise sauce but it was plenty rich enough without it for our tastes.

                                                                                                                                                              YUUUUMMMMYYYY!!!!!

                                                                                                                                                              1. I know I am posting as a misanthrope, but all 4 children were away. I did not cook dinner for the first time in over 25 years and I miss it - so my vicarious thrill is reading this post!

                                                                                                                                                                1. I got a red bourbon turkey from a local farm, gave it the Alton Brown treatment, and it was the best roast bird that has ever come out of my kitchen!

                                                                                                                                                                  The only diversion from AB's instructions was using fresh ginger instead of candied in the brine- all the stores in my area had empty spots where the candied giger was supposed to go.

                                                                                                                                                                  My dressing came out well to... mirepoix, one loaf of sourdough bread, 1/3 of the 9" cornbread I bought at the supermarket, toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries, chicken stock, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. Due to a variety of circumstances (one being a newly redecorated dining room with a table that seats 10 comfortably), I hosted our family (including my sister's inlaws) Thanksgiving for the first time.

                                                                                                                                                                    I made:
                                                                                                                                                                    Turkey -- Mom has been doing the turkey on the Weber for many years now, and she came over to help/mentor me cooking it this year. We cooked a 16-lb "natural, free-range" turkey stuffed, breast down, to 160 at the thigh on the meat thermometer (I was going for 165, but the legs were quite loose and it was clearly done). It was good but not great -- I thought it was just a tad over done.

                                                                                                                                                                    Cornbread-Apple-Sausage-Pecan stuffing -- fabulous! I love this recipe (from the Silver Palate Cookbook).

                                                                                                                                                                    Creamed onions -- I used Vermouth instead of sherry in the cream sauce and realized I really prefer it

                                                                                                                                                                    Gravy made with drippings and stock made from the turkey neck, giblets and wing tips came out perfect. But then, I've been making roux-based sauces since I was 12.

                                                                                                                                                                    Carrot pudding (from a recipe chowhound David Boyk posted after the picnic one year) -- huge hit, thanks David!

                                                                                                                                                                    The rest of the dinner:

                                                                                                                                                                    Two kinds of cranberry sauce (Mom)
                                                                                                                                                                    "Lord Krishna's brain" (a whole roasted cauliflower with a mild curry-type sauce that became a T-Day tradition when several family members were vegetarians) (BIL)
                                                                                                                                                                    Green Salad (sister's MIL)
                                                                                                                                                                    Brussels sprout salad (total failure -- sprouts were al dente to the point of being inedible -- sister's MIL thinks she's a good cook and isn't)
                                                                                                                                                                    Meyer lemon cheesecake (BIL -- he's justifiably proud of his cheesecakes, so no one has the heart to tell him we'd rather have pie on Thanksgiving)

                                                                                                                                                                    We started the afternoon with a cheese platter and fruit, and ended with some lovely dessert wines my sister's sister-in-law brought. During the meal we also had a Trimbach Gewurtztraminer, a Rhone rose, and a couple of bottles of Beaujoulais.

                                                                                                                                                                    Things I should have done differently: I should have done more of the prep for the carrot pudding in advance, because I ended up running myself a little ragged and having too many last-minute dirty dishes. My sister's MIL should not be allowed to give blueberries to toddlers in a room with a light-colored carpet. I should have cleaned and prepped the Weber last week, instead of forgetting until an hour before the turkey was supposed to go in. I should let the dry cleaners press my antique linens.

                                                                                                                                                                    But basically, it went well: the food was great and everyone had a good time. And now the turkey carcass is simmering in the stockpot. Hurray!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. Wow, I'm worn out from reading all these posts! Well, most of them. Anyway, here's what we had:
                                                                                                                                                                      Bell & Evans Turkey, brined with Alton B.'s brine recipe, minus the candied ginger (threw in a little powdered ginger), using a brining bag purchased at Crate & Barrel, for about 7 hours. Stuffed cavity with onions and lemons. Roasted breast side down for an hour (preheated oven to 450, then down to 350 when the bird went in). Turned after one, hour, tented breast, and after another couple hours tested the thigh with my polder...it was already 165! And the breast skin was still pretty pale from the tent, since I thought I had another good half hour of roasting time left. No matter, cranked the heat up and left it in for another ten minutes or so, and took it out...let it rest for about an hour while I finished up everything else. Next time I would not tent while resting, I agree that it makes the skin limp, and since mine was not so brown already, well the skin was not the high point. ANYWAY, the turkey was very good, moist and flavorful throughout, with a hint of lemon flavor but no appreciable taste of allspice or ginger from the brine. ONe thing I noticed was that the breast meat was almost as brown as the dark meat...due to brine, or natural bell & evans bird? Who knows. The meat was all tender and juicy, tho the meat at the hip was a bit under cooked. Still, a big success.

                                                                                                                                                                      Also served and successful:
                                                                                                                                                                      - Ina Garten's mashed butternut
                                                                                                                                                                      - cornbread stuffing with apples and dried cranberry (pepperidge farm doctored up, decent but not amazing)
                                                                                                                                                                      - Apple cranberry chutney, everyone LOVES this stuff
                                                                                                                                                                      - Broccoli Raab with garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon zest, a really great foil for all the rich food, this went over very well.
                                                                                                                                                                      - Good old standard Macaroni & cheese, almost tried the New York TImes version with uncooked macaroni, but chickened out. Glad, my old standard is plenty good.
                                                                                                                                                                      - Uncle Ben;s long grain and wild rice (I know, but it's a shortcut I like and my mom always made it at thanksgiving..and it's great with gravy)
                                                                                                                                                                      - Gravy! I have to address this subject: I did the make ahead recipe recommended by JoanN (thanks!), and it made a very decent gravy, BUT I have to say, I got the most phenomenal drippings from this bird!! I added them to the pre-made gravy and it was really really good. And lots of it. Just a hint of lemon from the lemons in the cavity, rich and delicious. Plus I have 3 qts of stock leftover from the stock made to make the make ahead gravy! Not a bad thing.

                                                                                                                                                                      Dessert, store bought pumpkin pie, 4 kinds of homemade cookies (snickerdoodles, black bottom brownie cups, jam thumbprints and a sort of hermit cookie with lots of dried fruit), and my father brought 4-5 flavors of haagen daaz over...we were all stuffed from dinner, but managed to put away some desert anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                      It was a really great day, and well worth the work.

                                                                                                                                                                      I have already made turkey posole and turkey stock. Plus had some open faced turkey, dressing, gravy sandwiches on ciabatta with a little apple cran chutney...not bad! I'll be full for about a week though...I think turkey soup might be a remedy for that...

                                                                                                                                                                      1. So fun reading all your posts! My Thanksgiving was the same (delish IMO :), with the exception of photographing...*each step*...(nightmare). Anyway--it's all done, but I won't get a chance to check out the photos for a week or so--will do a detailed post then...that is, if your'e not bored with my overly-detailed posts!

                                                                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Funwithfood

                                                                                                                                                                          I'm not - I look forward to your food posts and gorgeous food photos!

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                            Me too!

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Rubee

                                                                                                                                                                              I always enjoy your photos, so bring em on!

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Funwithfood

                                                                                                                                                                            I agree, I love cooking photos!

                                                                                                                                                                          3. Hit...I decided to do a Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe off of Epicurious and it was excellent. I did a half ginger snap half graham cracker crust and it was a HUGE hit. This cheesecake is a soft set cheesecake and I wish I knew that ahead of time because I spent too much time worrying about whether it was cooked thoroughly enough while my new in laws were biting into it. In the end, the taste was excellent and I am planning on making it again for my best friend's baby shower in December.

                                                                                                                                                                            Another hit is an old favorite in my family and specialty of my mother, it is an artichoke stuffing and it was delicious again this year. It started off as an alternative for my vegetarian brother and has turned into a Thanksgiving regular for everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                            Miss...my mom and I tried the turkey without the bag for the first time in a long time and it just wasn't as good. The white meat was dry and the dark meat was not done. She was disappointed and swears to never go without the bag again.

                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: upstate girl

                                                                                                                                                                              Would you mind sharing the recipe for your artichoke stuffing? It sounds delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: upstate girl

                                                                                                                                                                                I second that request for the artichoke stuffing recipe, and extend my thanks to all those who shared tips and recommendations that I put to use. Make-ahead gravy and prosciutto butter will definitely be in my future repertoire, and not just for Thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Hits
                                                                                                                                                                                *Turkey was a hit this year. We roasted a 29 pounder, was very worried about it getting done without drying out, but with Alton Brown's method, and a few other tips (like allowing it to come to room temp before roasting - all was well.

                                                                                                                                                                                *Stuffing. This is my specialty actually. Every year I'm asked if I'll be making it again. Not sure why it's so popular - maybe because it has apples and wine in it, but I don't see that as unusual.

                                                                                                                                                                                *Wife's gravy. This is her specialty. Simple butter and flour roux, stir in separated pan drippings and stock until it's perfect and yummy.

                                                                                                                                                                                *Wife's yeast rolls. They turned out great this year. Some years they just don't rise enough/

                                                                                                                                                                                Good, but we've done better:

                                                                                                                                                                                *Mashed taters were sub-par by my estimation. Everyone liked them, but I thought they were less flavorful than normal. I think I tried to make too many this year.

                                                                                                                                                                                *Green been caserole. I hate the stuff, but somehow it shows up every year and some of it get's eaten.

                                                                                                                                                                                Misses

                                                                                                                                                                                *Cream cheese/pumpkin pie. Usually we make an apple pie and a guest brings a pumpkin pie. Next year, we'll just ask for a regular pie - no-one really likes this cream cheese thingy my SIL makes.

                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Ace_Mclean

                                                                                                                                                                                  Alton Brown's method seems to have done right by many people. I followed a different brine (one posted by a chowhounder) and I stuffed the bird, but then, I roasted at 500 for 1/2 hour, reduced to 350 with white meat tented, & took out when the thermometer read 160. Really was a good turkey (I've been appreciating it even more now that I've been earing it leftover, w/out all the distractions (not to mention wines) of the actual day.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Because I didn't have a rack, I thickly sliced fat carrots and quartered onion and fennel and rested the turkey on those. Really helped the taste of my gravy later.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. Hits:
                                                                                                                                                                                  Roasted Mushroom and Pear soup w/ dry Sherry. This is a great soup and is appealing for much of the year. The soup also tasted very rich even when I don't put any cream in it. Delicious!

                                                                                                                                                                                  Gravy
                                                                                                                                                                                  Wow. Amazing. Nothing too elaborate. Made a roux with turkey fat and then deglazed the roasting pan with about a cup of madeira. (I don't use booze in every dish, it just looks that way from this post!)

                                                                                                                                                                                  Misses
                                                                                                                                                                                  Too little cranberry sauce and stuffing. We had a smaller gathering but we really underestimated appetites so for the first time ever, some dishes were actually finished. Can you belive it?

                                                                                                                                                                                  Happy Holidays everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JeremyEG

                                                                                                                                                                                    Hi Jeremy, would you mind sharing your roasted mushroom soup recipe? It sounds amazing- we love soup.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jackie de

                                                                                                                                                                                      Peel some pears, salt them, and roast them in a 400 degree oven and for about 25 minutes. While, they're cooking, saute whatever wild mushrooms you can find in butter for about 8 minutes. Then puree the mushrooms and then slowly add pieces of pear until the base of the soup is as sweet as you would like. Then start drizzling in veggie stock and some dry sherry. Taste it again and then right before serving, adda shot of cream and a tiny drizzle of sherry so it has a little bite to it. If you want, you can crisp up some thin pieces of pancetta (or regular bacon if you have to) and put them in the center of each bowl. Yum!
                                                                                                                                                                                      Enjoy and good luck!

                                                                                                                                                                                      Jeremy

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Non traditional this year...sort of. Hubby requested lamb roulade. Me, I steamed a lobbie, probably dish that actually was on that first table!

                                                                                                                                                                                    Hits:
                                                                                                                                                                                    - ginger curry Kabocha and delicata squash soup with indian candy (sweet smoked salmon)

                                                                                                                                                                                    -Brown rice, barley, apricot and date stuffing for lamb

                                                                                                                                                                                    -my lobbie

                                                                                                                                                                                    -parsnips, carrots and red potatoes roasted under the lamb with salt, pepper and garlic and just a skoch of duck fat

                                                                                                                                                                                    Misses:
                                                                                                                                                                                    -my hubby insisted on being "in charge" of when to take the lamb out. This was my biggest mistake, as he suffers from the
                                                                                                                                                                                    belief that I am clueless about internal temperatures. I don't know where he got the idea, as I have never overcooked a piece of meat in my life, whether smoking, roasting, sauteeing, grilling-whatever. I told him to take it out at 120-125 and let it sit. When I later sampled the lamb to find a way overcooked and tough dry roulade, he proudly told me he took it out at 150. *sigh* all that work deboning, butterflying, seasoning, stuffing and tying put to waste.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Christmas, he is banned from my kitchen and knows it. He can stick to making beer and using the crock pot.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Diana

                                                                                                                                                                                      My hubby and I have this issue also. He is the reason I no longer eat lamb and he thinks he's a much better cook than I am and the fact is he is not (except for pork chops...I will give him that). He doesn't season things well and either overcooks or undercooks and also never uses salt so everything is bland. Him having the stomach flu forced him to let me do the turkey and dressing this year and it was MUCH better than in years past.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Great thread, underscoring why I love to visit this board. So much experience under "one roof."

                                                                                                                                                                                      We did not have a traditional Thanksgiving. Instead my dh and I hosted a wine tasting party the night before Thanksgiving to give friends a pre-holiday unwind. Six wines and an assortment of appetizers were served (my thanks to everyone who supported the holiday appetizer threads). The following day, we enjoyed a Thanksgiving dine around of sorts. Turkey & stuffing at one home, various sides at another, dessert at another. Great recipes, generous cooks all.

                                                                                                                                                                                      We're hoping a Christmas dine around is possible.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Happy Holidays CH's!

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I had 6 adults, 3 kids and a 14+ lbs turkey. There weren't as many leftovers as I thought there would be. Thanks to my guests who reminded me to take pictures of the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Hits:

                                                                                                                                                                                        Butternut squash and apple bisque

                                                                                                                                                                                        Cornbread, sausage, sage stuffing

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                                                                                                        Roasted sweet potato wedges with bacon vinaigrette

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                                                                                                        Cauliflower with mustard lemon butter (not the prettiest pic, but it tasted good

                                                                                                                                                                                        )

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                                                                                                        Brussel sprouts with shallots and wild mushrooms

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                                                                                                        Pumpkin tiramisu

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                                                                                                        Banana cream pie

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                                                                                                        The 3 kinds of cupcakes were also a huge hit - coconut, vanilla and chocolate cupcakes (about 4 dozen total).

                                                                                                                                                                                        Almost hits:

                                                                                                                                                                                        Maple roasted turkey with bacon strips - like posters above, despite the thermometer read, the bottom part of the thighs weren't quite finished. Despite this, I carved the breast, some of the dark meat, made the gravy and stuck the rest of the bird back in the oven. I brined an all natural turkey, freshly killed off the farm. I used high heat for 30 minutes, then lowered the heat and I sort of basted. The smartest thing I did this year was to buy an extra disposable roasting pan. This way, the turkey could rest in the disposable pan instead of wasting a serving plate (of which I have limited amounts).

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                                                                                                        Rosemary garlic mashed potatoes - I love this combo of flavors with yukon gold potatoes. I tried a different technique, boiling the potatoes whole and then putting it through the ricer. I used to peel and cube, and then boil the potatoes in mostly chicken broth. But, peeling and cubing 5 lbs of potatoes gets old. These potatoes lacked the flavor of the broth. When I reheated the leftovers, I added chicken broth with the cream and it was great.

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                                                                                                        Miss:

                                                                                                                                                                                        Chocolate pistachio torte with chocolate ganache - a lot of effort and I didn't like the end result. Too heavy and dense. I just didn't like the cake, although, I loved the ganache. Then again, Shafennberger 70% chocolate with heavy cream - what's not to love?

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Does Chowhound have "Hall of Fame" type threads?

                                                                                                                                                                                          This thread would be great for the next important meal. So far I've seen such great ideas as...
                                                                                                                                                                                          - Bringing turkey
                                                                                                                                                                                          - Additional ingredients to stuffing
                                                                                                                                                                                          - New side ideas
                                                                                                                                                                                          - Ideas for including cheese in mashed potatoes
                                                                                                                                                                                          - Many other ideas!

                                                                                                                                                                                          And all this for free!
                                                                                                                                                                                          Gourmet magazine, eat your heart out.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I'm an American not living in the US so our "American Thanksgiving" was held on Saturday. None of the guests had ever attended an "American Thanksgiving" so I reminded my husband that if everything went south, we could hand them a lollipop and a ham sandwich and tell them that was a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Pre-dinner snacking: Evidently this is not common in this region. The guests wanted to wait to eat. After I explained that the turkey is done by temperature and not hours in the oven, people grabbed a plate and started eating. Also had to explain that in the US, the cheese course is eaten before the meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Crudites with tzatziki and lemon-garlic hummus. Considering that we make a veggie box and dip every week, we had a long time to fine-tune the recipe. Both dips were a hit.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Relish tray. Can't take any credit for this one, we bought the olives and pickles.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Cheese with home-made crackers. I only make crackers once a year because it is a tedius and labor-intensive process. The crackers always go down well.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Dinner: The best thing we did this year was to buy take-away containers and set them out in the kitchen with all the food. When dinner was over, guests were invited to fill up a container to take home with them.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Herb-brined turkey combined with an olive oil under skin rub then tented to keep it moist. Since it was going to be carved and served in the kitchen, appearance wasn't an issue. This was a hit and the recipe will be coming to the US with us for Christmas dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Gravy made from roux and turkey drippings. Didn't get any rave reviews on this so I will need to tweak the recipe. Suggestions are greatly appreciated.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Twice baked potatoes were good but not great. Being able to make them in advance was a great time-saver and ensured portion control. I will need to work with this recipe more and next time I will probably stuff russet potatoes with yukon gold mashed potatoes.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Stuffings were okay but a bit plain for me. Making the bread for the stuffing ensured that they weren't too sweet. I'll need to play with this recipe to make a good vegetarian stuffing. Suggestions are greatly appreciated.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Roast root vegetables were a surprising hit. I had recipe requests. Next time I would use a bit less salt but everyone else found them lovely.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Green salad with white balsamic dressing went over as well as a salad can. There was very little left but in this culture, green salad is a staple.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Apricot-Cranberry chutney was a great hit even if people thought it was a side dish and not a condiment for the turkey. One guest took home what was left.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Yeast rolls had to be remade on the day because the towel stuck to the tops of the ones rising in the fridge overnight. Guests took home the mistakes as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Sweet potato casserole. This was made by special request from one of the guests who had developed a fascination with it after hearing about it. She loved it, her boyfriend loved it and the kids loved it. I made it in a foil container so she could take it home with her.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Desserts: The American tradition with making desserts out of vegetables was met with curious stares.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Pumpkin pie made the traditional way. One of the guests liked it so much, she wandered over to another guest's plate and stole her piece. She couldn't believe it was pumpkin and wants me to bring it to New Year's Dinner for the two of us to share.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Sweet potato pie with candied pecan topping was not an immediate hit. Half the pie was left over so it went to work with my husband on Sunday. One of guys at my husband's work ate a piece at 8:00 in the morning. Another guy asked to take home the rest of the pie for his kids to try.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Apple crumble garnered me the best compliment of the night. One of the guests told me that he couldn't tell me it was better than his mom's apple crumble because his mom would kill him but that my apple crumble was "very equal".

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Chocolate chunk cookies which were really the cop-out dessert for the kids and the less adventurous. These were, as always, a solid hit.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Non-food hits:

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Buying 100 plates from Ikea for less than an American dollar each allowed us to serve each course on fresh plates without having to spend time in the kitchen washing and drying dishes. We washed the snacking dishes while we were eating dinner and washed the dinner plates while we were eating dessert. Clean up was much easier and didn't require a group effort.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ Prepping almost everything ahead of time allowed me to spend time with my guests instead of in the kitchen. I spent a total of 30 minutes in the kitchen heating food.

                                                                                                                                                                                            ~ The absolute joy of sharing one of my traditions with my new country. Next year we will try to find a few American students who can't get home for Thanksgiving to share it with us.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: librarian

                                                                                                                                                                                              just curious... where are you?

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. My mom bastes her turkey in Ginger Ale and bakes low and slow. It was moist, and delcious and always comes out perfect.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. as promised a year ago, i started a new chowhound tradition by doing a standing rib roast of buffalo (see other posts). it was stunning. magnificent. blew the doors off any thanksgiving meal i've ever had. in fact, i'd go so far as to say it was the best prime rib i've ever had.

                                                                                                                                                                                                buffalo rocks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. The good - the acorn squash/apple casserole was such a huge hit, my teenage nephew filled up a plastic container and took home any leftovers and ate them all day Friday! The purchased desserts from the fancy bakery (pear/hazlenut tart, pumpkin pie, and chocolate/raspberry mousse cake) were huge hits and a great timesaver for me. The pear/radiccio/frisse lettuce salad with balsamic vinaigrette, candied pecans and Stilton were also a huge hit, not one leaf remained. The turkey was both a hit and a miss - we brined in a solution of kosher salt, lemons, fresh rosemary, black peppercorns and fresh sage. The white meat was succulent and delicious. Those who ate the wings and legs complained it was too salty. We shall have to soak/rinse the turkey better next year. Gravy tasted very authentic as I managed to find College Inn canned turkey broth and used it liberally. Much better than ordinary chicken broth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  The bad - not really food related, but an obnoxious relative who caused trouble. Also, no one liked the oyster dressing. I have never made this before and thought I did a good job, homemade sourdough croutons, plenty of onions, celery, mushrooms and seasoning and College Inn turkey broth to boot. Voted "dish never to reappear at our Thanksgiving EVER AGAIN", so that's pretty definitive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. We drove down to the DC area to a friend's house ... I made cranberry sauce with candied ginger and toasted almonds ... forgot it ... recreated with canned cranberry sauce. Highlight was the magnum of Chateau d'Yquem that we brought and the fact the host's immediate response was "I'll buy the foie gras."

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                                                      holy cow
                                                                                                                                                                                                      a magnum...
                                                                                                                                                                                                      how many guests were there, and how many ended up spending the night?
                                                                                                                                                                                                      :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: echo

                                                                                                                                                                                                        It disappeared surprisingly fast once the word got out ...at first just the host, DH and myself, even though host had sort of "announced it" ... but then one guest latched on to it, spread the word and next thing I knew the bottle was gone. 14 adults at the party ... at one point before the dinner there were some orphaned glasses of it around, and I feared it would go to waste, but next day host reassured me that "he had taken care of it". I swear that one guest drank multiple bottles of wine ... didn't leave until 1:30 - that was the ugly part - DH and I well asleep by then!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. We've been having basically the same menu for the past 15 years. When you've got a good thing.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Hooray:
                                                                                                                                                                                                      - a variant on an old Gourmet Mag chestnut stuffing recipe. Ultra simple with tons of fresh herbs.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      - bourbon glazed sweet potato spears (thanks for everyone's input! I made them with brown sugar, butter, bourbon and spices). easy and delish if you like sweet sweets. crunchy on the outside and mushy on the inside. tossed in some extra toasted pecans at the end.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      -- brussels sprouts sauteed w/ bacon and then salt and pepper oven roasted. huge hit, except that I left the extras on "keep warm" and forgot about them until the entire first floor of the house reaked of cabbage.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      -- Dad's turkey w/ giblet gravy. He isn't ready to share how he gets the turkey so moist, though I know it involves lots of butter and Lawry's Seasoned Salt. The gravy is a two-day-long project for him. Again, I have not a clue how he does it. The man is quite territorial.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Boooo:
                                                                                                                                                                                                      -- The BIGGEST disappointment was Dorie Greenberg's Thanksgiving Twofer Pie (see response to another poster). It turned out super mushy in the middle, despite cooking far longer than the recipe calls for. It simply never "set up." Also, the pecan pie portion seeped into the pumpkin part waaaayy too much, making the entire thing sort of like an ultra-sugary pumpkin pie mush. I STILL don't know what I did wrong! My pie crust, however, was pretty good, though I'm still a novice at that so I got an A for effort.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      -- Lemon Curd Cheesecake. Mom made this. Ambitious (we are a family of foodies, but not a family of bakers) but a bit leaden and waaay too sweet. Good try though, particularly as it was a welcome departure from our usual store/restaurant bought desserts.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      -- The subtle and not-so-subtle hints that Tday would have been even better if there were little ones (aka grandchildren). Apparrently, jewish guilt never takes a holiday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Finally getting around to posting about our late TG dinner which we ate on Saturday. This was for just the two of us, our TG day dinner was with SIL and was the usual culinary disaster.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        We had smoked turkey, a heritage bird we get every year from a local farmer. We brined and air-dried it before smoking. As always it was delicious, a revelation to anyone who dislikes the usual bland, dry meat. We had a cornbread-sausage-chipotle dressing which DH couldn't get enough of. It had spicy, smoky, meaty flavors which complemented the turkey very well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The big hit IMO was a warm kabocha salad with pecans and cheese over arugula. The recipe is from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers but this link gives a version:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        http://food.sunset.com/sunset/recipef...

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Instead of dandelion greens I used arugula, and I sprinkled crumbled feta cheese over the greens. It was simply fabulous, a wonderful contrast in caramelized warm pumpkin, salty cheese, tart arugula and rich nuts. I could have eaten that as an entree and been very happy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        For sides we had braised kale with red pepper and oven-roasted cauliflower. And roasted sweet potatoes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Dessert was Claudia Fleming's Oatmeal Stout Gingerbread, also known as Guinness Gingerbread (recipe on Epi) from her Last Course book. And a kabocha creme caramel from the LA Times (still available online) website. Both were rich and delectable. We couldn't manage more than a tiny nibble of each but we look forward to more feasting on these.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        It was a nice contrast to the earlier TG dinner. No real flubs.