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Thanksgiving dilemma

We are trying to accommodate all the diversity issues in our family of 9 participants: DD is kosher, would eat turkey if we buy kosher one; nephew won't eat turkey, he only eats fish or VERY low fat foods (don't go there LOL!). Probably will buy kosher turkey, but only ones available in our area are frozen and it has been YEARS since I made a frozen turkey. Been advised NOT to brine a kosher turkey as the koshering process (soaking & salting) essentially brines it. Any tips/tricks for ensuring a juicy, flavorful frozen turkey? I will probably buy a 10-12 lb. one. Looking for appetizer or side dish recipes that don't contain butter or dairy and are low fat to try to accommodate DD and nephew as much as possible.Thanks in advance!

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  1. I don't know about the koshering process, but I have brined "enhanced" or "injected" turkey's and home brining definitely improves the final product. Our turkey's always come out juicy and flavorful. The only drawback, drippings are too salty for making gravy. I usually smoke our turkey's, at 325F, in our Weber kettle after 24-hours of brining.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Antilope

      Thanks Antilope, I should have explained that koshering is soaking and salting a turkey, so that, in essence, it is already brined. But the idea of smoking it is interesting. We haven't done that in a long time. We have a propane gas grill, but have had successful past results. Will have to keep that in mind. DD will have to understand that "pink" turkey is NOT ham, merely smoked!!

      1. re: Diane in Bexley

        But it does tend to taste like ham - people expecting the taste of roasted turkey will be VERY put off; I did that one year and it was not something I will repeat. Use smoked turkey on other occasions, but not Thanksgiving.

    2. You'll be surprised at how well you can do this. First, though, you'll need bigger than a 10-12 pound turkey for 9 people. Think 1.5 pounds per person, more if you have big eaters or want leftovers.

      Second, my tip for having a juicy turkey is simple: start it at a very high oven, 450 or so, for about 20 minutes. Then, lower to 400. I find that a fast, high baking keeps it quite juicy. I've had tremendous luck doing this.

      For keeping things dairy free and low fat, just think: broth, wine and oil. For your stuffing, saute your onions, celery and garlic in oil. Add in your bread and reasonings, and use broth and wine to bind it all together until the desired consistency. It doesn't take much oil, and you get tons of flavor from the broth and wine.

      Mashed potatoes would get a similar treatment. Since you won't be adding butter or cream cheese or sour cream, find flavor elsewhere: caramelize onions in oil and stir them in after the taters are mashed, or boil whole cloves of garlic with the taters and mash them all together. For moisture, broth and oil will be just fine.

      Cranberry sauce doesn't need any butter or dair or anything, and maybe pick one more great veggie. Some roasted root veggies could be a nice way of adding dairy-free flavor and color, and you get all of your favorite T-day veggies (like onions, carrots, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes) without having lots of side dishes. But just keep in mind that the T-day menu is inherently starchy, so careful with those! Lean heavily on your carrots, not your sweet potatoes.

      I hope that helps!

      3 Replies
      1. re: katecm

        Thanks Katecm! Have never made mashed potatoes with chicken broth, always use cream or buttermilk, but you are right. Roasting some shallots and garlic will add additional flavor to the potatoes. We don't do sweet potatoes (DH is very allergic), we usually do an acorn squash/apple casserole. Can substitute non dairy margarine for butter, not my preferred, but willing to do so to accommodate DD and nephew.

        1. re: Diane in Bexley

          Don't forget the chicken broth would probably need to be kosher too. Whole Foods and Trader Joes both sell excellent vegetable broths in little juice box size cartons. Most of the kosher chicken broths out there are extremely salty and may be hard for you to find anyway. Thank you.

          1. re: Bride of the Juggler

            Bride, yes, that happened to me for Rosh Hashonna. Used the Telma cubes, which were extremely salted. We have a WF and TJs and will visit before the big day. Fortunately, I live 5 minutes away from a small kosher grocery store.

      2. Trying to be kosher and low fat and traditional Thanksgiving all at once is definitely a challenge. You're a good mom and aunt to be so accomodating!

        I definitely agree that you shouldn't brine the turkey.

        I love the ideas you have for mashed potatoes, your squash casserole, etc. You can also always do veggies -- roasted brussel sprouts, green beans, etc. I've used a bit of truffle oil to make non-dairy veggies seem extra rich for Thanksgiving (you could make a portion without for your nephew). Soups, especially veggie based ones, can start off the meal beautifully. You have squash already, what about a pureed cauliflower soup?

        For me, the biggest trick for kosher Thanksgiving is pumpkin pie -- it tastes much better with butter in the crust and dairy in the filling. For that reason, I tend to buy pumpkin pie at a kosher bakery. I like to make ginger cake or something like that which is easy to make pareve, and also serve fruit (low fat!) to round out the final course.

        1. I know for a fact that a twelve-pound turkey will feed nine people, because I had a ten-pounder last year plus an extra set of "landing gear" (this is a dark-meat-only family!), and had a visiting cousin along with our usual eight, and we were still gnawing at leftovers a week later. Besides, you will apparently have only eight people actually eating turkey anyway, right?

          Aside from starting with the plumpest and best bird you can afford - and one of my best ever was in fact an Empire Kosher - the only secret to a succulent bird is just make sure it doesn't dry out. I don't stuff the cavity anymore, baking most of the dressing on the side, but I do shove a good bit of it in between the skin and meat of the breast, maybe an inch or two thick. My dressing is both moist and rich, and while it just barely bastes the meat it does insulate it very well, so that the breast is still moist and tender when the thighs are done.

          1. I will add that you should probably provide butter for those who would like to add it, as many other people on diets budget for a single caloric-rich meal on Thanksgiving and may be deeply disappointed by being forced to eat very low fat food.

            Since the DD appears to be observant Conservative rather than Orthodox - the DD is not requiring that the kitchen and table service be kashered - I would imagine the presence of butter at the table may not be an issue (but ask first) - the chance of cross-contamination, as it were, is very low.

            1. I have a perfect side dish for you that works beautifully on a Thanksgiving table: Stuffed Spicy Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Dried Fruit and Walnuts: http://christonium.com/culinaryreview...

              It's completely vegan and so satisfying, perfect for both meat and non-meat eaters. Besides it's filled with nice Thanksgiving spices and you could always add more. I love the idea of stuffed squash, it's so nice when people get their own "portion" and it's just so tasty...

              1. For the mashed potatoes, I agree to use broth, and then add tofu and caramelized onions and garlic for flavor... for extra flavor, make smashed red or new potatoes.

                Grilled or roasted green beans and/or asparagus.

                Gordon Ramsay's Broccoli Soup to start, essentially boil broccoli, reserve water, then puree adding as much of the boiling water to make desired consistency... For those that want it, you can top with parmesan or olive oil, or simply season with S & P, and/or roasted garlic.

                Mashed butternut squash w/ a little cinnamon and soy milk or rice milk if desired.

                For the pescatarian, perhaps offer Neatloaf, or Gefilte Fish (I know not traditional T-day, but he'll want some protein no doubt...).

                Make a pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust, but make the crust using maple syrup instead of butter (or sub non-dairy margarine). You can also do a tofu based filling. The other option would be to do a pumpkin cheesecake, using the same idea for the crust, and using non-dairy tofutti cream cheese as a sub, and a non-dairy sour cream if your recipe calls for it.

                1. Thanks for all the ideas so far. I didn't even get into pumpkin pie, but I will share now. DD is the ONLY one who wants pumpkin pie, the rest of us do not care for pumpkin. SO, I am planning to order that from our local kosher bakery (at least something should be made easy, shouldn't it??). I usually have 3 desserts at holiday time, so planning a pear/apple crisp from Ina Garten using pareve margarine and a chocolate cranberry torte (saw this in the latest Bon Appetit magazine).

                  A friend told me that Whole Foods or Trader Joe's usually has tofu "turkey", which my nephew would eat, so I am investigating that. In case they don't, anyone have a recipe for this?

                  We traditionally make Thanksgiving an entire eating day beginning with a late morning brunch of pancakes/coffee cake/fruit to watch the parades and begin the cooking. Serve appetizers around 3 p.m. with dinner at 5 p.m. Will make some gravlax with cream cheese and bagel chips. cheese assortment with crackers, fruit assortment. Anyone have ideas for low fat appetizers? Thanks much for help!

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                    If you only have one person who is interested in that, spring for the deli slices of turkey and grab a pack of vegetarian gravy. The slices tend to be better than the actual roasts.

                    You also might want to check out Quorn products. They are chicken flavored, but low fat (made with mushrooms) vegetarian meat product. The cutlets are pretty good and can pass for the real thing.

                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                      Garlic Puree (drizzle with broth and roast, then puree w/ extra broth) and serve with wheat crostini or crackers or veggies

                      Homemade hummus w/ lower fat tahini or less of it

                      Roasted veggies

                      cherry tomatoes, onions and basil tossed w/ balsamic vinegarette (fat free or low fat from whole foods or tj's)

                      are the restrictions the same for the apps, or do you mind a combo of different ideas to satisfy different limitations... lemme know cause i got tons of ideas in this case...

                      1. re: Emme

                        Emme, you hit the nail on the head as part of the dilemma. DD is kosher, nephew wants low fat, remaining family members want food that tastes good. Looks like I will need to provide some of all kinds of food to satisfy the folks at our holiday (LOL!)! Please send more ideas.

                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                          So, then for appetizers, I would make some things that are basic but can be jazzed in several directions... [note: not all of these are thanksgiving-y themed, but you can't win em all]

                          -ratatouille as a topping/spread (i make mine without oil, just stew the eggplant, onion, tomato, mushrooms, zucchini, etc. together and let simmer)
                          -roasted garlic spread
                          -olive tapenade
                          -cauliflower puree

                          Endive leaves spread with...
                          -seasoned goat cheese
                          -roasted red pepper salsa
                          -parm walnut salad http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                          -low fat crab salad

                          -Mushrooms (just make em low fat
                          ) -Tomatoes w/ mozzarella, basil, and olive oil

                          Mini zucchini cakes (made w/ egg whites)

                          Artichoke Heart and Hearts of Palm salad

                          Potato Skins
                          -broiled w/ cheese and broccoli
                          -filled w/ low or fat free cottage cheese and salsa
                          -salmon mousse

                          Green Bean Salad http://www.recipezaar.com/217116

                          -Salami rounds broiled til crisp
                          -Parmesan crisps (broil tsp of parmesan spread in circles


                          Avocado Deviled Eggs (reduce amount of yolk used)

                          -Sesame Chicken Ginger
                          -Mushrooms, Carrots, Broccoli, Chives, ginger, teriyaki
                          -Pork or Shrimp

                          1. re: Emme

                            Thanks Emme, tons of great ideas! We were in Chicago last weeekend and picked up some salami chubs at the Sinai factory. This is not a low fat recipe, but it is kosher - BBQ salami slices! Slice salami chub 7/8 of the way down into slices, make sauce with chili sauce, lemon juice, worchestershire, grape jelly, a little cider vinegar. Pour over salami, wrap in foil. Bake at 300 for 45-60 min, serve with pumpernickel cocktail rye bread. Always a big hit, never any leftovers.

                      2. re: Diane in Bexley

                        For appetizers, you might try bruschetta, sans parmesan, made with olive oil. While I'm on an olive kick, an assortment of olives is always fun. Maybe some avocado salsa and chips for munching?

                        Here are a whole bunch of dairy-free side dish recipes (from green beans to mashed potatoes) - http://www.godairyfree.org/Table/Reci... - most should be kosher.

                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                          The minute I read aboout tofurkey, I just started flashing back to the Everybody Loves Raymond Episode where Deborah decided to cook "healthy" for Thanksgiving and so served a tofurkey turkey. It's a classic.

                          In any event, another vote for not brining the kosher turkey. If you can't get fresh, the Empire frozen are pretty good. And as far as the size is concerned, stick with the size you are thinking of. You probably have a pretty good idea of your guests' appetites, your family's desire for leftovers and your desire to send people home with care packages. And if your family is eating a full dinner at 5, after pancakes and bagels earlier in the day, I think you just might need that bigger gobbler.

                          I know that Telma is the kosher brand of boullion cubes, but I stay clear of boullion cubes, kosher or not, as they tend to be very salty and have a "phony" flavor to them.

                          Good luck, some of the ideas here are great. The worst I have to deal with is a family member who does not like mushrooms and another who is alergic to raw carrots.

                          You may get some more kosher ideas by posting on the kosher board.

                        2. I make a kosher Thanksgiving every year. I can get a frozen or fresh kosher turkey at the kosher butcher, but I usually do frozen because the fresh is very expensive (the frozen is pretty expensive too). I do not brine it, that is not a good idea for a kosher turkey as you know. I cook the turkey (I usually make a big one) in my Nesco roaster in the garage, that leaves my oven free to cook all of the other stuff. And the nesco keeps the turkey extremely moist.

                          I have modified the usual pumpkin pie recipe to make it non-dairy, but you said you are going to buy one. Pecan pie is a good choice, as is lemon meringue.

                          I usually do a mushroom soup, which when pureed gets creamy without the use of cream. Sides are usually some type of sweet potato casserole, a butternut squash apple casserole, green veggies and mashed potatoes made with non dairy cream and margarine.

                          Non dairy thanksgiving isn't hard, I've been doing it for 20 years so the thought of anything dairy at Thanksgiving is kind of weird to me.

                          1. Nobody's mentioned this; it may be too obvious, but don't forget to allow the turkey 3 days to thaw out slowly in the fridge.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Ferdzy

                              The LA Times did a walnut cake a couple of weeks ago that'd be really good for dessert, and there's also almost any fruit pie - apple, cherry, even raisin. Roasting veggies is a great idea - you can throw sweet onions, turnips, rutabagas, carrots and/or parsnips on that baking sheet. And who can forget Mama Stamberg's cranberry sauce? (also fabulous with the leftovers). (and if you cannot find that walnut cake online, I have the recipe in a word doc that can be emailed)

                            2. I've never had a kosher turkey that wasn't flavorful, juicy and delicious. Frozen can actually be fresher than a fresh one -- but be aware that you may find pinfeathers and shafts on the skin that the defeathering machines missed. A by-product of cold water processing -- personally, it's too time consuming to pick it all off, so if it looks feathery here and there, I simply cook it and discard the skin (healthier too) and keep everyone away.

                              Invariably, people overcook their turkeys. Forget about the minutes per pound, use a meat thermometer instead. A 10-12 lb. will take no more than two hours unstuffed. Start at 450, turn it down to 325. Basting lubricates the skin -- I don't believe the turkey is a sponge and so nothing is really "absorbed" -- all you do it lower the oven temp. Leave it alone, when it smells done, it probably is. Since turkeys are now bred for more breast meat, less dark meat, it takes very little time to do one these days (see how small the drumsticks and thighs got? That's why.) Do not brine, and do not add salt before cooking either.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: birgator

                                Birgator, thanks for the roasting tips! Was surprised to see that the latest Gourmet cook book (the hard to read yellow titles!) actually recommends using a kosher turkey. I like the moistness achieved with a turned bird. Usually start chicken or turkey back side up, turn over half way through cooking. Find that this ensure cooked dark meat and not dried out white meat.

                                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                  Diane, Trader Joes has fresh kosher turkeys (Aaron's brand). I know cause I have to do this every year when my mom comes to visit for Thanksgiving. Obviously a treck for you from Bexley to TJ at Sawmill and 161 but at least that way you get fresh. If you go that route do be warned. Lots of pinfeathers so allow plenty of time to clean up the bird before you pop in the oven. I would also call ahead to get them to set one aside for you (or even preorder the size you want -- they might do that as well). Hope this helps. They've been a blessing for me each year because of the turkey as well as their kosher beef steaks and ground meat. I can manage to keep my mom in food for the week or so of her visit.