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Thanksgiving Success Stories - Pls share yours

There' another post on the board about all the horror stories from last week. The cup is always half full for me - what went right in your celebration? Share some fabulous dish you made that turned out great. Some inspiring story about how the turkey turned out golden brown and juicy after you brined it, etc. Let's focus on the positives.

We had some challenges this year as my DD is keeping kosher and my nephew only eats fish. We bought a kosher bird, which turned out to be "the best turkey in 25 years" according to my husband. The Today show listed this brand (Rubacheck??) as the #1 turkey on Wed 11-21, which was promising as I had picked it up the previous night. It does stand to figure correctly as the process of koshering a turkey, in addition to the ritual slaughtering method, consists of soaking and salting the bird, which is the original brining method. I gave it a massage with Fleischmann's margarine (no butter), basteed it with pomegranite juice and a dash of maple syrup. Stuffed cavity with Granny Smith apples, celery and onions. Started roasting on its back at 425 for 30 minutes, turned on breast and roast at 350 for 90 more minutes. Removed from oven at 165, covered with foil, let rest for 45 min.

The green bean casserole was a challenge to make without being able to use dairy. I used frozen French style beans (demand from family), made a sauce with Fleischmann's (unsalted = pareve), chicken stock, and some Coffee Rich (nondairy creamer, not my first choice, but needed to make nondairy). Sauteed fresh mushrooms, combined and covered with FF onion rings. Everyone gobbled this up which is amusing to me as I consider this such a pedestrian dish.

We like our dressing outside the bird and crispy on top. Did the traditional onion, celery and mushroom bread dressing. Acorn apple squash casserole also big hit.

The local kosher bakery, which I had never used, did an incredible job on the dinner rolls and pumpkin pie, considering none of it contained butter or dairy. We also had a chocolate babka coffee cake from them for the morning, not a drop left by 2 p.m. DD made the apple crumb paper bag pie another poster had shared on Thanksgiving desserts - great feedback. I made the chocolate cranberry tart from Bon Appetit, it was dairy, but delicious.

Our dysfunctional family, usually very ADHD, loud and heated, all managed to behave from 5-9 p.m. DD set a beauriful artistic table from chatckes she found laying around the house, as I had forgotten to order a flower centerpiece (horrors).

So what kinds of successes happened during your holiday?

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  1. What a lovely tribute to family harmony and delicious food, all in the Thanksgiving spirit. We had none of your restrictions and enjoyed a delicious semi-traditional feast. I roast two turkeys so that one is pre-carved (and warm) surrounding the glistening brown bird straight from the oven. Gravy is also made ahead of time so this hostess was able to relax with her guests/family sipping Prosecco and nibbling on the pate instead of fussing. Friends, newly arrived from their second home in Italy, contributed pumpkin ravioli w/ sage cream for our first course (by popular demand!) and our meal was off to its grand start. "Bride's Biscuits" were an unscheduled hit as was the fresh succotash. Our table was covered with a family quilt, Granny Smith apples in a Tiffany bowl surrounded by stalks of Brussel sprouts - completely food-oriented because I also forgot to buy flowers and candles do not make an appearance on my daytime tables. My son and DIL had been in Napa this autumn and generously shared some wonderful wine from Trefethan vineyards which added to our gaiety. Slightly non-traditional pumpkin mousse pie and American apple pie rounded out our celebration which had us all at table for many hours of exactly what Thanksgiving is all about. We talk, we laugh, we remember those who are not with us and an occasional tear escapes, then we talk and laugh and remember some more. Re-telling the family stories is a must and I believe that it strengthens our bond. (The older I get, the more I learn about what happened when I wasn't paying attention when my boys were younger, but that's another story)

    Thanks for asking for the positive, Diane. It's true that we can get mired in the negative, forgetting all the great memories we're building.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sherri

      Sherri, great to hear Tgiving was a hit. What are "Bride's Biscuits"? I have never heard of this. Although I should not, I am a huge carb lover - care to share the recipe?

      I didn't mention the gravy, which was a real challenge because I could not use the butter that always help start the roux. I had made giblet stock with turkey innards and neck. Let the fat rise in a separator cup and used some of that fat along with AP flour to make the roux. It actually tasted WAY better than when I have used butter in the past. I used the giblet broth along with some pomegranate juice and it was big hit. No lumps, didn't separate and reheated beautifully for turkey meal #2.

      1. re: Diane in Bexley

        Bride's Biscuits are aptly named - impossible to goof and are incredibly forgiving. Our family decided that they're a cross between a roll & biscuit, hence their Boll or Riscuit title.
        FYI: I've had some dough in the refrigerator for one week, baked riscuits this AM and they were delicious. Go figure .........

        1 pkg. dry yeast
        optional - up to 1/4 C sugar (I used about a tsp)
        1/4 C water
        2 C buttermilk
        2 sticks of butter (8 oz)
        7 C flour sifted w/ 1 tsp baking soda, 1 TBLS baking powder & 1 tsp salt. (I imagine using cake flour would improve the product, but I only had AP flour and used that)

        Dissolve yeast in warm water, add sugar.
        In a large bowl, sift 6 C flour w/ baking powder, baking soda & salt.
        Cut butter into flour mixture.
        Add yeast mixture to buttermilk and stir into flour until barely moistened. Dough will be quite sticky.
        Refrigerate overnight, covered.
        It looks a bit more cohesive now, but is still unlike any dough I'm used to working with.
        Put remaining Cup of flour on the counter and roll out enough dough to make the amount of biscuits you want. Pat it about 1/2" thick and cut into desired shapes.
        Put on baking sheet.
        Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. No, it is not a mistake to wait to heat the oven, it allows the rolls to rest and rise a bit.
        Bake 12-15 minutes.
        Leave remaining dough in ziplock bag in refrigerator waiting for the next bunch of rolls that you want to bake.
        My aunt tells me that she's frozen this dough with good results, but I've never tried that.

        1. re: Sherri

          Thanks Sherri! Will mix up a batch this weekend. Do you think using 1/2 AP flour and 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour would work? Trying to be more healthy, carb conscious and using more whole wheat flour.

    2. Thanks for the thread! Our days of family Thanksgiving dinners are pretty much over but we did have a small meal with my dad which was a huge success because any holiday that he is still around to celebrate with us is a blessing.

      1. We had a lovely Thanksgiving - just we three adults and the assorted critters. Went for basic and semi-traditional (stuffing, mashed potatoes, non-marshmallowed roasted sweet potatoes, roasted veg [broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, garlic], rolls, couple of pies, and I roasted three turkey breasts and a couple of legs [didn't have room in the fridge for a whole turkey]).

        I've finally perfected my stuffing recipe and cooked it under the turkey legs, while they roasted - the injection broth I've been working on came out well and kept all the meat moist and tender - I had nary a lump in my gravy, though I broke all the rules in making it - dinner was served within two hours of my targeted time (trust me, this is an improvement) - we all ate well and laughed throughout the meal.

        Our various critters liked all of their special holiday treats, we inadvertently learned that cats like Kahlua and coffee, and our TV blew a tube when we went to watch a movie that night, so we gamed instead (and ended-up at the stores on Black Friday - something we've NEVER done - looking for a new one - ended-up splurging on a large LCD flat panel thingy that makes all of my favorite B&W films look grainy).

        We're still eating leftovers, but went out for burgers last night as a change of pace.

        It was a relaxing, pleasant day. Just what we needed.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ElsieDee

          I liked reading all these stories. I also found solace in hamburger after turkey overdose.

        2. I am in college and I went home. My mother was in the process of moving house, so I did most of the cooking. I brined the Turkey overnight and made pies and a pumpkin cheesecake, which was really good. And I did some stock, with the neck and stuff, overnight. In the morning I got up early to rinse the turkey and let it dry, then roasted it with a ton of butter basted over it. It got beautifully golden skin and came out perfectly juicy. The gravy was surprisingly great too: I made a roux from turkey fat and flour and added the pan drippings and stock.

          Then we moved boxes for the next two days and ate leftovers and copious amounts of beer and takeout barbeque.

          Morals: Always brine, always make your own stock. It pays off.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Lemon Curry

            Lemon, good for you. I have 2 girls 16 & 20. While I would like to say they always help out in the kitchen, truly, they don't - only when the mood hits them. Although older DD did make apple crumb pie (very well I must say), it was a bit of surprise. I often wonder if DH and I will ever be going to holidays at either of their homes? Oldest DD confessed she would like to figure out how to have 4 kids and get through 2 more years of college and 3 years of law school (first she has to find Mr. Right). She has big dream that I will retire from my job and relocate to become her nanny and cook (ha ha! LOL!) Love to hear stories that the younger generation has paid attention to culinary skills and is using them. You go, Lemon!

            1. re: Diane in Bexley

              My school has kitchens in our suites and mediocre dining hall food, so I basically cook everything for myself. I guess I'm a little obsessed with it, actually - I just started a minor in Food Studies.

              Yeah, I love cooking. Most of my friends don't, but are slowly warming up to it, hopefully your daughter will too. It's great fun.

            2. re: Lemon Curry

              Our Thanksgiving sounds very similar. I'm also in college, and Thanksgiving was also at my parents' house. It's usually held at my grandmother's, but my mom and dad finished building their house this year and wanted to be able to host the family there for the holiday. The moving process is all done, but my mother is a bit of a perfectionist so she spent most of the time leading up to the big event polishing silverware, decorating the tables with flowers etc. She's a decent cook, but seems to have lost interest in the art over the years, so it was just me in the kitchen on Wednesday and Thursday morning. It was a bit lonely, but I was productive.

              I cooked many things I've never attempted before. I brined the turkey as well (mom and I had a bit of a disagreement about this, but the cook's vote held say) and roasted it in a convection oven. Guests said it was the best turkey they'd had. I also made dressing with homemade biscuits, cornbread, and broth. I made a roux with turkey fat and flour, and then mixed in the rest of the broth. Got to make the cranberry sauce, which I like rather tart, but some complained that it wasn't sweet enough (next year, we'll have two.) Made a green bean salad and a sweet potato casserole (sans marshmallows) and delegated the mashing of the white potatoes to an aunt (turns out, this was her first time doing so.) I also roasted some carrots and parsnips, but I wasn't pleased with the outcome.

              What I was most proud of, though, was the apple pie I made. The only thing I've baked more complicated than a batch of cookies was a carrot cake for my dad's birthday, so this was new territory. Did it all from scratch of course and it turned out very well. The dough was actually quite simple to put together and work with, not as intimidating as I'd believed. The only problem was that the crust was a bit soggy on the bottom; I'll have to work on that. I think the guests all enjoyed themselves, between the food and the meticulous decorations. I think my relatives were surprised that a guy in their family can cook, and even more shocking, enjoys to do so. Only improvement for next year, if we host, would be to have a partner or two in the kitchen.

            3. I cook the turkey breast side down. No need for basting, tenting, or any other kind of fooling around until the last half hour when I flip the bird for browning. I take that opportunity to recover the drippings and make gravy from them. This is the best decision I've ever made regarding T-day.

              So that the breast doesn't get a squashed look, it's a good idea to prop up the side of the turkey with balls of aluminum foil so some space is created under the breast.

              1. Successful recipe from the internet.

                I noted elsewherer I had picked up a goose for the first time in many years. My problem - cooking it at home then transporting it about a half-hour away without having to give up all visiting before the meal or ending up with a wrinkly weirdly reheated or cold bird.

                A recipe called "Gala Goose" called for initially braising the bird, then browning in hot oven immediately OR LATER OR THE NEXT DAY! (which was the crux for me).

                Came out wonderfully. had time to sit and chat before meal, when theitr turkey came out of the oven, up went the heat, in went the goose and it came out wonderfully hot, moist and possibly the most beautiful mahogany brown I have ever seen on a bird.

                I recommend this recipe, except for all the oddball flavorings for the gravy. I mean they worked, I received compliments from two diners on the gravy specifically, but if your larder was empty or you couldn't figure out substitutions...

                The 'extra' ingredients for the braising liquid/gravy included a half-bottle of Armagnac (approx $30 bottle), 1 oz of dried porcinis ($8 at my local), green apple peel ($1), whole cloves ($6 small container at local), current jelly (Where was the store brand? $4), 12 oz of dried cherries (mixed cherries and berries $5 for 8oz) - that's over $50 just for ingredients to add flavor.

                Expense aside, a terrific down-loaded recipe.

                3 Replies
                1. re: FrankJBN

                  Is the recipe you used from the CDKitchen.com web site? I ask because I usually use Julia Child's recipe from MAFC Vol. 1, although that recipe turns out very well for me, this year I'm looking for something different for Christmas. Also, would you recommend substituting something else for the Armagnac, or is it absolutely necessary for the sake of the taste?

                  1. re: Gio

                    Yes that was the place. I think I later saw a blurb on a search site for 'Martha Stewart Gala goose', but i don't know if it was the same.

                    (Although all the expensive flavorings strikes me that it could be hers)

                    Absolutely I subbed for the Armagnac. I used some California brandy, no maker I knew before. I tasted it when I got it home, if it had been appalling I would have gone out and bought some other maker's but it was certainly drinkable neat (and I will drink it in the future)

                    I was tempted to sub for porcinis, but thought better of that. I did use mixed cherries and berries (couldn't find dried cherries alone) but did pull out the included strawberries.

                    I don't know that if I had Armagnac at home I would have given up a half-bottle to cook with, especially in this context where it is being used in a much larger volume of stock.

                    I'll say this - I have never used Burgundy in Bouef Bourginogne

                    1. re: FrankJBN

                      Thank you Frank! I like the way you think.
                      I believe the Gala Goose recipe might originate with Mahvelous Martha. Her name is on all the clones of the recipe I've found. Not sure tho.

                2. This year I collaborated on Thanksgiving with a friend of mine, her brother, and one of his friends. It was all of our first stab at cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and it came off beautifully. A golden brown and delicious turkey, wonderful stuffing, potatoes, gravy, and cranberry relish. The pies weren't all they could have been, but everyone had a great time and we now all have the confidence to take on the turkey in the future.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mordacity

                    We were only seven, so there were way more dishes than anyone could sample. My menu is fairly rote by now, having worked on it over the past ten years. The best new idea this year was to make the gravy the day before. Did I read this on CH? Not sure, but here's how: when you pick up your turkey the day before, buy some turkey wings, necks and giblets (Whole Foods had these already packaged up). As soon as you get home, roast the wings in a roasting pan and make a stock with the necks and giblets. When the wings are done, remove and make gravy with the fat in the bottom of the pan, turkey stock, and chopped giblets. I use Calvados and apple cider, too, to flavor the gravy. Let it cool, put it away and you are all set for the big day.

                    By the way, I decided to roast the brined unstuffed 15-pound turkey at 400 degrees on convection setting and that darn thing was done in 90 minutes!!!

                    1. re: mordacity

                      Well - that's what's it's all about, isn't? Good friends. Good food. Good times.
                      Onward and upward and hugs & kisses all around. That's what the Holidays are all about.

                      1. re: Gio

                        this years thanksgiving was certainly different from previous t-days. four years of college on a different coast than the rest of the fam meant hooking up with a friend and celebrating with their family, which i thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed. Day full of people, food, and conversation.
                        this year my boyfriend and i decided to celebrate together so while he was at work till four i made a 12 lb turkey, gravy with the giblets, butternut squash with sweet potatoes, fresh green beans with a portabello cream sauce, cranberry-orange sauce with grand marnier, white aspargus w. roasted garlic, mashed potatoes, and some very yummy creamed spinach.
                        i love to cook, so spending s day in the kitchen with little interruption besides the company of a friendly cat was relaxing and enjoyable. everything really fell into place and the timing of each item being finished was right on target- everything came out hot at the same time and we had a great dinner- just the two of us. moments like this definitely makes you appreciate who you have in your life and all the blessings we tend to overlook.

                    2. For just the 3rd time ever, my DH and I decided to host Thanksgiving this year. Both sets of parents, BIL and SIL. Of course I warn people in advance that, although I am cooking everything and you don't need to bring a thing (except wine or other appropriate libation perhaps), it is going to be non-traditional. I call it "Thanksgiving Deconstructed" where I use typical ingredients, but in different ways, or put a new twist on traditional dishes.

                      Pumpkin Goat Cheese Dip
                      Cranberry Salsa
                      Il Prosecco

                      Main Event:
                      Green salad with apple and pecans (covering pie flavors) with a Cranberry-Zinfandel vinaigrette.
                      Green beans with lemon vinaigrette, sauteed mushrooms and homemade deep fried shallots green bean casserole redux)
                      Roasted root vegetables (it's not a celebration without squash and Brussels Sprouts)
                      Whole Wheat buttermilk biscuits
                      Pumpkin-sage polenta (first time I made it and it was the HUGE runaway hit)
                      Wild Rice stuffing with wild mushrooms and dried pears
                      Ham with basic dijon-brown sugar molasses glaze
                      Pinot Noir
                      Gruner Veltliner

                      Chocolate-chambord cheesecake ("won" in a charity auction and prepared by chef day prior)

                      Although some recipes were new, everything turned out, timing worked out, parents and in-laws entertained each other and no one got embarrassingly drunk. And I enjoyed my two days of shopping and two days in the kitchen. I might even do this again.

                      And for our day after recovery? We went out for soba.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jennywinker

                        Jenny, the Choclate Chambord cheesecake sounds really yummy. If I understand you correctly, you didn't make it, but can you get the recipe? I would love to make this for my mother later this month - thanks!

                        1. re: Diane in Bexley

                          I am not normally a cheesecake fan but years ago, I think it was Bon Appetit (or was it Gourmet) had a recipe for Chocolate Amaretto cheesecake that was a huge success. It tasted far enough removed from cheesecake that even I liked it. If you are interested, I can try and find the link. I'm thinking Bon Appetit for some reason and in the timeframe of the early nineties.

                          1. re: Diane in Bexley

                            I'll ask the chef if he can share the recipe.

                        2. I usually have about 8 guests for T-giving (the immediate family) but his year there were 13 and another 3 for desert. The tradition in my house is that no two T-giving meals are the same so nobody knows what to expect (including me sometimes :-)) This year I particulary liked the cranberry/pear/ginger chutney and the roasted butternut squash gratin - both from Bon Appetite. I made the mashed potatoes and added a little white truffle oil which was well received. The turkey was good although in my opinion not my best effort. As usual in these cases nobody but me takes such a critical look at the food.
                          The exception to the "no two the same" tradition is the pumpkin pie. 20 years ago I got this recipe for a 3 layer pumpkin pie (pumpkin custard topped with whipped cream and that topped with pumpkin chiffon) which by now has reached legendary status. The family threatens to boycott the dinner if there is no 3 layer pumpkin pie. This year I made two and a coconut cream pie which was especially good.
                          Because there were so many of us and our table wouldn't fit everybody we did it buffet style. That worked out well with people mixing and chatting in ever changing groups.
                          I spent two days in the kitchen making everything from scratch as I always do (the stock for the gravy, the cornbread for the stuffing, etc.) so by dinner time on Thursday I have little interest in eating it. That's not a bad thing. I have a little taste of everything (for yet more self critiqueing) and I don't gain weight.
                          There is never any contention amongst family members all day. It really is a pleasure to cook for them all.

                          1. Appetizers
                            Cheese Puffs
                            Stuffed Mushrooms
                            Fresh Jicama
                            Carrot Sticks

                            Main Event
                            Roast Turkey
                            Roasted Winter Vegetables thanks Ina Gartner
                            Mashed Sweet Potatoes
                            Pureed Spinach
                            Cole Slaw
                            Pale Rye Bread with Caraway seeds
                            Whole wheat walnut bread

                            Pecan Pie
                            Apple Pie
                            Chocolate Pecan Bars
                            Chocolate Chip Cookies
                            Chocolate Chip Almond Raisin Cookies
                            Pumpkin Pie
                            Chocolate Silk Pie

                            Most everything was made from scratch with the exception of the Chocolate Silk Pie.

                            Everything was delicious, which only made the 14 family members enjoy each other even more.