Shaking Up Thanksgiving Menus
- Finnegan Sep 23, 2008 07:28 AM
Our Thanksgiving menu has been in the doldrums for the past few years: turkey, mashed potatoes, squash, peas...comfort foods for sure, but a bit dull. Anyone have any new menu ideas to shake up a boring thanksgiving menu?
I tried to do this one year and have one suggestion > make the dish a few times before serving it in place at Thanksgiving dinner. So, good you're asking here on chowhound.
I loved the long bean (long green beans) at a hotel In Irvine, CA, so went to the market to get these. They for sure have them in the Chinese grocery, but at that time, they were in the supermarket. So, I thought I'd use some to tie up julliened carrots. To top that, I decided to cook the long green beans and carrots in the liquid I used to brine the turkey. Well, let's just say when I asked my nephews if I could eat their green beans, they said yes.
How about some banana ice cream?
This recipe is so easy. It doesn't even require an ice cream maker. And, when made with browning bananas, it is simply delicious. You can even use frozen bananas.
The Cooks Exchange
Seemi Iqbal; Karachi, Pakistan
Basic ground rule of changing T-Day menus: add, don't subtract anything time-honored and loved by anyone important. T-Day is a ritual day, and rituals by definition involve repetition. This is a lot more boring for the cook than it is for the guest (just like choirs get sick of certain hymns way before congregations do). Lots of hounds have stories of coming to rue shaking up T-Day menus the wrong way.
re: Karl S
As usual I agree 100% with Karl S. For years I hosted an "orphans" Thanksgiving and told people to bring whatever meant "Thanksgiving" to them. Not only did we all get to try some great things but I can't tell you how many times people said it "made" the day for them to bring their family's green bean casserole or mashed butternut squash with applesauce or whatever. I am all in favor of innovation but generally it's not a crowd pleaser for Thanksgiving.
Having said all that, the last few Thanksgivings I have celebrated with a bunch of ritual-disdaining curmudgeons and we have had leg of lamb on the grill (we all hate turkey), some variation of wild rice pilaf (cranberries and pecans 1 year I think, mushrooms, leeks and carrots another), some combination of high-heat oven-roasted veggies and some sort of elegant plated salad to start, usually with fruit. But we all signed up to it wholeheartedly ahead of time. And now, of course, these things are somewhat ritualistic themselves -- I guess you really can't escape it!
We usually do "orphan" thanksgivings every year with our circle of friends because most of us are too far from (or have lost) the majority of our family to go home for the holidays.
I always do a turkey and stuffing like my mother's because it brings her closer to me, but otherwise everything else is up for grabs for anyone who wants to bring something different. :)
re: Karl S
word. don't subtract, add.
we do a planked salmon with a maple-citrus glaze in addition to turkey.
also our nibbles tend to include stuff like hummus and crudite, marcona almonds, cheese straws and other fun things that are not thanksgiving-related. gives you a nice break from all the traditional stuff and goes great with fun cocktails.
Okay, my dull may be your fresh! Cauliflower in cream sauce. I brought it to friends' years ago, now they won't let me stop. The kids ate it. Hence, it became my annual contribution. Caution to the wind, I mixed half-and-half broccoli and caulifower one year. I usually make a butter roux and use skim milk, thinking one equalizes out the other.
I did a wonderful carrot puree once. It should be on Paula Deen's web site. Just cooked carrots in chicken stock and pureed in blender with butter, S&P. Pureed, orange (looks lovely on a plate, just a little plop of color next to all the Thanksgiving brown and beige), smooth, cheap. Good but bad, so very bad. Don't make this. I have no recipe. Do not try to contact me.
Finnegan: see what you've started!
grilled turkey legs
pumpkin ravioli in butter sage sauce
brussel sprouts with chestnuts and bacon
salad with pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds
mashed potatoes and celery root
corn bread pudding or corn souffle
cranberry/rosemary cornbread muffins
A few years ago we made some dishes using recipes in the November 2004 issue of Sunset magazine. Some items were simply the "usual suspects" with a Mexican/Southwestern twist. The guajillo/tamarind-glazed bird (we cooked a couple of chickens, instead of a turkey), poblano gravy (made from the pan drippings), the chorizo/cornbread stuffing, and the cauliflower gratin were all great. The green beans weren't that distinctive, but still good. We opted for a regular old pumpkin pie, instead of the ancho-spiced pie. We didn't attempt the tamales, mashed potatoes, or spicy pecans.
You can get links to the recipes by following this link:
Another dish we like to break out in the fall is roasted poblano chiles stuffed with roasted sweet potatoes or roasted butternut squash--an idea I ripped off from Doña Tomás in Oakland, CA. Occasionally, we make this in casserole form with layers of seasoned s.p. (or squash) pulp and chile strips. I can dig up and post the recipe for this if you're interested.
Well, darn. I think this might be one of those things that I've always just done by eye and have never written down. I'll outline it here, and if I find a detailed written version, I'll post it as a follow-up.
The procedure begins with roasting, mashing, and seasoning about 3 lbs of sweet potatoes or a butternut squash of similar weight. Regardless of which vegetable I use, I split it lengthwise (removing seeds from the squash) and brush it with olive oil, place the cut sides down on a foil-lined baking sheet, and then put it all into a 400-degree oven, where it is cooked until very tender (squash might take around 45 minutes, sweet potatoes not as long). Leave the oven at this temperature after the vegetable is done.
While the vegetable is roasting, roast, peel, and seed 6-8 poblano chiles. The chiles can vary quite a bit in size, so just use your best judgment here. For the relleno version of this dish, it is important to keep the chiles as intact as possible, making only a short lengthwise slit that allows you to remove the seeds--my advice is don't rush and don't obsess about getting every last seed out.
After removing the roasted vegetable from the oven, let it cool enough to handle, and then scoop the pulp/flesh from the skins into a large mixing bowl. Blend 3-4 tablespoons of butter along with 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp ancho chile powder, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder, and 1/2 tsp salt* into the pulp, then mash until very smooth.
Once the pulp is seasoned to your liking, start filling the chiles with it. Work carefully and do not overfill the chiles, so as not to rip them. Top each of the filled chiles with a bit of grated cheese. I prefer a mild melting cheese like queso Chihuahua or Monterey Jack, but even Muenster will work in a pinch. Place the filled chiles in a lightly oiled baking dish in a single layer, put them into the oven, and cook until the cheese is melted (15-20 minutes). You can finish under a broiler if you want to brown the cheese.
I like to serve this with a roasted tomatillo-guajillo salsa, which can be made ahead of time. Rough proportions are 1 lb tomatillos (husked and rinsed), 2 4"-long dried guajillo chiles, 2 cloves garlic (unpeeled), 1 cup sliced onion (~3/8" thick slices), salt and sugar to taste. Roast the tomatillos under the broiler on a foil-lined baking sheet, flip them after they have browned on top, and then remove them after the second side is browned. Open the chiles like a book, remove the stems and seeds, and toast the chiles briefly (5-10 seconds per side) on a dry heavyweight skillet over medium heat. After the chiles are toasted, in the same dry skillet over medium-low heat, roast the unpeeled garlic and sliced onions until lightly browned and tender (about 15 minutes). While the garlic and onions are roasting, grind the chiles into a coarse powder (a coffee grinder works fine). Coarsely chop the garlic and onion, which go into a blender with the tomatillos (and their juices) and the ground chiles. Blend the mixture until quite smooth. Add salt to brighten and sugar to moderate tartness as necessary.
*You might start by adding half as much of each seasoning, and then add more according to your taste.
A few years ago we started sending out an email chain to everyone who would be at the table. Each person gets to add the one food they must have for it to be Thanksgiving. Those dishes are the only ones that make it to the table. It's not really changing things up, but it's made the meal much more enjoyable. Less food to prepare (and clean up!), less waste, less over eating discomfort.
The same year the must have list started, we also added the pickle platter. We always had a small dish of pickles and olives on the table. As a joke my mom and I bought some random pickled things and put them on the table - it was a hit! Now each household is charged with the task of bringing the most unusual pickled vegetable they can find.