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Sep 30, 2009 10:34 PM

Oh glorious day! Oh wonderful year! Oh lucky me! I finally, finally, finally get to host Thanksgiving. I banish thee jarred gravy (tell me about your single favorite dish)

I am *wild* with joy at finally being able to host Thanksgiving.

I am *giddy* with the possibility.

I have endured too much by too many and this year, this year I will rise above it all.

I can't wait. I am not even at the menu planning stage yet. I am at the menu dreaming stage.

Please help me prolong to the dream a bit and tell me your single favorite Thanksgiving dish.

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  1. There is no single item. I love so many dishes: giblet gravy, corn pudding, cheese grits souffle, soft dressing and hard dressing, chess pie, cranberry salad, homemade parker house rolls. That is just a few items. It is a food orgy.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Janet

      we must be at the same Thanksgiving...yum

      1. re: LaLa

        What are hard and soft dressing? Never heard of that before . . .

        1. re: Rick

          one is fluffy and moist and the other is baked in a casserole dish

      2. re: Janet

        Chess Pie!! I haven't heard anyone mention chess pie in 20 years!

        I LOVE chess pie, but can never get the family to break away from pumpkin and apple. Gone are the days when i made 4 pies just to get the two I like.

      3. Um ... not to rain on your parade but ... it's Thanksgiving. That means you really, really .... really need to include the dishes that define Thanksgiving to your group. That means if everyone loves canned Oceanspray cut along the can marks ... if you only provide that delicious-sounding cranberry sauce recipe you have been drooling over ... you will have a lot of unhappy guests. So if you get creative, be sure there are two versions of the dish.

        Yes, I know it sucks, but if jarred gravy is what everyone has been eating since jars were invented, there had better be a dish of that on the table along with your own house-made super gravy.

        It's a weird holiday. Too many people don't like messing with tradition.

        Maybe you lucked out and your guests are all open to the brave new world of wonderful food. Maybe no one will care if you replace the turkey with trout. However, I'd talk to your guests and be very sure how much they will tolerate.

        You want people to talk about your Thanksgiving dinner for years ... and they will .. but hopefully it is in a good way so people are begging you to host again.

        18 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          Very important point. I've learnt the hard way that no matter how exciting a menu is to me, it has to please the people I'm serving it too. Because them being unhappy will make the meal feel like a failure, even if the food is amazing.

          I've been planning my wedding menu, and similarly, I've realised that I need to please others. I'm thinking of offering a small post-wedding dinner for my nearest and dearest foodies, where I can cook my own dream wedding feast, rather than please the palates of 120 disparate people.

          For this reason, I'd personally rather cook the meal before thanksgiving, and cook what I want, rather than trying to please everyone else's expectations and nostalgia.

          1. re: Gooseberry

            In my experience, it is ok to be creative and have stuff that pleases you as long as there are the expected dishes. Have the trout, but also have the turkey. The one thing that it is too darn bad if you don't like it is stuffing. I'm not having fifty different types of stuffings. If you must have your great, great, great grandma's then make it for yourself at home. Or bring it along and I'll put it on the table.

            1. re: rworange

              Let's just have 50 kinds of stuffing. That would be an awesome dinner. Stuffing tasting party!!!!!

            2. re: Gooseberry

              Who are you eating with????? Isn't Thanksgiving a day to give thanks and also bless the hands that prepared this wonderful meal for us all so we can share it together???? Who is raining on your parade. I would only stoop so low as to make one special dish for a much older guest if that's possible. Otherwise, everybody has the ONE TRUE WAY to roast a bird and some of them still put it in at 200 the night before. When I host Thanksgiving I do it MY ONE TRUE WAY and don't compromise! I've also learned that it's only gracious to ask a certain few to bring their own special 'best' dishes. Keeps everyone participating and makes it a whole lot easier!!

              1. re: Gooseberry

                Couldn't agree more. I go to the extra effort to have the canned cranberry next to my gorgeous cranberry relish, I make the green foamy jello crap my father just has to have at the table, and there is the green bean mushroom thing that our guests and my DH want every year, too.

                But I do experiement. I try at least two new side dishes every year. The bird, the stuffing and the incredible gravy are a serious tradition in my family...and I'm not messing with perfection. It's foodie all the way.

                But to get to the OP's question, my absolute favorite is a sweet potato souffle that is out of this world.

              2. re: rworange


                I am flexible on other things.

                Actually, my family's meal is scheduled on an easier date so I don't have to worry about them.

                1. re: JudiAU

                  You can canvass the grocery stores starting about now for turkey backs, wings, necks, legs, etc and make a strong broth with them to make the gravy out of- no artificials involved. You can do the broth ahead and freeze it,, thicken it or not, strain whatever fat you want to out of it. the possibilities are myriad.

                  Unfortunately, once I have that done I've convinced myself that i'm halfway there and the rest is a panic. AKA- attention-deficit cooking. But the gravy is always awesome.

                  1. re: EWSflash

                    I used to bring creamed onions until we sort of figured out that it gave enough of us too much discomfort after dinner; i brought homade caponata one year; not traditional in my family's practice but very welcomed as an alternative veggie dish and the whole recipe was mom always did a beautiful relish tray with olives,black and green, celery,pickles several kinds...maybe a spoonful of different "chows" i.e. pickalillies.

                2. What is it about lamb that creates such an either "love it" or "hate it" division?

                  Some years ago I gave a dinner party for a friend who had a new beau she wanted to introduce. From the get-go he showed himself to be both a bore and boor. Lots of stories about how horrible his ex-wives were followed by a graphically detailed medical history, past and present.

                  However, all this paled when he began his lamb diatribe. Every possible negative turn of the phrase was used from disgusting through vile, beginning with the simple disclaimer "I hate lamb". He went on and on about much he detested lamb in any form, could smell it miles away, made him physically sick to think about, people who eat lamb are the dregs of the earth ............ for probably 20 minutes.

                  Each time his hostess (me) intervened, he plowed on. I should mention that this lamb-bashing took place at the dinner table. From time to time, he did praise our meal finally asking "what kind of beef is this? I've never had anything so flavorful". When I answered "Lamb Shanks" the entire table exploded! Beau was very quiet from then until departure. Phew! Yes, she did marry him. Happily, I have no reason to see him any longer.

                  Normandie, your line "It won't kill them to be polite for two hours ..." resonated with me. Unfortunately for most of us, the Opera Singer life has become widespread; life lived in the key of me-me-me.

                  Now to your question "what are we eating this year?"
                  "I don't know" is the honest answer. After many years of traditional turkey-gravy-stuffing-mashed potatoes-etc, I broke the mold last year. Several guests, including friends of my son and DIL, wanted to learn to cook. I realized that "helping" with the traditional feast would be difficult so we had a completely non-traditional meal. We ate for the entire afternoon, dish after dish in no particular order. Shrimp and grits, crab cakes, fresh oysters, ham biscuits, stuffed mushrooms, cheese straws, puff pastry roulade, roasted Brussels sprouts, freshly made potato chips and I don't remember what all. Champagne flowed and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Everyone told family holiday horror stories - seems many of us were separated at birth and share the same in-laws.
                  I roasted a small turkey on Friday so there were the requisite leftovers.

                  FYI: when I hosted larger family gatherings, I would roast two turkeys. One was cooked on Wednesday, cooled, sliced and packed away for re-heating. I made gravy from the pan drippings as well so there was no last minute hustle, it was ready to go. On Thursday, I roast a second turkey so the house smells like Thanksgiving. At serving, the freshly cooked bird has pride of place on the platter surrounded by hot, pre-sliced white and dark meat. It's quite festive and saves me a lot of last minute work. It took me years to work this out and I offer it to you as a New Tradition for your family. Happy Thanksgiving - I hope your family appreciates all the thought, time, effort and work you've put into their dinner.

                  1. re: Sherri

                    Badly-done lamb apparently has traumatized many a soul into thinking they hate it. Many of those open-minded souls have converted after having lamb that was well-done.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      and by well done you mean medium rare :)

                      1. re: thew

                        Hahaha. Just think of converting lamb-haters with over cooked meat.

                      2. re: EWSflash

                        i do remember as a youth, smelling some mutton awaiting preparation and it was a sickeningly bloody smell... could this have contributed to peoples' unfortunate bias? I do enjoy lamb as an adult as well as an occasional goat curry...

                        1. re: EWSflash

                          I don't think it's necessarily that. It has a gaminess to it, more so from NZ and Oz than Colorado. I like lamb, but sometimes the gaminess turns me off, too. I often marinate Greek style, either lemon or yogurt based marinade to reduce that aspect.

                        2. re: Sherri

                          "I would roast two turkeys. One was cooked on Wednesday, cooled, sliced and packed away for re-heating. I made gravy from the pan drippings as well so there was no last minute hustle, it was ready to go. On Thursday, I roast a second turkey so the house smells like Thanksgiving. At serving, the freshly cooked bird has pride of place on the platter surrounded by hot, pre-sliced white and dark meat. It's quite festive and saves me a lot of last minute work."

                          Yes! I am SO suggesting this to MIL!

                          Love her to death, and we have always worked it out, but she thaws the turkey in the Atlanta garage for three days and that makes me nervous.

                        3. re: rworange

                          ABSOLUTELY. People like what they are used too.
                          I tried some years ago to upgrade Thanksgiving dinner and on reflection
                          accepted that our guests EXPECTED what they were primed for.
                          Express yourself but resist deviating too much from the familiar.

                          1. re: mr jig

                            My experience with my mid-west family -- and a friend's with her Alabama family as well -- is that dressing up a meal will provoke them into thinking you're trying to be uppity. Sorry, "aw uppity" in the proper vernacular. I've learned to sidestep holidays with those folks or try to let it run off like water on a duck's back. If it'smy meal they came to eat, they'll get the famous greenbean casserole and they can bring along a can of sauce. I'll dump it on a plate and put it on the sideboard.... But ain't nobody bringing a jar of gravy into my house.....

                            1. re: lil magill

                              This is my fear with my SO's family. Although in PA they probably won't say uppity so much as fancy and mean it as an insult. Last year I made mostly their foods with my gravy, two stuffings, and I asked them to bring their dishes I can't make.

                              This year will be more of the same but my family will be there the day before to help so I am hoping that I can make more food to offset my cravings while still having their down home cooking.

                        4. I think rworange has a good point about thanksgiving being about the classics. Fortunately for me, I have family and friends who love my interpretations of the classics and the extra goodies we throw in for fun. I say go nuts!

                          I can't narrow down my favorite dish. Last year, I hosted a party with these dishes and it was talked about for months afterwards. I never felt more appreciated as a cook.

                          My thanksgiving spread would not be complete wihout my deep-fried, wine/herb citrus brined turkey.

                          Last year, I made a delicious roast of heirloom tomatoes with cippolini onions and stonehouse blood orange olive oil, maldon sea saltm fresh thyme and pepper. It vanished.

                          I also decided to make Lee Ann Wong's turducken roulade. This was so delicious, but I was very nervous about the chicken mouse. Let me tell you, it rocked!

                          Last year, I ran out of time before going to Panera Bread for stuffing bread. All they had left was a classic white loaf as well as a sun dried tomato loaf. Well, I bought both loaves. I took a dare with the sun dried tomato loaf in the stuffing. I threw in a pound of mild jalapeno/bacon duck sausage, sage, onions, carrots, celery and butter. I cut the different breads in slightly uneven dice for a rustic quality. It was extremely well recieved and I look foward to making it again this year. The stuffing had a subdued, yet bright flavor that was a nice complement to the richness of all the other offerings. It paired very well with the tomatoes. One of these days, I will start writing down recipes.

                          This year, I will make savory onion marmalade in addition to delicious home made gravy. Home made gravy is a tough feat when you deep fry a turkey. For my gravy, I used trader joes organic chicken broth reduced by about one half along with roasted chcken bones, turkey giblets and scraps from the turducken roulade to make a savory stock which was thickened with a little cornstarch, fresh herbs, minced onions and garlic. It was very good.

                          Anyone who prefers canned gravy at my party can lay an egg. =) Jellied cranberry sauce cut along the tin lines is always welcome! I tried making a fancy cranberry sauce a few years back and it solidified on the table. It wasn't pretty.

                          Green bean casserole is about the only thing I make where tradition rings true every year.

                          My piece de resistance is my own potato dish. I make a truffled potato risotto with shitake mushrooms and loads of cream and parmesan reggiano that my friends go ape over. Its basically a gratin, but the potatos are cut in a ultra small dice and cooked "al dente." I remove the potatoes when they are still somewhat raw and make a sofrito of minced onions, garlic, rosemary, fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Then I add the cream and parmesan cheese (by the cupful!) until combined and throw the potatoes back in for a few minutes. The potatos soak in the cream and cheese mixture and it gets nice and thick (reverse order of the true risotto technique). I pour them into a large casserole dish and top it with a layer of sauted shitake and crimini mushrooms right down the center of the dish lengthwise (truffle oil is added if its around). I love the reaction to this dish. Its probably 1000 calories a cup, but it tastes so good. I do have the recipe typed out for this one! =


                          I am glad that I am not the only one who is looking forward to thanksgiving as much as you! I keep it classic, but the foodie in me always twists things up a bit.

                          Its never too early for feeling greatful of your friends and family!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: zendrive

                            I would love to have your recipe for your potato dish. It sounds fantastic. Your onion marmalade also sounds great. It would work well because we have a deep fried turkey to.

                            1. re: zendrive

                              "Last year, I made a delicious roast of heirloom tomatoes with cippolini onions and stonehouse blood orange olive oil, maldon sea saltm fresh thyme and pepper"

                              What! OMG...that will not wait for you still get fresh heirloom tomatoes late November where you are, or would this, by some act of God, be something you can prepare ahead and freeze?

                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                that really does sound phenomenal.... please share!

                              2. re: zendrive

                                Can you post Lee Anne's turducken roulade recipe? I had on my computer before a virus wiped it out. The video on The Wong Way To Cook only helps so much.

                              3. RW Has a point, but I think if you've suffered all these years, it's your turn. It's only fair :)

                                1. Gazed chestnuts with haricots verts--the biggest problem is that I almost have to double the glazed chestnuts because I can't stop eating them.


                                  Sweet potato casserole--I know this is more like dessert than a side and I would never have tried this recipe, but someone brought it to a dinner once and it was so good. It's the one dish that people always ask for the recipe:


                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: chowser

                                    Oh my gosh how'd I miss a dish that involves Sortil├Ęge?? I definitely have to make this for thanksgiving! (which for me means next weekend!)

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Thank you! The one thing I was up in the air about was a green bean dish, this will do very nicely!

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        oooohhh those chestnut/beans look sooo good. One Christmas I spent far too long making a Joel Robouchon recipe involving chestnuts, fennel, little onions ... forget what else. It took longer than I expected, and my thumbs were sore and discolored from the chestnuts, but it was the perfect addition to the turkey dinner. Sadly the yield was small for all that hard work. I think these beans will be the new replacement!

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          Oh, chowser, those chestnuts sound SO good. I think they're going to have to find their way onto one of my holiday menus this year. TY for posting the link.