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T-Day Postmortem: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Share your successes, failures, and questions!

Good - whole berry cranberry sauce w/star anise; roasted tomatoes w/toasted parmesan bread crumbs; carrots braised whole in turkey stock & butter; mushroom/leek stuffing; caramel and chocolate bread pudding.

Less good - Diestel turkey. I was so concerned about undercooking, that I overcooked. Probably by about 30 minutes. However, I could tell that it would have been delicious cooked to proper temp. Even a little dried out it was well above your average grocery bird. It had been salt cured ala Russ Parsons. I'm guessing I can "mask" the driest pieces (drumsticks, breast) by putting them in a soup?

Truly sad - Too lazy to make a crust for pumpkin pie, didn't want to buy store bought. I used puff pastry. I rolled it out and because I don't own a pie pan, I used a springform. I thought if I blind baked, it would keep the bottom crispier. But, during baking, the sides shrank, fell, and folded over onto the bottom crust on 1/2 of it. I tucked the pie filling in as best I could, and flapped the flaps over again. But it wasn't pretty. And the crust underneath wasn't crispy. Probably because of my 2nd half witted idea - to keep the top from cracking by using a water bath. I'm sure now it got between the 2 parts of the pan. Doh!

Big question - I thought I'd save time by making gravy last week. I froze it, and when I reheated today stovetop, it ended up with this curd-y texture that I couldn't whisk out, and which hadn't been there originally. I finally used a spatula to pass it all through a sieve. Why did this happen? I'm guessing something chemical/scientific to do with the roux separating from the water content... Is gravy a thing not to be frozen?

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday and is in a pleasant food coma right now :)

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  1. "I'm guessing I can "mask" the driest pieces (drumsticks, breast) by putting them in a soup?"
    check the recent threads that have already been started about what to do with leftovers. plenty of saucy, moisture-laden ideas there!

    4 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Very good, was your healthy black bean dip. More then very good, excellent and a keeper. Sorry I didn't try it sooner after reading all the reviews. And took less than 5 minutes to boot.

      1. re: coll

        Heh, I just now made a batch of that bean dip with the red beans I soaked and cooked up last night. Absolutely delicious AGAIN--I've made it with black beans, kidney beans and now small reds. Enjoyed the dip nacho style over blue corn chips, heated up and sprinkled with a little Mont Jack cheese and more chopped cilantro.

        1. re: Val

          I know, I was thinking the leftovers would be the best sauce for a casserole.

        2. re: coll

          i just saw this - so happy you enjoyed it!

      2. Good -- brined a bone-in turkey breast, roasted to 155 degrees, rested to 161 degrees and it turned out to be the juiciest bird I've ever had. A pleasant surprise, and super tasty.

        Mediocre -- I tried a lot of new recipes this year. I do all the cooking and take it all to someone else's house, so I mix up the sides each year to keep it interesting for me. This year I made scalloped potatoes instead of mashed at the request of Mr. Divamac. They were too heavy as a side and I missed the mashed. I will really miss my mashed potato pancakes tomorrow. My dressing was also underwhelming (Tyler Florence recipe).

        Ugly -- The whole family filled up on hors d'oeuvres and wine and none of us really ate much dinner. Also, I refused to make dessert this year so we were stuck with only the pumpkin and apple pies someone bought at Costco. Meh.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Divamac

          Decadent-a chocolate espresso cheesecake--recipe from Epicurious. The top didn't crack!

          Great-a pumpkin pie--filling recipe from Epicurious--made with a no-roll crust--recipe from Joy the Baker: the best pumpkin pie any of us had ever eaten.

          Good-The Silver Palate corn bread stuffing with apples and sausage. Good flavors, but no one liked the pecan halves--too big, too soggy--which I'd just omit next time.

          Reliable--The sweet potato casserole and the corn pudding we've been eating for decades.

          Unappreciated--The spicy cranberry salsa that I tried on a whim (in addition to a more traditional cranberry sauce). Only one person even tried it. I think it was regarded as blasphemous.

          Bad--The zip-lock closure on the brining bag that burst open when I was turning over the turkey, so half the brine spilled out. The bird was dryish, which never happens when I brine, and I'm blaming the bad bag.

          Hideous--the clean up (second dishwasher load underway now as I ignore the tablecloths and napkins on the floor in the laundry room .)

          1. re: MommaJ

            Would love to see your pumpkin pie recipe(s). Sounds great!

            1. re: MommaJ

              Could you point us toward the chocolate-espresso cheesecake recipe too? Thanks!

              1. re: rainey

                Happy to oblige:

                The pumpkin pie:

                1. Filling--Look for "Spiced Pumpkin Pie" on Epicurious--but, per the consensus of comments, I added one additional egg and upped the spices by 50%. Note the additional egg also increases the cooking time. ( I just kept testing with a toothpick until it came out clean, but not dry.) This recipe definitely has the taste of molasses, which I think complements the pumpkin beautifully, but if that's not a taste you favor, this isn't for you.

                2. The crust recipe is not traditional, but I have an visceral fear of rolling dough, and didn't want to use a prepared crust, so this solved the problem. It's more of a tart dough, and doesn't look that pretty, but tastes very good, and is dead easy. it's here:

                The cheesecake recipe is under "Espresso Chocolate Cheesecake Harris" in Epicurious. Per one reviewer's suggestion, I used chocolate teddy grahams for the crust instead of chocolate wafers, and the result was delicious. Warning, this is a fairly complicated recipe and took quite a while. It's extremely rich, so portions can be small and a multitude served. I used a slightly larger pan than called for, so had to be very careful spreading the crust so as not to have bald spots, but just cut the baking time down a bit and it came out perfect. Don't skip the aluminum foil wrap.


                1. re: MommaJ

                  Thank you. I've added the cheesecake to my recipe database and I'm planning it for Christmas.

                  I read through it and on at least a superficial assessment it doesn't sound particularly fussy. I judge it to be about typical for a cheesecake. ...unless I'm missing something.

                  Anyway, thanks. I'm looking forward to trying it.

            2. re: Divamac

              We had the same problem. Cheese and soup course was so good that we could barely touch the expertly made (literally, one of our friends is a chef) turkey.

              Spectacular - homemade pate with a brined pork loin in the middle, four cheeses with pears and onion jam, rainsin chutney and roasted figs, and a trio of soup shooters - heirloom tomato with quark, beet and carrot with coriander sour cream, cauliflower with bagna cauda.

              Good - the poor turkey that made the best leftovers on earth. Mashed potatoes. Mashed acorn squash. Chocolate truffles.

              The completely unloved - pumpkin tartlets, apple cobblers, green beans.

            3. Fortunately, mine was mostly good.

              Good: Diestel turkey with the dry bring. Luckily I trusted my probe thermometer and as soon as it started beeping, I pulled the bird out of the oven. Very moist and flavorful. Ruth's Chris sweet potato casserole. First time I ever replicated it exactly.

              Mediocre: The gravy I made from the drippings was just too salty. I'm a salt addict. I'll eat sea salt flecks when the mood strikes, but I couldn't deal with the gravy. Boyfriend liked it, so I guess it was a matter of preference.

              Bad: Curried cream onions from the last issue of Saveur. They weren't very flavorful, had a weird texture, and every time I looked down, I thought there was potato salad on my plate. Confusing.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Azizeh

                If you are heavy handed with the salt, throw a whole peeled potatoe in the pan with the gravy. It should help.

                1. re: mcel215

                  potato does not -- repeat *not* -- remove salt or salty flavor.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Hmm, all my friends swear it does.....

                    Haven't tried it, but will be tempted now. And my friends and I have been cooking for eons.

                    1. re: mcel215

                      alkapal is right. That potato/salt thing is an old wives' tale.

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        I think potato works in dishes where you can leave it IN and add bulk (making your dish bigger to match the amount of salt you added!). I don't think it works like a salt-sponge - taking up salt so that you can remove it (along with the potatoes) from a dish. So... I guess I think it can work sometimes, but not here!

                    2. re: alkapal

                      It's worked for me, sort of. But I used several raw white potatoes, sliced. Not a whole one, and not a baking potato. Reduced the saltiness of a broth made from country ham. Didn't **eliminate** the salt, but did reduce it.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Don't know about potato removing saltiness, but it does work to cut spiciness if you've been heavy handed with the crushed red pepper in tomato sauce

                    3. re: Azizeh

                      I made Ruth's Chris sweet potato too, from the Cooking Up A Storm (Times-Picayune post-Katrina recipe saving cookbook, love it)

                      The whole roasted sweet potatoes were so gorgeously sweet coming out of the oven that I left out the cup of sugar entirely, used half the vanilla and added a big T of chipotle in adobo (mostly sauce, not a whole pepper) Lovely light fluffy casserole, really nice. The pecan topping is delicous, and tastes great with the other stuff on the Thanksgiving plate.

                    4. The Good - wonderful 18.5 pound, dry-brined (with the addition of fresh thyme and sage) turkey, spatchcocked and roasted for 2 hours. Gravy was delish -- made ahead with stock from 7 lbs. of turkey parts, pureed roasted shallots and dry sherry. Served it in a large cheese fondue pot, which did a great job of keep it hot. And finally, a fantastic new app for me -- bloody mary shrimp cocktail. Yum!

                      The Bad -- the balsamic glaze for my roasted onions REFUSED to come together, despite the fact that I've made this recipe several times before. The sugar kept crystallizing in the butter instead of dissolving. So 5 batches of glaze later (plus 3 pans, a pound of butter and a bottle of balsamic vinegar), I just gave up and winged it. Fortunately, the onions were still delicious. But boy did that glaze piss me off.

                      The Ugly -- my beautiful herb stuffing. It's my favorite part of the meal, so I made a HUGE amount -- two big casserole dishes. Baked for an hour at 375 covered, checked it and since it looked a little wet, I took the covers off and put the dishes back in the oven. Well, damn if I didn't get caught up with everything else and totally forget about the stuffing. It got totally dried out, with hard crusty edges that I could barely cut through. I was incredibly disappointed.

                      But overall, dinner was really wonderful, made even better by all the great friends we had together. And for anyone who saw my earlier thread -- yes, I made a salad! And yes, people ate it. Though I think for most, it was out of the desire to try a little of everything, even a boring old salad. :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        I always have dinner at someone else's house, and for many years all we had were the usuals, including gloppy vegetable dishes (some of which I made.) Finally, we decided to add in some crisper veggies and it's been very welcome -- a red cabbage coleslaw, and a greenbeans vinaigrette.

                      2. I didn't make the dinner part of the meal, but we were all amazed. Each year a family member buys a fresh turkey from a local farm, which costs a fortune. This year she made a fresh Butterball, unbrined and it was so darn good, we were all amazed. Me, especially.

                        Everything else was good, but the bird was the standout.

                        No bad parts of our dinner at all.

                        And Sasha, I make Ina Garten's make ahead gravy, but don't freeze it. I do it 3 days ahead.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: mcel215

                          I also cooked a fresh Butterball this year, about 14 lbs., and was very pleased. They are self basting.

                          The MIL commented that the white meat was "too" moist..... go figure.

                          1. re: Axalady

                            I must admit that I prefer my turkey on the dry side as well...of course, I would never tell you that outside of this forum!

                            1. re: Axalady

                              I ended up with a butterball turkey from costco and was happy. But had to settle for a little under 24 pounds which for me is on the small side for three people. Already have eaten turkey rice soup and the little thanksgiving "sliders' my dad turned me onto years ago. Cut the leftover pillsbury croissant rolls in half and add cold turkey, cold stuffing, and cranberry sauce. I pounded down five of the little suckers today. Yum!

                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                I don't understand. Three people eat more than 24lbs. of turkey? You guys must really love those day-after turkey sandwiches.

                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                  i was thinking the same thing... i cooked 15 or 16 pounds of chicken for 10 people and we had TONS of leftovers...

                                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                                    He he he! I do love me a bird with plenty of meat Christina and Goodhealth and Emme! I find a bigger turkey much easier to cook and make gravy from, and there is more in-bird stuffing to be had too. It stays hotter longer and it is simpler to get some moist white meat while making sure the dark meat is done enough. Also with a larger bird it is a better value as there is more edible meat for your money. More leftovers means more lazy yummy meals with hardly any work. And when I get tired of hot turkey sandwiches and cold turkey sandwiches (hasn't happened yet!) there is more turkey soup and turkey pot pie and maybe even turkey tetrazinni and turkey ala king. Happy sigh.

                                    1. re: givemecarbs

                                      i made a turkey with red pepper cream sauce served on linguine last night. not bad.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        I made a turkey based shepherd's pie, started with a layer of stuffing, added in a bechamel and gravy based filling with Bell's seasoning, onions, peppers, beech mushrooms and lots of turkey. Topped with the last of the mashed potatoes and tossed in the oven for a 1/2 hour until the top browned. Very tasty.

                                        1. re: Scrapironchef

                                          I made a Mexican Shepherds Pie, turkey mixed with salsa, topped with leftover mashed chipolte yams. But the Bowl of the Wife of Kit Carson Green Chili was the best leftover yet.

                                          1. re: Scrapironchef

                                            i love the layer of stuffing! time to make some more!

                                    2. re: givemecarbs

                                      the edible yield from a whole turkey is anywhere from 40-50%, so unless you did a really poor job of carving/stripping it and left a lot on the carcass, you should have had 10-12 pounds of meat. that's not enough for 3 people??

                                    3. re: Axalady

                                      you should have offered to let her barbecue her piece over an open stove flame until it was burnt and dry to her liking.

                                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                                        ha! we like ourselves lots of meat too. We made a 24 lb for 9 of us on T-day and another 22lb the following day, just so to prolong the happiness. I even made an extra batch of stuffing, just for kicks (sadly all gone).

                                        i got a whole turkey breast + carcass leftover. we were having turkey chili yesterday and will be eating plenty through this week. mmmm....

                                  2. I did a vegan feast for one, with a lacto-ovo dessert (favorite ex-boyfriend came over for that). Just because I was celebrating solo was no reason not to decorate the table! Anyway, I got to do Thanksgiving my way and try new recipes.

                                    Good: The stuffing I baked in a pumpkin. Just a basic bread stuffing with cubed bread, leeks-celery-carrots cooked in walnut oil at a lower heat (yeah, I know it's not a cooking oil, but it tasted lovely), combo of walnuts and pecans, some currants, poultry seasoning, parsley, and mixed together with veggie broth. The pumpkin acted to insulate the stuffing and kept it moist, plus it looked great!

                                    Also good: Dessert, which was an apple galette with homemade cinnamon ice cream. The galette used Bittman's tart pastry (slightly sweet) and sliced Jonagolds, lightly sprinkled with a Tbsp of sugar. Not too sweet, so it was a perfect foil for the wonderful ice cream.

                                    Also good, but not as good as the first two: Chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon. Good "meatier" sub for the turkey (I didn't want to do the Tofurkey thing). The leftovers will make great sandwiches--maybe I need to make a Cranberry sauce for the sammies!

                                    Mediocre: cooked Swiss chard (used walnut oil again) with salt and pepper. Not bad, just not memorable.

                                    Ugly: The Mushroom Gravy (from the latest issue of Veg News). I used original flavor rice milk, because I couldn't find unsweetened at the local market, so this wasn't a fault of the recipe. But it never thickened, and the flavor really was pretty awful. Too bad--the mushroom stock I made for it was actually very good (and I'll use it to cook rice). But it was still fun to try something new!

                                    Am attaching a photo of my Feast-for-One!

                                    1. my big hit was deep-fried pork belly confit from mark ruhlman. it was the second course, before the main. i served each of us 2 decent sized pieces, over watercress sauteed with lots of garlic, red chili and preserved lemons. served dijon mustard on the plate for the pork. big wow and a keeper.

                                      no misses, but i did set the bread on fire that i was broiling to have with the cheese course, lol.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        though of that pork belly makes me drool. Must have this on my list...

                                      2. I was a guest so I only contributed a couple of dishes including a Dorie
                                        Greenspan apple pie recipe that I think I got from Epicurious. I used four different kinds of apples, and the recipe had lemon zest, raisins, nutmeg and a little bit of tapioca. Honestly I think it was the best apple pie I ever had. The crust came out great too.

                                        1. Great: New York Times Dry-Brined Turkey ~ so good and easy! I will never go back to wet brining.

                                          Very good: Sweet Potato Gratin from NY Magazine: http://nymag.com/listings/recipe/swee...
                                          This was very good and easy, Sliced the potatoes and set up the pan the night before. Although it calls for a cup of maple syrup, the final product was not too sweet and the carmelized onions on top were great.

                                          Okay with adjustment: Carmelized Brussels Sprouts with Brown Butter and Bacon http://nymag.com/listings/recipe/cara...
                                          This recipe calls for 8 oz of brown butter after already carmelizing the sprouts in canola oil and adding bacon. Way too much brown butter and fat. I wound up using only a couple of tablespoons of brown butter and it was fine. This was also well received.

                                          1. Really good - the pie! I made a couple of 'experimental pies' for Thanksgiving this year... there were only two of us but I never bake pies and I wanted to play. I wasn't sure the recipes would work out so I made a regular pumpkin pie as well - it's still sitting in the fridge uncut but I'm sure it's fine! The pastry was far too soft and sticky to roll so I pressed it into the pans, but it came out lovely and crispy. I made a custard pie with a cranberry sauce layer in the base (homemade with apples and raisins), and I made a pineapple coconut cream pie with a coconut topping. Mmmm they were good!

                                            Good - the sweet potato casserole. I decided to roast the sweet potatoes before I made it, and it came out incredibly caramelised and gooey. Casserole contained roasted sweet potatoes, a touch of brown sugar and cinnamon and coconut, topped with marshmallows and pecans. It still tastes like dessert to me, but it was good stuff.

                                            Mediocre - the dressing and gravy. The dressing was in a pan a bit too big and I put it under the turkey to cook, so it is hard as a rock on the bottom. The gravy didn't have nearly enough flavour.

                                            Bad - the turkey. The packet said that it would take up to 3 hours to roast... and since it was on the small side I figured about 2-1/2. But the popup timer didn't pop for an hour hour after that! It ended up rather dried out and not particularly appetising. I think I'll go back to doing the breast alone next year...

                                            And the truly AWFUL - Cheap supermarket eggnog. We usually shop at Publix but they were closed for the holiday so we stopped in at Winn Dixie for a few last-minute necessities. I was tempted into a carton of eggnog, but I made the mistake of going with the store brand... it smells like artificial banana to me and has a strong chemical aftertaste. Very disappointing!

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                              Kajikit, the best thing to do with that pop-up timer is pull it out before you roast the bird. They're worthless.

                                              1. re: LauraGrace

                                                yep, a meat thermometer is your best friend for any roast fowl or meat.

                                              2. re: Kajikit

                                                I recommend the thermometer that you stick in and program and the other part sits on your counter and dings when it's ready. I got mine at Wm-Sonoma. Also, I always get a Butterball because I love white meat and it's never stringy if I get a 14 lb (or less) Butterball.

                                                1. re: walker

                                                  My digital probe thermometer was the best $20 I ever spent. I think I got it from Target or BB&B. I never roast meat without it.

                                                  1. re: walker

                                                    I use 3 (my guests call it the Borg turkey), thigh, leg and breast. I use Alton Brown's Good Eats brined turkey recipe and a Diestel free range Montessori schooled bird for the last 5 years and have always had great results.

                                                2. Not sure why your gravy didn't re-heat to the right consistency, but next time, puree it in a blender for a minute and it should come together fine.

                                                  1. Good: Dressing. The best I ever made, because it was the first year I made it with homemade stock. Today it will be sliced thin and fried for the best leftovers of the year!

                                                    Mediocre: Turkey. It was a gift from my school, which I deeply appreciated, but was a store-brand frozen specimen, not very delicious. But it saves me the guilt of not picking over it so meticulously. The stock it made smells delicious.

                                                    Bad: lucked out this year and didn't end up with anything BAD. Potatoes were a little salty but still delicious.

                                                    1. The good: moist slow-roasted free-range turkey. My first giblet/apple cider gravy which was actually quite easy and the best gravy I have ever made. The addition of dried cranberries to my sausage stuffing was a real crowd-pleaser. Kale and butternut squash gratin topped with grana padano cheese, and balsamic roasted brussle sprouts.
                                                      The bad: my mashed potatoes were bland. My husband does a much better job, next year he is back on duty.
                                                      The ugly- NO PIE LEFTOVERS! My dear MIL brought three pies, and my BIL finished off all of them. I swear he ate like seven pieces of pie. Still mad.

                                                      16 Replies
                                                      1. re: anchor

                                                        LOL!!! It took me years before I realized that it's legal to make pumpkin and pecan pie at other times of year besides in the two days before thanksgiving. Hehe...

                                                        1. re: anchor

                                                          Argh. Made beautiful pumpkin pie because BIL MUST HAVE and LOVES IT blah blah. He didn't touch it and he ate HALF A DEEP DISH APPLE PIE instead. Thus, no apple pie for me the next day for breakfast the next day.

                                                          He ate almost no dinner and kept staring at the pie. I thought it was because it was homely. No, the attack was planned.

                                                          1. re: JudiAU

                                                            But what a compliment to the baker!

                                                            1. re: JudiAU

                                                              hmmm, guess BIL ain't gettin' no pumpkin pie next year. ;-). (maybe not even an apple pie).

                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                No, I am sure next year I will hear endlessly about how BIL MUST HAVE and LOVES IT blah and if I don't make it I'll get a bunch of yucky purchased nonesense. So next year I'll just be smart and bake two apple pie to ensure all important breakfast pie.

                                                            2. re: anchor

                                                              no pie leftovers? OMG - we love leftover cranberry sauce on leftover pie!

                                                              1. re: Cynsa

                                                                Cynsa--I've never heard of that! What kind of pie do you recommend pairing with leftover cranberry sauce?


                                                                1. re: Cynsa

                                                                  wow, that sounds awesome.... I can imagine how good apple pie with a whole berry sauce (or even canberry, which i love) would taste.... yum! i might have to bake a pie and try it out :-)

                                                                  1. re: kubasd

                                                                    I make an apple deep dish pie with rhubarb and several types of berries in it, it's so good. Cranberry sauce would be a good alternate.

                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                      There's a great apple-cranberry crumb pie recipe on epicurious that's made with cranberry sauce.

                                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                        I'm going there right now, thanks! (I love me some cranberries!).

                                                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                            Thanks, I love that there's oatmeal in the topping, it's like a complete meal!

                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                              I have added walnuts to the topping at times, and that's great, too.

                                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                Even better, two of my favorite things.

                                                                  2. re: Cynsa

                                                                    Epi has a very good cranberry-apple pie with a cornmeal crust that combines the flavors nicely.

                                                                2. The good - Roasted Hazelnuts with Thyme http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                                                                  served with an assortment from the olive bar and sausage-stuffed mushrooms for cocktail hour. Every single nut was eaten (except for those dropped on the floor)!

                                                                  Candied sweet potatoes
                                                                  made with some modifications, which got all gooey and chewy around the edges. Five adults, hardly any left over. Best sweet potatoes ever.

                                                                  The bad: the turkey. Dry brined fresh organic free-range turkey ruined by my inattention and brain fart. Checked it 40 minutes before it was "supposed" to be done; it was already creeping towards 175. Brain fart = for some reason I had 350 in my brain as the correct cooking temperature. Way too hot. Turkey not unsalvageable, and no one else seemed to notice, but it was not my shining moment. Husband says I'm being too hard on myself, but I had such high expectations. I plan to make some great soup from the carcass, though - that still looks great. Great to read that I'm not the only one who had less-than-perfect turkeys, yet we all managed to have great days anyway!

                                                                  The ugly: an apple pie sent by a dear but aging friend of the family. Her pies used to be sooo delicious, full of plump, tart apples, my husband used to rave over them, so she always makes one just for him. This pie was sad and mushy; each one she makes just seems to get worse. At least she wasn't there to see us not enjoy it. We will send the empty, cleaned pie plate back to her with our most heartfelt thanks, and next year I will graciously accept but not count on her pie as an edible dessert.

                                                                  The truly amazing: I was organized, prepared and relaxed. All the dishes except the turkey were finished on time and with no chaos. All the cleanup that could have been done before the guests arrived WAS done, and the kitchen looked warm and inviting, not like a disaster area. I had time to change into clean, festive clothes before everyone arrived, so I felt good; I was able to enjoy a glass of wine and nibbles with everyone during cocktail hour instead of running around like a fool. We talked, laughed, and genuinely enjoyed each other's company for hours. I woke up to a fairly clean kitchen. And tonight, leftovers!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: lisavf

                                                                    I sympathize about the aging friend and the deteriorating baked goods. It's the same w/my grandpa who was a master baker in the european pastry tradition - napoleans and such. About 80 years old, I guess his tastebuds started to give out.

                                                                    The soup that I made with my too dry turkey was incredible and simple! I sauteed some chunky mirepoix in a little veg oil, then filled the pot with wonderful turkey stock made from the carcass. Tossed in chunked overdry turkey, a couple cups of rice, a few branches of thyme, and all the pureed veggies that made up my turkey roasting "rack." These were carrots, celery, garlic, and parsnips. It was soooo good.

                                                                  2. We may have had our best Thanksgiving ever. The food was good. The prep was stress-free. The company was excellent.

                                                                    Borrowing your markers:
                                                                    THE GOOD: The appetizers & soup were good. The flavors were yummy; the variety well-balanced. We had a curried sweet potato soup that simmered in a slow cooker for everyone to sip throughout the day, tiny roquefort & pear canapés, stuffed mushroom, chili pecans, herb-roasted olives with Marcona almonds, a crudité platter with a spinach, artichoke Parmesan dip.

                                                                    Dinner was really good. Dry-brined turkey, sage bread stuffing with gravy, truffled mashed potatoes, creamed onions, baked winter squash (I used 3 varieties), roasted carrots, canned cranberry sauce and a homemade cranberry conserve.

                                                                    Of the desserts the ice cream was good. I made Muscovado sugar and eggnog ice creams.

                                                                    THE LESS GOOD: This year it was the desserts that came up a little short even tho they're usually my strong suit. I doubled the batch of the "no-fail" pastry I've come to rely on over the years and it failed. Boy did it fail! It seemed more shortening than anything else and sorta "melted" over the pies. The apples in the apple pie were a bit undercooked. I can warm the leftovers and resolve that. The maple cream pie had a pie shell, from that disappointing pastry, that floated up into the filling. But it tasted good and I think it will become a Thanksgiving standard. The family was split on whether or whether not to top it with meringue next year.

                                                                    Of dinner, the Brussels sprouts which were prepared with shallots and pancetta in brown butter could have been cooked a minute or two less before finishing them in the sauté.

                                                                    THE TRULY SAD: Dessert again. I did Sherry Yard's Triple Silken Pumpkin Torte. It should have been amazing. The flavor was very nice and I think the three different textures would have been really interesting. The thing is, it was so pretty that I took it from the fridge and the springform to have it out on the dessert table for the wow factor as people arrived. Over the course of appetizers and dinner I watched the cream layer disappear and the soft top layer spread out over the baked pumpkin custard.

                                                                    I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying it but between my own foolishness AND the nasty sugar burn I got trying to retrieve the thermometer from the caramel, I think we'll go back to our pumpkin cheesecake next year.

                                                                    Also this is the second year I've attempted to mold my cranberry conserve in a lovely brown ceramic mold I bought from Williams-Sonoma. Both years it refused to release until it had been heated into a blob. Next year I'm simply putting it in a pretty glass dish when it's made a week early and leaving the mold up on the wall as a decoration.

                                                                    TRULY EXCELLENT: This year in addition to my master plan, I did an Excel spreadsheet with the oven temps and oven times for everything with notes about whatever extra prep beyond that. I was able to sort by things that could go into the same oven and things that worked in the same time frame. It was a real asset to stress-free operations.


                                                                    Thanks for this topic. I'm copying these notes into my menu for next year's planning.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: rainey

                                                                      Regarding the spreadsheet, I do the same thing every year when I host a large-ish crowd for Passover. I even put down what serving dishes I am going to use for each given dish. It is a lifesaver for me when entertaining.

                                                                      We were guests at my sister's house (there was a total of 14 people there). Everything was very good. Turkey a bit dry, even though my sister did use the Thermapen that I gave to her a few years ago. I think the dryness was due in part to the very thin slices of the white meat (BIL did the slicing). But the mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta, stuffing were all great. My MIL brought a "carrot ring" which was good. (It's cakelike and made in a bundt pan and she likes to tell everyone that this one recipe has 3 sticks of butter.) I never even tasted the sweet potatoes or green beans...they just don't do it for me.

                                                                      I brought desserts -- fudge pecan pie and an apple cranberry pie. Apple cranberry pie was excellent, fudge pecan was good but not great.

                                                                      We all know how much we have to be thankful for and we really had a very nice day.

                                                                      1. re: rainey

                                                                        rainey -- I've noticed that pumpkin recipe in the Yard book. It looked complicated.

                                                                        But I will take your experience with it into account if moved to try it.

                                                                      2. We had a delightful multi-cultural Thanksgiving affair.

                                                                        The staff from our restaurant was joined by a bunch of relatives. The Chinese chefs spent all day Wednesday preparing vegetables, seafood and meats to do "hua gua;" the Chinese hot pot filled with broth that you add the raw materials to. We brought the food to the house in huge pots, 3-4 huge plastic "bus pans" etc.

                                                                        My contribution was a turkey (fresh -- 12 lbs.) that I'd planned on dry brining but I got lazy and used a wet brine. After brining, I dried the bird off, covered it with olive oil and herbs including marjoram, basil (yeah, dried) and lavender. Slow cooked the bird -- very slowly (175 degrees for 8 hours) and it came out remarkably tender, well-flavored and juicy. I put some onions in the cavity and poured some white wine in, doing a Peter Lorre-esque voice saying "drink, drink! my little birdie." All day Thursday, one or more of my guests screamed "drink, drink! drink!" whenever I took a sip of my wine.

                                                                        We had some delightful exotic green vegetables (Chinese Broccoli, Mustard Greens, and Watercress) that were swished around briefly in the hot pots and sauced with a Hoisen-based sauce to which was added a little bit of spice and some sesame oil.

                                                                        Wines were a Tavel (I forget what vineyard), a Vouvray from Chat. Montfort, and a few assorted bottles of red, including an '05 Steltzner Claret that drank beautifully.

                                                                        Surprise hit was the caesar salad that my sister-in-law requested. I didn't think Chinese people liked cheese, but everyone at our table ate a small plate of my Asiago-heavy salad.

                                                                        Many at our table dispensed with the pumpkin pie and instead ate the Apple Jack/Spiced buttere yams that I sauteed, for dessert.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: shaogo

                                                                          Just out of curiousity -- is the dry brining harder to do than the wet brining? My SO has been the turkey master for the last few years. He switched to dry brining for the first time this year partly because he thought it would be easier to handle than the bucket full of brine and turkey in the fridge.

                                                                          We were very happy with the results. Very tender but not mushy turkey.

                                                                          1. re: karykat

                                                                            Dry brining is a lot easier, but you have to start it on Sunday or Monday to serve on Thursday, so if you're not ready with your turkey by then, or it's not defrosted by then, then it's hard to do.

                                                                            1. re: karykat

                                                                              Much easier and tastier. Next time try it spatchcoked. Wonderful and fast too

                                                                          2. Really happy again with the second time I've roasted a Trader Joe's fresh pre-brined turkey, and there were comments on both the flavor and how moist it was. The stuffing is always a big hit (based on Silver Palate: Good Times cookbook with Grand Marnier, dried apricots, and sausage). This year I left out my addition of chestnuts and no one noticed it, so I'll skip that from now on. New this year was a sweet potato gratin with chipotle cream just for me since I was the only one who likes sweet potatoes. So good. I'll make it again. Easy too - a Bobby Flay recipe.

                                                                            Things I wish I had done differently - it ended up being a very small group with just guys watching football this year. Needless to say, the crudites and dip didn't get touched. I shouldn't have made them. Also, all that work, and they wolfed down dinner in front of the TV. I could have just made stuffing, turkey, potatoes and gravy and nobody would have noticed. Well, I guess I would. Then everybody was so full, dessert didn't get touched so now I have a cherry cheesecake (which was specially requested) and pumpkin pie we'll be eating all week. oomph.

                                                                            On the other hand, my favorite part is having turkey dinner tonight again, when I'm relaxed and can enjoy it. We make cocktails, open a nice bottle of wine, and settle down in front of a movie. Can't wait!

                                                                            Pic of Turkey Dinner plate:

                                                                            1. the good - it was just our immediate family, low key & delightful. My daughter (8) helped me make the mashed taters and the stuffing, and she was very proud of herself! The potato is always one of our favorites - fluffy, buttery, and just delicious. I swear by the ricer.

                                                                              the bad - my new probe meat thermometer (a replacement for one that died recently) did not work at all. (I posted under cookware, looking for suggestions for a new one, if you have a favorite!) Digital instant read saved the day. The in-bird stuffing needed a little time in the oven after the bird was done, just to crisp it up. Still tasty.

                                                                              the ugly - oldest kid ended up with a fever & bad cough last night, resulting in us having to cancel our plans today to have extended family up here for a separate feast. Not all ugly, I guess, because I had already made my favorite spinach dip and fudge, so we have been munching on that all day.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: elfcook

                                                                                We typically have just the nuclear family and I love how low key and intimate it is.

                                                                              2. THE GOOD - 12 people at the table, some visited from across the country, some old friends as our annual tradition and some new comers to the table. I made turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, three vegetable dishes, cranberry sauce and 3 desserts. No disasters, kitchen was pretty clean when everyone came over and all the dishes were on track. Standout dishes were the carrots roasted with sage, shallots and thyme, the sauteed broccoli rabe, the cranberry sauce with ginger and orange zest and the dry brined turkey.

                                                                                THE BAD – I was so tired that I couldn’t actually taste the food. In addition to turkey day dinner, I made a 5 course Chinese meal for the out of town guests on Wednesday night, turkey trotted Thanksgiving morning and then homemade dumplings and stir fried vegetables for turkey day lunch. By the time guests came, I only had the energy to finish cooking dinner and to be personable. The taste buds had shut down.

                                                                                THE UGLY – one of the desserts was a chocolate pudding pie with crème fraiche topping. The flavor was amazing but the pudding never gelled. So, the cookie crust was delicious as was the crème fraiche topping. But the pudding ran everywhere. I ended up pouring most of it out and drinking it like chocolate milk today. Intense chocolate and it would have gone great with the other two components. But, it was a big running mess.

                                                                                All in all, it was still an incredible fun Thanksgiving holiday with old and new friends.

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: beetlebug

                                                                                  I checked out the carrot recipe (at Epi, right?)...it's roasted on the stovetop? Sounds really delicious. Now, see here Beetlebug, you overdid it if you couldn't really enjoy it and perhaps almost put yourself in the hospital, to boot!!! But, I'm in awe of all that you accomplished!!!!

                                                                                  1. re: Val

                                                                                    The carrots were from Nov, 2009 Gourmet magazine. I'm sure it's the same one on Epi since this is roasted on the stove top. You're right, I didn't enjoy the food as much, but I loved all my company. I really enjoy having everyone together eating and drinking.

                                                                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                                                                      I did that same carrot recipe! ( epi ) I did it on the stove top and it was delicious. I was in charge of a vegetable dish and I wanted something stove top, not baked ( no room ) and it was extremely easy and EVERYONE raved over it. Start of a new tradition for sure...

                                                                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                                                                        Thank you! I've been trying to remember where I saw that recipe. I read so many food magazines, I had about 6 options. Gourmet, got it.

                                                                                        I'll have to make it soon, I still have the photo in my head and it's been sounding good lately.

                                                                                        1. re: Azizeh

                                                                                          We've made that carrot recipe 4 times since we got the magazine. They're fantastic. Big hit at the Thanksgiving table.

                                                                                  2. We were only four at dinner so we go light on the number of dishes...

                                                                                    The Good: Almost everything...candied sweet potatoes from a November Gourmet Mag of many years ago. (Not the one with bourbon that was posted above, but otherwise just like it.) The WORLD'S Best Braised Cabbage, from All About Braising. 12 lb fresh turkey made by my expert turkey-cooking neighbor. The new 9 month-old hound dog was surprisingly good also....didn't see that coming.

                                                                                    The Bad: The stuffing, also made by neighbor. Okay chowpup loves it, but it's that perfectly cubed Pepperidge Farm stuff and NOT cooked in the bird. Such a loss. And the gravy he makes, well even though it is home-made, it tastes, somehow, not.

                                                                                    The Ugly: Well, Chowpup made her first pumpkin pie and forgot to add the eggs. She used the variation in Joy of Cooking that subs sour cream for the canned milk, so fortunately, even though it didn't "set" it was sufficiently thick upon cooking and cooling. Tasted good though. And my cherry pie was runny. Boo hoo! Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose....

                                                                                    1. THE GOOD - Alton Brown's Good Eats Turkey! I've brined for the past several years but this is the first time I've tried his Food Network recipe and his roasting technique. Best turkey I've ever made. Now if only my husband and I could learn to carve.
                                                                                      Also great was the salad - spinach, chopped romaine, and sliced endive with balsamic vinaigrette (with a touch of honey), red grapes, Bosc pears, spicy candied walnuts, and Gorgonzola. And my pumpkin pie is fabulous, if I do say so myself. Both the crust and the pie come from Marcia Adams' Cooking in Quilt Country. I use her Pat-in-Pan crust and the base of her Praline Pumpkin Pie, then fill with the standard recipe from the back of the pumpkin can. Then I chill the pie until it's very, very cold and serve with lots of sweetened whipped cream. I also used a new apricot-cranberry sauce recipe from Dorie Greenspan that I, at least, really enjoyed
                                                                                      THE SO-SO - The dressing and gravy. We're Southern, and dressing to us is about two-thirds cornbread and one-third PF stuffing mix, plus poultry seasoning, more sage and thyme, lots of butter, onion, and celery, all held together with homemade turkey broth. I roasted a turkey breast and necks over the weekend and spent the entire day Saturday making stock from them. It was good, but for that much advance work I expected it to make this the first truly sublime pan of dressing ever. I was a little disappointed with both the dressing and the gravy I made from that broth.
                                                                                      THE B - I wouldn't say my green beans sauteed with shallots, lemon zest, and Italian parsley were bad, just boring. The green vegetable part of my Thanksgivings always suffers, in part because by the time everyone has helped themselves to all the other denser dishes, the beans or broccoli or whatever are stone cold.
                                                                                      Yesterday was family, today is a bunch of Japanese exchange students. I'm roasting them a new turkey but otherwise just reheating.

                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: redthong

                                                                                        redthong, is the Alton Brown recipe you used the one with the candied ginger in the brine, and apple & cinnamon stick in the cavity?

                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                          That's the one. I followed the recipe exactly, except that I made most of the vegetable stock from scratch instead of using the boxed type. From looking at various boards, apparently there is confusion about what temperature the breast should reach. I used his "turkey triangle" on the breast and cooked until that area was 161. Also, I had earlier raised a question on this board about which kosher salt to use since the recipe didn't specify. I went with Morton, used a scant 1 cup, and had absolutely no complaints about saltiness or the lack thereof from anyone.

                                                                                          1. re: redthong

                                                                                            great, thanks. after reading your report and all the raves on the FN site, i may have to try this one!

                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                              My first ever turkey was a Good Eats turkey...it got an enthusiastic thumbs up from my mom, who would have had no problem telling me if it was not good. High praise indeed!

                                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                Go for it, works for me like a champ every time I've used it. If you follow the recipe it is infallible.

                                                                                          2. Scrumptious - My Butternut Squash soup was outstanding. My Cranberry and Mixed Berry sauces were also awesome. The stars of my Meal though go to my Pumpkin Pie w. Coconut Milk ( w. Spiced Oatmeal crust) and My Apple Crumb Pie ( w. spiced Whole Wheat Crust).

                                                                                            Tasty - My Fresh Organic Turkey was very good and I'm glad I brined it because I almost over cooked it ( it was still very juicy though) I still can't believe how quick fresh Turkeys cook. My Green Bean casserole (which I make from scratch w. my own Cream of Mushroom soup and dried my own onions ) is yummy. Made Maple Sweet Potatoes that are great.

                                                                                            Arghhh - Although my stuffing was delicious I did have to bake bread I use for my stuffing twice. The first time I broke a glass baking dish and I though I got some on my bread cubes. This then threw me behind on my whole schedule. I also did all of the Prep, cooking and cleaning by myself which was tiring. lastly the Turkey stock I made wasn't as flavorfull as in the past, so some of the things made from it are not up to what I expect of my food.

                                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Jred01

                                                                                              I just said to my husband before, if I didn't have to clean the entire house too, my meal would have been better than Martha Stewart.

                                                                                              I bought a giant aluminum roast pan a few years ago to accomodate my ever increasing birds, but unfortunately it's non-stick: it was a good deal but I feel deglazing it is weird and I didn't bother this time. Made the gravy with just giblet stock. When I cleaned it later I smelled the deliciousness that I was washing down the drain and was mad at myself.

                                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                                another thread in the making...."thanksgiving regrets"....?

                                                                                              2. re: Jred01

                                                                                                Oh my. Could you please share that pumpkin pie recipe? I want to try for one for Christmas, and that sounds great!

                                                                                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                                  Well it wasn't an exact recipe that I followed, but here's the jist:

                                                                                                  The crust was more of a cookie crust. I made a very thick Oatmeal of Oats, Maple syrup, Water and Spices and pressed it into a greased pie pan.
                                                                                                  I baked it until it was hardend.

                                                                                                  For the filling I used a fresh Pumpkin that I roasted and squeezed out the excess water from. I then blended it with 1 egg and 1 extra yolk, about a cup of Coconut Milk, 1/2 a Vanilla bean, pinch each of Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Ginger and Clove.

                                                                                                  Bake until filling set.

                                                                                                    1. re: Jred01

                                                                                                      What did your crust turn out like? It sounds wonderful. What's the texture?

                                                                                                      And where did you come up with that? Never heard of using flavored oatmeal this way.

                                                                                                  1. re: Jred01

                                                                                                    jred1- do you have a copy of the pumpkin pie with coconut? YUM

                                                                                                    1. re: drewb123

                                                                                                      look at the second half/paragraph of the reply directly above yours, posted at 9:08 yesterday morning.

                                                                                                  2. I cut the breast , backbone, legs and thighs off and dry brined "Judyed" a 25 pound Diestel turkey I knew not to trust my Dacor oven probe which as usual was 20 degrees off. Had a seperate remote probe which I cooked to 160, however the instant read said it was more like 165. What was interesting is that I allowed 2- 2 1/2 hours for roasting, starting at 425 for 1/2 hour and then lowering the temp...it took over 3 hours...what if I would have left the bird in tact! The turkey was still moist luckily, but I thought the gravy was just too salty. Even though I had made and frozen my stock ahead of time, the pan drippings just were too salty. I would do the dry brine again, but discard all the drippings and only use what fond is in the pan alone with the reduced stock.

                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: donali

                                                                                                      Well...we went to friends for Thanksgiving...I brought what looked like a delicious Pecan pie from Whole Foods.

                                                                                                      EVERYTHING was AWFUL!!! And I mean awful. The turkey was dry, stringy, and had a very odd texture. Stuffing was a bag (fine with me - not easy to mess that up) but tasted dry and awful. Sweet potato casserole had liquid pooling when you cut into it. Pooling. Mashed potatoes were bland and dry. String bean casserole was a big mush with awful flavor. Homemade apple pie was undercooked. Pie I brought that we were actually looking forward to was a gummy mess.

                                                                                                      Needless to say dinner was not a success. And with the annoyances of the friends and family there, I am quite happy to be home tonight to eat pasta and sauce and call it a day!

                                                                                                      1. re: lovessushi

                                                                                                        I worked, even though I did not have to. Was not invited anywhere and did not feel like going through all the expense and trouble of putting on the big dinner and inviting people.

                                                                                                        Your day, lovessushi, was a lot worse than my day working. So, I'll stop feeling sorry for myself.

                                                                                                        All this talk about turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry has me wanting it BADLY and I think I'm going to break down and make it all (and invite people) for Christmas Day.

                                                                                                        (I just can't stand it when people crowd in to my smallish kitchen -- I don't know how to keep them out when I'm preparing food and they just get in my way. I put drinks and snacks in dining room but that doesn't completely solve my problem.)

                                                                                                        1. re: walker

                                                                                                          put up a dog or child safety gate and make sure everyone has plenty to drink - perhaps tipsy guests won't want to risk tripping if they have to climb over it ;)

                                                                                                      2. re: donali

                                                                                                        Ok. Now this is making me feel I did the right thing. My SO has been making the turkey the last few years, wet brining it and this year dry brining it for the first time. Each year I have bought fresh turkey thighes, giblets and wings, etc. and roasted them and made gravy from the drippings with chicken broth. Have done the night before or morning of.

                                                                                                        This year, I started to think, maybe I have been going to unnecessary lengths, not just using the drippings from his turkey.

                                                                                                        Now I'm starting to think I should stay on that track. (And I make plenty so there's gravy for all the leftovers in abundance and to freeze, so maybe that's another good reason.)

                                                                                                        1. re: karykat

                                                                                                          Google for Bobby Flay's Sage and green peppercorn gravy, it's a make ahead using smoked turkey wings. I double the recipe and have plenty.

                                                                                                      3. We visited friends, and we brought the pies.
                                                                                                        The Good: Apple cranberry pie.
                                                                                                        The OK: Turkey, cajun spices but roasted too long. I'm going to use their spices on a breast next week, see if I can get it right.
                                                                                                        Rolls, baked that day, but a little dense.
                                                                                                        Potatoes, with cream cheese, good texture and flavor, but uninspiring.
                                                                                                        The Bad: Sweet potatoes underdone, and gravy form a jar.

                                                                                                        1. The Very Good - The fried turkey always a favorite in my house, a chocolate oblivion torte which tasted wonderful and looked so very pretty. I also stuffed some pear halves with a goat cheese filling, baked them and drizzled with a port wine reduction. This was a gamble because it was a brand new recipe, I know a big no-no but still worked out well. The best part of dinner was the fact that we set down to eat 15 minutes early, which never happens at my house.

                                                                                                          The Good - Ruth's Chris sweet potato casserole recipe, the cornbread stuffing, braised greens, cranberry sauce with apples, pumpkin pie and cornbread.

                                                                                                          The Bad - The oyster dressing was entirely too salty. My green bean casserole which is normally good, this time I guess I hurried the sauce and it was a bit too thin.

                                                                                                          The Ugly - My turkey gravy was a bit on the weak side, I was not happy. DH said it wasn't that bad, I'm not sure I believe him though. The people scattered (nearly unconscious) all over my living room two hours after the fact.

                                                                                                          1. Many things were good, my grandmother called today to say that the entire meal was perfect (and it is generally very hard to please my more gourmet tendencies and hers that are not so much).

                                                                                                            Also great was the monkey bread; I used the recipe from the LA Times from a month or so ago, and my mom liked it better than her grandmother's recipe. I'm upset that it's all gone already, I'm making two more batches tomorrow.

                                                                                                            The turkey, dry brined (with thyme, sage, and pepper combined with the salt) starting on Sunday night, was great. Evenly cooked, moist, excellent. I also had to carve the turkey for the first time ever, and that was also good -- I watched three videos online (including the Chow video), and they all helped a lot, and my mom told me that I carved it better than her brother (who usually does the carving).

                                                                                                            Both dressings were also good, the cornbread/andouille that my mom cobbled together from a few recipes, and the Oyster/Bacon dressing that I got from Epicurious. And Martha's Macaroni and Cheese was as good as always, even cooked a day in advance and reheated in the toaster oven.

                                                                                                            The okay: the bourbon pumpkin pie and the pecan pie, both from the November Gourmet. The pumpkin pie was all right, but I think it should have had brown sugar instead of white. I used fresh pumpkin, which made the batter a wonderfully marigold color. The pecan pie was good today after being in the fridge all night, but wasn't set last night, and it had been baked hours before. It may have been in too deep a pie plate, though.

                                                                                                            1. My stepsister and I split the duties, so I wished I had had more menu control, but alas...

                                                                                                              THE GOOD: My roast chickens were fall off the bone tender. Everyone raved, and not only asked why we hadn't done this before, but insisted that it be my chicken again next year. My gingerbread, which is always requested (and makes me feel good :) Sister's stuffing (made from cornbread, white bread and melba toast). Spinach dip (also my sister's).

                                                                                                              THE SO-SO: mashed potatoes from Martha Stewart's mom... some people loved them and asked for the recipe, but I kind of wished I'd done something different; texturally, they seemed not good to me. Corn Pudding Souffle from Epicurious (my sister's)... kind of bland and just meh. Mashed Sweet Potatoes (too much ginger and nutmeg for my taste, but again, not my dish). Fruit Crumble with Apples, Pears, and Cranberries (sister's dish as well)... nice topping but cranberries were too tart.

                                                                                                              THE LESS THAN SO-SO, but not BAD: Carrots and Parsnips (too much thyme); Fresh Cranberry Sauce (too tart and too much vanilla). The GRAVY (sister took the drippings from my chicken...) - but one chicken got flipped over and resalted and the drippings were saltier than necessary, so when this got poured into the gravy... oy. Sister tried to water it down, as we didn't have any extra potatoes on hand... It was okay, but not stellar... just too salty.

                                                                                                              MY BAD: I forgot the pumpkin pie at home, and rather than me come back, we shot down to Marie Callendar's to pick up the signature pumpkin... it was fine... really just something for the grandmothers to eat; otherwise, they'd question how we knew it was Thanksgiving.

                                                                                                              MY BRAIN FART: in my rush to get everything done, i trussed the chickens and somehow put them in their pans upside down, so after they came out, and i realized they were breast side down, i had to flip them over and brown the breasts slightly. the chickens were still fall-off-the-bone juicy incredible.

                                                                                                              Thank goodness we have a whole nother year before we have to do it again...

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                Some people prefer to cook chicken breast side down and yours sounded perfect!

                                                                                                                1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                  Could you please share your gingerbread recipe?

                                                                                                                2. The bad: I am totally convinced I undercooked the turkey, because the juices were pink, though it was 163 at the breast and a full 180 at the thigh, with TWO thermometers. Even there, it was by far the tenderest, juiciest turkey I've ever made. Nonetheless, I nuked the leftovers because I couldn't get the specter of poisoning my entire family out of my head. For the record, it's now about 28 hours since we ate, and everyone still lives.

                                                                                                                  The less good: I made a butternut squash gratin and topped it with breadcrumbs and black walnuts. I didn't realize almost everyone at the table hates black walnuts. And it's too rich for me to eat the leftovers, really. Oh well. I enjoyed it at the time, even if I didn't enjoy lying awake almost all night because I was so full.

                                                                                                                  The best: Wednesday night, I made a good gravy starting with turkey tails and wings, which I turned into a rich stock and further enhanced with a good shot of cream sherry. That one was nice, but I had so many good pan juices from cooking the juicy, heavily buttered turkey atop a bed of carrots and celery (seriously, don't use a rack) that I went ahead and made a second gravy right before dinner with all that goodness. The butter was pooling slightly on the top, and that was just absolutely fine with my diners. My god, it was awesome -- easily the best I've ever made. Especially compared to the one I accidentally "thickened" with powdered sugar one year while cooking at my sister's house. (An aside: Who has a cannister of powdered sugar on the counter top?)

                                                                                                                  Also really good: My sister-in-law made good pumpkin and excellent pecan pies, and my mother-in-law made one of the best deep-dish apple pies I've ever tasted.

                                                                                                                  Not much to regret this year. First Thanksgiving in the house we've been rehabbing for the past two years, and the first real meal I've prepared in the almost-completed kitchen. It took two solid days of cooking, but I wouldn't have changed much.

                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                                    The bad - I know exactly how you feel. In my case, the breast thermometer read 165 and the thigh thermometer read 184.
                                                                                                                    The good - I didn't panic when I discovered that the bird wasn't quite done and proceeded to carve it all up and finish the cooking on the stovetop with two breasts in one pan and the dark meat in another. Since we never carve the whole bird at the table anymore, no one was the wiser.

                                                                                                                    1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                                      I cooked a second turkey on Friday night for a different group of guests and had the same pink juice problem. I'd let the breast come to 161 and the thigh to about 165, then covered it with foil and two towels and let it rest 40 minutes before I carved. Despite the pinkness, it was thoroughly cooked all the way through - I'm sure because after dinner I carved up the rest of it and there was not even a hint of pink in the dark meat at the bone. I have posted earlier on this board about having this problem with chickens, and I'm still mystified as to what causes it.

                                                                                                                      1. re: dmd_kc

                                                                                                                        I have an explanation for the pink turkey, from Cooks Illustrated's Holiday Entertaining 2009 special issue (with the delicious-looking crusted filet on the cover):

                                                                                                                        "Having prepared thousands of turkeys in the test kitchen, we have experienced the occasional slice of pink turkey meat, even when the bird is fully cooked. (We always rely on an instant-read thermometer to ascertain doneness when roasting poultry. In the case of turkey, look for 165 degrees in the thickest portion of the breast and 170 to 175 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh.)

                                                                                                                        Just because a slice of turkey ha a pinkish tint doesn't necessarily mean it is underdone. In general, the red or pink color in meat is due to the red protein pigment called myoglobin in the muscle cells that store oxygen. Because the areas that tend to get the most exercise--the legs and thighs--require more oxygen, they contain more myoglobin (and are therefore darker in color) than the breasts. When oxygen is attached to myoglobin in the cells, it is bright red. As turkey (or chicken) roasts in the oven, the oxygen attached to the myoglobin is released, and the meat becomes lighter and browner in color. However, if there are trace amounts of other gases formed in a hot oven or grill, they may react to the myoglobin to produce a pink color, even if the turkey is fully-cooked."

                                                                                                                        1. re: katrinkala

                                                                                                                          Good to know. My turkey breast that I made this weekend had a pink tint to the meat and it made me wonder, even though I knew it was fully cooked (instant read thermometer).

                                                                                                                          1. re: katrinkala

                                                                                                                            Very informative, thanks for sharing. Our Diestel turkey was running red with blood. In 35 years of cooking I've never seen white meat that was fully cooked, but stained red. It was my first time preparing a Diestel. I imagine since it was a caged free hen, she did lots of running. Nevertheless it was unappetizing and not particularly good. Thankfully I had two Empire Kosher 1/2 breasts to fill in with. They're always juicy and succulent!

                                                                                                                        2. Excellent-We had a nothing special turkey, no brining, just lots of butter and freash sage under the skin, basted it frequently, pulled it out at 155* and it was succulent. Good basic bread and sausage stuffing and pan gravy to go with.
                                                                                                                          Nice medium-rare eye of round au jus on the side.
                                                                                                                          Mashed potates with herbs and cream cheese, very fresh, beautiful broccoli with lemon and butter, arroz con gandules with bits of ham and pork ribs, cranberry sauce with orange and ginger rounded it out and was all good.
                                                                                                                          Serviceable pumpkin pie, a very nice apple pie and a cream pie pie with a fresh raspberry glaze finished us off.
                                                                                                                          Lots of wine, beer and vodka with cranberry-apple juice at the bar. I had three drinks before dinner and had a hard time staying awake, since I got up at 3:30 am that morning.
                                                                                                                          My wonderful, generous host gave us lots of leftovers, so we'll have Thanksgiving for a few more days.
                                                                                                                          The best part? Seeing friends I haven't seen for quite awhile, catching up and just enjoying each other's company.
                                                                                                                          It was a very good year.

                                                                                                                          1. The GOOD: organic pasture-raised bird, brined and cooked at high heat til 160 internal temp. Dense, delicious, all the white meat was moist. Gravy made in the roasting pan with turkey broth and turkey pan grease. Ruth Chris sweet potato casserole with pecan brown sugar topping, leaving out the sugar and most of the vanilla, and adding chipotle adobo sauce. Roasted sweet potato spears with Indian spices. Mashed potatoes with a chive-grain mustard-guinness topping. Green salad with shallot sherry vinegar mustard, pears and grape tomatoes. Cranberry apricot pie. Pumpkin pie with real whip cream.

                                                                                                                            The OVER-THE-TOP: dressing made with eggs, cream, mushrooms, Italian sausage, and dark bread. Cream? Def gilding the lily, but it was spectacular. Brussels sprouts pan-roasted with dried mission figs and bacon. Apple pie with gruyere in the crust...the lard crust. (/faints)

                                                                                                                            The BEST: above was result of a pot-luck t'day with wonderful friends who all know how to cook.

                                                                                                                            12 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: pitu

                                                                                                                              pitu, it all sounds amazing! Can you tell us more about the apple pie with gruyere in the crust? Where did that recipe come from?


                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                'fraid not TDQ, I didn't make that one. Gruyere in the crust is g.e.n.i.u.s. tho.

                                                                                                                                1. re: pitu

                                                                                                                                  Sounds like it! Well, that just gives you something specific to look forward to next year. I did a little googling and it seems like apple pie with gruyere crust yields many hits, so, shouldn't be too hard to find a recipe if one wanted to try one for herself.

                                                                                                                                  Thanks for sharing your lovely Thanksgiving with us.


                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                    I make a crust with cheddar cheese in it for an apple pie. I make th crust in the cuisinart and grate in some cheddar with it, amount depending how cheesy I want the crust. Delicious.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                      TDQ, i'm sure you came up with this one in your search, but i figured i'd post the link for anyone else who's interested. sounds like the right recipe because it specifies [leaf] lard for the crust:


                                                                                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                        Yes, that's the one I looked at, too. There were many others, it seems, but that's the link I actually opened. Funny! Thank you!

                                                                                                                                        emilief--cheddar in the crust sounds delicious, too!


                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                          I made two apple pies with gruyere crusts for the SF Chowhound picnic this year, recipe here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6569...

                                                                                                                                2. re: pitu

                                                                                                                                  p.s. The OVER-IT: fresh cranberry relish that tastes overwhelmingly of orange. I am just done with it!

                                                                                                                                  p.p.s. what's with brussels sprouts everywhere this year? I love 'em and one friend is a genius with them and makes sprouts every year, but all of a sudden . . . everyone else is too. I think they are best shredded on a mandoline. Whole or halved sprouts are just too bulky with all that other food.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: pitu

                                                                                                                                    For the last few years, I have been doing my cranberries with a couple pinches of finely chopped rosemary...it lends a fabulous flavor!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: soyummmy

                                                                                                                                      i agree: cranberries with a little rosemary is a delicious combination.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                        Ive been making a dip this fall that is a blend of cannelini beans, cranberry sauce, rosemary, sage, and crushed red pepper flakes- definitely a great flavor combination!!!!

                                                                                                                                  2. re: pitu

                                                                                                                                    Good night, I'm going to dream about that dressing -- and make a pan of it next year, alongside the traditional style for the half of my family who would murder me if I deviated from the Rockwell version.

                                                                                                                                  3. For logistical reasons, we had a simple meal en famille on Thursday, and the bigger, more traditional event on Friday this year. We'd all been too busy to research or think out newer, more modern selections, so we stuck to a set of traditional, mostly tried and true dishes-- and I have to say, nearly all turned out great! In fact, we decided to bundle up this set of recipes as our go-to menu from now on. I completely skipped our usual set of appetizers and some of the sides (corn pudding, indian pudding), which kept things quite manageable, and meant fewer things got barely touched. In fact, we may be through most of the leftovers by tonight!

                                                                                                                                    - Curried squash soup with frizzled leeks (an old Gourmet recipe, and a thanksgiving staple in our house since it appeared in the magazine in the mid-90's)

                                                                                                                                    - Braised Turkey: the Mark Bittman "deconstructed" version, with kosher turkey parts. I've made this several times now, and I don't think I'll ever cook turkey any other way again. It comes out looking golden and crispy and wonderful, and since you don't cook the breast as long, everything is done to the proper temperature. The one "just OK" part was the gravy, which I made using a NY times recipe from a couple years ago, roasting up a bunch of wings and then using them to make stock, along with the drippings. I've really liked this one in the past; this time it was completely fine, but nothing to write home about. (Maybe I usually cook the flour longer?)

                                                                                                                                    - Sage stuffing, from epicurious (1975 Gourmet magazine). Rich but simple- mushrooms, celery, onion, liver, sage, thyme, stock, and lots of butter and cream. Not too wet and not too dry, it toasted up nicely

                                                                                                                                    - Buttermilk mashed potatoes

                                                                                                                                    - Roasted brussels sprouts with brown butter, sea salt, and toasted pecans

                                                                                                                                    - creamed onions (by a special request!). I usually find these boring, but I boiled these in white wine, and a little thyme in with the cream really helped.

                                                                                                                                    - "Cosmopolitan cranberry sauce", also from epicurious - simple and no-frills (I'm a cranberry purist, no walnuts or horseradish or other additions for me!)

                                                                                                                                    - An apple tart for dessert (local macouns, with cream cheese and egg layer, slightly cheesecake-like), and a pumpkin pie made lazily with a prefab trader joe's crust (that part was completely disappointing- came out soggy, and didn't hold its shape while baking


                                                                                                                                    Now it's time to find recipes that use up all the remaining sage and thyme in the fridge! :)

                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                    1. re: another_adam

                                                                                                                                      Gnocci with a browned butter sage sauce.

                                                                                                                                    2. Good - dry brined turkey breast, cornbread and sausage stuffing, maple glazed yams with pecan topping, turkey gravy. I had dinner with the folks but did all the cooking at their home. Since they bought a turkey breast instead of whole turkey, I picked up a couple packages of turkey back pieces to use to make stock for the gravy and it turned out fabulous.

                                                                                                                                      Not so great - parents picked up a frozen Sara Lee apple pie, which I cooked according to the time directed on the box, and burned the crap out of it. (I swear it wasn't on purpose!) The pecan pie was made according to the recipe on the Karo bottle, which I've made in the past, but it seemed particularly sickeningly sweet this year, not sure why.

                                                                                                                                      The pumpkin pie was kind of a surprise. Tried a new recipe that used a can of sweetened condensed milk, but combined cooking techniques from a CI recipe. I mixed up the pumpkin, milk and spices and took out about 1/2 cup to mix with the eggs. The remainder I heated in a saucepan while I partially blind baked the crust. Combined the warmed pumpkin mixture with the pumpkin/egg mixture and poured it into the hot pie crust. The partial cooking of the crust took 15 minutes, and the rest of the baking only took an additional 15 minutes. It was a total fluke that I happened to look in on the pie just to see if the crust was browning too fast and realized it was already completely cooked. The original recipe called for 50-60 minutes of baking time.

                                                                                                                                      1. well, very little bad about our meal, thanks to Susan for doing most of the cooking/hosting! Probably the worst part was the rolls I brought...they were store-bought and not great to begin with, and then due to oven space limitations I decided to heat them up on the still-hot ashes from the grilled turkey....but I guess the ashes were TOO hot and I burnt some...oh well, there were way too many anyway..and no one really noticed with all the food...

                                                                                                                                        About that grilled turkey: yum! It was wonderful! Not sure what if any rub Susan used, but it was delicious! The one roasted in the oven was good too: both were Mary's turkeys..(A California brand, apparently) and had a good turkey taste....of course, there was WAY too much meat...I didn't feel the least bit guilty about helping myself to some to make turkey sandwiches for the long drive home....

                                                                                                                                        Everything else was very good, and there was plenty to eat. What more can you ask for?

                                                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                          the turkeys were halal Mary's free range, and I was very pleased with them. No rub at all: just kosher salt, pepper and olive oil, and onions, lemons from my tree and marjoram and sage from my garden stuffed inside (the only food plants in my garden right now are lemons, sage and marjoram, but it sounds cool to say it . I guess I have a turkey-oriented garden:-))

                                                                                                                                          The grilled turkey was the smaller of my two, and did come out perfectly if I do say so myself (16.7 pounds, a bit under 2.5 hours on the weber). My other turkey was over 20 lbs, and while the breast was (I thought) a bit too dry, it was very flavorful. The thighs weren't quite done, we just put them in soup. Interestingly,a friend and I had a turkey soup cookoff the next day, and the consensus was that the one made from the oven roasted carcass was better than the one made from the weber grilled carcass. I plan to do a seperate post about that soon...

                                                                                                                                          Don't feel bad about the rolls. Even with two ovens in my large beautiful new kitchen, doing Thanksgiving dinner for twenty plus can be a bit of a challenge. I was thankful that it was a beautiful day in Merced: we served buffet style, and half of the group enjoyed the sunshine and changing leaf colors from our patio table, while the other half took over the dining room (and the teenagers loved eating in the bar :-)) Weather outside didn't break records for Thanksgiving Day apparently, but at 70 degrees and sunny, it came close!

                                                                                                                                          As for the rolls, they were fine, and there was WAY too much food anyway (which is how I like it). Besides, another guest brought some rolls that we didn't even put out (yours were better! :-)) and the leftovers made excellent homemade croutons for the soup the next day! Sorry you couldn't stay long enough to try them....

                                                                                                                                          I was pleased with my mashed potatoes this year, and I give credit to the potato variety. Unfortunately, I forgot the varietal name, but it is basically a cross between a yukon gold and a russet, with some of the better qualities of each. Anyone know what that is?

                                                                                                                                          I also liked the roasted carrots with mint and a bit of basalmic vinegar.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                            Susan, if you happen to come accross or recall that variety, would you mind posting? Our potatoes were decidedly meh this time around, and I'd love a better game plan for Christmas...

                                                                                                                                            1. re: enbell

                                                                                                                                              will see if I can scope it out and will post if I find it: they were purchased at my local Raley's. Even the leftovers re-heated were very good.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                Thank you Susan. I used to live in the Reno area (Janet's old stomping grounds), and I still miss Raley's! My folks still live in the area, so I will have my mom check out the potato varieties. It is always a good sign when leftovers stand up to a re-heating :)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: enbell

                                                                                                                                                  ok, the variety is Sierra Gold. It is a trademarked variety (sold under a "Nob Hill" ie Raley's name) so I suspect it is something engineered. Grown in CA and OR. It had yellow flesh, but better (to me) flavor than a yukon gold, and skin like a russet.

                                                                                                                                                  I used butter, half and half and a little 2% milk, plus a bit of the potato water, and salt and peooer.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                    Thank you, Susan. I'll give these a go for Christmas. Have a wonderful holiday season yourself :)

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                      Yes, those Sierra Gold potatoes are good...haven't seen any here in Vegas, unfortunately. Maybe I'll have Jerry pick me up some when he's in Reno for my Christmas dinner...

                                                                                                                                                      Glad the croutons were good. And the carrots were excellent! BTW, if the breast meat on the large turkey was dry, nobody noticed. Of course, I only eat dark meat anyway..:-) I felt only a little bit guilty about pouncing on the buffet table early and snagging one of the two grilled turkey drumsticks..yum! Perfect with Prerna's cranberry chutney!

                                                                                                                                              2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                wanted to add; I made my squash soup again this year, and served it as an appetizer with little bowls/cups, pre-dinner, along with crudites and some cheese and crackers brought by another sister. We had scheduled dinner at four, but some folks came as early as one, so it worked well as the center of a 'mini-lunch' and was delicious, as always! I always get compliments on that soup!

                                                                                                                                                Anyway, wanted to bump up this old thread from a few Thanksgivings ago:


                                                                                                                                                to mention that this year I followed Jasmine's advice and scraped the seeds out of the squash (I used a combination of delicata and butternut this year) before roasting it. A 'duh, why didn't I think of that myself?' moment. MUCH, easier, worked perfectly, and made a favorite recipe that much easier! (thanks Jasmine!) Easier yet, I finally had purchased an emersion blender this year after wanting one for ages....and my son loved blending the soup for me! :-)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                  Yay, glad my suggestion was a good one! I need to make that soup this winter -- as soon as Santa brings me a new immersion blender, mine bit the dust.

                                                                                                                                              3. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                                                                I hope I don't sound too heartless saying we didn't put out the other rolls...we did put out the other guests garlic bread, and that got eaten...we just had about three times as many rolls as we needed! I think Janet subscribes to the same theory as I do (namely, that way too much food is just enough!).

                                                                                                                                              4. the good- cooking all day with great friends and having a fun gathering with even more friends. The corn pudding, chestnut pancetta stuffing, and mashed potatoes were all delicious and we couldn't get enough!

                                                                                                                                                the less good- The turkey was a bit overcooked. I got distracted with other things and it finished cooking sooner than i expected-although gravy helped. Cornbread was also baked 3 minutes longer than necessary-but it still tasted great with orange butter!

                                                                                                                                                the bad- We burnt the bacon for the salad! Ooops. My boyfriend heard someone complain about the dry cornbread-which was funny to me since the cornbread he had brought last year was like a rock! hmph.

                                                                                                                                                1. For me the good was the locally grown, free range organic turkey, which was great. It was a lot bigger than I wanted, almost 25 pounds, but we ended up with more people, so alls well... The cranberry sauce made with merlot was really quite delicious. I made well over 7 pounds of potatoes and people were fighting over them. Amazing. They're clamoring for more.
                                                                                                                                                  The bad: I used King Arthur white whole wheat flour for my pie crusts and it was a battle the whole way. I had to resort to wax paper to even get them to stick together when I rolled them out. Then they looked really dark to the point of being burnt when they cooked. The taste, however was very good and they weren't burnt. The pie filling was the Cooks Illustrated pumpkin pie recipe with sweet potato, which I doubled, and I don't blind-bake the crusts as recommended because I'm not very good at it. They came out amazing, even though Cooks Illustrated recipes are written by people who have never had to wash their own dishes -- seriously could they make you take more steps with more bowls? We had a young man from Australia here who had his first pumpkin pie ever and he scarfed the whole slice. My nephew, who professes to hate pie (how can you hate pie? It's like saying you hate sunshine?) was converted by my apple pie ala mode (had to give him a familiar taste to bridge to the pie. I used pink lady and granny smith locally grown organic apples and they were amazing.
                                                                                                                                                  The ugly: creamed onions started well but ended up brown looking. They tasted OK if you didn't look too hard.

                                                                                                                                                  1. The Good - A few days before the event, I suggested to a customer she try rocky mnt oysters in her stuffing instead of the traditional type. Her husband and I had a good laugh as she mulled around that idea. Then she realized what they were, and almost passed out in shock.

                                                                                                                                                    The Bad - My relative's cat nibbling at the turkey while it was resting on the counter top before we carved it.

                                                                                                                                                    The Ugly - My mother-in-law and her sister fighting and hackling at each other all day.
                                                                                                                                                    That and the terrible migraine it gave me.

                                                                                                                                                    1. Great - Turkey ("dry-brined" [kosher salt/sweet paprika/brown sugar/thyme/rosemary] heritage from Mary's); cornbread fennel sausage stuffing; Alton Brown green bean casserole; acorn/butternut squash soup; cranberry bacon rosemary port chutney; Russian Hill pinot noirs (Dutton Ranch and Lera's Vineyard - both 2000).

                                                                                                                                                      Good - pumpkin whoopie pies (would have been great but I slightly under-baked the "cookies"; Claim Jumper pumpkin pie (wife unapologetically insists on this every year, and without fail, every guest unknowingly raves about it).

                                                                                                                                                      Mediocre - Mark Peel mashed potatoes (would have been phenomenal except the recipe called for too much cream and made it more of a loose puree than mashed potatoes [I followed the recipe exactly down to the ounce]); ; Turley 2004 Dusi Zin (very very good on it's own - completely wrong for turkey, and possibly any food).

                                                                                                                                                      Bad - nothing really.

                                                                                                                                                      Ugly - Turkey cooking WAY faster than expected, completely throwing my timing off on everything else; stabbing the turkey thigh repeatedly with a thermometer to find the "deepest part" like a heroin addict trying to find a good vein; running out of time and having to nix one of my dishes altogether.

                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: krick

                                                                                                                                                        I laughed out loud at the part about stabbing the turkey "like a heroin addict trying to find a good vein"...

                                                                                                                                                        That line made me recall my firsts with other kinds of poultry (duck, game hens, pheasant, goose) and all the anxiety that went with wanting to get them cooked thoroughly, yet not dried out!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: krick

                                                                                                                                                          Great line about the addict. We felt the same way. We spatchcocked it and no joke the 16 pound bird took 70 minutes exactly too cook. We knew it cooked fast but seriously! Racing and then I casually suggested that my husband check the bird and yikes.

                                                                                                                                                          What did you think of the Mary's heritage. We were going to try one and then chickened out because it was our first time hosting.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                                                                                            I liked the Mary's a lot, although it was my first time dry-brining (always wet brined in the past), so I can't be certain if it was the bird or the technique that made the difference. Really good turkey flavor - more so than the heritage bird I had last year (can't remember the brand of that one).

                                                                                                                                                            That being said, I'm not sure I would buy it again because it didn't quite rise to the level necessary to justify the price ($90 + tax). To put in context though, I'm just not a turkey lover - I don't dislike it, but it generally doesn't do much for me, regardless of how well cooked and seasoned it is. So although I thought this one was really good for turkey, it was really more of a side, with the actual sides being the main parts of the meal. On the other hand, all of our other guests raved about the turkey and said it was one of the best they've had (the others being the turkeys I describe below).

                                                                                                                                                            The only turkeys I've had that justified high-end pricing were (1) the first heritage turkeys I ordered directly from Slowfood.org many years ago back when they used to work with and sell directly from what was back then the handful of heritage turkey farms in the US, and (2) the David Rosengarten Ultra-Ball. The Slowfood heritage birds were, if I recall, around $120-130 shipped, and were worth every penny for their deep, almost gamy, turkey flavor, For lack of a better way to describe them, they tasted like what I would imagine wild turkeys tasted like centuries ago - they were revelatory in taste and texture For whatever reason, the birds I subsequently ordered from the Slowfood offshoot - Heritage Foods - were never as good (still good, just not great) - which may have been just luck of the draw in terms of the turkey breeds I got (they sell 4 breeds, but you don't get to choose which one you get) or a function of changes in the farming practices necessary to support increased demand. The Rosengarten turkey was another bird entirely (excuse the pun). Not a heritage bird, but rather a "standard" free range organic Eberly Farms turkey injected with an insane concoction of duck fat, butter, melted pancetta and god knows what else. It was absurdly expensive ($150 +) and absurdly rich, moist and flavorful for turkey. Unfortunately, it, along with the Rosengarten Report, is no longer available.

                                                                                                                                                        2. P.S.:

                                                                                                                                                          Thanksgiving morning beloved spouse and I ran to our restaurant (closed for the day) to prepare some of the food for the meal at our house. This year, I put a quartered onion and some bay leaves in the water for the potatoes (for mashed). Instead of boiling potatoes, then peeling them, I made them the way I used to, peeling first and then boiling in the fragrant water. I used "chef" potatoes from Maine.

                                                                                                                                                          Beloved spouse asked why the heck I wanted to peel all those potatoes, and wouldn't it be easier to cook 'em first and rub off the peels. I wouldn't have it. I opened a bottle of wine at 10:30, tossed a token amount into the stock reduction for my gravy, and poured glasses for she and I. Boy, did that make the potato-peeling go fast, and easy!

                                                                                                                                                          We made a lot of the potatoes: probably twelve pounds of potatoes worth. I didn't skimp on either the butter or the half-and-half. I certainly didn't set out to do it, but it turned out that they were probably the best mashed potatoes we'd ever had.

                                                                                                                                                          My wife loved them so much she was passing out dishes of the mashed potatoes, both re-heated plain, and with gravy, to some of our favorite customers at the restaurant for the past two days. Many asked me if they could get more, and also asked to taste other Thanksgiving leftovers. Of course we obliged, because we'd intentionally made enough food to have lots of leftovers.

                                                                                                                                                          Ours is an Asian restaurant. We've always been closed Thanksgiving day, but it looks like we have enough core customers who're interested in buying into our "multi-cultural" holiday meal *next* year. My wife, upon hearing the compliments about the food, announced to everyone that we'd be open, and I'd be cooking the "American" half of the meal. Gee, thanks!

                                                                                                                                                          1. Brought a few dishes to a potluck. Here's the rundown:

                                                                                                                                                            -Mixed: Cheese board with manchego and soft goat cheese, baguette, fig jam, and Martha Stewart's shallot-cherry confit (http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/s...). All good, except for the shallot confit. Even after doctoring, I found it to be too sour and overly oniony. All I could find were unsulphured, unsweetened dried cherries, and the end result was so tart, I ended up adding lingonberry jam and sugar for balance. The chunky texture was also a turn-off, and I ended up pureeing most of it. Disappointing, because I'd really looked forward to this. At least one of my friends took the leftovers,

                                                                                                                                                            -Surprisingly good: Yuppie-fied green been casserole. No leftovers. I used fresh green beans and made my own mushroom-bechamel (accidentally browned the roux a bit, but it worked out great) and added lots of herbs and some garlic and onion. Lightened up the topping by adding about 1/2 c. panko to the fried onions.

                                                                                                                                                            -Just OK: Chow's mushroom-fennel bread pudding. I thought it was a little "meh." We even doctored it up with more seasoning and garlic. For vegetarian, it wasn't bad, but it's not my favorite recipe for either fennel or stuffing (prefer heavy on the sage with some sausage and apple).

                                                                                                                                                            -Very good: Homemade cranberry sauce. I paid dearly for imported cranberries, but it was worth it in the end. Cooked the berries with sugar, water, and star anise. Tossed together with clementine segments, zest,and toasted walnuts when cool.

                                                                                                                                                            Others brought: turkey (amazingly juicy and flavorful---they know how to raise them in Germany!); saffron rice/cheese/mexicorn/cream of mushroom casserole (meh); mac 'n cheese (rather eggy, prefer creamy); green beans almondine with thai red pepper (good); roasted brussel sprouts with Parmesan (not browned enough, but OK); lime Jello salad with cream cheese and pineapple (strange, but kinda fun); mashed spuds (delicious); candied yams (ambivalent about sweet potatoes, but loved the Jamaican-spiced brown sugar mix); pumpkin pie (Libby's recipe with homemade pumpkin puree---very tasty); cornbread (very good, with a nice crust); "better than sex cake" (didn't live up to its name, but it was nice); lemon pound cake (pretty good, a little dry).

                                                                                                                                                            All that plus free-flowing wine, champagne, and conversation made for a very fun night with friends.

                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                                                                                              Christina, i haven't made the Chow bread pudding, but since you love fennel, try highlighting it in a gratin next time instead - i love it with potatoes and parsnips or turnips.

                                                                                                                                                              also, i don't know which version of "better than sex cake" you had, but the various recipes i've seen all seem to have way too much sugary goo going on, and just sound unnecessarily excessive.

                                                                                                                                                              also, i know you asked Emme above for her gingerbread recipe, and i'm sure she'll get back to you - she's good like that :) but i thought i'd also toss you a recommendation for the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread:

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                Ah! Somehow I missed that post, but my gingerbread is based on Gramercy Tavern's... I've just tweaked it a little over time... I go a little heavier on the beer/molasses combo- probably an extra tbsp or two of beer, and an extra tbsp or so of molasses... I *heavily* pack my brown sugar, and go a little lighter on the white. I skip the cardamom. I use somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 tsp dried cloves, and a little over 1/8 tsp dried nutmeg. I bake in 6 mini-loaf pans for 25 min at 350. I'm the worst to get recipes from because they're all "ish" and change a bit each time... Sorry, but hope this helps!

                                                                                                                                                            2. @ sasha1 - can you please post or direct me to your cranberry sauce w/ star anise recipe? sounds interesting and i'm always on the look out for a new cranberry recipe.

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: aussiewonder

                                                                                                                                                                Of course. It wasn't a recipe. I made simple syrup with 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Then tossed in a bag of picked over ocean spray cranberries and a couple star anise. It all cooked for maybe 15 minutes on low, then I stored it for about 5 days before serving. That lets the flavors blend. The anise flavor was very subtle, and I'd probably add an extra 1-2 next time.

                                                                                                                                                                My 3 year old loved it. He had one of those toddler partitioned plates, and he kept tipping it up to his mouth to drink the cranberry syrup. Each time he did it, the stuffing, green beans, etc, fell down the plate onto his upturned face. It was pretty funny :)

                                                                                                                                                                Here's an idea too for the leftover syrup, once all the berries have been eaten. Put it in a glass with some cold club soda. Cranberry spritzer.

                                                                                                                                                              2. This has been a fun thread to follow so I thought I'd chime in. I was lucky enough to have three thanksgiving meals this year(!!!)--I was invited to two on Thursday and I hosted one on Friday evening. My co-chef Emily and I decided to do pared-down versions of our favorite staples since we knew we'd be tired from being out elsewhere on Thurs. and had just a couple of friends over on Friday. Our friends said we were nuts for doing it but we just really wanted leftovers! We get a bunch of food mags (including food and wine, Bon Appetit, Vegetarian Times, Cooks Illustrated...a few others too I thinnk) and thought the Thanksgiving recipes in Bon Appetit looked especially promising and easy, so we tried a few, and all turned out really well...

                                                                                                                                                                -THE EXCELLENT: Fresh stuffing (not in the bird) with organic soft wheat bread, fennel, celery, sage, thyme, and dried cranberries. We baked it in a shallow casserole so the top was nice and crunchy and the bottom soft and delish. Emily's grandma's method.
                                                                                                                                                                -Fresh cranberry and whole grain mustard relish (from Bon Appetit 2009)--makes for awesome sandwiches and is an obvious combo if like me, you adore cranberries and mustard!

                                                                                                                                                                -THE VERY GOOD: We got a hormone-free kosher bird at Trader Joe's and although I grew up in a brining house, we decided to roast it more traditionally following the Clementine-Salted Turkey recipe in Bon Appetit (2009). Before roasting we rubbed a citrus zest-butter all over the bird and stuffed the cavity with time, citrus, and onions. We basted with more melted butter and fresh tangerine juice. The meat was flavorful with hints of citrus. I removed it at about 160 and it rested to about 167 before carving. It was a touch dry for my taste but everyone else loved it (I think maybe prior brining experience spoils you?)
                                                                                                                                                                -Steamed green beans tossed with caramelized onions and a bit of apple butter (my favorite easy side)

                                                                                                                                                                THE GOOD: Cornbread with brown sugar crust
                                                                                                                                                                -Thyme-roasted vegetable medley (halved brussell sprouts, small chunks of yams, carrots)
                                                                                                                                                                -Emily's mashed potatoes--I think if you use Yukon Golds, the mashing method doesn't matter as much. She used a hand mixer to mash in the potatoes, cream and butter, and they were light creamy and delicious all at once! I'm sure a ricer makes good spuds but this works well for us.
                                                                                                                                                                -PIE! I made a brown sugar pumpkin streusel pie (again from Bon App 2009) AND an apple oat crumble pie, which is basically like apple crisp except you bake it in a pie crust instead of a baking dish. This pie is always a hit even though I don't consider myself a strong baker. I would recommend this to anyone who thinks they can't bake an apple pie.

                                                                                                                                                                THE NOT-SO-GOOD: Bad gravy. I know better methods, but was short on time and used cornstarch to thicken a very basic gravy of strained drippings and pre-made stock from the turkey neck. It was sort of lumpy and icky. Guests didn't mind it but I can't look at it.

                                                                                                                                                                All in all, a successful Thanksgiving meal. Time to start planning for the next round of winter holidays!

                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: scarletcerise

                                                                                                                                                                  Is that apple oat pie available online? It sounds like a good one to add to the repertoire for someone with a baking disability like me :)

                                                                                                                                                                2. I am happy with little success these days.

                                                                                                                                                                  (1) Turkey was SMALLER -- 11 lbs. It was very good, and I successfully removed the wishbone for easy breast removal and crosswise slicing.

                                                                                                                                                                  (2) I was extremely happy with my cranberry-orange sauce; it was thicker than I usually have achieved, without having to add lots of sugar. Perfect.

                                                                                                                                                                  (3) According to my wife, my son, AND me, my gravy was the best I've ever made, the best they've ever tasted. I think I could drink it.

                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                                                                                    Jmckee, did the smaller turkey give up much fat and pan juices? Mine was 8.14 pounds and though the meat, white and dark, was beautifully moist, I hardly had any pan drippings to work with...had to add 1/2 stick of butter to start my roux! Just wondering about yours too though you report super gravy...mine was also very good but it was a 'wtf moment' for me, that's for sure!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Val

                                                                                                                                                                      It did OK. My roasting pan isn't my favorite dish -- it was a gift from my mother-in-law, who was not, shall we say, born to the apron and therefore got me one that's way too big -- but I added water to keep the drippings from burning now and again, and it turned out to have just enough drippings to do the flour, with a tablespoon of butter added.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. It was just me and my husband this year so I did a turkey breast in white wine sauce. Instead of buying a turkey breast I got a small (9 pound) whole turkey and hacked it up--and I do mean hack, I never knew turkeys had such sturdy spines. I used the legs and other parts for stock, some of which was used in the sauce. I also did Yukon Gold mashed potatoes using the basic recipe here, although I cut the quantity of cream to one cup (still used the stick of butter, though!). Both of the dishes came out tremendously.

                                                                                                                                                                    But I did have a bum note--the dressing. My local market makes this fantastic garlic cheddar bread and I thought it would make awesome dressing with sausage and seasonings. Nope. I don't know what happened but the bread was like a starch-laden vampire that sucked all the flavors out no matter what I used. I ended up picking out the sausage and tossing it.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. Went to a restaurant this year, which was odd and satisfying at the same time.

                                                                                                                                                                      But the next day I couldn't help myself but run out and get an 11 lb. Diestel turkey and roast it. I did my beloved bacon/oyster/sage dressing and roasted brussels sprouts, onions and carrots.

                                                                                                                                                                      But the bird. OH the bird! SO very tough. It was perfectly crisp and brown on the outside, and the meat was juicy throughout, but like rubber. Even the "oysters" in the back, which are usually like butter, were hard and rubbery. It is practically inedible, and that's an expensive piece of inedibility taking up real estate in my fridge. (What to do with tough turkey?!)

                                                                                                                                                                      I usually make a very good bird. I suspect that my technique, being rushed and not really focused, made the difference this year. I usually use the biggest roasting pan that will fit in the oven, and put the bird high up on a V rack to get it up off the bottom of the pan and allow hot air to circulate all around. This time I laid it down in a smaller, tight fitting roaster, and so when I added a tiny bit of water in the bottom as I usually do (to keep the juices-come-gravy from burning), I must have started a steaming/boiling effect.

                                                                                                                                                                      Oy vey, what a disappointment. If only it was dry, I could work with dry leftovers, not tough and rubbery.

                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                        Your technique may have left something to be desired, but I'm sensing a theme with Diestel birds this year!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: compucook

                                                                                                                                                                          Oh, it was by no means the technique. I do turkeys like I do chickens, and it is a flawless way to roast a bird. You'll notice I wrote my review of the Diestel turkey two years ago. I learned my lesson in 2009, and since then, including just yesterday mind you, I cooked a good old mass produced, cheap Butterball and it came out WONDERFULLY - juicy, super crisp, brown skin, well flavored, and so tender it was "like buttah." So, rather than looking for free range, organic fed, enlightened, sustainable, raised in a Tibetan co-op with profits going to the poor turkey, I look for cheap lazy turkeys raised on junk food.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. The Good, nay Great:
                                                                                                                                                                        - Silver Palate's Cornbread-Sausage-Apple-Delicious stuffing. My stuffing search is officially over.
                                                                                                                                                                        - Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey, brined overnight. The most attractive bird ever to come out of our kitchen. Pic here: http://muchdependsondinner.blogspot.com/
                                                                                                                                                                        - A cranberry orgy: Three varieties of cranberry sauce (Cranberry-horseradish Relish, Triple Cranberry Sauce (from epicuious), and a Triple Berry-Ginger-Pecan improvisation).
                                                                                                                                                                        - Julia Child's Braised Pearl Onions. Always at our table.
                                                                                                                                                                        - Martha's Pumpin Pie with Press-in Shortbread Crust.

                                                                                                                                                                        The Bad: Too-thin gravy. Does anyone have any great gravy recipes?

                                                                                                                                                                        The Ugly: All the spattered fat left in our oven, post-Turkey. Ugg.

                                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: muchdependsondinner

                                                                                                                                                                          How do you thicken your gravy? My best experience is always with a roux. I use a 1/4 cup turkey fat with a 1/4 cup flour for every 2 cups of stock/pan juices. Heat the fat until it's bubbling, then toss in the flour and stir it in until it's a smooth paste. Cook the roux until it's golden brown and bubbly, stirring occasionally. Then slowly whisk in some of the hot stock. Once it's all dissolved nicely, whisk in the rest of the liquid and simmer until thickened.

                                                                                                                                                                          Other tips:
                                                                                                                                                                          - deglazed your roasting pan with some dry sherry, white wine, brandy or cognac
                                                                                                                                                                          - roast a dozen or so shallots with your turkey (or on their own, if you're making gravy ahead of time), puree the shallots and stir into the gravy -- this not only thickens the gravy, but gives it amazing flavor
                                                                                                                                                                          - add a splash of soy sauce or Bragg's if your gravy doesn't have enough oomph (but the shallots usually eliminate that problem)

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, this is to me the best way to make your gravy...I know some use a slurry or cornstarch which will do the thickening alright but just does not offer the same richness as the roux.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                                                              Agree - this is what I do too.

                                                                                                                                                                              I usually make my gravy ahead of time for Thanksgiving. After making turkey stock, I chill and use the fat on top to make the roux. I make it a bit thicker than I want it, and on Thanksgiving add the roasted turkey pan juices.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. The star of the show.....the 20.75# free range turkey we named Frank. Baked him covered in cheesecloth basted with herb infused butter and he came out perfectly. The first turkey I have ever been excited about. Dh laughs because I keep snitching leftovers. The other key IMO was we decided to bake him on a rack in the roaster and in the bottom put carrots, onion, herbs, garlic, turkey stock and white wine. It didn't touch the turkey but seemed to keep it moist. We strained it afterwards and made thebest.gravy.ever. I have frozen the remaining drippings for future use.

                                                                                                                                                                            Other high points.....organic rosemary and sage stuffing mix from Fresh Market was great. Stuffed some in the turkey and baked the rest and combined.

                                                                                                                                                                            Crazy simply cranberry sauce that was very good. 12 oz cranberries, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup apple cider, cinnamon stick. Boil 10 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                            My brother's sweet potatoes and oyster stew...most consistent dishes year after year.

                                                                                                                                                                            Nothing failed this year. I believe the Thanksgiving Scrooge has been converted :-)

                                                                                                                                                                            1. Good: Butterball 13lb turkey, not brined. I do this every year and no complaints.
                                                                                                                                                                              Also Good: cranberry-orange sauce, pecan pie (Karo Syrup recipe), maple glazed brussels sprouts (Cook's Country recipe), and a simple bread stuffing with onion and mushrooms.

                                                                                                                                                                              Very Very Good: Sweet Potato-Carrot Tzimmes (recipe from Ben's Deli in NYC) as a stand in for sweet potato casserole. So good I had to make another batch to enjoy with the leftovers. And the GRAVY...oooh that was yummy! Love thickening it with beurre manie, so delicious!

                                                                                                                                                                              Not So Good: Sweet potato pie (Joy of Cooking recipe) turned out too light colored with little sweet potato flavor. Sticking with pumpkin from now on.

                                                                                                                                                                              Bad: eating too many leftovers while trimming the tree on Saturday. Also ran out of Penfold's Koonunga Hill Cab-Shiraz. A delicious $9.00 bottle if there ever was one. Dang, shoulda bought a case!

                                                                                                                                                                              1. The good – Stuffing with chorizo and kale greens, with all it’s red oily glory. I’m surprised that the kids ate all that kale, a full gallon ziplock full worth..
                                                                                                                                                                                Turkey, wet brined roasted along with truffle butter – it is perfectly juicy although I can’t really taste truffles (what a shame).
                                                                                                                                                                                Balsamic glazed ciopolli onions – it is just fantastic and perfect. I’m glad I took the time to peel those things.
                                                                                                                                                                                Gravy – everyone liked it, what’s not to like, fried flour in butter, cream and turkey parts…
                                                                                                                                                                                Caramel cranberry tarts – I cannot stop eating this… even when grossed out from all the food.
                                                                                                                                                                                Dulce de leche chessecake squares – cuz any event cannot be complete without chocolate component. I love casual desserts like this and textural contrast.
                                                                                                                                                                                Rosemary and walnut biscotti – good snack for the hungry cooks.
                                                                                                                                                                                Brussel sprouts roasted in brown butter and bacon – hardly a veggie dish at this pt.
                                                                                                                                                                                Fennel salad of oranges, saffron and garlic – refreshing…

                                                                                                                                                                                Okay – Mashed potatoes - it is good, as usual, but nothing ethereally distinguishable as the awesome stuffing.
                                                                                                                                                                                Cranberry sauce with oranges and grand marnier – still have loads of this though.
                                                                                                                                                                                Green bean casserole modern – sister bought too much mushrooms so it looked funny with a pile of shrooms. Oh well.. we still ate it all.

                                                                                                                                                                                Flop - Pumpkin pie – the filling was smooth and silky, the pastry portion sunk a bit in the pan and the bottom got a bit soggy. Sister + kids ate it all though =)
                                                                                                                                                                                Parker House rolls – I had this ingenious idea to make this look like a folded pita or “gua-bao” unfortunately, after rising, they came out resembling as lopsided booty/butts. It is just not pretty… but everyone got a kick out of this and had fun eating them at the table *_*

                                                                                                                                                                                We had a good o’ time. We even ate before 8PM!! Very unusual for us…

                                                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jeniyo

                                                                                                                                                                                  Everything sounds delicious! Do you have a recipe for the caramel cranberry tart?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Rubee

                                                                                                                                                                                    and for the balsamic cipollinis? thanks thank!!

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jeniyo

                                                                                                                                                                                        I have inly tried one of smitten's recipes and it was to DIE!! the sweet potatoe swiss chard recipe!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                2. Good -- my stuffing/ Costco spiral ham/ DDs 1st attempt at mashed potatoes/ cranberries cooked in orange juice instead of water (who knew?????), roasted brussel sprouts

                                                                                                                                                                                  Less Good -- BIL's turkey, (not brined) cooked in a westinghouse roaster it was so so

                                                                                                                                                                                  Truly Sad ~~ D Nephew's pumpkin cheesecake. Don't know why, just didn't come together correctly

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. The Good: Brined a turkey breast and it came out just right, a tad pink in places but white overall, and really moist.
                                                                                                                                                                                    The Regrettable: The gravy was salty; next time I'll skim out the fat, which I shouldn't have anyway, and add a little light olive oil instead.. The sweet potato casserole was too sweet; next time I'll cut way down on the brown sugar. The bacon in the green beans didn't fry up crispy; next time I'll use the cast iron skillet instead of the stainless electric one. I forgot to add the sugar to my pumpkin pie-cake and had to skim off the topping and remix, resulting in a more cakey than pielike texture; next time I will set out a mise en plas. Salad dressing was partially solidified, resulting in less flavor; next time I will leave it out at room temperature an hour or two before serving. The dressing turned out too solid and clumpy; next time I will use a different kind of bread, dry it in the oven, and add less water.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Had out T-Day on Sun, due to having to work on Thursday.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Great: I made a Indian pudding/ Hasty pudding that was delicious! It reminded me alot of a very thick and rich Malt-O-Meal cassarole, tasting of gingerbread. VERY very filling. It was easy to make, and cooked for 2 1/2 hours alongside the turkey. I loved it, the MIL, not so much. -I- was very happy with it! (she disliked the texture)

                                                                                                                                                                                      So-So: To me, the turkey was dry. The MIL liked it tho, so whatever. That's what gravy's for, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                      Bad: Having the husband flip out over my adding of sliced celery to the stuffing! >_< I did my prep the night before, and he saw the bags! (stupid me, now I know to hide them!) In the future, I will be PUREEING the hated veggies, and he will be none the wiser. (again, it's a texture thing for him)

                                                                                                                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Honeychan

                                                                                                                                                                                        tell him to suck it up and be glad you're doing the cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                                                                                                                          Oh, no worries there, I told him that, and MORE. The thing here, is that it goes in EVERY year, he just dosen't see it getting done. Out of sight, out of mind, for him.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I have to learn to creativly store things in the fridge. Or puree them. Wow, sounds like i'm cooking for a 5-year old! (sometimes, I wonder...)

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Honeychan

                                                                                                                                                                                            I knew someone whose husband refused to eat onion or garlic; she could not cook w/out it and would sneak it in but if he even saw a tiny bit of onion in a tomato sauce (for instance) he refused to eat the dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I just read Amarcord by Marcella Hazan and her husband NEVER would eat fowl of any kind; he seemed to eat everything else. I've never met anyone like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: walker

                                                                                                                                                                                                That's how i'm living these days, as well. If he dosen't see it, everything is just peachy. I grin, just knowing that once puree'ed, he will NEVER know! HE LIKES the flavor; and I think understands that onions are pretty much the world best flavor-inhancer, adding depth to almost everything it's in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                And here I am, addicted to onions. Not much tastes better than great French onion soup, to me!

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: walker

                                                                                                                                                                                                  my grandfather doesn't eat onions. however, his father, wouldn't enter a house with onions in them... i don't know how he knew or what went down, but certainly know there are stories of him flipping out and leaving, or forcing the offending bulbs to be tossed immediately...

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                                                                                                    WHAT?? That's just beyond weird.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I keep telling my DH that onions only want to be his friends, and show him love. He's still not convinced, but to flip out and leave the house? Honestly, I might have a laughing fit over that!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Honeychan

                                                                                                                                                                                                      many did... Joe was not amused... apparently. i was not there at the time, but the story is legendary.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I managed to have a hand in destroying two of my hostess' dishes. My girlfriend's daughter wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. I knew that she was really inexperienced when she requested that I bring a meat thermometer. Even though the daughter and my girlfriend had agreed that we would come at noon, my girlfriend was reluctant to arrive without further clearance that all was in order and we should come ahead.

                                                                                                                                                                                            She left a message for the daughter to call. The daughter did not get the message and did not call. We arrived about 12:45 as a result. The turkey was already cooking and had been for some time. The daughter asked me at what temperature a turkey should be cooked. ("Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!") I advised her to pull the turkey at 155 and let it coast to 165.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The daughter pulled the turkey out of the oven and the thermometer shot like a skyrocket to 190 immediately. I figure that after coasting, the temperature was more like 200. Needless to say, we had turkey jerky for Thanksgiving dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Meanwhile, the daughter's fiance was trying to be helpful. I was opening a bottle of wine and not paying much attention. I learned later that she was having trouble thickening the gravy. The fiance advised the daughter to use corn starch to thicken the gravy. He called into the other room where I was and asked me to confirm that corn starch could be used as a thickener. Not understanding the score, I agreed that corn starch was, indeed, an ideal thickener. The daughter then proceeded to pour about a third of a box of corn starch into the gravy.

                                                                                                                                                                                            As the gravy became glue-like, she tried to correct her error by adding milk . . . and more milk . . . and more milk.

                                                                                                                                                                                            However, Thanksgiving turned out fine. Boy, I sound a bit preachy here, but here it goes: Thanksgiving is about thanks and friends and fellowship more than food. (But next year, I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner!)

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I have had the same problem for the past few Thanksgivings. I usually buy a small heritage turkey. This year it was 9 lb. I allow it to come to room temparature (no brining) then roast it at 475 for 20 mins and then reduce the oven to 350. My oven thermostat is tempermental so I have a separate internal thermometer to make sure. Ok here's my problem. Every year the inner thigh of the bird reaches 150 after about an hour at 350, so 1 hr 20 mins total. Most recipes I see (except from the Agriculture Department) say that 150 is good for a juicy turkey, but not a single one mentions such a short cooking period. Most say 15 minutes per pound after the initial hot blast, which would be 2 hr 15 mins for my turkey. Afraid of poisoning my guests I left the turkey in for an extra 45 minutes (still 30 mins less than the recipe calls for) at which point the meat thermometer was close to 170. The turkey was OK but definitely dry. Anyone else have similiar experiences with small birds?

                                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: shane

                                                                                                                                                                                                Free range turkeys cook MUCH faster than standard turkey. Our 20.75# bird, stuffed, took a total of 3 hours to cook and was perfect. 15 minutes at 450 and remaining time at 330.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Wow, that is fast. That's about 8 minutes per pound at the cooler temperature. That would fit in pretty much with the time I observed and mine was unstuffed and at a slightly higher temperature. Next year I'll just be brave and trust the meat thermometer. This year my main problem was that the turkey was done an hour and a half before I expected, which totally screwed up my schedule. Had I taken the turkey out of the oven then it would have been stone cold by the time my guests arrived.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: shane

                                                                                                                                                                                                    The first year the turkey had to wait on everything (and everybody else). It was fine at room temperature and was REALLY moist as it had rested so long. Put some gravy, dressing and mashed potatoes on it and they warm it right up :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. The sublime: the HEB grocery store recipe for Buttermilk ranch mashed potatoes. They were dead simple: cook potatoes, run through ricer, stir in buttermilk ranch salad dressing, cheddar cheese and chopped chives. The recipe called for bacon but I ended up adding it to the shallot sauteed green beans (the so-so) because at that point adding bacon to these potatoes was just gilding the lily. There were no leftovers and they got all made and ready the day before and reheated beautifully! These are my new go to for mashed taters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                The horrible: The stiches and teatnus shot which resulted a nasty cut prepping the potatoes the day before. Yeah, just cause a knife is sharp dons't mean that it won't go skittering off the side of the potato into your finger. It just means it will cut you deeper.

                                                                                                                                                                                                The mysteriously so so: The brown sugar and butter glazed roasted sweet potatoes. These were just ok. and not that popular. I look through this blog to find the best sweet potatoe casserole.

                                                                                                                                                                                                The absolutly alarming: the turkey, a fresh 17 lb butterball, that not only had pink places it had meat that was texturally "not cooked" despite reaching the correct internal temp and cooking properly at 350 for 3.5 hours plus coasting for 45 minutes after under a nice toasty tent of foil and towels. I don't get this one at all, we had to nuke turkey to get a fair bit of it fully cooked. never had to do that before.

                                                                                                                                                                                                The truly dreadful: The homemade pecan pie we bought from the Women's missionary league at church. How does a soupy pecan pie happen??? Thank heavens it was a back-up dessert bought for charitable purposes only and we weren't depnding on it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: aggiecat

                                                                                                                                                                                                  since we can't assign blame on the missionary ladies for getting drunk and making the pies, then i'd assume that they simply misread the recipe and used too much corn syrup.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  if there is any left, it is nice warmed up, then layered with ice cream like a parfait.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                    yes it might be more challenging to keep track of the recipe after the 3rd glass of punch but without the punch........ Anywhoo, if the pie is truly soupy it would make a nice syrup.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. it wasn't this year, nor last exactly, but one year when i'd been consigned to wearing wrist braces both left and right and just wanted to do the meal that year nevertheless, i had a friend stay over to do athe push-pull of the turkey basting and the rest of the lifting..... i baste often for a chestnut-colored bird. it's probably just me. but at the last, the only guest whom i might have been able to ask to carve said no. so with nothing else to go on, i turned to the massive 48-pounder (well, maybe 22 pounds...) myself and before i could figure out a better way -- not being able to bend my wrists -- i'd bent over further and further to see the back side i was trying to carve up, and lo and behold heard my freshly-sprayed / shelacked hair fizzling in the candle's flame. i had no idea if i was going up in flames or simply smoldering and stinking up the joint for the rest of the day. the video shows only my hand jumping up off the top of the screen............ it was the latter, smoldering, stinking. a good bit of the front end of my 'do was destroyed!

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lil magill

                                                                                                                                                                                                    At least you caught it on video! That alone makes it worth it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Made my first Thanksgiving dinner this year for friends in town. And I thought it tuned out fantastic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Very good: Gravy - I make mine with pan drippings, butter, and wine. Yum. Stuffing - just simple with sausage, but is always my favorite part of the meal. Cranberry sauce - I simmered away in Mango juice and sugar for some time, then added some lime zest at the end - mmm, would highly recommend! Also green beans cooked in bacon, butter, and shallots.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Good: Turkey - it was a little underdone in some places, but mostly well cooked. I always stuff mine with lemons, limes, and onions then put an herbed garlic butter under the skin to give it lots of flavor. Usually it goes on the rotisserie, but it worked well in the oven. Roasted garlic mashed potatoes (roast the garlic and make sure you squeeze it when it's still pretty hot, otherwise it doesn't mash into the potatoes.) Chipotle-scalloped sweet potatoes, recipe by Bobby Flay.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Pretty good - Salad - just standard spring greens with homemade croutons (so easy, don't know why more people don't do this!) and a roasted red pepper vinaigrette (also homemade).

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Mediocre - Bourbon chocolate pecan pie - just a little too much chocolate that all sunk to the bottom, but still good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bad - Apple pie was runny and the bottom crust overcooked. Also, not nearly as special as it should have been with red wine...

                                                                                                                                                                                                    All in all successful dinner! Just a few friends, but better that way!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: 1Peter4

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sounds like a great dinner! Your cranberries were certainly different...I love cranberry juice with water and a fresh chunk of lime in it for a virgin drink...I can see how it would translate also to cranberry sauce!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Reviving this discussion for 2010, can we go back to the gravy? I don't understand how you make the gravy ahead of time. I only know how to make gravy with the drippings from the t-giving turkey after it cooks. While the bird is in the oven, I saute mushrooms and onions with a bit of fat, add some chicken broth, and let it bubble away with some parsley and maybe some sherry. Once the bird is out of the roasting pan, I spoon out the fat from the roasting pan and pour the mushroom/broth mixture into the roasting pan and scrape up the fond. It goes back into the broth pot with all those good cooked bits. then I put some flour and cream into a small jar with a lid, shake it until it's all mixed, pour that into the gravy to thicken it, and make sure it simmers for a few minutes to cook the flour and thicken. Voila -- amazing gravy! But I'm not sure it would have anything like the flavor if I didn't add the fond and the turkey juices from the roasting pan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Go to your butcher and ask them to save the parts from the turkeys they cut up. Wing tips, necks, backs, etc. Roast those up and make stock from the parts and make your fond from the drippings. Make your gravy from these parts and freeze. It's the best time saver, ever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ooooh (with an aura of wonderment.) That actually makes a lot of sense. Hmmm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                                                                                                                            OK, your first sentence may very well be my favorite response of all time! :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                            But yeah, it's kinda awesome to have a liter or two of gravy all ready for Thanksgiving day. This year, I'm going one further -- I actually bought a smallish fresh turkey during Canadian Thanksgiving and popped it in the freezer. It's currently thawing in my fridge and I'm going to be roasting it up for dinner this weekend. The carcass and parts will go to make my stock and gravy for U.S. Thanksgiving. I figure this way I actually get to leisurely enjoy the first turkey and won't mind so much if the turkey gets wiped out at the main event. I really get depressed if I don't have lots of leftovers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks! Re: leftovers, I don't really like the turkey on the first day. Just the sandwiches for days following, plus the turkey/rice stew made with the carcas and some curry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Or, if you can find it, get good quality turkey stock and save some time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                                                                                                                            For the last few years, I've been using the "Stress Free Gravy" recipe from Whole Foods:

                                                                                                                                                                                                            You do this day of while turkey is cooking OR the day before. Makes 4 cups:

                                                                                                                                                                                                            3 T unsalted butter
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1/3 cup all purpose flour
                                                                                                                                                                                                            4 cups turkey or chicken stock, heated to a simmer
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Pan drippings from turkey, with fat poured off
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1/2 cup red or white wine (or stock if you don't use wine)
                                                                                                                                                                                                            S & P to taste

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Heat butter in a heavy large saucepan over med-high heat until foaming and then all flour while whisking and cook for one minute, whisking continually. Pour in hot stock while whisking and then simmer (still whisking) for about a minute.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Gravy can be made to this point up to two days ahead. Set aside and refrigerate if not using immediately.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            When ready to finish the gravy, reheat it over med heat. When turkey is done, remove it from the roasting pan and tilt the pan and pour the fat off, leaving the drippings. Pour the wine into the pan with drippings, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Do not allow the wine to completely cook down, but do cook it until alcohol smell dissipates.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Pour the wine and the loosened browned bits into the warm gravy and cook at a simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Season with S & P to taste.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Smoked turkey wings available pretty much year round.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ok, brace yourself, this is long:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                For reheatable gravy you can't use cornstarch. It just breaks when you reheat it. I take the giblets, and innards of the bird, the saved bits from previously roasted chickens and roast the lot along with some butter, onion trimmings and celery trimmings and carrot trimmings (I save these in one big ziploc bag from a month or two before the big bird day) pretty much the kitchen sink on herbs and veg. OK, deglaze the pan with whatever rocks your world. I like hard cider, but apple juice, wine, sherry or whatever works for you and set aside. You have the choice at this point to proceed in with a flour slurry or a roux formation for the gravy thickening. You don't have to decide yet, just chill the dripping/deglazing combo. Take the roasted stuff, add water and make your broth. Skip the salting as you will want to correct the seasoning at the very last step, right before you decant the gravy to the dish to serve it. Trust me, it's waay safer; salty gravy is hard to fix.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                So, you now have the deglazing stuff cold in the fridge. The turkey shmaltz and butter should have solidified on the top. If you go the roux route, pop the fat disk off, use that to make your roux, go for golden brown adding more butter if there isn't enough fat for the quantity you want to make - standard white sauce ratio 1 tbsp fat/1 tbsp flour/1 c broth. Add the broth gradually to the roux stirring constantly until it comes to a boil, and gravy thickens. Add your thyme, sage, herbs, whatever you want but still hold off on the salt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The slurry method, is almost the same, heat up the fat and drippings, add the flour to the gelatinous(hopefully) broth, heat until the gravy boils, is thickened AND has lost the floury taste, this may take quite a bit longer than you would think. I'm not a fan of this method. I think browning the flour a little with the fat results is a better tasting gravy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                OK, at this point you can cool the gravy and hold in the fridge. I usually do this a day or two ahead. I've never frozen it but I suppose you could. On T-day, just reheat in a pan. if it curdles, whiz it with a stick blender or put in the blender. I've never had a problem with it though. Now, right after the bird comes out of the oven, drain off the fat and scrape up the drippings. I usually cook the bird over non-stick tinfoil and the drippings just slide off beaurtifully. OK, use a fat seperator (or skim) off the fat. Pour the fresh drippings into the hot gravy, stir, and NOW you season with salt, pepper and anything else that seems to be missing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                See, if you brine or season your bird and the gravy is already seasoned then your gravy will quickly become too salty. Pour into a pretty gravy boat and serve... or stand at the stove with a big spoon and ladle into own face while hoping no one catches you. This makes a really good gravy ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I meant to say that my SIL actually insists on having the packaged gravy mix! I nearly dropped the year we went down to their house for dinner and that's what she proposed to serve. Yikes! Oh well, whatever makes you think of home and happiness.... I guess...but,....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Just saw this question from a while ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I do as TorontoJo suggests. Buy some turkey wings, necks and other parts (about 3 pounds or so). I roast them with some onion til done so I have pan drippings. I usually refrigerate that and finish in the morning. Or do all the night ahead.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I take about 5 cups of homemade chicken broth. I simmer my turkey parts in that so my broth gets even better. May add a little water if I need more. Then put some broth in with about a half cup flour and whisk so I don't have lumps. Take some broth in with my roasting pan to get all the drippings incorporated. Add everything together. May add just a tablespoon or two of butter. And heat. This was based on a recipe I've adapted a little.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I noticed this year that my recipe doesn't start the usual way where you make a roux with flour and fat. This may make it a little thinner. But it had good flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Make a rich turkey stock ahead of time by roasting turkey parts, scraping up pan, and making a slow stock. If you want to saute or add things you can do it to the pan. Freeze or use. Make a good roux with a nutty color and aroma with butter and flour. Use stock to thicken. Allow to cook a good thirty minutes at least. You can freeze or use. A cooked roux has better flavor than raw flour and a long cooked gravy has better flavor than a fast day-of cooked gravy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You can add any drippings from your cooked turkey the day off.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. The Great: Tried a new turkey recipe from Ina Garten; roasted with truffle butter. True winner and plan to repeat again. Had been nervous as this was the first time I made the Turkey, and it was he first time my family deviated from my mom's 30 year method (Silver Platte/Cheesecloth baste) that always produced outstanding results. Since the BC method is SO much easier and truly moist, excellent, beautiful bird sticking with this. Turkey came out great even though I had set the oven to 350 vs 325 and didn't realize until 3/4 of the way through as I was getting sides in the oven.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Very Good: Haricot verts with shallots, Apple and Sausage Stuffing (using PF mix)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Serving Tip That Worked: Spread out our courses and served soup as a lunch as opposed to first course. This worked out great, since it was a smaller/immediate family gathering, as it solved the being famished before the main meal AND avoided the stress/rush to serve first course while doing the final prep. We've always served a variation on a pumpkin/squash soup and this year was a winner--ginger roasted butternut squash and carrot soup.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Eeh: Not awful but tried a lemon roasted sweet potato recipe from the Lee Brothers that was too tart. Will try something new next year in the SP category. Gravy, decided at the last minute not to do a giblet gravy, as we did in the past, tried just the pan drippings as Ina suggested in her cookbook, and really nothing special. Had some jar gravy which was just ok.Didn't bother me too much as I'm not so much a gravy person and the turkey didn't need. (Though leftovers might be a different story)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Ugly: Too many dishes!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I'll start with good:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Turkey- OMG good. First time I brined and will nevah go back. I was blown away at the taste and how well it cooked. I used Alton Brown's recipe for brine as a guide (used mostly water and a bit of chicken stock) and used his high to low cooking method with a remote thermometer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Stuffing- DH was in charge and it was delicious with dried cherries and pecan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Roasted balsamic brussels. I overcooked them. Still edible, just taken too far.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I bought small potatoes at the farmers market, thinking how GREAT they'd be. I should have just got a bag at the supermarket. They were like glue. Seriously.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        just a heads-up for swfood and monavano that we've got a new postmortem thread going for this year:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I've used the AB brine & roast for years, foolproof and tasty

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. 2012 report:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          [The meal was at mother-in-law's house. Mother-in-law, however, was sick and largely confined to her bedroom. ]
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The good: my wife had wonderful help in prep, via a cousin who was visiting from out-of-state. She has mentioned this several times as the highlight of her day- these cousins haven't seen each other in years.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The good included a very moist Butterball turkey with spouse's traditional (30+ yrs) Fruited stuffing. We again did wine + butter over the turkey in the Reynolds cooking bag- always good results, this year no exception. Moist, juicy, yum.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The good: Spouse' plans included bringing over a dozen empty plastic containers, the near-throw away kind that lunch meats come in these days. The process of sending left overs home with the various guests went much more smoothely with these on hand (no scurrying around for the aluminum foil, and left-overs wrapped in clumsy shapes and sizes.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The bad: Mother-in-law makes an awesome pea salad that was forgotten in the recesses of the refridgerator. But when it was discovered hours after the meal, I put it to the taste test, and enjoyed it anyway. I think it was a make-ahead, before she got 'the bug.'
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The bad: The organizers of this meal thought we would have enough variety without a sweet potato dish. Can you really complain that one of your favorites didn't make the list this year, when there is so much other stuff? After all, Thanksgiving is about being thankful for our many blessings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Florida Hound

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm curious about that pea salad. Do you by any chance have the recipe, or could you describe it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I will get in touch with mother-in-law when she is up and around, and post her actual recipe ASAP. In the meantime, as I googled the ingedients that I think of, such as peas, yellow mustard, hard cooked eggs, I found something that's got to be pretty close on Cooks.com. While we're waiting on Mom, consider "Green Pea and Egg Salad."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Link: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1616,...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              And in a few days, we can see how close Mom's is to this one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But while I'm on a roll here, as I was searching our files and cupboards for a copy of Mom's Pea Salad, I ran across a Pea Salad that a friend brought to an office covered dish back in 1998. We have made it since, but not in a while... Not at all like the family favorite, but I remember it was very good.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "PEA SALAD (From Kay)"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Mix together and bring to a boil the following:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Cup sugar,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1/2 Cup vegetable oil
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3/4 Cup white vinegar
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 tsp salt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 tsp pepper.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Let cool and pour over vegetables.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The vegetables:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 can French cut green beans
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 can shoe peg white corn
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 can Leseur peas
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Cup chopped celery
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Cup chopped green pepper
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Cup chopped onion
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              (Optional) pimiento for color
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The recipe at hand does not specify the size of the cans- can we assume the ususal 14+1/2 oz?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Florida Hound

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                OK, christina, we were close. Mom-in-law's Pea Salad uses canned peas, not frozen (For my taste buds, the canned are milder). She uses Miracle Whip...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 eggs, chopped
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 14+1/2 oz. can of peas
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1/2 Tablespoon yellow mustard
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                chopped celery at your own amount
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                salt and pepper to taste.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Miracle Whip to desired consistency
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                optional: chopped onion.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Refrigerate before serving.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                True to form, her measurements are flexible, to say the least. That Cooks.com recipe may be a guide for measurments, too, but they go way overboard on the eggs. I was actually suprised the family recipe does not contain sugar. My tastebuds seem to think its like candy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hope that helps. And I hope you enjoy it. Maybe it will earn at least a "good" from you on the "Good-Bad-&-the-Ugly" Thanksgiving thread in 2013.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. The good: The entire dinner spread. We always have the same dishes on Thanksgiving and I look forward to my yearly indulgence in each and every one of them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The bad: Dessert, more specifically pumpkin pie. I grew up with sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie was only introduced into our dessert options menu a few years ago. Every year, I try, and every year I remind myself that I don't like it. I'm not sure if it's the texture or what, though I do find it hilarious that I consistently "try to to like it." We order from a local bakery which consistently has rave pumpkin pie reviews so I assume it's a tasty pie. I think next year I'll just stick with my sweet potato pie and save the pumpkin pie for the fanatics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              With "indulgence" in mind, several pies at the annual feast is not unusual, (you mentioned 'our dessert options menu') so if you know your household or guests include a few "pumpkin pie fanatics," make sure they aren't disappointed. Sure, next year, have a pumpkin pie on hand! And by all means, make sure that sweet potato pie is on the table right next to it! I'd be just the one to want a sliver of each!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              An old Bill Cosby show was on the other night... The Huxtables were very busy getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Bad, bad storm outside. Cosby, as Cliff Huxtable, was sent out in the rain over and over again in an hilarious running joke as Claire Huxtable or Cliff himself, would repeatedly forget just one or 2 ingredients needed for dinner. Nearest store open was 20 miles away. When Claire wants to send Cliff out one more time for the canned pumpkin for that last minute pie, Cliff in Cosby-comedic outrage points to the sweet potato pie on the kitchen table and tries to argue the point that the two pies taste the same and no one will know the difference anyway. Of course, he ended up haplessly trudging back out in the pouring rain. (That show and its laughs would be another "good" moment of the Thanksgiving season, even if we watched it the night before Thanksgiving.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Florida Hound

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh, of course. We always make enough for a small country and the dessert spread is never complete without pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, and apple usually in multiples. We have a small problem with overcooking/baking in this family (extended family is like 12 people).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I know there are two camps on turkey, quick high heat and slow and low. I chose the first, and maybe that was my problem. Cooked a 2 1/2 pound split breast at 400 degrees farenheit until thermometer read 165. That took about 25 minutes longer than the recipe I was following said it should. (Cooked for about an hour 15 minutes.) Let rest about 10 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Beautiful bird, lovely skin, VERY moist. Almost inedible. Tough, tough, tough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              On the positive side, I saw a photo of a dressing dish that had a few cranberries on top -- added those to my cornbread, sausage, apple, pecan dressing (which is so delicious, but not terribly visually appealing) with a little parsley and chopped unpeeled red apple and it looked and tasted great. So I had that going for me. Too bad about the turkey.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: kansascity

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Kansascity, I guarantee that the tough bird was a result of the bird itself - how it was raised, etc. - rather than your cooking technique. A couple of years ago I splurged on a free range, organic, vegan, humanely raised on a Buddhist co-op, massaged to death bird, etc. and did it the way you did: fast and hot. It was beautiful, crispy, juicy, but utterly inedible due to the toughness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I decided right then I'd only by by turkeys from Lazy Bones Farms, and preferably get the turkey known for drinking beer and eating pretzels in his underwear in front of the t.v. They make for much more tender meat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Try to get one that is Montessori schooled next time, it makes all the difference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. I was pretty pleased with how my first thanksgiving came together!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The good: The turkey! 13 lbs, kosher (thanks, Trader Joes!) 2 hours almost exactly at 425 degrees, breast down. So, so good and juicy. And, with a cup of water at the bottom of the pan, no smoke! (I'm not sure why high-heat poultry recipes always have that complaint...I've never had that problem, and I do Thomas Keller's roast chicken pretty frequently.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Also good: the $8 spent on a ricer for the potatoes. I was loathe to buy a one-trick pony, but boy were they good!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The ugly: My boyfriend's mom sent toasted dried sweet corn that I was obligated to make. I don't know how something soaked in milk and full of butter and sugar could still taste like punishment, but it did. That got dumped.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  TBD: the double batch of turkey chili hanging out in the slow cooker.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TrussedUp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Was your dried sweet corn the John Copes-type dried corn?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I bought a few tins of this. Tried it in one thing a while back and was underwhelmed. But I know there's a lot of history behind this and people love it, so I'm going to try again with some other recipes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. So, my first Thanksgiving back in the US after 14 years abroad. Absolutely loved it. Had last cooked Thanksgiving dinner in London for about 40 people (2 turkeys, waaay too many side dishes, 3 types of pie, utter collapse from exhaustion the next day) but yesterday was the classic American version. So great to be back Stateside.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Became a convert to basting. Couple of tablespoons of butter (unsalted), sprinkle of salt, sprinkle of sugar, some whole peppercorns all melted together. Baste every hour and turn the turkey each time. Skin was spectacular - crispy and fatty - and the bird was moist on the inside.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Instead of pumpkin pie, made a pumpkin cheesecake. Big win.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Fresh cranberry sauce - fresh cranberries, pecans, mandarin orange segments, brown sugar, lemon juice, some lemon zest, and a spoonful of apricot jam. Another big win.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    And today, confronting the mound of leftovers. Turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce (the tinned stuff works best for this) all on toasted sourdough. Can do an open face version with gravy poured on top as well. Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced, and mashed potatoes shaped into patties, seasoned and fried. This is an Irish classic called Bubble and Squeak and is wonderful with fried eggs. Very hearty and deeply restorative if one has overindulged with the wine the previous evening.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hope everyone has had a lovely Thanksgiving. Until this time, next year!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. 48 Dinner guests total

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Excellent standouts

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Crab Stuffed Lobster - Our main course this year
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Roasted Red Pepper Fougasse
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Arugula salad pomegranate vinaigrette (I felt this might not go over very well but people loved it.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Saffron scallops

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The needed improvement

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Octopus Ceviche - Octopus was slightly overcooked however the citrus vinaigrette was to die for, cook the octopus just a little less and this would have been a 10.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Blini's - for the caviar tasting were just not right, I didn't make them but they tasted wrong.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Pea Risotto - It needed more salt and imho an acid component (lemon zest and juice), unfortunately I didnt' taste this and trusted another person that it was balanced right.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars - While everyone thought they were great I was generally unimpressed, they fell apart, the caramel sauce was lackluster and they basically tasted like a bunch of sugar and fat to me without enough apple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. The bad was certainly that one of my guests, a cancer patient this year, couldn't make it because he was reacting badly to his medication. He's long been one of our most enthusiastic participants... and my designated carver (so I had to do the carving myself, which maybe should qualify as the "ugly"). His wife and daughter came without him, which made me feel even worse. Hopefully he'll be back for 2013. We've been through a lot of Thanksgivings together (including one in which a guest that his wife had invited assaulted my wife, and we ended up in criminal court... long story).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The good: this year, I did the turkey in a Ron Popeil "Showtime" rotisserie so that I could use my oven for a ham. Both ham and turkey turned out well. And the noisy rotisserie provided a good talking point for the guests.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The ugly: I grilled some onions and they got rather charred. But people seemed to love them (because I've got none left over, lol).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: drongo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Now I can't stop thinking about what could have happened; can you reveal? Maybe would make a good topic .. where .. ?not about food? although this does have something to do with food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. The good - 20 pound Diestel hen brined and roasted ala Alton Brown, my 7th year doing it this way and it turned out perfect as usual. Brown crispy skin and juicy meat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Roasted butternut squash and persimmon disappeared fast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Make ahead turkey gravy made from smoked turkey wing stock, with sage and green peppercorns went well over everything.