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Thanksgiving 2011 -- the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Since no one seems to have started this discussion yet, I figured I'd get it going.

THE GOOD:

Happily, everything turned out well this year. There wasn't any dish that I was upset by, but these were the best of the bunch:

Turkey was dry brined with salt and thyme and cooked spatchcocked. It was moist and tasty and so easy. My favorite method of making roast turkey. Lots of compliments on the turkey.

The brussels sprouts hash were also a big hit, even from brussels sprouts haters. Great epicurious recipe.

The boston cream pie and the carrot cake were made by a friend, who's a fantastic baker and they were wonderful and beautiful. My husband declared the carrot cake the best he's ever had. I believe it's a CI recipe. And my friend knows me well, and brought the extra pastry cream from the boston cream pie as a gift. :)

The banana pudding. Oh dear. After reading a bunch of positive reviews here, I made Paula Deen's "Not Your Mama's Banana Pudding". I made several substitutions (mascarpone for cream cheese, unsweetened whipped cream for Cool Whip), but stayed reasonably true to the recipe. Dang, that stuff is good. It was wiped out.

The full menu:

The apps:
- spicy caramel popcorn
- wonton cups w/wasabi guac and shrimp
- Thai red curry squash soup
- blue and gruyere thumbprints w/fig jam

The mains and sides:
- 19 lb. turkey + two 5 lb. turkey breasts
- 10 lb. honey glazed ham
- classic herb stuffing
- roasted garlic mashed potatoes
- brussels sprouts hash w/caramelized shallots
- roasted cauliflower
- chipotle roasted sweet potatoes
- green bean and pine nuts salad
- bourbon cranberry sauce
- turkey gravy w/roasted shallots
- mushroom bourgignon (for the vegetarians)
- vegetarian stuffing

The desserts:
- boston cream pie
- carrot cake
- banana pudding
- pumpkin spice cookies
- laceys cookies
- a small cheese plate

THE NOT SO GREAT:

I totally underestimated how much certain dishes would get consumed. In the past, I've found that people weren't that interested in cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. Oh, most people would take a little just to be polite, but I always had a ton leftover. So I made what I thought was a sufficient amount of both, only to discover that they had both been totally decimated before the evening was out. Oops.

The same thing happened with the sweet potatoes -- "oh, not that many people like sweet potatoes". Oops, wrong again. And I had meant the sweet potatoes to have a bit of heat by mixing the olive oil with adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers. However, I was worried about getting it too spicy, so I was cautious with the amount of adobo sauce I added. Well, I was too cautious and there was no discernible bite whatsoever. Someone did say that there was a nice hint of smokiness that offset the sweetness of the potatoes, though, so I suppose it was not totally for naught. :)

The cheese plate. I thought that perhaps people not interested in sweets would like a savory bite after dinner. Nope. Cheese plate was all but ignored as folks tore into the sweets.

The pumpkin spice cookies received mixed reactions. They are a REALLY heavily spiced cookie, which I love, but I think turned a lot of people off.

THE UGLY

No true uglies this year. The closest thing was coming THIS close to not having enough space or flatware for the 25 people we ended up having over for dinner. But with good food, good drink and good company, it was a great time.

I love Thanksgiving!

What was your Thanksgiving like this year?

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  1. Wow, that's quite a spread! The bad and ugly weren't so bad, either!

    For us it was nice and mellow. The turkey was juicy and tender, the sides all yummy and dessert scored big points with the man. :)

    The closest thing to a disaster was the minor inconvenience of having to run to Rite Aid in the middle of the day for butane for the torch. No biggie at all.

    I just had an open faced hot turkey sandwich for breakfast (this is the real reason to make turkey, to me,) spoiled the cats with a few bites of plain white meat (the dog got the guts last night.) The man volunteered for work today (2 1/2 times pay and they expect to be slow so they're going to deep fry a couple of the left over turkeys his work gave to employees in the parking lot. I sent an extra pan of stuffing with him.) I'm settling in to get some work done with a nice hot pot of coffee. At this point in time, all is right in my world.

    1. i think the only "uglies" we had this year was the amount of dishes we had to clean up.... and the gut-busting stomach aches caused by overeating in my house. everything else came out awesome and was delicious!! the full menu:

      Gramercy Tavern Bar nuts
      Proscuitto and puff pastry wrapped asparagus
      Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
      Roasted full turkey
      "Turchetta" made with a whole turkey breast and chorizo-cornbread stuffing
      Giblet Dressing
      Fresh Green Bean Casserole
      Mashed potatoes
      Brussel Sprout and Sweet Potato Hash
      Homemade Applesauce
      Cornbread mini-muffins
      Banana bread mini-muffins
      Outback Steakhouse Bushman Bread
      Cranberry/Orange Relish
      Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Topping
      Banana, Chocolate, and Dulce de Leche Bread Pudding
      Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
      Mocha Ice Cream Pie
      Homemade Marshmallows

      It was a feast to be sure!! so much fun to make!

      13 Replies
      1. re: mattstolz

        Ooh, can you tell me about the asparagus app? Did you cook the asparagus first? How did you wrap them? Fully enclosed, or just wrapped around the middle? I guess I'm really asking for the recipe! :) I'm always on the hunt for new and interesting finger foods.

        1. re: TorontoJo

          hahaha its really really simple

          trim asparagus, cut prosciutto and puff pastry into 1/4" wide strips, wrap the asparagus (in a spiral fashion) first with prosciutto and then with puff pastry. bake @400 until the puff pastry is golden brown.

          to answer your questions:

          can you tell me about the asparagus app?
          yes

          Did you cook the asparagus first?
          no

          How did you wrap them?
          spiral fashion

          Fully enclosed, or just wrapped around the middle?
          like a corkscrew. not fully unclosed, still a little green peaking through the puff pastry

          1. re: mattstolz

            Perfect, thank you!

            1. re: TorontoJo

              I do a dish close to that and serve honey mustard as a dipping sauce--so good.

              1. re: escondido123

                these were gone so fast that i dont think i woulda even had time to put out a dipping sauce! lots of burnt tongues and happy faces with these

                1. re: mattstolz

                  They sound great! I do them with just prosciutto. It's like asparagus candy! Adding puff pastry is a great idea.

        2. re: mattstolz

          i *love* those GT nuts...and the bread pudding sounds RIDICULOUS. care to share that one?

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            The Gramercy Tavern nuts are seriously dangerous. We had those out while putting the finishing touches on everything yesterday and i ate at least a cup and a half of them. not an exaggeration.

            also, the bread pudding was this seriouseats recipe:

            http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

            but i changed it up. i used a banana and a half in the custard, and left the dulche de leche OUT of the custard. instead, as i was layering everything, i layered it like this: soaked bread, banana, dulce de leche swirl, bread, banana, dulce de leche...

            oh, also, i stirred ghirardelli dark choc chips into the mix as the bread soaked. probably about half a bag.

          2. re: mattstolz

            I know this thread is a year old today, but is there any way you'd consider sharing your turchetta and chorizo stuffing recipes, MattStolz? Thank you, Ninrn

            1. re: ninrn

              i wouldn't hold your breath waiting for a reply - he hasn't posted since June :(

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Thanks for telling me. I'll go back to the search engines.

                1. re: ninrn

                  you might not have to look too far for the turchetta - there's a recipe right here on Chow!
                  http://www.chow.com/recipes/29031-tur...

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Thanks again. I saw that one. I was hoping to find something that wouldn't require deboning a whole turkey.... I guess it would just be a roulade then and not a real turchetta.

          3. No real uglies, but there were a couple of slight missteps. I did something to my pie crusts, and they turned out with a slightly chewy quality that I don't care for - I use the CI vodka recipe, but I think I neglected to process the butter and flour fully in the first step. A friend (who is not much of a cook and has never baked before) decided to attempt a complicated 6-layer chocolate salted caramel cake, without the aid of a candy thermometer. The caramel wasn't cooked properly and basically ran out of/soaked into the cake, which also didn't come out quite right (because she cooked it in pans that were too deep so it was too moist in the center). I'm not quite sure what she was thinking, especially since the cake is ENORMOUS, easily enough to serve 16 people, and we were only 4 - it's going to be in her freezer for a year!

            I also undercooked my potato gratin slightly, but I'm not sure that was entirely my fault. My recipe calls for precooking the potato slices in cream on the stovetop, but I decided to do them in the microwave this year so I didn't have to watch them so closely. They were about halfway cooked when I layered them in the gratin dish, but then I put the whole thing in the fridge overnight. I baked it for oven an hour the next day, but the potatoes never really got any softer. After dinner, I put the dish back in a 300 degree oven for another hour, but they still didn't really soften up. I'm wondering if refrigerating them after the microwaving step somehow set their texture, as it does with apples. The gratin was still good (how could it not be, with 2 cups of cream and a pound of gruyere cheese?) but a little firm for my taste.

            Otherwise, a great day. Enjoying the leftovers now!

            2 Replies
            1. re: biondanonima

              Interesting on the potatoes. I made funeral potatoes but with fresh potatoes that I had cooked until almost fully cooked and cubed them, then refrigerated to bake again and they took like 4 hours in the oven (over the course of a couple bakings) after the initial hour that they baked on thanksgiving to actually be softened anywhere near enough to be palatable.

              1. re: LaureltQ

                Huh, I wonder what that is all about? I will have to see if Harold McGee has anything to say on the topic. Luckily, DH and company didn't mind the firm texture, but I prefer a gratin to be more melt-in-your-mouth. I'll have to try putting the remainder back in the oven tomorrow for an hour or two...

            2. We had a marvelous time, Dad did the turkey on the Big Green Egg, fabulous! Had mashed potatoes, gravy from a packet, Stove Top stuffing, canned green beans with butter and almonds. Jello salad with apples and pecans, squash, pumpkin, and pecan pies (home made). It was special because it was at my parents' house. They had another couple over for dinner, as well. We traveled for two days to get here, will travel two days to go back home, for two days visit.
              Dad has cancer, and it has spread to his spine. He's feeling pretty good, gets tired, though. My husband helped him get a new flat screen HD TV for the bedroom, and is with him now at a buddy's house for happy hour before we go to a Christmas parade.
              When the salesman told him he'd have a good 5 -10 good years with the TV, I looked at Dad, and said, great news! ha! He got a good chuckle out of that! He has a great sense of humor. Doc wants him to walk more, and he says, "Why? Do you want me to die healthy?" He wanted the doc to give him a handicap sticker so he could drive his golf cart in town (only way they will license it here), and the doc refuse, told him to walk.
              So, we've had a marvelous Thanksgiving.

              7 Replies
              1. re: wyogal

                I love your story, even if the focus is not on food. We too had a wonderful Thanksgiving, one for the record books. The turkey was nice (cooked to a nice temperature), the stuffing was typical - good but nothing special, and my Dad forgot to put salt in the mashed potatoes. But my Dad is getting up there, and we managed to get my sister and her family, my family, my Dad's brother and his wife, and one of their kids (my cousin) and his family all in the same place for two days, even though we were coming from four states. A grand total of 15 people, of which 6 were kids under 10, all very well-behaved (my Dad loves kids). We were all so happy to be together, and the day went off without a hitch, with much laughter, fort-building, and no stress. My Dad was beaming at the end of it all, to have all of us under his roof and to have hosted us all for a lovely meal. The food was good, but it was just the backdrop to a loving and wonderful two days.

                1. re: Cachetes

                  Thanks! Yep, all about the family!

                2. re: wyogal

                  What a lovely story. Your dad sounds like a trouper!

                  1. re: Rocky74

                    Amazing sense of humor, went to the parade, he danced a bit to the music.

                  2. re: wyogal

                    happy for you whyogal - i know you're treasuring these moments..... as i'm sure your father is.

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      Yes, very much!

                    2. re: wyogal

                      Great Thanksgiving story--helps put things into their proper perspective, wyogal. Sounds like your visit was just what your dad--you all--needed.

                    3. THE GOOD: made up a new sourdough stuffing recipe, and it got lots of compliments. Secret was probably good quality (but slightly stale) sourdough, and the turkey stock I had made a week or two ago, plus leeks, mushrooms, apples, celery, and lots and lots of sage. Carrots, which my sister cut into strips and I blanched with a bit of fresh ginger, mint, and oregano, were also a hit, which I attribute to the quality of the carrots themselves (from my CSA box). I loved the salad with roasted beets, persimmon, pomegranate and three types of local lettuce and shallots and thought it was perfectly dressed (thanks to Stepmom's judicious hand making the salad dressing), but I went overboard on the amount and it didn't disappear as quickly as I would have liked. Butternut and delicata squash soup, a tradition on my menu (Bradley Ogden's recipe from Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, but made with vegetable broth instead of chicken broth this time to keep it vegetarian) was a hit, as it always is (that is one great recipe).

                      Turned Out Good In Spite of Myself: I had one turkey in the oven and one on the grill. Put hubby and SIL in charge of the Webered turkey, and they came and told me, about 45 minutes before the one in the oven was done, that it appeared the coals had died 'while their backs were turned' and they were fairly sure it wasn't going to be ready for dinner, if ever, unless we changed cooking methods. Sigh. But what could I do? I shrugged and said that we'd finish it in the oven for leftovers once the overn was cleared out at the start of the meal, and to leave it on the grill for now. As it turned out, (and as I suspected would happen), hubby and SIL were overly worried and it continued cooking quite well on its own over those not really dead coals, and was done by the time the rest of the meal was served. SIL said it was the best he's ever had, but I think he was just trying to get back on my good side: it was good, but not the perfection of my last webered turkey. My other lucky break was that I had a brain freeze and didn't follow my usual procedure of mashing the potatoes first and *then* adding milk/half and half and butter: I thought I had added way too much milk but I poured a bit off and potatoes turned out perfectly anyway.

                      Other best things: a pecan pie that one of my guests brought, from Destination Baking Company in SF. That was a seriously good pie.

                      But best of all, seeing a nephew who has been in Japan for the first time in two years, having my three year old granddaughter praise the food, and the fact that the family didn't seem to want to leave, and sat talking, with a minimum of family drama but with laughter, interesting conversation, a bit of a port type wine from my father and stepmom's vineyard from the time dinner was over at six until 10:30 at night! I had been up since four and was torn between enjoying the evening and debating how I could politely kick them out...(they were having so much fun I could have just gone to bed and let them keep at it, which was hubby's approach :-))

                      BAD: wish I had been as lucky with the gravy as I was with the turkey and mashed potatoes: I have a lovely new roaster and had made a bunch of stock, and was really looking forward to making a great gravy this year. It was not to be: I more or less followed this recipe:

                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                      and it was a thick, gloppy mess. Sigh. I used less flour in the roux than called for and it was still WAAY over thickened. What did I do wrong? oh well, others said it had a nice flavor, but I think they were just being polite. Next time, I am going to make gravy in advance. Don't think I can handle making it under stress (though my gravy is usually decent, which this wasn't). , very disappointed...

                      The UGLY: what my hips will look like with all the leftover pie. We ended up with two pumpkin, three apple, and one pecan pie for 18 people (plus pumpkin and apple cupcakes and pumpkin rolls from stepsister), with both ice cream and whipped cream. Much of the family came back over or in from the guest room for breakfast (I live about 100 miles from the nearest family, and almost everyone spent the night at local motels)...so I kept reminding everyone that, as a friend of mine has declared, the Friday after Thanksgiving is National Pie for Breakfast Day, but other than fighting over the last of that pecan pie, no one took the hint (my fault for making a frittata and roast potatoes for breakfast). Sigh. It will pie for lunch dinner and breakfast again tomorrow. Not that I am complaining.

                      Wouldn't do much differently next time, other than making the gravy in advance...

                      20 Replies
                      1. re: susancinsf

                        the measurements in that gravy recipe are wacky. if you're using 1/2 stick of butter (8 tablespoons), you should be using 8 tablespoons of flour...yet the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of flour, which is equivalent to *twelve* tablespoons. even if you used less than that, you probably didn't cut back by 4 tablespoons - no wonder it was gloppy!

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          yes, that was what I thought.. though I was only more or less following the recipe (which admittedly might have been part of the problem...). I did double the recipe and it did look out of wack to me, and I thought I cut it way back. Apparently not enough...

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Yup. A roux should be 1:1 fat/flour. You should have seen me yesterday making cream sauce on one burner and gravy on the other (both came out perfectly!).

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              so, I have been obsessing about that gravy, in true CH manner, and I am not convinced that it was just the fat/flour ratio. I've made plenty of gravies with similar amounts of flour to what I used here, and have never had this particular issue. For starters, I really don't think the ratio was that much more than 1:1. and, understand, the gravy wasn't just lumpy, it was pasty and very, very thick. Indeed, I decided to use my immersion blender to see if I could smooth it out, and stopped, because it started getting folds like cream just before it is whipped. That doesn't seem like a reaction that just a wrong ratio would cause.

                              Is it possible that there was some other factor in play? Could too much fat in the drippings add to the problem? Some other reaction I am not familiar with?

                              1. re: susancinsf

                                I suppose it's possible that too much fat in the drippings caused some kind of emulsification reaction when whipped with an immersion blender (like making mayo).

                                1. re: susancinsf

                                  I don't know what would make the gravy overly thick, but when you mentioned that it was pasty it got me wondering if the flour and fat were heated well enough first. I think the flour needs to be cooked long enough (for a few minutes) to have its thickening properties (not that you didn't have enough thickening) and so it tastes cooked through adn not pasty.

                                  Just a thought.

                                  1. re: karykat

                                    yes, they were. whatever happened, I don't think not heating the roux was the issue, and taste wasn't an issue, it was all about the texture. The more I think about it the more I think some sort of emulsification process was going on, as Ruth suggests....I may have read the immersion blender technique to smooth it out on Chow (?), but I won't ever try that again....

                              2. re: susancinsf

                                Susan, we had almost exactly that stuffing, with rosemary sourdough, leeks, mushrooms, celery, parsley, and thyme in place of sage, plus turkey sausage, and turkey stock. Delicious.

                                And pie for breakfast the day after is a tradition I hold to, that I grew up with, as did my mother. I had a big slice of pumpkin pie with my mug of tea this morning.

                                1. re: susancinsf

                                  Suggestion - rather than use a traditional roux, which can be lumpy, why not try potato starch mixed with a little cold water? Not cornstarch, which doesn't reheat well, but potato starch. It thickens upon impact and a little heat, add by teaspoon to get consistency you want. That way you won't have so much extra butter, and the gravy will be less greasy as well.

                                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                    Where does one locate potato starch? Near the corn starch and whatnot in the baking aisle of a normal grocery store? I don't recall ever having seen it, though I have never been looking for it either.

                                    1. re: LaureltQ

                                      If not with the other flours/starches, then maybe in with the Kosher foods?

                                      1. re: LaureltQ

                                        Ask your grocer. I buy a big box every year at Passover and it miraculously lasts a whole year. If you keep Passover, you can also use it to make terrific "noodles" by mixing with eggs and water to make thin crepes, which you can then cut in strips to form "noodles". Actually the crepes can be used to stuff other things as well. If you have a kosher section in your market, they might carry it. Not expensive item at all,will llast long time.

                                        1. re: LaureltQ

                                          Laurel, it's in the spice section and is called Arrowroot. You should be able to find it in a regular spice jar.

                                          1. re: Dansky

                                            Arrowroot and potato starch are different no?

                                            I've used arrowroot before and it was EXPENSIVE and the jar was tiny.

                                            1. re: LaureltQ

                                              yes, they are different. not sure why Dansky said that.

                                          2. re: LaureltQ

                                            At Japanese markets, called katakuriko.

                                            1. re: letsindulge

                                              In Italian it's "Fecola di patata". So now you have 3 different ways to look for it. :o)

                                        2. re: susancinsf

                                          First of all, I thought the webbered turkey was great. I usually don't like white meat, but even the white meat was very juicy. And yes, the gravy was a bit of a miss, and I briefly thought "that's not like Susan to make it that gloppy" but the turkey, potatoes,and stuffing were really so tasty that the gravy wasn't really needed anyway:-) Finally, I DID have pie for breakfast (apple so as to let my husband have a last taste of that wonderful pecan pie since it IS his fav), and I have to say, that pecan pie was one of the best I've ever tasted. Folks in SF, pay attention! Also, you should have kicked us out, but we DID enjoy catching up with all the family and a nice conversation!

                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                            This year I made the best gravy EVER. Couple days before, I roasted turkey wings to make the stock, then, when cool, waited in the fridge.

                                            I use WF stressless, make ahead gravy starter. So terribly easy this way. I used my stock to make this ahead and refrigerated it.

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/817518

                                            After turkey was done and resting, I used my new Swing A Way fat separator (GREAT) and added the juices to my pot of gravy starter. So excellent!

                                            I wasn't that crazy about my stuffing this year -- made it with sourdough bread cubes but I used Granny Smith apples in it instead of Rome Beauty and it tastes too tart; will go back to Rome Beauty next time.

                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                              FYI: gravy that has too much flour added can be fixed but cooking for a long time (like an hour) and it will come together. But that won't work if you don't have time.

                                              *Do* make the gravy ahead with stock and then mix in the goodies from the pan.

                                            2. Nothing really bad except, for the second year in a row, I forgot to put the sweet potatoes in the oven. I just bake them in their skins very simply. But I forgot them...so daughter said she'll take them and make a sweet potato pie.

                                              1. Everything turned out well for our Thanksgiving dinner. We had:

                                                appetizers:
                                                small spanakopita triangles
                                                salted mixed nuts
                                                olives

                                                mains:
                                                roasted turkey
                                                sausage apple stuffing
                                                mashed sweet potatoes
                                                green beans
                                                cranberry sauce

                                                Deserts:
                                                apple pie
                                                Blum's crunch cake

                                                1. all good:
                                                  - herb-roasted turkey breast was extremely juicy and flavorful
                                                  - gravy was terrific (i surprised myself with that one because i built a stock and created it from scratch in the morning without drippings)
                                                  - garlic green beans with shallots and toasted almonds were perfectly crisp and really tasty
                                                  - cranberry compote had just the right level of spice
                                                  - turnip soufflé was fantastic
                                                  - roasted garnet yams - which were an afterthought - disappeared
                                                  - Mom was happy with her favorite Northern Spy apple pie i picked up from a local bakery. (Sis said it was good but not mind-blowing, and of course i couldn't eat it to weigh in with an opinion...next year i'll go back to making my apple-cherry tart which is always a hit.)

                                                  the only element i'd consider kind of ugly was my maple pumpkin custard with oatmeal-walnut streusel topping...it didn't quite set up properly so it ended up as more of a pumpkin pudding than a baked custard. but it was still delicious!

                                                  the bad was Dad's empty seat at the head of the table.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    turnip souffle!? i'm intrigued---both by the recipe (please share) and the fact that you managed to make something like that with so many other things competing for oven space. was it a true souffle, or more of a pudding?

                                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                      true souffle, but it's funny you should ask. when i decided i was going to make T-Day dinner for us, i asked Mom if there was any particular holiday dish she really wanted - she said turnip souffle. so i asked if there was a distinct flavor direction she wanted me to take it in since you can do everything from sweet to savory, cheesy to buttery, spicy to bacony...and she said she loved the recipe that a close family friend used to make. she happened to have a copy of it on hand, and it merely called for turnips, butter & eggs to be buzzed in the FP & poured into a baking dish!i looked at her, said "Mom, this isn't a souffle, it's a casserole. You asked for a souffle, so i'm making a souffle."

                                                      lo and behold, she liked mine even better ;)

                                                      recipe here:
                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8194...

                                                      oh, and the timing issue? i got lucky...plus Mom has a double wall oven.

                                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                      Sorry about your empty seat, ghg. It's sad when a parent goes, even if it's an elderly one. Especially hard during the Holiday season.

                                                    3. everything was really terrific this year- with no mishaps :)

                                                      A real popular app was Brandied Cherry Baked Brie, served with apples and pears. Very festive.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                        What kind of cherries? Dried? Canned? Frozen? Sounds really good.

                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                          Was it this recipe? http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Ch...

                                                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                            No, but that looks really good too! I made my own recipe up last year and tweaked it this year.

                                                            I "skinned" the brie a little bit, split a brie wheel in half (using floss) then soaked dried cherries in brandy until softened. Spread the half with orange marmalade (I used sugar free), top with the brandied cherries. Put it back together and spread the top with more marmalade and cherries. Then wrap in puff pastry (seal it well) and bake at 350 until golden. I cut out leaves from some of the dough to decorate and brushed with egg wash. I wish I took a picture, it was beautiful.

                                                            1. re: sedimental

                                                              It sounds amazing. Those flavors would be wonderful together and what a festive appetizer. I am putting this on my list for the holiday season. Thanks for sharing.

                                                        2. I had planned to host at my house, but mother put up a stink about inadequate seating, etc. So she said she would host it, and would make the potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, and stuffing. And decided last week she'd also get a ham. I got Roast Chicken, gravy and desserts.

                                                          The Good:
                                                          Roast Chicken
                                                          Gravy - i had some concerns because i always wing it, and my stepdad is like a gravy connoisseur. mom bought some just in case i didn't make enough or they didn't like mine. i was glad she did initially b/c my drippings made way less than intended. however, post-meal, we had more than enough, and no one touched the store bought stuff. stepbrother took home the rest of mine.
                                                          Pumpkin Pie - i do mine differently, but i told my mom if she wanted to buy another one just in case that was her prerogative. originally, i was going to make a pumpkin pie cheesecake, but mom said she'd also buy a pie just in case people wanted pie. i said forget it, i'll just make the pie.
                                                          Plum Butter Glazed White Balsamic Custard Fruit Tart - big hit. mom gave me a hard time before about unsophisticated palates to which i simply told her to say "fruit tart." stepbrother who took gravy and also doesn't eat desserts wolfed it down, and fought other stepbrother to take the majority home.

                                                          The Sad:
                                                          Mom bought everything except the Green Bean Casserole -- I have allergies, and was so upset that I could have just made everything and been able to enjoy what i wanted! she tried to tell me she didn't want to put all the cooking on me, but i reminded her that i wanted to host it myself originally! sigh.

                                                          The Ugly:
                                                          Dealing with a particular family member. The nastiest of people and can clear a room.

                                                          oh well. over til next year, when i intend to go back to Thanksgiving with Friends, as i did happily, excitedly, and thankfully last year.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Emme

                                                            Plum Butter Glazed White Balsamic Custard Fruit Tart - I'm so curious about this, and a google search didn't turn up much. Please tell us about it :)

                                                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                              i based the custard part on a recipe from Epicurious. i did a pate sablee crust. the white balsamic custard i tweaked a little bit, reducing the vinegar a bit more, and i think (can't be positive as my computer is down and my MacGourmet being held hostage by the malfunctioning motherboard) altered the butter and sugar slightly... i topped it with berries then brushed it with a glaze that I made from the Plum Butter i make this time of year... i literally heated and thinned a bit of plum butter with a tbsp or two of plum juice i had reserved. when my computer is up and running, i can give you more exact details, if you want more info.

                                                          2. My best friend and I just swapped "Thanksgiving Recap" emails, so I'm going to be lazy and paste my dinner review.

                                                            APPS
                                                            -Claudia Roden's pork meatballs in almond sauce-
                                                            These were good if a bit garlicky. Everyone seemed to really like them (DH said they were one of his favorites). The brown, slightly grainy-looking almond sauce was a little visually unappealing for me. Considering the amount of work involved in making these, I would probably make them again only if they were going to be the main dish. Nothing particularly seasonal or Thanksgiving-y about them---they'd have been great over egg noodles or rice.

                                                            -Relish tray w/ pickles, spicy pickled okra, mini gherkins, and mixed nuts-
                                                            Pretty standard. It was nice having some vinegary counterparts to the rich appetizers. And the quizzical expression on our German friends' faces while eating spicy pickled okra was entertaining.

                                                            -BL(A)T crostini-
                                                            These were good and easy to put together---I crisped the baked on a cookie sheet in the oven in the morning and we assembled them about an hour before people arrived, adding the avocado right before things got started. I can see serving these as hors d'oeuvres at a cocktail party.

                                                            -Stuffed mushrooms-
                                                            These were a successful improvisation - cornbread crumbs,sauteed onions, scallions, toasted walnuts, parsley, thyme, sauteed red bell pepper, the crimini mushroom stems, and a little finely grated Parm. The cornbread flavor was subtle. Don't tell anyone, but I sauteed the vegetables in some of the rendered bacon fat from the BL(A)Ts.

                                                            -Curried cream of pumpkin soup w/ diced tomato (German friends brought)-
                                                            This was very good, if a little undersalted. I liked that it was on the thin side (sometimes pumpkin soup is as thick as gruel, yech). The tomatoes were a nice unexpected contrast. I think there was probably a lot of cream involved in the recipe, so it was probably best we kept portions small.

                                                            MAINS
                                                            -Cook's Illustrated Roasted Turkey Breast-
                                                            This turned out really nice. I salted the turkey 2 days ahead and made a compound herb butter with fresh rosemary, sage, marjoram and parsley, which I rubbed under the skin the night before. I also air-dried the turkey on a rack set over a platter in the fridge overnight to help the skin crisp up during roasting. As it turned out, this was kind of pointless, because when I tented the turkey with foil, it steamed my nice crisp skin. Oh well. I didn't need to eat the skin anyway. This was a favorite on the table.

                                                            -Cook's Illustrated All-Purpose Gravy-
                                                            I made this ahead and wasn't that impressed with the flavor, but once the defatted turkey drippings went in the day of, it was fabulous. One of the best homemade gravies I've had in a while (I used only poultry broth, not the beef called for in the recipe).

                                                            -Aunt Peg's rolls-
                                                            Something goes wrong with these every year, but we try! One year my MIL made them with dead yeast; another time, I used whole wheat flour, and they just weren't the same. This time, I overcooked them and burned the bottoms a tad. The tops weren't browning because I baked them on the rack below the turkey. Next time I'll bake them the morning of, when nothing else needs to be in the oven, and then just reheat for dinner.

                                                            -Winter panzanella (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mi...
                                                            This was very good, although I'm not sure it said "Thanksgiving" to me. The sherry dressing is so simple and delicious, and I like how the red onions mellow and pickle in the vinegar. Again, given the amount of prep involved, and the fact that it's neither really quite a pure vegetable nor strictly a carb, I think I'd make this another time. I missed the more standard green bean casserole or steamed green beans with brown butter and toasted almonds.

                                                            -Cranberry sauce (American friend brought)
                                                            This was really good! It was her grandma's recipe with diced apples. Very simple and delicious. Unlike most homemade cranberry sauces, this one wasn't cooked very long---so there were a lot of intact berries and it wasn't very gelled. I liked it. I'm not sure this replaces my own recipe with toasted walnuts, clementines, and star anise, but I might add apples to mine next time and reduce the cooking time a little.

                                                            -Broccoli salad with curry vinaigrette, dried cranberries, pepitas, and red onions-
                                                            I wanted to love this, but it was a little "meh". I'm not sure if it was the lack of mayonnaise or maybe the curry flavor was a little too strong and bitter. Anyway, it was OK, but better in theory than execution.

                                                            -Corn pudding (http://www.grouprecipes.com/44167/jif...
                                                            )-
                                                            Easy-peasy and always good. This just says "holiday" in our family. I used frozen corn instead of canned, and I didn't mix it in the baking dish to avoid the mess.

                                                            -Baked sweet potatoes (American friend brought)-
                                                            These were basically sweet potatoes sliced and layered with lots of butter and a little brown sugar. I've never been big on non-savory sweet potato recipes, and these just didn't seem worth the calories. Others enjoyed them.

                                                            Speaking of potatoes---I missed the mashed potatoes! So much, in fact, that I made some to have with our T-day leftovers, and they were the perfect bland vehicle for flavorful gravy. These were just skin-on red skin potatoes boiled in salted water with some broth and mashed with buttermilk and butter. Salt, pepper, and a dash of seasoned salt and nutmeg. So good; I won't skip those again. Carb-counting be damned.

                                                            DESSERT

                                                            -Pumpkin torte (http://www.cooksrecipes.com/dessert/p...
                                                            Another family recipe, and totally delicious! Half cheesecake, half lightened-up pumpkin pie, plus a dollop of whipped cream. I really liked this and will make it again. My changes were to add fresh ginger to the pumpkin custard and to use Biscoff biscuits and walnuts for the crust.

                                                            -Apple-cranberry pie (Serious Eats pie crust http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2010/05..., Cook's Illuststrated's filling
                                                            )Another favorite for both me and my husband. I was so nervous it wasn't going to turn out. I initially forgot one of the sticks of butter in the crust recipe (misread), and even after I added it, I had a HELL of a time trying to get that dough to come together without overworking it. Rolling was another major headache/pain. The end result was good but maybe almost TOO buttery---I couldn't stop thinking about how much butter I'd used, and it seemed really rich. Next time, I may try a recipe that calls for some vegetable shortening, which would dial down the butteryness. Or I might just buy a Pillsbury crust and save myself the nervous breakdown. The filling was a very nice combination and hit all the right sweet/tart notes. The apple filling was not very cinnamony, which seemed to work in this context, and the layered effect was very pretty. If I were making just an apple pie, I'd up the spices and possibly cook the apples on the stovetop (versus the microwave called for in CI's recipe) to get more caramelization and flavor.

                                                            1. I just made my turkey broth and dumped way too much turmeric in it ( the top was not on the shaker securely) so now I have very golden stock not suitable for many things I usually use it for. but it tastes good, looks very festive and will encourage me to make curries.

                                                              1. I've made brined turkey for the last 10 years. Each year, in addition to salt, I added all kinds of spices. Never tasted them, although the turkey was always juicy and not dry.

                                                                A few years ago I tried dry brining, it tasted like cured meat. I was going to try a second year, but the family said no.

                                                                This year I decided to go with a simple brine. 1/2 cup of table salt (non-iodized) per gallon of water and 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar per gallon of water. Brine 24 hours, rinse with fresh water, allow to dry in fridge 12 hours before cooking at 325-F. Before roasting, I added 1 chopped stalk of celery, 1 chopped onion and 1 chopped carrot to cavity. Coated the skin with melted butter before roasting. Roasted in a covered roaster in oven, removed lid the last 45-minutes to brown and crisp skin. Did not baste once during cooking. Cooked until breast was 165-f and thigh was 175-F.

                                                                This was the best turkey ever (except for one's I have smoked in the Weber Kettle BBQ).
                                                                I always brine the turkey even if has been injected at the factory. I never comes out too
                                                                salty (only brine 24 hours) and is always better than unbrined.

                                                                I brine in a 16-qt stainless steel soup kettle. It holds a up to a 16 to 18 lb bird and takes about 2 gallons of water to cover the bird. The kettle is 1-ft high and about 1-ft wide.

                                                                1. The greatest thing about Thanksgiving to me is that my stepson and daughter-in-law make dinner! and I make a dessert and my mother's cucumbers and onions in sour cream. It's sooo wonderful after years of turkey cooking, etc to walk into somebody else's house and sit down to eat. Dinner was delicious.

                                                                  I made a pumpkin pecan pie from The Moosewood Restaurant's Book of Desserts It's such a gem of a book. Pie was great. It's a regular pumpkin pie with a layer of pecans and brown sugar underneath.

                                                                  1. reposting from the WFD thread.... I made an (sort of) abbreviated turkey dinner for the boyfriend, who doesn't really celebrate but of course really appreciates food. went out for dinner with my dad and sister and her gf, so i prepped most of this Wed. night for the bf:

                                                                    i made a crockpot half turkey (brined overnight then rubbed with an herb/spice mixture of fresh rosemary, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, sage, paprika, granulated garlic, s&p, a little sugar) and cooked over onions, garlic cloves and some cabbage for sweetness, with about a half a stick of butter thrown in) which came out so tender and juicy the boy decided not to broil it at the end to crisp up the skin. made stuffing from toasted ciabatta with italian sausage and plenty of sage, pine nuts, and dried cherries, a mash of sweet and white potatoes with fresh cranberries, a lemony/dijon vinaigrette and some chipotle "juice" from the can (not a flat-out success), cooked carrots marinated overnight in a white wine vinegar/cumin/garlic/oregano mixture, roasted brussels sprouts with a sploosh of balsamic and whole garlic cloves, and cranberry sauce made with dried white figs, minced ginger, a splash of raspberry vinaigrette, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, and orange peel. the only thing not really worthy was the potato mash - didn't end up tasting the chipotle enough. bought a pumpkin pie which we still haven't dug into, as we were gifted a pecan pie which i've been nibbling at with the stuffing for the last day....

                                                                    1. (Repost--had added this to an older thread)

                                                                      The Great: Tried a new (for us) 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 (at least from a cleaning perspective). Despite help from everyone would love to streamline what remains to be washed at the end of the meal.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: swfood

                                                                        Re: The Ugly -- no such thing as too many dishes for Thanksgiving! It's only ugly if there aren't enough. :)

                                                                        1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                          TorontoJo--so funny, I was just coming back to edit this to add "to wash and put away" variety and choice are key for T-day

                                                                          1. re: swfood

                                                                            Ha! Now THAT I can agree with. Thank goodness I have the best hubby ever, and he spent the entire day on Friday doing all the clean up. 4 dishwasher loads, several sinkloads of pots and pans, took the rentals back, threw the linens into the laundry. He insisted that I stay on the couch all day. Who was I to argue? :)

                                                                      2. Man, I want to come to Thanksgiving with all of you! My 85 year old aunt hosts....AND it's the only meal of the year she cooks. They literally do take out all year long. The turkey is always overcooked and the veggies are canned. It's awful.

                                                                        We did have a potluck at work though and that was pretty delicious. I made the gramercy tavern gingerbread recipe for the first time...yum!

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: rizzo0904

                                                                          that GT gingerbread is good stuff :)

                                                                          i'm impressed that your aunt still does everything herself at 85. would it be awkward to ask her next year if there's anything you can do to help? maybe say that you feel bad she's tasked with all the work and tell her you'd be happy to make/bring a couple of dishes if it would make things easier for her...? i don't know about your family, but my mom did all the Jewish holidays for nearly 40 years, and it turns out it was because she felt that everyone *expected* her to, and she was afraid that if she didn't do it, no one would.

                                                                          1. re: rizzo0904

                                                                            That gingerbread is divine. I wanted to make it for T-day, but we had so many desserts I opted not to. But I am definitely making it for Christmas.

                                                                          2. I went way off the road and made a small boneless prime rib roast. That was the good. Mashed potatoes, peas, oven roasted carrots, and brussels sprouts with walnuts. All good. The bad & ugly- pumpkin pie. Followed recipe on can- Stokely's brand, usually use Libby's- but that wasn't really the problem. It was the crust. I used a raw, premade one that you roll out and fill... The first 1/2 inch or so of the edge was nicely browned, but the rest of it was just this side of raw. I used a glass pie pan, maybe that was the cause? Anyone ever manage to underbake the pie crust of a pumpkin pie? The pumpkin part was cooked fully.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: mkmccp

                                                                              I think pumpkin pie does best with a par baked crust.

                                                                              1. re: mkmccp

                                                                                I now always put my crust in the oven while it's heating up to get it started. It used to always come out close to raw, now it's just right. The glass pan probably doesn't help matters.

                                                                              2. I will get in so much trouble if certain people read this - but I'm sure they won't knowing the cooks they are ; )

                                                                                Went to the in-laws for tday.

                                                                                Mostly avoided the bad and ugly. A couple things though: ugly included putting canned black olives on the veggie tray. Bad included weirdly bitter and unsalted mashed potatoes made of russets. Really? Russets? Garden grown green beans absolutely desecrated by overcooking (way way).

                                                                                The meh: turkey - a bit overdone butterball cooked in a bag with no discernible seasonings outside. Meat stuffing, pulverized to a paste, oversalted, and cooked inside the bird. Gravy that was really unsalted broth plus drippings, not thickened.

                                                                                Good - mashed squash, mashed sweet potatoes, cran orange relish, spending time with family.

                                                                                Great - not cooking the big meal for the first time this decade. my child telling me my stuffing is better than anyone's stuffing. The break I needed to be in the mood to cook again next tday :)

                                                                                Cheers everyone.

                                                                                10 Replies
                                                                                1. re: sasha1

                                                                                  olives are a must have on the appetizer list at my Thanksgiving...and yes, along with the lovely local olives (with pits) from trees within ten miles of my house (purchased at the Merced FM), and some nice garlic stuffed olives that my daughter purchased at the Santa Monica FM, I bought a can of black olives thinking that my three year old granddaughter would need something without pits. Before I even got the can open, however, daughter told me not to bother, as granddaughter is already well-schooled in handling the pits and would have no trouble. (which was in fact the case).

                                                                                  I am telling you: she is raising that child right!

                                                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                    Funny - no these olives were absolutely intended for the entire table. I'm an olive snob like that, so I don't like the ones canned in water. I find them to have no flavor at all. But my little chowpups for some reason like good and "bad" olives both. I don't know if they have a preference. Usually they get the "bad" ones on subway and fast food pizza - "good" ones at home.

                                                                                    1. re: sasha1

                                                                                      usually kids like to eat those black olives off their fingertips, after parading them around as little helmeted men or something! i really liked in your recounting of your thxgiving that that break - even of bad food, or maybe because of bad food - gave you the impetus to get back in the kitchen the next day.

                                                                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                        Yes, eating olives off the fingers after parading around like the guards at Buckingham Palace (with the big black hats) -- how terrible to deprive a child of that experience because of food snobbery!

                                                                                         
                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                          ahahaha!

                                                                                        2. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                          I was intending to mean next thanksgiving - i.e. tday, but I can see how that might've looked like a typo. In any case, I did get back in the kitchen next day, and I do look forward to hosting next year.

                                                                                          Another thing to be grateful for - not busting my diet. I started weight watchers exactly 2 weeks ago and despite being in the food hands of others for 2 1/2 days over the holiday, including one big homecooked meal and 4 meals out, I still managed to lose some weight. Woo hoo!

                                                                                          I promised my fam, who got no leftovers this year, that I would make them thanksgiving foods all week long. Today they got mashed potatoes. I think tomorrow will be stuffing.

                                                                                          1. re: sasha1

                                                                                            Congrats on losing through the Holiday weekend, it is tough to stick to a diet at these times. :)

                                                                                            1. re: mcel215

                                                                                              Thanks! I just had a bee in my bonnet about it this time. I think if I'd been dieting longer, it would have been harder - ironically. But if you don't have the motivation at the beginning of a diet, when do you have it, right? The not so awesome food helped keep me on track :)

                                                                                            2. re: sasha1

                                                                                              that's a HUGE thing to be grateful for! congrats, sasha!

                                                                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                Thanks :) I made the fam cranberry sauce today, will be roast chicken and brussel sprouts and stuffing on Thur (Costco day :) ).

                                                                                    2. Great:
                                                                                      Dry brined turkey. I have been a briner for years but after discovering the Zuni chicken, I went dry. Awesome choice.

                                                                                      Shitaki and Leek Dressing from Epicurious. I stuffed the bird with half and baked half then mixed them together for a final heat through after taking the bird out. Really, really good.

                                                                                      Brussels sprouts with majoram and pine nuts, also from Epicurious.

                                                                                      Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake from Fine cooking. I doubt it will appear again at Thanksgiving if I am doing the whole meal. There was a lot of minutiae involved and since it couldn't sit on the counter, I had to wait until I took the bird out of the fridge in order to frost. I just didn't need something else to take up time in those hours. It is a truly fabulous cake, though and I'll make it again.

                                                                                      Everything else was tried and true favorites. Bourbon cranberry sauce, pecan pie with the recipe from the karo syrup bottle, green bean casserole with garden green beans, sweet potato casserole, mashed taters and pan gravy. I don't make the gravy ahead, but I do make the stock before hand. I'll have to try a make ahead gravy recipe sometime.

                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: NanH

                                                                                        Is that the bourbon cranberry sauce from epicurious? I love that recipe and have made it the last 2 years. So easy, and so fabulous! I love that it tastes way more complex than it really is. One of the lovely recipes where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

                                                                                        And do try making gravy ahead of time next year. It's such a great time saver!

                                                                                        1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                          I don't know where it came from originally. I got it from a friend. It's bourbon, sugar, orange zest and cinnamon. And you are right about the quality. If my table is childless, I stir in some bourbon after cooking, too!

                                                                                          ETA- Just looked at epicurious and that is not it. Mine is a cup of bourbon and (I use about) 3/4 cup sugar, zest from one orange and 1/4 tsp cinnamon (I use Saigon).

                                                                                          I'll do that with the gravy, thanks!

                                                                                          1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                            Do you make the gravy w/out the turkey drippings, TJ?

                                                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                              Yes and no -- I make the gravy with stock from a bunch of turkey parts (backbones, necks, wings) that I get from my butcher. I roast the parts with the usual suspects (onions, garlic, carrots, celery), then make stock from all the ingredients. I deglaze the pan with dry sherry and use that in the gravy. So I do use drippings, but just not the drippings from Thanksgiving day.

                                                                                              If I have time, I will deglaze the turkey pan on Thanksgiving day and add it to the pre-made gravy, but it's not actually needed, so I don't do it if I'm busy. And lord knows, I'm usually busy. :)

                                                                                              ETA: I also have the added benefit of have Canadian Thanksgiving a month and a half prior. So I often make the gravy after that dinner, using the pan drippings and making stock from the carcass. But for Canadian TG I do exactly what I described above with the turkey parts, etc.

                                                                                          2. re: NanH

                                                                                            This leek and wild mushroom stuffing? It is my absolute favorite. I started making it maybe 4 years ago, when my sister's brother came to my house and whined about never having been away from his mom's stuffing on t-day :) I'm glad I coddled him. Got a great recipe out of it.
                                                                                            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                                                            1. re: sasha1

                                                                                              That's it. I felt I "could" make it because my parents weren't here this year! :-) Next time, they get it, too!

                                                                                              1. re: NanH

                                                                                                That stuff is addictive. I literally can't help myself from picking at it, both before and after it goes into the oven. All my peeps love it :) In fact I'm making it tonight or tomorrow to make up for the fact that we didn't have it this year at Thanksgiving.

                                                                                          3. Thanks for starting the thread. AWESOME menu. That's AMAZING. So Thanksgiving was at my aunt's house in Cupertino and my partner and I live in Oakland, an hour drive away. I would be handling the desserts, stuffing, salad, and cauliflower puree while my aunt and cousin were supposed to handle the two potato gratin, roast asparagus and turkey.

                                                                                            As it turned out my cousin who was supposed to help, decided to blow off Thanksgiving prep to study for the GMAT. This made my aunt buy a pre-cooked turkey from Whole foods. She did get the requisite ingredients for the gratin and the asparagus. Luckily my stuff was premade so doing the turkey and gratin was fine and really, for asparagus - evoo, salt, pepper.

                                                                                            The menu
                                                                                            Frisee salad with homemade croutons and crisped proscuitto
                                                                                            two potato gratin
                                                                                            Cauliflower puree
                                                                                            roast asparagus
                                                                                            fig and sausage stuffing
                                                                                            turkey with a lemon-herb rub and cognac gravy

                                                                                            Ginger cake with caramel sauce
                                                                                            Chocolate ganache tart
                                                                                            Apple upside down cake
                                                                                            Sugar free pumpkin puree

                                                                                            The good
                                                                                            Well there was nothing bad but the salad, cauliflower, and asparagus went like GANGBUSTERS. Not a bit left over. the turkey was surprisingly good. The most popular dessert? The sugar free pumpkin mousse. I made about three servings, one for myself (I'm diabetic) and enough for a few people to put a dollop on their ginger cake. Everyone LOVED the mousse. I had to hoard mine like Gollum and the one true ring.

                                                                                            The bad
                                                                                            Not bad so much but heavy - the gratin and the stuffing.

                                                                                            The ugly
                                                                                            The ginger cake and caramel sauce was a miss. The flavors were ok but the ginger cake was dry and the caramel sauce separated upon reheated. I had to skim off the fat.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Dcfoodblog

                                                                                              Would you mind sharing your pumpkin mousse recipe? Would I be able to adapt to be non-sugar free?

                                                                                              1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                                                Actually the original recipe is Martha Stewart made with sugar AND maple syrup. The adaptation I made was to heat the pumpkin mixture over a bain marie to heat the egg yolks and dissolve the gelatin.

                                                                                                Martha Stewart Pumpkin Mousse

                                                                                                1 packet of gelatin (a scant tablespoon worth)
                                                                                                1/4 cup of water

                                                                                                1/2 cup canned pumpkin
                                                                                                1/4 cup maple syrup
                                                                                                4 eggs, separated
                                                                                                1 tablespoon worth of spices (you can use cardamom, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg etc)

                                                                                                4 egg whites from the separated eggs
                                                                                                1/4 cup sugar

                                                                                                1 cup heavy cream

                                                                                                Dissolve the gelatin in the water and let sit in the water for 15 minutes until the gelatin has softened. Mix together the pumpkin, maple syrup, spices, and egg yolks in a large heat proof bowl. Add the gelatin and put the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Heat the pumpkin mixture until the gelatin has fully dissolved and the mixture has thickened a little. Let cool to room temperature. Whip the egg whites and sugar to soft peaks. Fold vigorously into the pumpkin (seriously don’t worry about deflating the egg whites, the mousse is totally airy anyway). Whip the whipped cream until soft peaks and fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture. Let stand at least 2 hours before serving.

                                                                                            2. The good ~~ guacamole and scoops appetizer; Henry's brand (from Costco) fresh cranberry relish; traditional herb stuffing and new to me stuffing recipe w/artichokes, mushrooms, sourdough, and parmesan; sweet potatoes w/peaches, cranberries, and cinnamon; roasted asparagus; pumpkin cheesecake and vanilla ice cream w/caramel topping

                                                                                              The Bad ~~ Green salad w/homemade blue cheese dressing (no one touched it); frozen smashed potatoes (I didn't even try them); my gravy which was too thin (although taste was there); steamed broccoli, carrot, cauliflower medley (no one touched); Pillsbury Grands (but my family love Love LOVES them); AND the HoneyBaked Smoked Turkey. I do not like smoked turkey but it was my DNephew's contribution and others seemed to enjoy it.

                                                                                              The (truly) Ugly ~~ grocery store veggie tray w/ranch. And the bottle of whole peppercorns I spilled into ground meat while browning for stuffing ~~ . Ah well, we had TWO vegetarian stuffings.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: laliz

                                                                                                That sucks on the stuffing! A good reminder to me - sometimes I get sloppy and instead of using a tablespoon or something to dig, i.e., brown sugar, out of a bag for a sautee or curry, I just lightly shake the bag over the pan. Every so often I get an avalanche and have to toss the whole thing.

                                                                                                1. re: sasha1

                                                                                                  I've learned to shake into the palm of my hand, that helps. Then you can eyeball it at least.

                                                                                              2. The Good:
                                                                                                My sis made this amazing shrimp appetizer. Since I live in the Rockies, I was VERY skeptical of any kind of seafood appetizer not tasting like freezer burn, but it was amazing. The marinade was the key: lime zest, basil, olive oil, etc. Tip: she said not to over-marinate shrimp, less than 15 min. in the marinade then hit the grill. I gobbled them all up like a moose. Then she made stuffed mushrooms with Gorgonzola, a family recipe. I was almost full before dinner.

                                                                                                The bad and ugly?
                                                                                                My bro-in-law insisted upon a cheap pumpkin pie. We poo-poo'ed him since we had made a pumpkin cheese cake, but he insisted. Of course, no one but him wanted it, so I had 3/4 of a pie leftt over but my neighbor graciously took it off my hands.

                                                                                                Being single, I have a lot of turkey left over, but I always freeze it in little one cup packets, so I have turkey for the next six months: turkey tetrazinni, soup, turkey salad, etc.

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: natewrites

                                                                                                  The Menu:

                                                                                                  Apps:
                                                                                                  Mini crab cakes w/lemon aioli
                                                                                                  Spiced bourbon pecans
                                                                                                  Sparkling wine

                                                                                                  Mains:
                                                                                                  Roast turkey and gravy--this year I followed to a tee the Molly Stevens recipe/technique published in Saveur a couple of months ago. I'm not a great fan of roast turkey, but the bird was purty, I'll say that, and my husband declared it the best turkey I'd ever cooked. The gravy (giblet) was fabulous.
                                                                                                  Roast Pork Loin--marinated in pepper jelly, dijon, thyme before roasting

                                                                                                  Sides:
                                                                                                  Mom's "Yankee Bread Dressing"--you know the one: bread, onion, celery, parsley, moistened by stock--the perfect vehicle for good gravy, imo.
                                                                                                  Alternate dressing (I always like to try a new one on T-day)--this year, it was sourdough and ww bread cubes w/chanterelles, diced pears, pancetta, fresh thyme. This was lovely (though it does not go well w/gravy). DH raved and asked why we can't have it any old time. (Most of my blood relations didn't even try it, ever resistant to any upstart dressing.)
                                                                                                  Mashed potatoes--made by my sister were smooth, perfectly salted, and delicious.
                                                                                                  Peas (LeSeur) cooked w/mushrooms, onions, butter--they are what they are, but the family would revolt if they weren't on the table.
                                                                                                  Cauliflower and Broccoli w/Cheese Sauce--perhaps the only truly bad thing on the table. Despite my steaming the veggies and making the sauce the day before, I managed to burn the top of this rather beautiful looking dish (pre-oven) and undercook the vegetables. This is another one of those dishes my family insists upon though it never seems to get eaten--and it certainly didn't this year.
                                                                                                  My sister's cranberry-nut "salad" w/cream cheese-sour cream topping (this seems more like dessert to me, but it is good)
                                                                                                  Cranberry relish--the best I've ever made, imo. I simmered two satsumas for a half hour and then processed them--pulp and rind--to a paste and stirred it into the just-cooked relish (fresh cranberries, fdried cranberries, brown sugar, pomegranate liquer, fresh grated ginger).
                                                                                                  Fresh baked ciabatta--superfluous, but most of it got devoured anyway.

                                                                                                  Wine: My friend brought a few bottles of a fabulous chardonnay and an equally fabulous pinot noir. I meant to keep the bottles and write down which they were, but alas, they got thrown away before I had a chance.

                                                                                                  Desserts (the pie-to-other ratio was ludicrous):
                                                                                                  Mom's mini-pecan pies (loved by almost everyone)
                                                                                                  Mom's chocolate pie w/whipped cream--we had a childhood friend for dinner and she called the week before to request this and then made my mom's day by regaling us with tales at table of how, as a kid in our 'hood, she used to angle for dinner invitations whenever she saw my mom making this pie. (My mom had made an extra one for her to take home, so that made *her* day. )
                                                                                                  Lemon pecan pie (an old Bert Greene recipe)--regular pecan pie is too sweet for me; this is a tart alternative that I like, and my husband loves.
                                                                                                  My own pumpkin pie--a surprise hit. Mom usually makes a pumpkin pie (just canned filling dumped into a shell); it never gets eaten, and I'm sure it's the reason I've never liked pumpkin pie. This year, since Mom wasn't making one, I decided to try to come up w/something as my husband has fond memories of the pumpkin pies of his childhood. I made a custard with fresh pumpkin puree, eggs, brown sugar, buttermilk, melted butter, a little flour, nutmeg, ginger, and just a smidge of cinnamon. DH loved it! And two days later, I tried a sliver of it, cold. To my complete surprise, I found it darned tasty. I'll be baking it again at Christmas.

                                                                                                  Overall, I'd give the spread a B. But it was a very nice day.

                                                                                                  Two nights later, that old friend texted me that she was in "the vicinity." I told her to come on over, and she, DH, and I filled our plates w/leftovers, nuked them, and drank wine. And then she told me she had been hoping for just that when she sent the text. We laughed like kids.

                                                                                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                    You're way too modest; this spread definitely deserves an "A." (Wish I'd been a guest!)

                                                                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                      Sounds fantastic---I'd expect no less, of course ;)

                                                                                                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                                        You are both too nice.

                                                                                                        It really was a B, but as I would tell my students when I taught, a B is a *good* grade! I'll strive for the A at the next big holiday meal, the one coming up in (yikes) just a few weeks. But I am getting inspired by everyone's T-giving reports.