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Detroit Thanksgiving - Any Lessons Learned? [DTW]

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Okay, you’re exhausted. But, please share a few takeaways from your DTW Thanksgiving this year, while it’s all still fresh in your mind. Where did you eat, or what did you make? What were the great scores (price/quality) at the markets? What shortages did you encounter?

I looked for good deals at Trader Joes on organic/natural products. But, their potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, turkey, etc., were not quite as good as I had hoped, price or quality wise. No complaints, but no accolades. The cornbread mix was too sweet for stuffing making. The vac packed chestnuts were a good deal.

Fortunately, I started Monday, so there was time to recover. I got an Aaron’s Best frozen boneless turkey thigh roast from One Stop (Kosher) which I braised as a backup in case my roast turkey was a loser. That came out great, but so did my roast whole turkey—which I bought from Roperti’s Farm of Livonia ($3.49/LB). I think(?) Oppsie was leaving Roperti’s as I was arriving. I didn’t quite get to say Hi-- my many years in the disco scene eventually taught me it is “bad form” to run after a girl leaving a parking lot. Anyway, samples of Roperti’s house smoked turkey were offered at the counter. It was decent, but I’m glad I roasted mine. (The Trader Joe’s turkey was relegated to, and made, good stock.) Roperti’s photos are attached.

Great Harvest Bread Co. bakes a beautiful fresh bread herbed specifically for stuffing, and they ran it thru the slicer from two directions, leaving me with (long) finger-sized bread pieces. I’ll be back next year but I may buy their regular bread and then add my own herbs. Aside: The girls there remind me of my old liberal university days…tie dyed shirts, bead jewelry, no makeup, scarves as hair adornments, enthusiasm despite minimum wage pay, etc.. Love it.

I liked the Wisconsin cranberries from Trader Joe’s more than the local Michigan cranberries (sorry Blueberry Farms cranberry company, maybe it was my technique). After the Lions game I’m thinking to revisit that evaluation. Papa Joe’s (sorry to keep switching-up on the Joe’s) green beans were okay, but I wanted stars. Next year I’m going with brussels sprouts. My organic-heritage-yada-yada-yada pumpkin flesh came from ROFM’s Cinzori Farms. It was a fantastic looking pumpkin. Big, beautiful, juicy, $5. Too bad I couldn’t match it with a competently made crust. Other than that, GFS was good for Kosher salt and disposable chafing dishes.

Looking forward to hearing about your experiences.

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  1. Made several "go-withs" (Pumpkin Cheesecake, Baked Pearl Onions, Celebration Bean seven layer torte) on Wednesday. BIG win in the prep category.

    Hand-mashed appx eight pounds of potatoes, finished with appx a quarter pound of butter and a more than generous splash of heavy cream.

    Bought a loaf of TJs Tuscan Pane to make open-faced, turkey sandwiches yesterday. Good move.

    2 Replies
    1. re: RedTop

      Baked pearl onions. That sounds fantastic. I might try that this week. You started with frozen onions, right? Was your recipe from on-line? (PS--the potatoes weren't make-aheads, were they? ---I've not been able to figure out how to pull that off)

      1. re: VTB

        Pearl onions, yep, 12 oz frozen pkg from Kroger. Boiled the onions, made the sauce a day ahead. Refrigerated overnight, baked them for T-Day dinner as the turkey rested. Used a white sauce recipe from food.com--didn't include the Cayenne Pepper sauce. Wanted a sort of sweet taste. Got it.

        Mashed potatoes were finished as turkey rested also.

        Thanks for the inquiry, Tom.

    2. My family raved about the sweet potato souffle from Honey Baked Ham ata pre-Thanksgiving get together, so I spared myself the grief and bought four pans. Super easy. Every last bite was eaten.

      Wish I'd have known about the vac-pack chestnuts. It took me an hour and a half to shell a pound and I did a terrible job even after the effort.

      Roperti's turkey was wonderful.

      1. Great meal pre-prep with roasted turkey legs and thighs for stock for the gravy. A mix of a bottle of dry white and a stick of butter bastes the bird, with a dunked big square of cheesecloth on top of the breast to keep it moist, taken off just at the end of cooking. I always make my own cornbread for dressing with sausage, really good this year with a ton of celery and huge Spanish onions. berkleygary made homemade rolls, the spuds, apple crisp and an apple pie...I bought a mince pie, and we had his 24 hour-rise homemade bread for sandwiches. All great...gravy rocked it this year as well. Best of all having the DNA pool around the table.

        2 Replies
        1. re: berkleybabe

          I'm gathering that the DTW Chowhounders stepped up to the plate cooking-wise, but making one's own yeast rolls may "take the cake," given all the other required tasks of Thanksgiving. Tip of the hat to bg. (still skeptical about the cheesecloth thing, though)
          Still no comments from anyone who got a heritage breed bird from a SE Mich farm, or from anyone who leaned on a DTW restaurant (sucessfully or unsucessfully).

          1. re: VTB

            Thanks, I'll pass it along VTB. He's got the roll/yeast/bread thing down! The main thing with the cheese cloth is it keeps the breast from overbrowning and the extra liquid (wine and melted butter) really increases the yield of the gravy -- doubles the amount. Which is essential as this is the annual "sacred nectar" of the berkleys.

        2. made dinner rolls from scratch, black bottom key lime pie, and a turkey w/ gravy....all in about 6 hrs, not too shabby

          1. My SIL hosted, but I was responsible for a veg side. I bought a couple pints of little tiny brussel sprouts from the RO farmer's market the previous Saturday, which I pan roasted in olive oil (brown food tastes good!) and sprinkled with some freshly grated Parm. Way superior to green beans this time of year.

            Also did a pumpkin-cranberry bundt cake with canned TJ pumpkin and fresh Michigan cranberries, which was yummy.

            And while at the farmer's market, I bought a head of romanesco cauliflower which got pan roasted for yesterday's dinner...fantastic! I hope they still have some this Saturday.

            1. Lesson learned from the past two years...if you are solely responsible for the Thanksgiving dinner then going to the Lions game doesn't work. After two years of timing issues, I went a different route and served salmon on the grill from Plum Market and Dearborn Ham. No mashed potatoes...fingerling...although we did have stuffing made in the crock-put with Zingerman's bread. I felt like I gained hours as I also didn't spend the day before peeling potatoes and getting the turkey brined. In the end I would call it perfect! Next year I might even not make anything that is considered Thanksgiving fare other than pumpkin pie. I do make a great pie or so I've been told.

              1. 1) Oil-less deep fryer's. complete farce. stay far away.

                2) Steve Rocky's fresh turkeys. believe the hype. They are that good and worth every penny

                3) Achatz pie pumpkin crump. omg good.

                4) my gf uses bacon AND sausage in her stuffing. Wow. yummy.


                1. I saw that Achatz now sells frozen pie crusts in their shops so thought I'd try one and maybe save a little time on my from-scratch pumpkin. Two in a package, need to be thawed & unrolled to bake. Thawed one out, rolled it out a bit bigger and pressed into my pyrex pie plate to bake the shell. Checked on it 10 minutes into baking and saw it was slumping down the sides of the dish in a couple places. Tried taking it out and re-forming it but no luck. Oh, well.
                  I had noticed the raw crust seemed to have a slight film on it, maybe so it didn't stick to the wrapper. Second try: this time I dusted thoroughly with flour, and rolled it out even bigger so I had more of an overhang to grab the lip of the dish. Success!
                  Result: tender crust, very close to homemade taste & texture; certainly an improvement over any other frozen/refrigerated crust I've had. Would definitely recommend.
                  Time saved over homemade (this time): none.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gooddog

                    I also bought the Achatz crust and had the same problem. Directions said to defrost for two hours...it got too soft and hard to work with. Sounds like you had better luck once you played with it. Might try your suggestions next time...or just make my own as I was just trying to save some time.

                  2. My lesson learned is don't forget to pop the pie crust back in the fridge once you've got it crimped and docked but before putting in the pecan pie filling. My crimps all fell out in one pie, and the fork marks in the other pie were almost non-existent. I ended up with two weirdly smooth pie crust edges. But the filling...oh my. I made a regular old Karo syrup pecan pie for the in-laws, which they loved. Then I made one with dark brown sugar and bourbon (oh and I arranged the pecans in that one in concentric circles, which looked whoop ass). It was the best pie I've ever made!

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: charlesbois

                      Got a picture of the concentric circles pie, CB? Do share.

                      1. re: boagman

                        these photos ain't great. "regular" pecan pie pre-baking and cooked "bourbon" pecan pie. There's a crack in the bourbon pie, but I just covered it with whipped cream when serving

                        1. re: charlesbois

                          Heck yeah! Thanks to Sir Boagman for goading (sp?) charlesbois into sharing the kick-b*tt pics.
                          PS--I'm obviously behind the times, as I don't make my own bread rolls. 98% of DTW restaurants serve junk for bread, so I figured I was keeping up with the Jones' without making my own Thanksgiving bread rolls. Guess I was mistaken.
                          PPS-- bourbon is a swell Thanksgiving ingredient. Next year....

                          1. re: charlesbois

                            Wow, CB, that looks darned impressive. If it tasted *half* as good as it looks, it must have been wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing the pics. One question from a wide-eyed guy: what does the Bourbon do/add to the taste of the pie?

                            1. re: boagman

                              Thank you! As for the bourbon, brownest of the brown liquors, well, it's basically just flavoring, like vanilla. but it definitely imparts a deeper, boozier flavor than vanilla. I put in a healthy amount, so with the richness of the brown sugar too, the pie filling tasted a little like one of those expensive liquor-filled bonbons you usually get from Europe. Or maybe a better way to explain it would be: you know how pecan pie is sometimes cloyingly sweet? This is the opposite, deep and complexly sweet.

                              As for the concentric circles, I was inspired by this. They used a springform pan though, so they got in an extra circle of pecans

                              1. re: charlesbois

                                That sounds amazing, CB. Thanks again for providing the visual, and the bourbon idea. It really sounds like a great idea.

                      2. I used a hybrid of AB's and ATK turkey techniques. Dry brined for 24 hours, brought to room temp, poked holes in the fatty parts, breast side up for 30 minutes at 500*, apply a foil shield to the breast and lower temp to 350* and cook until breast reaches 161*, remove stuffing and continue cooking it, rest turkey for 30 minutes, carve and enjoy.

                        Turkey fat for the roux, limited drippings in the gravy because they were very salty.

                        Potato ricer, butter, half and half for awesome potatoes.

                        Tried to make Kasespatzle with very poor results, but it was my first attempt and I vow to improve.

                        1. We had two Thanksgiving dinners. The first was with my family 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, and we hosted 14 people at our house. I cooked everything but the turkey (I'm a vegetarian, so my grandma who lives a mile away cooked it) and pies. Since I'm a vegetarian, Thanksgiving is all about the sides for me! I asked family members for their top 3 favorite Thanksgiving foods, and made sure everyone had all of their favorites. Biggest lesson: planning ahead and organization made everything run smoothly! I made 3 spreadsheets to keep it organized. (Shopping list for 4 grocery stores, items to make ahead of time, and a timed schedule for day-of work). Here's the report on what I made:

                          Smoked salmon - bought a package from Trader Joe's, and my brother turned half of it into a dip with cream cheese, lemon, dill, and thyme. Everyone loved it. Served with crackers.

                          Brie en Croute with homemade cranberry sauce - Delicious, but almost a disaster! Since I only have 1 oven, I tried making this in my 10 year old toaster oven, but it quickly burned the cute bow I'd made on top with the scraps. Scraped that off and fit in in the regular oven and it turned out delicious, though not as pretty as I wanted it to be.

                          Stuffing - Made a couple boxes of Stovetop (it was requested!) as well as a homemade cornbread/andoullie sausage/creole dressing. I made the cornbread stuffing ahead of time and reheated in the oven before our meal. I didn't eat it, since I am a vegetarian, but my husband loved it. May have been a little spicy for a few family members. Recipe: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/creol...

                          Martha Stewart No-Knead Yeast Dinner Rolls - DELICIOUS, as usual. I made a double batch and may have made them a bit large, but they are always a hit whenever I make them. Best rolls I've ever had. Recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/314369/n...

                          Mashed Potatoes - used Yukon Golds and a ricer, made ahead of time and reheated. This was my first time using a ricer, as I like my mashed potatoes with skins and a bit chunky, but these were delicious with some cream, butter, and Penzey's Fox Point seasoning.

                          Martha Stewart Roasted Fall Vegetables - always a hit with my family. A bit overcooked this year, but that was my fault. (I set the timer and had another family member take them out) Recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/339872/r...

                          Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows - best I've ever had (I ate it without the marshmallows), and I usually like sweet potatoes in a savory dish. Used this recipe, only I made it ahead of time and pureed the sweet potatoes, then reheated and topped with marshmallows the day-of: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                          Broccoli Salad with Raisins/Sunflower Seeds - made it with golden raisins, which I like much better than normal ones, and a dressing of mayo, balsamic, and brown sugar. Good.

                          Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese - Cooked quinoa and roasted the beets ahead of time and then chilled, mixed together the day of with arugula, goat cheese, and a homemade red wine vinaigrette and topped with pecans. It was a hit! I was worried about others liking it, but it was probably the most-requested leftover. I completely forgot to add the shaved fennel to it, but it was delicious anyway.

                          Cranberry Pineapple Marshmallow Salad - fastest recipe I made! Chopped fresh cranberries in my food processor, mixed in some crushed pineapple, yogurt, marshmallows, and walnuts. Also a favorite leftover.

                          Homemade Cranberry Sauce - I make basically the recipe on the bag, but use orange juice instead of water and add orange zest. I made it ahead of time and used it in the Brie en Croute as well as serving it by itself, everyone loved it.

                          Brown Sugar Whipped Cream - I made this from the eve cookbook (I REALLY miss eve, but glad I have the cookbook!) to go with pie someone brought, and I think it was as big of a hit as the pie itself! My cousins (5 and 9) each told me separately that they wanted me to give their mom the recipe and teach her how to make it - they helped me dump ingredients into the KitchenAid, turned on the mixer, etc. :


                          I bought almost all of my fruits/vegetables at Randazzo's (less than $50), with a few coming from Westborn. Bought fish, dairy, beverages from Trader Joe's (about $100), and a few items from Meijer.

                          For Thanksgiving Day, we went to Gandy Dancer with my in-laws. Service wasn't as good as it usually is there (slow on water refills and our meals weren't all placed on the table at the same time like they usually do, but of course I forgive them for that on such a busy day). The place was packed with big crowds around the entrance when we got there at 1:00. They are a little lacking in vegetarian meals there (especially since I don't like mushrooms), but I quite enjoyed my vegetarian squash bisque and pear/beet/blue cheese salad on their Thanksgiving menu. Also liked the almond-encrusted brie from their regular menu. This was my first Thanksgiving in a restaurant, (which I was quite sad about at first), but it turned out to be a lovely time. All 6 of us ordered completely different things (my husband was the only one to choose the Thanksgiving Feast), and we all enjoyed it. I felt out of place not cooking anything Thanksgiving morning, but I have to admit it was nice not having any clean-up afterward!

                          1. Just chiming in to say that this thread is a delightful read. And informative.