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Thanksgiving 2012 - The results are in . . . (aren't they?)

There was a lot of discussion about what we all wanted to eat, what we refuse to eat, what we love and what we hate about that uniquely North American holiday. So how did it go for your group, or just you personally? This isn't supposed to be a rehash of those comments, but updates and new experiences.

My family had two chickens instead of one turkey. They were excellent. The hostess this year is very health conscious, so there was some tweaking to traditional recipes, a few items were not represented (no green bean casserole, no cranberry sauce of any kind) and there were a few additions like a green salad (imagine that, fresh green salad at Thanksgiving) and new for our Thanksgiving, cornbread. No stuffing this year but there was a wild rice casserole. And they kept me away from the oven this year since last year I inadvertently broiled rather than roasted the turkey (beautiful but inedible.)

And miracle of miracles one relative who used to insist that leftovers were the work of the devil and previously would toss anything not eaten by bedtime on Thursday not only left the leftovers alone, but was seen eating a turkey sandwich on Sunday morning.

What were the triumphs and trials at your meal, any big surprises?

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  1. The food was pretty much to spec. My sweetheart's wild rice casserole (!) was a huge hit, and my cranberry sauce was unremarked-upon (except by me, in my head). High points were the hostess's world-class passive-aggressive battle with her adult step-daughter and the sourdough starter I was given by a fellow guest. I have been looking at bread-baking threads with enthusiasm!

    1. Thanksgiving found us invited to two other family's homes. Dinners were good, nothing special, except the Brussels Sprouts at my sister's. They were fantastic.
      Because I couldn't cook for T-Day, we had another "Thanksgiving" on Saturday. I wanted to do Thanksgiving on my Weber Ranch kettle grill. Wouldn't you know that while Thanksgiving was beautiful and around 60 degrees, on Saturday there were snowflakes flying. Oh well, I've cooked in worse.
      I roasted a 19-lb. turkey, indirect. Rubbed with a compound butter which included fresh sage and thyme from the garden wall (probably the last of it, after that day!) and stuffed only with some aromatics, it definitely came out golden brown and delicious. Around an hour before estimated turkey done-time, on the grill went two pies, pumpkin and apple. A third, Cape Cod October, went into the oven. Some time after that, I added some some whole wheat rolls that had been rising, putting them on the firebrick splits that had been preheating at the rear of the Ranch. Finally, sweet potatoes that had been simmered until mostly done and then cut into wedges were added over direct heat and cooked for just a few minutes per side.
      Mrs. Cheez did a good job of replicating my mom's dressing, there was of course mashed potatoes for those that desired, and it seems to me that I am missing something. One thing I am missing is the cranberry-orange relish, another favorite from my mom. I say missing because it remained in the refrigerator, forgotten until dinner was long over. No worries, I enjoyed it later ;-)
      family and friends joined us, and I had a great time! That's really what was the best part.

      1. My personal triumph at the family Thanksgiving was that I made the gravy. It was DH's family, and they had a mini freak out when they realized no one had purchased gravy packets. I asked if they had flour, and saved the day. Also, my cranberry salad is total midwestern kid food (it involves marshmallows) but it was devoured.

        A week after Thanksgiving, I roasted my own whole turkey for the first time. (Had only done breasts before.) We're still working on finishing it (yes, I froze it). So far we had several meals of just leftovers, creamed turkey on biscuits, turkey "shepherd's pie" and a turkey and rice casserole tonight.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jw615

          Good job! Did DH's family prefer your homemade gravy to the packaged kind?

          1. re: jw615

            Oh, I made some good gravy too, thanks for reminding me! Used some of the drippings from the grill along with some stock I had made. It came out quite good.

            jw, glad that you were able to save the day!

            1. re: Cheez62

              My gravy has been suffering lately. Not sure what is wrong but feels like not enough salt or wine.

          2. A successful Thanksgiving! My parents and sister drove 10 hours to Indiana to visit for a few days. Largely traditional meal--turkey (spatchcocked and cooked on a bed of carrots and celery), stuffing, green beans with brown butter, cauliflower gratin, cranberry sauce that I canned 6 months ago from cranberries I bought last season--but the dessert was non-traditional (at least one of the was). I made homemade butter pecan ice cream, which was a huge hit! We ate the apple pie the next day.

            It was a small group--just five (the family who visited plus my boyfriend). I don't typically see my family over Thanksgiving, but they came both last year and this year, so I think a new tradition has developed. As my parents get older, it becomes important for me to get a chance to see them (and I'll visit them over Christmas). And my sister (very close in age to me) is my favorite person to cook with, as we both share this as a hobby. A nice highlight was the only Black Friday shopping we did--a case of wine at a local winery!

            The only "bad" thing was my forgetting to freeze the ice cream canister early enough, so the ice cream itself, while churning successfully, didn't have enough time to firm up in the freezer. So, we basically ate soft ice cream, but the flavor was fabulous. And no one minded--but we don't get bent out of shape over culinary mistakes--well, my dad sometimes does if what he's cooking doesn't turn out.

            Oh, and I successfully nipped any political talk in the bud!

            1. We hosted for the first time and everything went well. We did turkey 2 ways: deep-fried and roasted with 45 min of high heat at the start. They were both great but the roasted one won the turkey throwdown.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Njchicaa

                I also added a brined, spatchcocked turkey, cooked in the a.m. so I'd have my oven free for dinner, to the deep fried turkey we make every year. Had to for extra guests so I could continue my tradition of sending every family home with a big bag of next day Thanksgiving food. I subbed the fabulous yukon gold and sweet potato gratin from epicurious.com for husband's family's usual twice baked potatoes, this recipe is always very well loved. Everything else was pretty traditional, all my usuals and their favorite stuffing, very basic.

              2. I never have done a 'traditional' thanksgiving meal and instead have a theme that changes every year. This year was sort of an eclectic seafood theme with crab stuffed lobster as the main course. Surprisingly everyone of the guests (48 total including 6 children) enjoyed the lobster. The most surprising hit for me was an Arugula salad with pomegranate vinaigrette, I thought it might not be liked as much as it was. I was also surprised that almost everyone, including 4 out of the 6 kids enjoyed the caviar tasting. And a call out goes to my friend Tom who brought the most divine saffron scallops that I have ever had and were enjoyed be all.

                1 Reply
                1. re: RetiredChef

                  I'm available next year, and I'm a Very Big Help! I'd love to see recipes for the scallops and arugula salad... I've developed a near obsession with arugula. I love it with blue cheese, in wraps/sandwiches, sometimes I just munch a handful.

                2. My turkey, which was a heritage breed ordered from a local farm, same farm as last year, as an overcooked disaster. Last year it was just a little bigger and I'm not sure if that was why or what, but he was way overcooked and dry and not tasty. The one "new" recipe was food and wine magazine's corn pudding and it was really bland and nobody liked it. I let my husband cook the stuffing this year, which is a fool proof crock pot recipe (or so I thought) and he undercooked it and the veggies were still hard.

                  The mashed were good, and sweets, and the homemade noodles were the star of the show, but the rest was lacking this year. Still, we had fun and enjoyed it, regardless of the mishaps.

                  1. was supposed to host at my home with friends, but ended up going to parents' house... which was fine, if unremarkable, but not what i had intended or wanted... especially because it means having almost no room for experimentation or breaking with tradition.
                    i do two chickens instead of a turkey, which we all prefer. and as usual, my mother gasped that i hadn't made enough gravy... then ate her words when there was still ample left for my stepdad to enjoy with leftovers. i never cook the two chickens in the same vessel (usually use a deep, slightly more narrow aluminum roasting pan for several reasons), but having just bought a new roasting pan that would accommodate both birds, decided to do it at once. when i stuck my new instant read (i usually judge by checking the juices...) into the birds at a point when i figured they'd be nowhere near done, the thermometer registered way more than done. i was devastated. still, i let them rest, made my gravy, etc. when we cut into them (after a slight reheat on 200), they were absolutely perfect. go figure.
                    mom made her own stuffing. i made my own gluten-free cauliflower leek stuffing, which was good, but i obviously did something slightly different this year, as i remember enjoying it more last time.
                    also brought thyme and garlic roasted veggies, which i pretty much demolished on my own.
                    roasted garlic and caramelized onion mashed potatoes -- half with gouda melted in; half unadulterated
                    candied yams with maple, cardamom and a dash of adobo
                    mom omitted the green bean casserole because frankly no one eats it, and it's not worth wasting food on nostalgia
                    desserts by me -- pumpkin pie (went a little more traditional this year and did a traditional crust), white balsamic custard fruit tart with plum butter glaze; chocolate covered cherry butter bites
                    uneventful, but as i like to say, i survived. and so did the boy. we left, came home, kicked off our shoes, and said, gee it's nice to be home.

                    1. This was my second Thanksgiving with an American family and I have to say that I am somewhat surprised by how little cooking went into the meals I have had away from home. Cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy seem to always miraculously materialize from the contents of cans and canisters. The turkey, at the very least, does go in the oven, but this year's bird came out of its package pre-cooked and apparently dyed to give the appearance of browning so it only required some warming before getting to the table.

                      Perhaps growing up as a first generation American, we felt a stronger need to cook everything from scratch as a means of taking ownership of our American identity. Or perhaps I just came from a food-loving family.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JungMann

                        There are some families who just don't "know how to cook". For many what you described is what they consider cooking.