Thanksgiving Extraordinaire By Mary Ann Smyth, November 2004
It's almost that time again. Time for Americans to sit around a groaning board with family and friends, and celebrate our pilgrims' first Thanksgiving dinner.
Do you argue about the menu? We do in this house. We all want to do something different, to change the menu a little. But not enough to have everyone leave en masse for the nearest restaurant. The trick is to gently slide a new dish or two under discriminating noses and see what flies. My late husband was a traditionalist, always wanted the same old, same old every year. Have you someone like that? Then you're stuck. But I like just a little variety. After leafing through my cookbooks, I've settled on an array of appetizing dishes that aren't too far out of the box but are likely to whet appetites and have everyone calling for seconds and thirds. Caught your interest? Here are my picks for a Thanksgiving Menu Extraordinaire ...
Have to have something to keep everyone out of the kitchen while the finishing touches complete the cooking. So, I've chosen Bar Nuts (Refined American Cuisine by Patrick O'Connell, p. 42) which should go well with Cognac Scented Chicken Pate (Neiman Marcus Cookbook p. 67). Serve the pate with toast fingers and crisp crackers. Accompany that with a warm Spinach Dip (Low Carb Gourmet by Karen Barnaby, p. 30) served with toasted pita triangles. Different enough to raise eyebrows but not enough to engender howls of outrage.
Next, Winter Squash Soup (Saved by Soup by Judith Barrett, p. 98) makes a gentle and aromatic starter. Or maybe you'd prefer Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup (Saved by Soup, p. 156) for its beautiful color. Then bring on the Turkey. Spruced Up Turkey (Refined American Cuisine by Patrick O'Connell, p. 139), that's soaked in brine prior to roasting, is guaranteed by a chef to make for a more tender and juicier bird. But if you want more traditional, go with Roast Turkey with Madeira Gravy (The Essential Eating Well Cookbook edited by Patsy Jamieson, p. 240). Okay, so the flavored gravy's a little short of traditional. Go for it. Everyone will like it. Except of course for Aunt Sadie who never likes anything.
I have to have my filling - or stuffing as some call it. For a simple but very tasty stuffing, you can try one with whole-wheat bread crumbs (Eating Well Cookbook, p. 242). Or, from the same cookbook (p. 276) go for Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Filling cooked on the side - not in the bird - and flavored and colored with saffron. Makes a nice change. Mashed Potatoes (Neiman Marcus Cookbook, p. 190) are a must at my table. And my recipe calls for Yukon Gold potatoes for the best taste and texture. Possibly you'd prefer subtly flavored Mashed Garlicky Potatoes (Eating Well Cookbook, p. 112).
To complement the other dishes, include Peas & Pearl Onions (Refined American Cuisine, p. 169), and Green Beans with Eggs & Nutmeg (Low Carb Gourmet, p. 103) - a real departure for me and one that intrigues. My piece de resistance is a Corn Pudding (Pat Conroy's Cookbook by Pat Conroy, p. 58). Of course, I always have a Cranberry Sauce (Low Carb Gourmet, p. 250). Got to have my cranberries. And this sauce is homemade. Breads next. This year, my family will enjoy Neiman Marcus Popovers (Neiman Marcus Cookbook, p. 250), that have to be the best in the world. And maybe Cornbread Madelaines (Refined American Cuisine, p. 49). I'll also place a chilled bowl of celery sticks and large pimento-stuffed olives on the table. Some traditions can't be broken.
Now, down to real business. Desserts. Adorning my board will be a Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (Low Carb Gourmet, p. 296), Apple Cobbler (Pat Conroy's Cookbook, p. 213), Pound Cake (Pat Conroy's Cookbook, p. 188), and the bestest in the world Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies (Neiman Marcus Cookbook, p. 240). Also a pretty plate with after-dinner mints to round out the meal. Beverages? Ice water, of course, but anything else is a matter of preference. A lovely glass of wine would never go amiss. And possibly an after-dinner liqueur with coffee to accompany the table conversation while everyone loosens their belts.
Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appétit to all!
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