Thursday, November 26, 2009

On what NOT to make for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

It's a great holiday, no gifts required, lots of good food. And of course, tradition.

JAN: Which leads me to this confession: There are certain foods I make or MUST have for Thanksgiving that I don't recommend. Foods I am compelled to serve and sometimes eat that, in all honestly, should be avoided at all costs.

Kielbasa on rye rounds: I don't really like Kielbasa. But I'm half Polish and for every holiday, my mother, an otherwise good cook, served Kielbasa on those little rye breads that are always stale. Now I feel compelled to serve Kielbasa, especially at Thanksgiving, even though its actually too heavy an appetizer before a huge turkey dinner. I try to improve it. I hand make the rounds out of regular rye bread, which are a nice touch and never stale. I make a sauce of horse radish and dijon. But there's no getting around the kielbasa. It must be served.

Green Bean casserole: Let's face it, those french fried onion rings are kind of gross. It doesn't matter. My mother served it. Plus, my daughter loves it, so she puts it together. It can't be left out.

Cranberry souffle: This one I got from my former roommate. You make a sauce of fresh cranberries, whip up six egg whites and put it in the oven after the turkey comes out. To tell you the truth, it doesn't taste all the great, but it looks incredibly impressive, so I serve it. Not every year, just when I want something pretty on the table.

Turnips: I hate turnips unless they are slow roasted and there is no time for that with a full Thanksgiving oven. So they must be boiled and mashed ahead of time. They are bitter vegetables that remind me of that moment when Scarlett O'Hara comes back to Tara and pulls up a vegetable from the ground that makes her throw up. But they were my mother's favorite. Last year I made them, this year I'm leaving them out.

Home made gravy: It's the prima donna of Thanksgiving dishes. It has to be done after the turkey comes out while everyone is getting restless for the meal. I'm a pretty cool cook, but I find this whole process nerve-racking. You are supposed to get the grease out -- which is impossible, since the whole thing is just grease. And God forbid there are lumps. I don't eat it anyway, but for my guests who do, I find a good store-made gravy and microwave it.

Is it just me? Or are there mandatory Thanksgiving dishes you serve, eat or feel everyone should avoid??

HALLIE: Good gravy--how can you possibly get it out of a can? Travesty! It's easy to separate out fat. You pour all the juices into a pyrex cup and let the fat separate from the juices. Pour off the fat, and use just a 3-4 tablespoons of it to start the gravy. I just have to be sure not to drink too much wine before I start the gravy.

JAN: Just to clarify, I don't get the gravy out of a can. You can get sort-of-home-made but store bought gravy at Roche Brothers (Willow Farm) and Whole Foods. They come in cartons. Like Ice cream.

HALLIE: What I don't like are cranberry relishes made from ground up raw berries. Pucker time. And I used to hate Brussels sprouts but I've made my peace with them.

ROBERTA: Oh me too, must have the homemade gravy. Must have it the next day for leftovers too! But I totally agree with Jan on the fresh cranberry relish--ugh. (this year I bought a can...)

My mother-in-law is coming for dinner tomorrow so I'm doing the creamed onions that I would otherwise let fall by the wayside. And stuffing--I don't care that much about it, but my family does so I make it. Recent years, I've been making it with homemade cornbread and sausage, but since we're out of town in a small kitchen this year it's PEPPERIDGE FARM FROM A BAG! And just by the way, I love mashed turnips--one of my sisters-in-law taught us to mix the turnips with the potatoes and mash them all together so that's what I'll do this year!

HANK: I just did a WHOLE BLOG about gravy. It's my nemesis. Though I won't give up. Check it out on I love gravy. And I only have it on Thanksgiving. I also love roasted Brussels sprouts--Hallie, you taught me how to make them! And I adore the real cranberry relish I make with triple sec and orange peel and pecans.

Yuck: creamed onions. Roasted chestnuts. Pecan pie. (yes, I know, But I think it's tooth-grittingly sweet.) Parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, any of those root things. To me, they taste like--ah, mud.

That cranberry souffle sounds kind of cool. How long does it cook? NO NO, don't tell me.

JAN: So enough of that warm and fuzzy "what we're grateful for" Thanksgiving conversation. Come tell us what you HATE about Thanksgiving. But food only. No relatives.

(And come back tomorrow when I'll post my cranberry souffle recipe--especially for Hank. The kids won't eat it, but most adults will rave - at least before they taste it. And if you were ever going to write a Thanksgiving murder mystery, it would be the perfect place to put the poison. )


  1. Hmm. I think I'm collecting ideas for tomorrow. Complicated with one vegetarian, one gluten intolerant, two "normal," and most of them hungry.

  2. Hi Sheila,

    Wishing you a happy thanksgiving, with a lot of creative ideas and a lot o patience!


  3. Sheila, your holiday sounds like ours! We have four omnivores, three vegatarians, 1 gluten intolerant, and one lactose intolerant...and a partrdge in a pear tree. I make gravy with rice flour. Add soy milk to the mashed potatoes. And have LOTS of food so there's something everyone can eat.

  4. What Hallie said about gravy. Equal parts fat (buy separator) and flour. Cook the turkey neck, giblets, etc., with aromatic vegetables the day before to obtain a good stock. Don't ever try to make more gravy than you have fat for. Plenty of salt (taste first) and pepper, and maybe a bit of thyme are the only seasonings necessary. About 1 T. of fat and flour per cup of broth. My Dad taught me this eons ago and I've never (in spite of wine, grogg and spiris) had a failure. A zen-like concentration helps.

    Off to make the green bean casserole from scratch! Yum!

  5. Stuffing. I don't get it. Why would I want to be stuffed? But my husband loves it, so he makes it. Some years it could be a meal in itself with all the stuff he throws in.
    My mother used to make a sweet potato casserole with pineapple chunks and marshmallows on top. It must have been 1000 calories per scoop. That's off the current menu.
    Actually I need to have a few drinks before I even cook the turkey - I really don't like to cook food that looks so much like a living thing. (I don't mind eating it, though.)


    (ANd bread pudding. And Italian bread salad. You get the carb-y picture.)

    The Brooklyn contingent all has the flu, sigh, so no kids this year. I'm making turkey and stuffing anyway! Off to baste..

    love love love to all--very thankful for you..

  7. ANd then there was the year my niece announced she ONLY eats fish.


  8. I mean, she eats other things too, she said. But not poultry. Or butter. Or cream. And that's all fine. But tell me, oh, the day before...

  9. Mashed potatoes. I just don't see the point. They're so much better just boiled or french-fried. :)

    Any way we can have that roasted brussel sprouts recipe? I always feel like I SHOULD like those little vegies, but so far...nope.

  10. I used to have a relative who made an eggplant casserole every Thanksgiving, and she was one of those force-you-to-eat-just-a-little taste folks, even when I said I was (and am) allergic to eggplant. I was little, and she would spank. ::sighs:: so I ate it. I'd come out in the obligatory hives and she still asked me wasn't the taste worth it? (Apparently when I was very small, I said "Hell, no!" which got me the spank but made my grandmother run in the bathroom to hide her laughing.) When I had hives AND wheezing by age 13, Aunt Nolina stopped short of forcing me to eat eggplant until I was in full anaphylaxis.

    Here's the Thanksgiving food I love: stuffing yes! with vegetarian brown gravy, which can be done and is lovely. Baked apples with raisins and rum sauce. Acorn squash stuffed with spinach and goat cheese. Steamed broccoli with toasted almonds. Veggie potstickers and a nice dipping sauce! Pistachio crackers and Cranberry Wensleydale cheese. Blueberry pie. Chocolate peppermint cake.
    Egg nog. Egg nog. Egg nog. With rum. And more egg nog.

    We've got a whole spread going here with people invited to pop in and out at leisure. A buffet attitude. The dogs are loving this.

    I've got typeset pages returned to the publisher and three loved ones who've kicked cancer this year, so there is much to be grateful for.

    Cheers and best to you and yours!

  11. Susannah,
    I want the recipe for acorn squash stuffed with goat cheese and spinach and I also want to know how you serve it. (is it a whole squash, divvied up with the stuffing?)

    I am grateful that although i had to cook for 16, no one had any special food needs.

    And Odette, I'm going to try your recipe for gravy next year.



    And thank you all.

    Yes, I want the squash recipe, too. AND THE SOUFFLE, thanks so much, Jannie.

    BRUSSELS SPROUTS.(For Becky xo)
    1.Get brussels sprouts. (About--7 per person.)
    2. Preheat oven to 375 or so, doesn't really matter.
    3.. Wash BS, cut off a bit of the bottom and make an x with a knife across the bottom.
    4. Place on cookie sheet (with sides) or roasting pan.
    5. Add olive oil, and maybe a bit of garlic oil. Just enough to coat the BS, but you can't go wrong.
    6. Shake on some coarse salt.
    7. Put in oven til the leaves get a bit crispy on the edges. Maybe--15 mins? (some leaves will fall off and get really crisp..they are delicious.)
    8. Accept raves and comments like: "They don't even taste like Brussels Sprouts!"


  13. Love: stuffing! black olives

    Hate: pumpkin anything, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes/yams, creamed anything

    We always have riced potatoes -- some kind of Norwegian tradition in our family

    We had my side of the family over for dinner this year -- my sister did the gravy (phew).