Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving is my daughter Kate’s favorite holiday. So the menu is very important and I have to get her OK on everything. Over the years we have always tried new recipes and some pass on and some become traditions. I bring my own prejudices to the process, a reaction to the cooking of the 50s and 60s. I won’t eat anything made with cream of snot soup, or miniature marshmallows, or canned green beans. So that precludes two Thanksgiving “classics”, the green bean casserole and cranberry sauce with marshmallows and canned mandarin oranges. Instead, this is what we will be serving at our place on Thursday.

Turkey, of course, roasted not fried. I use the neck and gizzards along with an onion and celery to make a brown turkey stock while the turkey is roasting. For the liver, I use a trick I learned from a Gourmet magazine article years ago. I put the liver in the food processor with some heavy cream and Madeira and liquefy it. The mixture is then added to the stuffing to enrich it.The stuffing recipe varies each year and I usually ad-lib it. This year it will probably be corn bread and sausage with sage and thyme from the herb garden. I like to add brown rice to add some chew to a corn bread stuffing, but this year I may try some Israeli couscous I have in the cupboard.

Gravy is just the traditional gravy made with the pan drippings and the turkey stock. Mashed potatoes this year will be made with Yellow Gold potatoes and rutabaga. I like to add some  rutabaga (or yellow turnip or Swede as it is called in New England) to the potatoes to give it a little bit of flavor and texture. Nothing like a bowl of mashed potatoes with a puddle of butter melting in the middle. And it will be our own home made butter which Kate and I made Monday.

The cranberry sauce recipe we usually make is from the Vegetarian Epicure Vol. 2 by Anna Thomas, unfortunately now out of print. It is a perfect bound paperback and is now falling apart but is just as loved. This cranberry sauce is a cooked sauce that uses fresh cranberries and a chopped up navel orange, with cinnamon and cardamom for spices. It is a fresh tasting, fruity sauce without any of the canned or candy flavors of “traditional” sauces. A copy of the recipe can be found on the Reluctant Gourmet blog.

The vegetable side dishes are just as important as the turkey and stuffing. After lots of experimentation, we have come to standardize on a few dishes. Creamed onions are a traditional dish that we love, although we use a real B├ęchamel sauce to make them. Sweet potatoes are another classic, but the recipe we love is a streuseled sweet potato casserole from the November 2002 Cooking Light magazine, which is fabulous and can be prepared ahead of time. This is more dessert than vegetable, but it is Thanksgiving!

For more “healthy” side dishes, we like and will be preparing Cider-Glazed Carrots from that classic issue, the November 2002 Cooking Light magazine; and Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Hazelnuts from the November 2004 Cooking Light magazine. For both recipes, a lot of preparation can be done ahead of time, which is always important for planning a Thanksgiving dinner. The latter recipe is particularly amazing because my wife, a certified, genetically-tested hater of Brussels sprouts actually likes them prepared this way. And it’s not just her Mississippi-bred love of all things bacon, she actually likes the sprouts fixed this way. Since my daughter and I love Brussels sprouts, this is a win-win recipe.

Finally, there is the not so small matter of desserts. Yes, plural, as in desserts. My son is a chocolate lover so we will be making a chocolate meringue pie from my mother’s recipe. The family joke is that my wife would try year after year to make the pie following recipes from Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, you name it, and the filling would not solidify. So we would have chocolate soup pie. Recently I have been making my mother’s recipe and it works quite well. In addition we will have a pumpkin cheesecake, based on Dana Carpender’s cookbook, 500 Low Carb Recipes. This is a satisfying and rich dessert that is also low carb and will substitute for the traditional pumpkin pie.

That’s our menu for this year. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it). My mother’s chocolate meringue pie recipe follows.

Chocolate Meringue Pie
My mother’s recipe, sent to me by my sister, Sharon.

  • 3 oz. chocolate
  • 2½ c. milk
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 c. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 baked pie shell
  • 1 recipe meringue
  1. Melt chocolate in milk in double boiler and blend with wire whisk.
  2. Mix flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture and cook 15 min., stirring constantly. The mixture should be thick and smooth.
  3. Stir a small amount of the hot mixture slowly into egg yolks, stirring constantly. Return to double boiler and cook a few minutes longer. Add butter and vanilla; stir until melted. Cool the mixture.
  4. Pour into pastry shell. Cover with meringue, and bake in 325┬║ F. oven until delicately browned.

  • 3 egg whites
  • 6 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
Beat egg whites until stiff. Add sugar gradually (1 Tbsp. at a time), beating constantly. Add vanilla. Pile lightly on pie filling, sealing edges.


  1. I still can't get over the idea of cranberry sauce with marshmellows. Really? Not a typo? Hmmm I guess I shouldn't judge before tasting but still... I definitely understand your need to make your own marshmellowless variation.

    1. Yes, usually miniature marshmallows. It's popular, my sisters love it, but they also think a grilled cheese sandwich needs to be made with Velveeta "cheese" and Wonder bread (two more American abominations). To me, it's cloyingly sweet (and pink!), not what a relish should be. Candy for dinner.


Thanks for visiting. I appreciate your taking the time to comment and value what you have to contribute to the discussion.

Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC