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Thanksgiving, Part One:

The tradition is dinner at my sister-in-law’s house, which is somewhat ironic since her family doesn’t overindulge in the calorie department (liquid calories don’t count). It’s obvious that we’re not related by blood. My DNA can beat up their DNA any day. Unless, of course, they wait for the tryptophan to kick in. Then they may have a [turkey] leg up on me.

They enjoy food, they just don’t eat. I’ve stopped wondering what to make. Since everybody brings something, I just make something I know I will eat. That “something” without fail becomes “somethings.”  I have issues with making decisions and narrowing down my contributions.

I wanted to make chutney, or at least have a cranberry sauce that has cranberries visible. In my husband’s family the tradition is to see the rings around the jelled sauce in its cylindrical form. I had a nice jar of cranberry-jalapeno from my local farmers market; I moved on to other ideas. (Though I do have a recipe for ancho cranberry chutney that I want to make…)

I decided on rolls, soup, a side dish and desserts. It was nearly a complete Thanksgiving menu. I have issues making decisions and couldn’t decide on one dish. Multiple was the way to go. 

First, the rolls. I was hoping to be the new Aunt Pauline. (No relation to me; we’d never met; she’s my brother-in-law’s aunt, who is baking for angels now.) She apparently made killer popovers. I apparently just kill popovers; mine were plopovers. Those that did rise were deep, crispy brown – a little too crispy for me to bring to dinner. I did a test run earlier in the week and that batch was perfect. Where, oh where Alton did I go wrong? I followed your recipe precisely. Oh well.

Second, the soup. I made my “Thanksgiving in a bowl” roasted butternut squash soup, complete with a garnish of roasted apple, cranberries, rosemary, pecans and ricotta salada. Shots of wine were the go-to over the shots of soup.  More for me, except that we completely forgot to take this home. The garbage disposal is fed very well at my sister-in-law’s, so I didn’t risk calling the next morning to learn the demise of the soup, or the garnish. Oh well.

Third, the side dish. I made delicious roasted Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions and pancetta. (Yes, the words “delicious” and “Brussels sprouts” do go together, despite the threats from TV moms.) I had recently attended the Williams-Sonoma Sous Chef Series that featured this recipe. My husband couldn’t understand why anyone needed to learn how to cook Brussels sprouts. He doesn’t understand why anyone needs to eat them either.  I figured I’d be one of a handful of people at dinner who’d eat them. Not only could I count the number of people on one hand, I could count them on one finger.  Me. Oh well.

Fourth, the desserts. Plural. I couldn’t bake a traditional apple or pumpkin pie. And forget minced meat. I’m not even sure what that is. Not that I “can’t” bake a pie, of course I can. It’s just too provincial. I decided on the What-to-do-with-leftover-Halloween-candy-cheesecakes, mini-s’mores cupcakes, pumpkin crème brulée (torched on site) and apple clafoutis with farmers market Camembert and my salted caramel sauce. Desserts were a hit. There weren’t going to be many leftovers. Oh swell!

Besides going home with Brussels sprouts and a few of the desserts, we ended up with a few pieces of turkey. We had enough for one meal. Without hosting dinner, we couldn’t enjoy tiptoeing to the fridge for a midnight snack. We had no leftover mashed potatoes or stuffing to spoon. No jellified gravy to slurp. It was kind of a letdown. What was going to keep me up and carbo loaded for Black Friday shopping at midnight?

Thanksgiving, Part Two:

Even though I cooked quite a bit for the real Thanksgiving dinner, it just didn’t feel like Thanksgiving at home; I needed to have the smell of roasting turkey wafting throughout the house while the boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations were taken out of storage. We needed to have our own turkey dinner.

Thanksgiving Part TwoTurkey I can do in my sleep: spices, veggies and herbs in the cavity, thick-cut bacon on top to give the skin some extra flavor and crunch. Next year I’m going to brine the turkey. And get a new roasting pan that doesn’t require an engineering degree to restructure the racks.

What else should be on the menu? I won’t put my family through the torture of Brussels sprouts again.

Stuffing. “Voltaggios Take on Thanksgiving” at williams-sonoma.com caught my eye. Chestnut and Chanterelle biscuit stuffing. I had some roasted chestnuts begging to be made into this stuffing. I didn’t have chives for the biscuits; a quick substitution with rosemary worked fine. They looked yummy (I’m talking about the biscuits, gals, but yes, they are too …). I made the biscuits from scratch, but substituted rosemary for the chives. [N.B. I got carried away and didn’t pay close attention to how many this recipe served … need to get creative with leftovers.]

Mashed potatoes. Obvi.  A little grated smoked Gouda was welcomed to join the mashing. After all, it is a holiday.

Pumpkin mashed potatoes. I’m still participating my self-imposed competition of using 99 cans (or its equivalent) of pumpkin (or other squash).

Vegetables. Oops. Completely forgot to make glazed carrots, but the stuffing has parsnips.

Gravy. Gravy from scratch is usually a fail for me. Lumps, salty, floury. I’ve not mastered this skill, but maybe this is the year that I’ll succeed. I carved out time to devote solely to making the golden liquid. I found a recipe in the November issue of Food Network Magazine, and I even used the turkey neck to build the broth base. I must admit that this is gravy I would have slurped from the frig during a midnight raid, but I’m not sure I’m willing to commit the amount of time and effort needed to recreate it.

Cranberry flowersCranberry sauce. I didn’t steer away from my family’s desire to eat canned cranberry jello (why do they call it sauce? there’s nothing sauce-y about it. Sauces are flowy.), but I couldn’t stand the thought of seeing the ring depressions. I cut slabs of cranberry into flower shapes.

Desserts. No need to make more; we enjoyed the leftovers from Thanksgiving Day.

Leftovers. After 2 days – maybe 1 ½ – all leftover turkey is fed to the garbage disposal. Even the cat turns her nose up at it. It’s a fine olfactory line between good and funky. I go from a repeat meal to everything-mushed-together-until-there’s-no-resemblance-to-turkey meal.

Here are some sample leftover reveals:

Turkey Panini – a twist on the traditional carved sandwich; add some smoked Gouda, sliced apples, bacon and press between some really good bread. (Hint  – if you made my butternut squash soup and have some of the garnish leftover, use it here!)

Turkey dinner in a popoverI didn’t have the heart to throw out the plopovers that did rise. I filled them with a mixture of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin mashed potatoes and gravy and popped them in the oven to heat. Topped with some cranberry-jalapeno and they were surprisingly delish.

Instead of mini-pot pies, make cupcakes. Fill foil liners with layers starting with stuffing, turkey, veggie (corn), and top with mashed potatoes. Bake at 375° until mashed potatoes begin to crisp. Top with gravy drizzle.

The leftover stuffing tastes great on sandwiches, but how about using it as a filling in stuffed mushrooms?

Desserts? Have you noticed that there really isn’t much need to repurpose desserts?

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