I am 'orribly steadfast in my Thanksgiving repertoire - turkey, mashed, gravy, 2 veggies (almost always b-sprouts and g-beans), cranberry sauce and rolls. Sage dressing has been the family staple for three generations, but the Barbarianette may be allergic to sage so I have taken to making a pan of sage-free dressing alongside the green stuff in the bird.
All of which is a leadup to my huge, daring experiment for the year: a pan of cornbread stuffing to go along with the others. <fx fans self vigorously>
I experiment other holiday meals of the year. Not T-Day.
I’m not cooking this year, but when I do, I like to throw in one or two experimental dishes with the standards and see if they work out.
Past experiments have included;
Bread pudding (went over great and has become part of my standard rotation)
Yorkshire pudding (good, would’ve been better if I’d chopped the herbs finer)
Creamed onions (Didn’t turn out so well)
Mincemeat pie with real meat (Ditto)
French onion soup (Delicious, but didn’t fit in)
Cornbread sausage stuffing (Also now part of my standard rotation)
Pumpkin soup (nobody wanted any)
Pumpkin cheesecake (I make it sometimes but not all the time)
Apple-jalapeno pie (I was the only one who liked it)
Likewise, I’ve tried tinkering with the appetizer platter, but can’t seem to get away from the tried and true standards; celery, broccoli, carrot sticks, ranch dip, dill pickle spears, black olives, Ritz crackers, and Kaukauna cheese ball.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Last year I tried a gluten free stuffing. It didn’t work, and none of us liked it. So back to normal this year…sorry, Mom, but the rest of us want it, and you aren’t eating it either way. I know the collective wisdom from the Dope on this was don’t even try…but…well…I didn’t listen.
I usually experiment with a veggie side. Last year I did a broccoli/cauliflower salad. This year, I’m going to try a glazed carrot recipe - basically sliced carrots, sauteed in butter and ginger ale.
I’m allowed to experiment on Christmas Eve. On Thanksgiving I usually Re create some of my Dad’s best dishes. He was a good cook. He liked mashed rutabaga, lots of butter in it. We all had a small portion, he was happy.
Last Thanksgiving, I tossed some rutabaga along with onions & turnips into the bottom of the turkey roasting pan for the last hour and a half. Mostly to flavor the pan drippings.
The rutabaga was the hit of the holiday! It was random, in two days it will be intentional!
My husband considers no Thanksgiving complete without mac and cheese. Gluten free macaroni is… not good. But he doesn’t always want an entire pan to himself. So I think I’m going to experiment with a rice equivalent of plain, simple, cheddary mac and cheese.
I experimented with a different method of the ham (my traditional contribution to every Thanksgiving that’s not at my house. I really am not a fan of turkey as I eat it every damn day usually. I made the glaze with sour cherry marmelade and fresh pineapple juice and then roasted the pineapple chunks in the pan with the ham…pureed them toward the end of the cooking time and reglazed. Extraordinarily good. i think it’s a bastardization of Ham Montmercy, but probably not as complex.
The wife decided to make a cranberry chutney this year instead of her usual. It’s really good, as it turns out. Has cranberries, apple, pear, hazelnuts, cloves, cinnamon sticks, crystallized ginger, onion, golden raisins, sugar, OJ, bit of salt. It really complemented the turkey without being overpowering.
We do that one - add a dash of ground chipotle peppers to the butter/ginger ale, and some fresh ginger [the kind you have ‘ground’ off a fresh root using one of the pointy Japanese grinding things that looks like anashtray with pointy bits]
As a vegetable side, my mom tried grated carrot fried in butter, add maple syrup and fry some more. It was good. Simple and easy. (Our traditional vegetable has been green bean casserole, but no one had time or desire this year. Tradition may have changed.)
My sister doesn’t like ginger. But she’s ok with ginger ale. She also doesn’t like spice - I was afraid the chili powder would be too much for her. Maybe I’ll play with the recipe in the off season and see if I think I can slip anything else by.
But everyone loved the dish as is… So it’s a success.
Last year - mashed carrots with mint. It did not go over well.
This year for dessert I made tarte tatin and sticky toffee cake.
The tart worked really well - I don’t know if it was right, exactly, but it looked beautiful and tasted great. The cake didn’t work, and instead of being spice cake with a nice toffee base, it was slightly overcooked cake floating on an inch of water. It was not good.
I made a pumpkin chiffon pie, which was beset by problems from the outset but turned out pretty tasty.
And I made a new mac and cheese recipe that is the cheesiest, most decadent thing in the whole world. I said upthread I was going to make it with rice, but I decided to use rice pasta elbows. It’s outstanding.
I tried out 2 new things this year. One for breakfast was sausage and cream cheese rolls. The other was a corn casserole dish. They both were a smashing success and it was requested that they become part of the regular menu. Score!
Our guest brought two deserts. None of that pumpkin crap. One was a plum tart on puff pastry with an almond paste base. The other was a mixed nut tart on pie crust, with a caramelized glaze on top. Freaking awesome.
I should have experimented more. The cornbread stuffing was wonderful. Almost everything else was… well, if most of my T-days are 10s, this was maybe an 8.
Bird was extremely fatty - a full quarter inch under the skin. That led to very oily pan drippings and a lot of them; I could not get the pan liquor to separate and ended up using about 80% of it as-is, so the gravy was heavy and greasy by my usual standards. The skin, which I like a little of, was inedible with its heavy fatback. All of this should have meant very tender, moist meat, but I could NOT get the bird up to temperature. After several years of cooking very large birds and having them ready as much as two hours early, this 21-pounder went almost five hours (in a convection oven) and was still only in the 160s. I finally had to pull it out, and piercing it produced no pink juice, so I let it set while I made greasy gravy and slightly grainy and coarse mashed potatoes. The meat tasted just a little off from the fattiness and very slight undercooking, too, and the in-bird stuffing was merely well warmed, not cooked. (All the temps were into the safety zone… just not into the well-cooked zone, and I prefer a slightly dry finish over a moist one.)
It was good, and no failure overall, but I’ve set such a high bar the last five or so years that it was disappointing.
Bummer. <kicks at the curb and slouches off down the street.>
My Turkey was the experiment this year! I kind of want to tell you about it, but kind of afraid, too. nervous laugh
We made it in the crock pot. A 9.5 pound turkey will fit in a 7qt pot, and at 6 hours on high, comes out tender, juicy, and ready to slide off the bones. It holds together well, though, and we pop it under the broiler for about 10 minutes to crisp the skin.
and then carve it. Before the pot-treatment includes a wash and a pat dry, then an all over slurry rub of butter mixed with olive oil, kosher salt, onion powder, paprika, and black pepper and crushed garlic. Set the bird gently on four little piers made of foil seal the top and roast away the day.
We tested it over the summer with chickens, tested it in October with Turkey, and T-Day was Go Day. It tasted fantabulous and the drippings made the gravy and stuffing to die for.
Spatchcocked the turkey this year. Easily my favorite old/new trend. We will definitely be doing that again.
Otherwise, we went very traditional. We didn’t introduce any new dishes, but made some recipe changes. Husband wanted to try Alton Brown’s Green Bean Casserole, which I’ve made in the past and didn’t think the extra effort was worth it, but he liked it enough to do it again.
I made a much simpler cranberry sauce that I actually like a lot better than my mother’s kitchen sink recipe. Just honey, cranberry juice, orange juice and diced dried apricots with whole fresh cranberries.
My son and I tried a slightly less cardiotoxic sweet potato casserole; mashed sweet potatoes with a touch of butter, some half and half, cinnamon, pinch of salt and a generous slosh of Bärenjäger, 'cause why not? Topped with chopped pecans in melted butter and brown sugar. Yes, that’s the healthier version. urp
My mom, Queen of the Experimental Thanksgiving, was asked to bring a salad. She brought a bizarre looking purple monstrosity of diced red cabbage, apples, blue cheese and anise. It was actually pretty tasty, and a great digestif. I think I would have preferred some sliced fennel root to the dry anise seed, and may actually try that sometime.