It’s Thanksgiving this week and no one is more surprised than me about it.
I’ve flown to California for my son's wedding----and since we flew all those thousands of miles from Kodiak, by golly, we’re going to stay awhile! In the preparations for the wedding and the trip (and elections), I am only now realizing, “It’s Thanksgiving?” All my children are driving or flying in as well. There are also two birthdays the day before (mine and my lovely surprise child son born on my 45th birthday.)
I’m so sorry to say that I’m not going to be penitent or confessional or holy in any way here today. It’s been a long, unholy season these last months and I’m ready not only for some giving-of-thanks and for a wedding, but for a little leaven of levity. A little less gravity. And yes, I’ll take some gravy with that gratitude too.
I’m here today to help make us thankful, so, thankful. And to help us all feel confident in our culinary expertise. If you’re feeling a little shaky about the upcoming feast---about baking the turkey, maybe. About which kind of stuffing to make. If you’re nervous about your pie crusts, or creating a beautiful table, read and watch on! By the time you're done, you'll be gleefully running to the kitchen happy and thankful for whatever you have planned.
Now, just because it's Thanksgiving, why should you be stuck with Turkey? There are so many tempting alternatives. Here are several sure to lure you away from hallowed tradition:
What is it? you may rightfully ask. Of course, it's Lamb Meatloaf baked in Mini-pumpkins. Now that says "thanks!" all over it!
Or, on that special feast day, you can lead your dear guests, who have traveled for hours in heavy traffic, into your dining room and seat them around your table. You bow your heads to celebrate the many gifts of God, and then you serve them this-----
Or (from the same legit source) what about Butternut Squash Lasagna, made extra special with chestnuts and gorgonzola? (I nominate this for the entree on the Day of Atonement)
One more alternative. We do love to mish-mash our food traditions, don't we? Then why not this:
Yes, of course: Thanksgiving Sushi.
Perhaps you’ve decided to stick with turkey after all. Good choice! But still, you have a flare for experimentation and creativity. You have a reputation to maintain! Consider these original approaches to the holiday bird:
Since turkey is famously dry, why not embrace this natural feature and go one step further?
Yes, Turkey Jerky!
And for those who can't imagine any kind of feast without bacon, there's always this:
But if that feels too indulgent, scale back with one of these sophisticated creations:
Now that we have the main course covered, let's move on to savory side dishes!
Sweet potatoes are a must. So are marshmellows. Why subvert this ancient tradition now?
Cranberries, too, of course, must make an appearance. But the fancy table also requires candles---yet often there's not room for both. Poof! Solved!
There must be green vegetables, of course. There's always the beloved Green Bean Casserole, but some prefer their greens suspended. Looking as little like a vegetable as possible. For these people, Paula Deen has created "Geriatric Salad"
(The green is achieved naturally, by real asparagus and celery. Nothing fake for us!
Then there's always the question about stuffing. So many choices! You've heard of cornbread stuffing, well, there's something even more American: Popcorn stuffing! (yes, for real. But becuase I'm a real friend, I'm not sending you to the recipe.
Finally----Dessert! For those who just can’t get enough turkey in on this special day, why not extend its reach all the way to the final course? We begin with none other than---naturally----The Turkey Cake!
Here's the actual fine print:
Warning: This dish is not recommended for people who require an inch of space between food groups. It’s a savory layer cake composed of an entire turkey dinner: ground turkey filling, mashed potato “icing,” with stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and more. before you begin, you’ll need to make the mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sausage stuffing, and gravy before you begin; the sweet potatoes can be made ahead as well. Rewarm everything except the cranberry sauce just prior to assembling the cake, so it’s all easy to spread.
That's cheating, of course. To turn a main dish into a fabulous (non)dessert. Better the REAL turkey cake,
which is made out of 3 cake mixes, filled with candy corn and fondant "stuffing."
(Which do you prefer? A turkey cake with real turkey for the main dish or a turkey cake with real cake and fake turkey for dessert? Ugh, so many decisions!!)
There is one final option in this category, an offering that brilliantly resolves the dilemma above, enabling you to finish off your sacred meal with the class and elegance it deserves:
I am so much more thankful now after this tour. And so much more confident. Don't you know how good a cook you are now? My best most obvious culinary advice? "Don't try so hard." Don't showboat. Most of all, be Thankful! Whatever you prepare, if you cook it with joy, it will be a lovely meal that celebrates God’s goodness, his faithfulness, His daily outpouring of always bread and often cake.
Dear Friends, May you all Eat, Feast, Love one another, and be filled with thanks and praise!
With many thanks and much love, Leslie