11/21/12 - Flavors and More- Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Friends and family gathering for a festive meal with all the flavors of autumn married into a host of favorite side dishes and family secret dressing to serve with a cider brined roasted turkey.

Because I prepare Thanksgiving Dinner for a large crowd, including a few vegetarian people or friends on a restricted diet, I have learned to balance the meal. While you will not see a “tofurkey” near my holiday buffet table, you will find a host of offerings from the traditional noodle pudding, to the sugar pecan streusel laced sweet potato casserole, to a more refined fingerling potatoes roasted with fresh sniped chives and parsley from my herb garden. I have learned to find hearty alternatives for my vegetarian friends without adding hours on to my three-day culinary event. I serve two cranberry sauces. The first sauce is simply an enhancer to the turkey, simple with a hint of ginger and orange zest. The other a hearty and filling batch of crushed almonds and pecans mixed into a batch of tart chunky cranberry sauce.

It is my tradition to have two roasted turkeys along with a tenderloin roast or parmesan and fennel crusted pork roast, my husband’s masterpiece. The two turkeys represent two completely different styles of stuffing- or dressing as you have it. My mother always served a more traditional New England stuffing. She left out loaves of sliced white bread to stale over the days leading up to the holiday. After breaking the bread into small pieces, my mom sautéed onions and mushrooms with Bell’s poultry seasoning and garlic salt and then moistened the mixture with chicken stock. Today I make almost the same recipe, with the addition of diced celery, chopped dried apricots and chopped and peeled McIntosh apples to enhance the flavor.

My biggest cooking tip for serving a large crowd with a few people on a restricted diet; don’t go overboard trying to please everyone. I once had a guest bring her own frozen prepared diet meal. As long as she agreed to use my matching china and let me sprinkle her dish with the appropriate herb garnish- I gave in. Needless to say, she didn’t make the invitation list since.

May your turkey be moist, your gravy be smooth and free of lumps and may the pleasures of your Thanksgiving table last all year long.

As the Culinary Director for ABC 7, I whip up cooking segments on ABC 7 News at Noon, along with recipes, cooking tips, reviews and great food finds on MySuncoast Dining at www.mysuncoast.com