Experimentation in the kitchen is not a welcome Thanksgiving tradition. Trust me, I’ve tried it and I have the electric knife scars to show for it. You don’t mess with turkey or gravy or mom’s sausage stuffing or cranberry sauce in a can. The mere whiff of something different sets folks into a frenzy of nostalgia for stuff they’d never think of eating any other time of year.
Consider the carrot Jell-O. Sometime in the mid-1990s, my mother sat us all down for a family discussion–I mean a serious sit-down and talk–about whether it was time to retire great-grandma’s carrot Jell-O salad from the menu.
Let me say first off that this was not a sad moment. The stuff was awful: Lemon gelatin, pineapples and grated carrots. For years, no one had eaten it. We sort of pushed it around the plate out of a misplaced sense of obligation to Thanksgivings past. Sheepishly, we all agreed it was time to move on, feeling wistful but relieved. But every year, the question still comes up: Are we having carrot Jell-O salad this year?
Sometimes it’s hard to move on. We’re creatures of habit. In fact, many of this year’s hottest recipes are so old school they’re new school, like a dry-brined heritage turkey draped with bacon. Buttermilk mashed potatoes. Bread pudding and root vegetable gratins. Pies still rule, from apple to pumpkin (but flan is a hot number this year, as well.) This does not extend, however to marshmallow yams, creamed corn, or clam dip. Consider a family discussion about moving on. And oh yeah. 1972 called and wants their green bean casserole back.
I follow a rule of one new dish for every three tried and true ones. I try to do a test run for new recipes if possible. And if things go horribly wrong with a dish, I add just add enough butter and cream to choke an elephant.
Whatever you serve, do it with flair and confidence. I plan to light sparklers on top of my bacon pumpkin pie topped with maple whipped cream and demand a moment of silence.
Point is, it’s just a meal. You’re supposed to sit down and give thanks for whatever it is steaming on a plate in front of you, along with the crazy, wonderful folks sitting next to you. Until someone inevitably asks where the carrot Jell-O salad is.
BiteClub’s Overly Eager Old School New School Thanksgiving
(These recipes are my inspiration, but I can’t swear I’ll follow them exactly)
– Brined turkey draped with bacon
– Calvados gravy
– Molasses and ginger carrots
– Buttermilk mashed potatoes with fried shallots
– Mushroom and fennel bread pudding
– Mom’s sausage dressing (I’m not allowed to touch this one)
– Toni’s whipped sweet potatoes with pecan topping
– Bacon pumpkin pie
– Paula Deen’s Savannah High Apple Pie
– Copious amounts of wine