My Big Fat Overly Ambitious Old School New School Thanksgiving

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

Editor’s Note: Travel, dining and wine tasting can be complicated right now. Use our inspirational ideas to plan ahead for your next outing, be it this week or next year. If you visit restaurants, wineries, and other businesses during the pandemic, remember to call ahead, make reservations, wear a mask and social distance.

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