THANKSGIVING A to Z

Thanksgiving Farmer Market Produce Shopping Haul
Thanksgiving A to Z list first, personal thoughts and the actual menu we plan to serve follow. Follow along on Instagram for updates to this list the rest of this week and through the weekend.

cheese-charcuterie-crudite-board
A is for Thanksgiving APPETIZERS

miso-roasted-brussels-sprouts-shiitake-mushrooms
B is for Thanksgiving BRUSSELS SPROUTS

alternative thanksgiving sauces

C is for Thanksgiving CRANBERRIES, and all the other CONDIMENTS, DIPS, SAUCES, and SPREADS

  1. Classic Whole Cranberry Sauce with flavor ideas {recipe}
  2. Stone Ground Grainy Mustard the way Thomas Keller serves his Roast Chicken
  3. Pomegranate Salsa {recipe}
  4. My Favorite Store-bought Kimchi {resource}
  5. Peruvian Aji Sauce ** very very spicy {recipe on SeriousEats}
  6. Middle Eastern Garlic Sauce, Toum {recipe on Epicurious}
  7. Italian Salsa Verde {recipe}
  8. Pickled Onions {recipe}

D is for DEFROSTING THE TURKEY. I know. D is Dessert. Or Drinks. Maybe even Decor. All natural choices for D for Thanksgiving, but I have been scarred for life by one Thanksgiving a little more than 10 years ago when I underestimated the time I needed to defrost a glacial turkey behemoth and on the morning of Thanksgiving, I found the turkey still partially frozen. Not to fear, because the Internet says that you can “flash-defrost” a turkey by submerging it in water and changing out the water every half-hour until the turkey defrosts.

I did that, and because I was a genius, I did it in HOT WATER to defrost it even faster. And then I read the Internet again and found out that defrosting a turkey in cold water is only safe if you are vigilant about keeping the water temperature at or below 40 degrees, and is wholly UNSAFE in warm or hot water because the warm water becomes a bacteria-breeding hot tub. The truth is, not likely you’re growing a super-colony of turky-borne bacteria, and even if you were, you’d probably kill them when you very safely roast your turkey, BUT I am so paranoid about poisoning, and you know, killing, my own family, that I threw the entire turkey into the trash and we won’t even talk about what we actually had for Thanksgiving that year.

Needless to say, if your turkey is frozen, plan ahead for the defrosting the turkey safely in the lowest part of your refrigerator, and to play it even safer, plan to have it fully defrosted a day in advance. If you are brining your turkey, you need to keep that in mind and might have to add time to your turkey prep schedule. Dry-brining the Zuni Cafe-style turkey takes three days (see “J” below), though the recipe adaptor, Russ Parsons has tested the brine on a frozen turkey, and apparently you can brine the bird WHILE it is defrosting in the refrigerator. Praise the mother fucking lard.

E is for Thanksgiving ENTERTAINMENT. Start putting together a playlist now. My family doesn’t let me play anything except Christmas carols all day, but for all those hours I am gleefully alone in the kitchen zone washing, prepping, and cooking ahead of time, I play Sadé, Led Zeppelin, Michael Bublé, and WuTang.

Don’t call me a grinch. I listen to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You year-round.

F is for FARMERS MARKET CHOPPED SALAD. No one eats salad. NO ONE. I don’t know why we even bother with this here.

G is for Thanksgiving GRAVY. I am not a fan of gravy, as I prefer a thinner, lighter “pan sauce” made from poultry drippings and wine without any sort of flour or cornstarch thickener, but if I ever left gravy off the Thanksgiving table, I’d be excommunicated from the family. So the compromise in our family is that Green Bean Casserole gets a makeover (more on that later), and Gravy stays because our family is almost all Asian and every single day of our entire lives, we don’t eat anything like any of the traditional Thanksgiving foods except on Thanksgiving, so let us have the white people equivalent of sriracha sauce on everything for one day goddamnit it.

H is for Thanksgiving HARICOT VERTS. See? Even for this list, I had to compromise between Gravy and Green Beans for “G” my God the metaphor is come to life. Haricot verts is just a skinny type of green bean.

pumpkin pie ice cream sandwiches
I is for Thanksgiving ICE CREAM. Between I and J, I had a harder time figuring out what to do with the letter I because I refused to put Ice Cream on this list because you can have ice cream three times a day every day of the year, so why waste Thanksgiving dessert on something as quotidien as ice cream? Ok, fine, you can churn your own cranberry pumpkin sage late whatever Fall Harvest flavored ice cream, you goddamned superhero of Thanksgiving.

Or you can be realistic and buy pumpkin pie ice cream from the freezer case in any grocery store, and if you still want to be a superhero, you can turn it into Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches with Lattice Pie Crust Cookies.{how to}

J is for “JUDYBIRD,” Russ Parsons’s Zuni Café-style Dry-brined Turkey. I don’t need to re-print the recipe that’s probably one of the more famous recipes for roast chicken, and now turkey, out there. Plan ahead. It takes three days to brine the turkey, which means you start brining on Monday morning.

meat-thermometer kitchen tool
K is for Thanksgiving KITCHEN TOOLS. When it comes to Thanksgiving, there are a LOT of fancy tools, equipment, gadgets, and electronics to help with cooking the dinner, but there is only ONE tool you MUST BUY if you don’t have one already: a meat thermometer. Everything else, from an extra-large roasting pan with rack to food mill, is nice to have. If you have the money, buy them, but you probably already have something that you could tweak to work and use the money you save for some new Loubs. But there is nothing that can accurately tell you when the turkey is ready for showtime, i.e. cooked all the way through, not over cooked, killed any possibility of foodborne illness except for a thermometer.

cranberry cream cheese stuffed brioche french toast casserole

L is for Thanksgiving LEFTOVERS. My family loves leftovers so much, we now roast two turkeys every year; one to eat for dinner, one entire turkey to carve up right into to-go portions that never even hit the dining table. Additional thoughts on my family’s leftover policy and How to Use Up Thanksgiving Leftovers here {how-to post}

M is for Thanksgiving MASHED POTATOES

  • Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic and Truffle Butter {recipe}

bourbon maple glazed easter ham plate

N is for Thanksgiving, NOT TURKEY. I have the perfect solution to accommodate dinner guests who don’t like turkey at Thanksgiving!

Don’t invite them to your house for dinner.

Unfortunately, you can’t do that when it’s like, you know, your own Dad. We cook a ham for Dad, which he doesn’t eat because he ends up eating turkey anyway (!!!), all the while insisting that he doesn’t like it. Oooo. K. DAD. Eyeroll. This is my reality every year.

roasted butternut squash

O is for Thanksgiving OTHER VEGETABLES. Is there anything else except brussels sprouts, green beans, and my beloved sweet potatoes? Apparently, there is:

pumpkin spice layer cake with cream cheese frosting salted caramel

P is for Thanksgiving PUMPKIN DESSERTS. I’m going to be honest here, I k i i i i i nda hate pumpkin pie with my entire being. The only part of me that doesn’t hate pumpkin pie is the part that wrote this post: read about my hatred-turned-semi-hatred on the Cook’s Illustrated Pumpkin Pie post. This year, we’re doing fruit for dessert. Just kidding. I love telling my family shit like that just to give myself negotiating leverage when it comes to green bean casserole and stuffing.

quinoa salad with roasted mushrooms

Q is for QUINOA, RICE, and OTHER WHOLE GRAINS. Also, obviously, we have plain steamed rice on our table every year.

R is for ROASTED ROOTS

S is for Thanksgiving STUFFING

  • Stovetop Stuffing. The actual Stovetop brand in the box. Don’t make this. Make the Bread Salad aka “Stuffing” below.

thanksgiving 2016 tablescape, table setting
T is for Thanksgiving TABLE SETTING

persimmon upside down cake
U is for UPSIDE-DOWN PERSIMMON CAKE

V is for VODKA

  • Cranberry Ginger Moscow Mule

W is for What else? WINE

X is for Thanksgiving XTRAS. These are the little details that didn’t fit anywhere else on this list, like what ingredients, foods, or other things to have extra on hand because you never know what’s going to happen. These are the perfect responce to guests who ask “What should I bring?”:

  • Bottles of wine: you will never, ever, ever, have “too much wine.” Ever.
  • Ice: Your refrigerator ice maker can’t make ice fast enough for a Thanksgiving dinner party
  • Chicken, beef, and/or vegetable stock
  • Butter (if you don’t use extra butter, you can freeze it, though you will probably use it very soon for Holiday baking)
  • Fresh herbs, namely parsley
  • Garlic and onions
  • Fruit and things to garnish the turkey serving platter
  • Disposable storage containers to send leftovers home with guests
  • Fresh flowers: put them in any room where a guest might wander in
  • Alka-seltzer, advil/tylenol, and tums

Y is for Thanksgiving YAMS and SWEET POTATOES

  • Crispy Oven-Fried Sweet Potato Fries with Sriracha Aioli

Z is for ZUNI CAFÉ-INSPIRED BREAD SALAD is what I call it every other day of the year, which is, as Judy Rodgers calls it in her Zuni Café cookbook, a “sort of a scrappy extramural stuffing, it is a warm mix of crispy, tender, and chewy chunks of bread, a little slivered garlic and scallion, a scatter of currants and pine nuts, and a handful of greens, all moistened with vinaigrette and chicken drippings.” So I call “stuffing” during Thanksgiving so people will eat it, because no one wants to east anything called “salad” on Thanksgiving.

  • Bread Salad with Arugula, Figs, and Roasted Pistachios {recipe}
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  • TempusFugitive

    Thankful for all the years of great content you gave us.

  • Sook Won

    This is E for epic. I’m brining & whining in a winterwonderland

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