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Thanksgiving Side Dishes

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My best turkey ever was a free-range, fresh one.  A memorable Thanksgiving dinner.

If I were doing the dinners these days I'd try a local, farm-raised bird too.

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Of all the things to ensure a delicious turkey, the most important one in my opinion, is to make sure you DO NOT OVERCOOK IT. It needs to come to 160o - no more. Let rest a little while before carving. It will be good, even if it's a poor quality cheap grocery store bird. For Thanksgiving I always get a local fresh turkey and it's delicious. But yesterday I had to roast 2 cheap frozen turkeys for a meal at the soup kitchen where I volunteer and they were moist and flavourful also. Much better than what I expected.

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For Thanksgiving, in addition to turkey, my mom bakes a ham for those who don't enjoy the bird. ;) The ham can be cooked ahead of time and reheating it for dinner is easy.

I have two brothers who also bring small smoked turkeys (they smoke the birds themselves). We invite a lot of people who get to take leftovers with them and you'd be surprised how little turkey (or ham) is left behind at my mom's house.

 

We also make a corn pudding/casserole. I like it, dammit, and I am now the one who makes it so we will be eating it at Thanksgiving forever. So there. xD 

 

My mom is 87 and can't handle the heavy turkey any longer so she oversees me prepping and roasting it. In the old days, she used to chop up some of the innards that came with the turkey and put it in the stuffing. Now that I am the "muscle" in the kitchen, I asked her to use sausage instead. She uses the innards to make her "giblet rice" so they don't go to waste. I am her sous chef, too, and will dice up the onion and celery used in the stuffing and her "giblet rice" (I also save the celery leaves for her that she puts into the rice...she says it makes a difference in the flavor).

We use the Reynolds oven bags to roast the turkey in...what a time saver! It rarely takes more than 3 & 1/2 to 4 hours to cook a large turkey in them. It's almost as fast as deep frying a turkey.

 

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“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I know its heresy, but I SV the turkey and serve it already sliced. Perfect doneness

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Growing up, after my parents got divorced, Dad did Thanksgiving, though I did the pies after a few years (I started out working on my crust when I was 12 or so (ack! cardboard!), and by the time I was 14-15, it was really good).

 

Ours was very traditional and simple:

If Dad's girlfriend was coming, we had an appetizer of smoked salmon with capers and lemon, because he wanted it to be "fancier" ;)

Then the roasted turkey with:

Sausage stuffing (made according to the recipe on the back of the Jones package with Pepperidge Farm herbed stuffing bread)

Turkey jus, never an actual roux-based gravy, made by deglazing the roasting pan with white wine and adding chicken stock, reduce

Mashed potatoes, made by me, because I always complained that Dad started them too late and they weren't done enough; peeled and chunked russets mashed with hot milk, seasoned with S&P and nutmeg and finished with butter

Green peas (frozen)

Green salad, which no one but Dad actually ate

The pies, apple and pumpkin, with optional ice cream

 

In more recent years, I've added creamed pearl onions with browned bread crumbs on top, and Brussels sprouts instead of the peas. After 1994, when there was a huge upheaval in my family, I spent Thanksgivings with my best friend's family in Nashville, who had a surprisingly similar menu, perhaps because my friend's mother was from Boston. BUT they had the delicious creamed onions, so that's become part of my own tradition now.

 

ETA: Oops, forgot to mention the necessary (for color and acidity) cranberry sauce! Dad just used the recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray bag, but it was an annual, and hilarious, battle because for some reason he was determined to make it set up in a mold, but it never unmolded right. Every year, I'd say "Dad, just put it in a bowl -- it's just as good," but no, the mold drama had to happen!

 

 

 


Edited by BeatriceB (log)
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For the first time ever I ordered a Fruit Cake from Collins Street Bakery for Thanksgiving.

Haven't had fruit cake since the Fifties!  It looked so good I had to try.it.  The ones I had years agoI remember as being good as well.

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One of my favorite sides for Thanksgiving (if I'm being forced to do a relatively traditional Thanksgiving dinner, which I usually try to avoid) is whipped chipotle sweet potatoes. I find many sweet potato dishes (i.e. the ones with marshmallows or added sugar) way too sweet, but the chipotle works nicely to offset the sweetness. 

 

There's also a fabulous recipe I've made for ancho chiles stuffed with a pumpkin puree. (I can't find the recipe right now. It might have been from the L.A. Times a number of years ago?) The dried chiles are rehydrated in a sweet and sour marinade, then cut open and stuffed with the puree and baked to heat them through. These are way better than any turkey I've ever eaten.

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1 minute ago, MollyB said:

One of my favorite sides for Thanksgiving (if I'm being forced to do a relatively traditional Thanksgiving dinner, which I usually try to avoid) is whipped chipotle sweet potatoes. I find many sweet potato dishes (i.e. the ones with marshmallows or added sugar) way too sweet, but the chipotle works nicely to offset the sweetness. 

 

There's also a fabulous recipe I've made for ancho chiles stuffed with a pumpkin puree. (I can't find the recipe right now. It might have been from the L.A. Times a number of years ago?) The dried chiles are rehydrated in a sweet and sour marinade, then cut open and stuffed with the puree and baked to heat them through. These are way better than any turkey I've ever eaten.

 

Molly,

that chipotle sweet potato dish sounds wonderful!  I will pass on the sweet marshmallow casserole every time but this one looks like a winner.  Thanks for posting.

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for the years my MIL was alive ...and therefore I was cooking holidays .... the Reeds HAD to have baby sweet gherkins.  Cranberry sauce out of the can AND OceanSpray cranberry orange relish.  I made a (homemade) green bean casserole with fresh green beans, cremini in a béchamel sauce but those canned onion rings.  I also substituted a sweet potato casserole using vegetable stock instead of the canned sweet potatoes/butter and marshmallow glop.  

I could not care less about the turkey......give me the sides any day.  The turkey is for the sandwich for dinner.

 

 

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Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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On 10/30/2017 at 4:43 PM, lindag said:

 

Molly,

that chipotle sweet potato dish sounds wonderful!  I will pass on the sweet marshmallow casserole every time but this one looks like a winner.  Thanks for posting.

 

I was thinking exactly the same. I'm not a sweet potato fan but those that are aren't huge dessert people so a less sweet sweet potato casserole will probably go over quite well.

 

Still pondering our turkey alternative though. Ham isn't popular here either. (I know I live with weirdos. :D)

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8 hours ago, quiet1 said:

 

I was thinking exactly the same. I'm not a sweet potato fan but those that are aren't huge dessert people so a less sweet sweet potato casserole will probably go over quite well.

 

Still pondering our turkey alternative though. Ham isn't popular here either. (I know I live with weirdos. :D)

If they like chicken you could roast one or more depending on the number of guests.  Or maybe a pork roast or a rib roast.  

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8 hours ago, quiet1 said:

 

I was thinking exactly the same. I'm not a sweet potato fan but those that are aren't huge dessert people so a less sweet sweet potato casserole will probably go over quite well.

 

Still pondering our turkey alternative though. Ham isn't popular here either. (I know I live with weirdos. :D)

Are you a fish-eating crowd? What about doing a side of salmon?

 

The turkey is my least-favorite part of the Thanksgiving dinner. The last couple of years, we've deconstructed a bird à la Kenji, and cooked the boneless skinless breasts SV, braised the leg quarters in red wine, used the bones, wings, and giblets to make the broth that becomes gravy, and (the best part!) salted the skin from the breast, sandwiched it between parchment and sheet pans, and baked it into a large sheet of crispy turkey skin that we fight over.

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MelissaH

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Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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11 hours ago, quiet1 said:

...Still pondering our turkey alternative though. Ham isn't popular here either. (I know I live with weirdos. :D)

Someone mentioned prime rib in another post. 

I have a friend who isn't big on turkey either. Her family always had Cornish Game Hens for their Thanksgiving dinner main. 

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“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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There's only one part of Thanksgiving dinner that I really like. That is the 15 minutes after the turkey comes out of the oven when I pick away at the crispy skin. Since the bird gets carved before anyone really looks at it, no harm done. Because my husband and I cook the turkey, I have no trepidation about this practice. After that the rest of the meal just bores me, food wise, including the turkey. I suffer through this because the one thing I want out of a roast turkey is the carcass. I am hopelessly addicted to turkey soup. 

 

My husband's family is very attached to their traditions, and for the thirty years since I married in, most of the dishes are pretty much the same. There is always a vegetarian entree as well as all the standards, but typically it is full of gloppy cheesy things and not very appealing to me. The pies, however, are very good, all baked by my SIL, so basically I don't eat much dinner; I save room for apple pie, which is my favorite. This year the crowd will be big, and there will be five pies!

 

We have a standing dinner engagement with friends the following night and it's agreed by all: no leftovers and no Thanksgiving type foods allowed. Last year we had Coppa with mostarda, Lobster BLT's and a spectacular coconut cream pie  (and I'm not big on cream pies ordinarily.) So the day after Thanksgiving is always a high point.

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Came across this recipe this morning and decided it has to go on the list:

I love the idea of a little booze in the sauce.

 

 

Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Bourbon Whiskey and Brown Sugar. Boozy Cranberry Sauce Recipe for Thanksgiving!
Boozy Cranberry Sauce
 
12 oz Fresh Cranberries washed & inspected
3/4 cup Water
3/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar - firmly packed
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
3 Tbs Bourbon Whiskey
 
In 3qt pot over medium heat; combine water, whiskey, salt and brown sugar. Stir and heat until sugar dissolves and liquid begins to boil.
Add cranberries, reduce heat to medium/low and lightly boil for 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally, more so during the last 10 minutes.
Refrigerate 6+ hours before serving.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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24 minutes ago, lindag said:

I love the idea of a little booze in the sauce.

I do too.  Not sure I'm loving the bourbon, but I understand if you really like that version.

My preferences for booze in cranberry sauce are for Grand Marnier in a cranberry-orange sauce or Amaretto in a sauce with toasted almonds.  

I always stir the liquor in to a portion of the sauce just after I remove it from the heat so there's always "regular" and "high test" versions available.

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11 hours ago, Katie Meadow said:

...After that the rest of the meal just bores me, food wise, including the turkey. I suffer through this because the one thing I want out of a roast turkey is the carcass. I am hopelessly addicted to turkey soup. 

Yes, this.

My mom always makes a vat of Turkey Noodle Soup using the leftover Thanksgiving turkey carcass. It got even better when my two brothers would donate to her the carcasses of their respective smoked turkeys. She wouldn't use both of them in her soup because that would make the soup :too smokey", in her opinion. She'd freeze one of the smoked turkey carcasses and use it later when making more soup with the carcass of another roasted another turkey during the holiday season. Her turkey noodle soup is one of the best things about winter!

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“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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On 10/29/2017 at 3:38 PM, btbyrd said:

People think they don't like turkey because:


1) They suck at cooking turkey

2) They buy garbage turkey with no flavor.

 

 Are you going to tell us how to cook a turkey or where we can find a non-garbage turkey?

 

I'm in the camp that turkey is only for sandwiches and its sole purpose is to be a delivery system for mayo. But I definitely fit btbyrd's 3 and 4. I've only bought the frozen butterball variety and I've only cooked it in an oven (one year it was deep-fried, but it still wasn't that good). It tastes like gamey chicken to me, and I don't understand why people go through so much work every year to eat it. I'd love to learn the secret, please!

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44 minutes ago, Smokeydoke said:

 Are you going to tell us how to cook a turkey or where we can find a non-garbage turkey?

 

I'm in the camp that turkey is only for sandwiches and its sole purpose is to be a delivery system for mayo. But I definitely fit btbyrd's 3 and 4. I've only bought the frozen butterball variety and I've only cooked it in an oven (one year it was deep-fried, but it still wasn't that good). It tastes like gamey chicken to me, and I don't understand why people go through so much work every year to eat it. I'd love to learn the secret, please!

 

I used to despise roast turkey.  Dried out boring meat. Try cooking the white and dark meat sous vide....much different...esp the breast. Its still not steak or duck, but it's just fine once or twice a year. 

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1 hour ago, Smokeydoke said:

 Are you going to tell us how to cook a turkey or where we can find a non-garbage turkey?

 

I'm in the camp that turkey is only for sandwiches and its sole purpose is to be a delivery system for mayo. But I definitely fit btbyrd's 3 and 4. I've only bought the frozen butterball variety and I've only cooked it in an oven (one year it was deep-fried, but it still wasn't that good). It tastes like gamey chicken to me, and I don't understand why people go through so much work every year to eat it. I'd love to learn the secret, please!


Sourcing: (Almost all of this goes for chicken too.)

 

The things that make a non-garbage turkey a non-garbage turkey are its genetics, feed, environment, and processing. Modern farmed turkeys are freaks of nature designed to pack on as much breast meat into a spheroid shape as fast as humanly possible. They grow too fast. They're kept inside all the time, not that it matters since can barely move on account of dem tig ol' bitties. After they reach a gigantic slaughter weight at an astonishingly young age, they're killed, plucked, and processed. Usually this involves chilling the birds in water and then pumping them full of a sodium and phosphate solution. All that water from the chilling and brining processes dilute flavor and make the skin soggy.


Ideally, what you want is a bird that wasn't bred to pack on as much meat as possible, as fast as possible, with as little effort as possible. You want a bird that takes more than two weeks to weigh 20 pounds. You want a bird that's lived a life... that's walked around, flexed its muscles, eaten some grubs and worms... something that's maybe even seen a half birthday -- or more. These can be tricky to find. The first stop would be your local farmer's market. If you can't do that, but are made of money, you could order a heritage bird from Heritage Meats USA or D'Artagnan. But even if you can't find or afford something like this, you can usually find something at the supermarket that's been air-chilled and hasn't been pumped full of brine. Bell and Evans is my favorite, kinda-widely available brand. If you don't see it, talk to the meat dude. Or meat lady. You know, whatever...

 

Cooking:

There's no one right way to cook anything, but... For the love of God, don't cook the white meat to 165F. The best way to cook a turkey is to take it apart and cook the dark meat separately from the light meat. Cooking it whole requires compromise. Breaking it down improves quality. That goes for "stuffing" too. 

 

My go-to  method is to break the bird down and do the white meat according to ChefStep's SV recipe (131F/12-18hours) and confit the legs in duck fat before smoking them on the grill. Roast off the carcass and wings to make stock. (Fortify that with additional wings and ground turkey).  I mostly just follow this playbook: 

 

 

The finishing step is up to you, really. Grill it, fry it, sear it, smoke it, broil it... 

 

If you don't want to do sous vide, I've also had great results using the Chefsteps "Turkey Crown Roast" recipe in a traditional oven.The butchery for that makes for a striking presentation. I may do that this year, actually...  Anyway, CS has a nice video on how to break down the bird for that recipe. 

 

 

Apart from these recipes, I've also made great smoked turkey, great deep fried turkey, and great turkey that was cooked underneath a trash can. There's no best way.

 

But the way NOT to do it is to cook a Butterball and rely on its built-in pop-up thermometer.


Edited by btbyrd (log)
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This thread is about Thanksgiving side dishes. Maybe the mods can separate out the turkey posts into a new thread called, perhaps, "Why Your Turkey Sucks"? 9_9

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I have been given my assignment for this year's Reed Family Extrava-grazing.

Portuguese sweet bread

Sage sausage dressing

I'm negotiating some carrots with sage honey and olive oil now.

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Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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The New York Times chimes in: Our 10 Most Popular Thanksgiving Side Dishes

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4 minutes ago, Alex said:

The New York Times chimes in: Our 10 Most Popular Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Good Lord. Bread is a side dish? Sauteed kale is among the "most popular"? They just get worse and worse. I think they pull recipes out of a hat! Last week the NY Times had a pullout section about Thanksgiving cooking. (I get the actual paper on the weekends.) I was hoping for something that would really catch my eye. Well, I'm only me, I'm sure many other people saw things they will make and love. But I just don't understand why their food section is so uninspired. (And uninspiring.) 

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