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Thanksgiving Menus 2002–2011: The Topic


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Here's the idea: take the skin off the breasts (we'll be doing two whole breasts, cooked sous-vide) in single pieces, cut into eight portions. Prepare a sheet pan with a silicone mat draped over paper towel cores to simulate the classic tuile shape. Lay the skins over the humps and bake in a low oven (maybe 275°F) until crispy.

As I say, that's the idea. I'll let you know if it works.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I ended up with a turkey much too big. I picked up a heritage 17 pounder from a local farmer (was just killed yesterday) and there are only 7 of us. I'm not sure what I was thinking but now I'm fairly certain I have a beat on my hands. Should I freeze one of the breasts and a leg instead of cooking it? I was going to break it down anyway and it seems that would make it keep better/

Also - that SV turkey confit sounds interesting. Can you share the recipe?


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Following a sort of amalgam of ideas. Boned out the thighs and legs, keeping skin on. Cured them last night with salt, thyme, black pepper, shallots, and some applejack; rinsed them off this afternoon. Just sealed them in FoodSaver bags with a few Ts of duck fat. I'll cook them at 82C overnight (~9-10 hrs), take them out of the bag, remove tendons and discard, remove skin and crisp it up in the oven. Still thinking about service....

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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We've had a few threads leading up to Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd start one on the results - whether you need a place to celebrate, or if like me, the experience falls into the Live and Learn category.

My performance was pretty disappointing. This year I was only cooking for three, so it would be pretty easy, with a limited offering. But indecision and a lack of thought (over confidence?) got the better of me.

After discarding some whimsical ideas, I settled on a simple menu. Brined turkey breast sous vide sliced over a mushroom risotto, and creamed spinach. With a favorite yeast roll recipe.

But the wife seemed disappointed not to have potatoes. Well, okay, maybe I could do that too. Maybe instead of plating I could just put them in separate bowls. But the original reason why I wanted to switch starches this year was that I had a little bit of mash fatigue. So I needed to do something different. Baked potatoes didn't seem right so I had to think of something else. The lack of cream in the house led me to think bacon.

Off to the supermarket I went. Bacon, mushrooms, chicken broth, spinach, Hmmm...turkey breast. Where's the turkey breast? (retrospection: "Go to the meat counter, you boob"). The only packaged turkey breast I could find was a bone-in one that was bigger than I wanted. Oh well, it would have to do.

Back home, there was nothing to do until the morning.

I got up early and made a brine and as it was cooling, I unpackaged the turkey. I discovered that in my haste, I had basically bought a whole turkey sans thighs, legs and wings. It looked like a motorcycle gas tank. If, by some bizarre fate, I ever need to do an American Chopper theme Thanksgiving meal, I've got a major component covered. I should have cut off a breast and continued with my plan. Instead, I chose to use the whole thing and do a traditional roast which would allow more time for brining the larger than expected piece.

Morning prep also included frying up some bacon and doing a small portion of mashed potatoes that the yeast roll recipe called for. I made slightly more mash than I needed so I could pre-test the bacon mash. Added some bacon grease to the mash. It needed something. Thinking back to a potato salad I'd once had I added some mayo. WOW. That's it. I was looking pretty good.

I knew I would have a hectic final 45 minutes, so I decided to 86 the spinach (bad choice). Checking the yeast roll dough, it didn't seem to be doing anything. A mental search uncovered a mental note to double the rising times because I'd had this problem before. I should have written it in the book.

The turkey was done a little bit early. Not unanticipated, it could rest under foil. Forgot the foil. Starting riz and spuds. Timing is good. A little too good. Predictably, the risotto got more timely attention than the potatoes. Alternately tasting starch dishes proved difficult.

Turkey is okay - not dry but, not up to snuff brining-wise. Risotto wins the attention battle, potatoes lose. Yeast roll dough finishes its first rise at serving time, and are ready to be shaped to start their second rise. Luckily, I had a different homemade bread in the freezer that I was able to heat up.

The result wasn't bad. If I had been served this at some unspecified relative's house, I wouldn't have been unhappy (though the double starch aspect was just plain stupid - especially for three people). But this was the worst in recent times for me.

Grade: Turkey: C+/B-, Risotto: B+, Mash: D+/C+ (there is a big potential factor), Spinach: Incomplete, Yeast Rolls: Incomplete, Substitute Bread: C+.

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Learned one thing that I'm sure is "plain as day" to most on this board.

Serving good libations makes any meal much better.

I don't drink so I've not served wine or beer in past (there have been a few exceptions). But I served a lot of drinks, wine, and cocktails. And, it really has a very positive effect. People relax more, enjoy the meal more and afterwards, a lot more took a nap. No one got drunk but it made it much more fun event though I prepared the most basic of meals. It also had the effect of lenghtening the meal and driving coversation.

I cannot believe I haven't served alcolhol consistantly. For xmas, I plan to really put much more thought into the drinks.

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We were only 5 and did it today, the Saturday after. The venue had to be my dad's but his wife is one of those "so much work for just a meal" people so I had them cook the turkey and I did everything else. Two of the five were Aussie 18 year old girls who have limited turkey experience. Turkey photos to be posted on Facebook were a priority.

I decided not to recreate the quintessential Thanksgiving meal, but rather make it simple and flavorful. Grandma did cook the neck and giblets with some onion and carrot so there was a bit of stock to use with the pan drippings for a lovely gravy. My dad the former butcher was happy to handle the bird. I did cranberry out of the can just to show them a very standard method. The vegetables were broccoli w/ roasted garlic and raw Tuscan kale salad with Asiago cheese, olive oil, lemon and garlic. I rough chopped some Russet potatoes and cooked in some of the turkey broth and then added in a stuffing packet with more turkey broth to sort of cover both stuffing and potato- well received. As an additional starch I picked up some chap jae because my Dad and his wife really love it (Korean potato starch noodles tossed with sauted onion, spinach, cabbage, carrot, mushroom, touch of soy & seseame oil) It was a nice contrasting flavor. I was able to prep most everything ahead of time so it was a slam dunk when I arrived.

The goal here was to be in her kitchen just for about half an hour before the meal and have very minimal prep and few dishes. Dessert was a pumpkin bread our family has done for years- not too sweet- captures the flavors of pumpkin pie in a light vehicle.

It was a lovely meal. Grandma was not stressed. The Aussies were impressed. Life is good.

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It was only 2 of us this year for thanksgiving and I was cooking so I did a scaled back Thanksgiving dinner:

- Seared Duck Breast, "Green Bean Casserole" Salad, Cranberry Gastrique

The Salad was a riff on green bean casserole: Snow Peas, Enoki Mushrooms, a thick creamy dressing thickened with yogurt and garnished with fried shallots.

- Duck Legs stuffed with Apple, Walnut & Bacon stuffing

Deboned out two duck legs and stuffed it and roasted it over the rest of the stuffing as dressing.

- Duck Custard, Cranberry, Parsley

Made a simple duck stock with the bones, mixed it with beaten eggs and steamed. Topped with drops of cranberry gastrique and parsley oil for a christmassy color scheme.

PS: I am a guy.

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"Green Bean Casserole" Salad, Cranberry Gastrique

The Salad was a riff on green bean casserole: Snow Peas, Enoki Mushrooms, a thick creamy dressing thickened with yogurt and garnished with fried shallots.

Sounds fantastic. Care to share the recipe?

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Nordic Opus.

Heritage Bird


Pickled radishes, pickled herring, aquavit, liver & anchovy pâté, 1 and 2 day salt cured sockeye salmon


Higher latitude study of getting pickled:

Purple cauliflower, cheddar broccoli, romanesco, Krogstad Aquavit (Portland, Oregon) in ice with clippings of neighbor’s shrubbery.


Turkey leg frikadeller with golden beets and cranberries. B-sprouts to follow.


Roasted breast with prunes and apples


Æbleskiver (to be dipped in chestnut honey and/or quince jelly)


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I choose not to take pics during the course of dinner (poor lighting, less food savvy-guests may roll their eyes, congested table...) but was able to snap one of the tableware from my view during the 1st courses which sought to channel something from Babette's Feast. Early 1970's Danish service plates bought in Denmark; cusp of early 20th century hand blown French bistro wine, absinthe and cordial glasses; Finnish flatware; antique milk bottle carafe, artisinal ceramic bowls; smoked Danish sea salt.


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I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner, for 10, including my mom, my boyfriend's mom, and my brother's girlfriend's mom. With 3 moms in attendance, I wanted it to be impressive, delicious, and also stuff I was comfortable cooking.

The turkey was supposed to be my no-brainer. I've made Alton Brown's brined roasted turkey recipe for 5 years, and it's always delicious. This year, I thought I was doing good. Got up at 5:30 to put the 18 lb turkey in the brine bucket, took it out at 11:45, got it rinsed and rubbed down and stuffed with steamed aromatics. Put it into 500 degree oven. Took it out after 30 minutes, stuck the thermometer probe in, applied the foil "turkey triangle" to the breast, set the temp alert for 161 degrees, and put it back into the oven. (Careful readers of this paragraph will see what I forgot already.) The ventilation above my oven is non-existent, and this recipe always creates some smoke, so I wasn't concerned about having to open some doors in our small house to vent smoke. I was concerned, however, when the temperature alarm went off a little before 2:00. I turned to my boyfriend's mom and said, "Is there any way that an 18 lb turkey is done in under 2 hours?" Well, turns out that I never turned the oven down. I cook it for 2 hours at 500 degrees, instead of turning it down to 350 after the half hour. I'm standing in the kitchen in front of the oven, looking at the charcoal black wing tips, and I just burst into tears. At that point, as if on cue, all the rest of my guests show up wanting hugs and attention.

So, lessons learned for this Thansgiving :

1. Brine hides a multitude of sins. High heat roasting can produce crispy skin on a brined bird. A houseful of guests used to non-brined, overcooked white meat will not criticize a turkey cooked this way. I was the only one who thought it was overcooked.

2. When in doubt - use bacon. The most requested recipe from the entire dinner was the brussel sprouts. Blanched, shocked, and cooked over high heat with bacon, onions, and garlic. That's it. The 50 bacon wrapped boursin stuffed jalapenos were also a huge hit.

3. Don't make it yourself if you can buy a much better version. I left the french apple pie, cranberry walnut bread, and ice cream to local artisan shops (and the stuffing to my mother).

4. Nobody cares about salad. I put out a lovely salad with goat cheese, cranberries, pecans, chopped granny smith apples on greens, and an apple cider vinaigrette, that the boyfriend and I eat a lot, but nobody wanted to try it.

5. Boursin is my new secret ingredient in mashed potatoes. 1 oz boursin + 1 oz butter for each potato. So easy and everyone raved.

6. Don't stress about an appetizer spread and also about dessert. Everyone was stuffed from hanging out and nibbling on spinach dip, hummus, spicy nuts, those jalapenos, and a nice cheese board before dinner, that no one stayed for dessert. I've still got half of 3 pies in my fridge a week later.

7. I'm not a failure because I couldn't do everything myself. I wanted to be all perfect Betty Crocker dress/pearls/heels/apron. I managed the dress/pearls, but I don't think Betty Crocker was ever caught crying over a (potentially) ruined turkey in front of guests. Next year I will lighten up, let people help, and try to enjoy it more. (And start drinking much earlier in the day.)

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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Bad decisions:

Didn't make enough potatoes - next year there will be mashed potatoes and Janssen's Temptation.

Asked a guest to bring the rolls. :wacko:

Made some casseroles for the freezer a week or so before Thanksgiving - so half of my usual casserole dishes were in the freezer!

Good decisions:

Shopped early! (We were snowed in Monday - Thursday).

Bought a few new casserole dishes at the grocery store, because obviously I didn't have enough! :laugh:

Started cooking early - heck, I had those days off, why not use them to put together the JT and the spinach artichoke casserole, and the pies?

Made what I thought was waaaay too much dressing - it wasn't too much!

Butterflied the turkey - cooked faster and more evenly, and left room in the oven for the sides.

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Had a fairly successful dinner with my mother and my grandmother. At grandma's bequest, we didn't do the standard turkey, but a pork roast instead. I decided that in addition to the standard seasoning that I would make a glaze out of heavily reduced pomegranate juice, a little Dijon mustard and some honey. The glaze looked and tasted really good. The problem came when I went to brush it onto the pork roast while it was cooking in the oven. The glaze essentially melted and ran off of the roast and onto the pan underneath where it caramelized. I brushed every ten minutes or so, but the pork just didn't build up a beautiful caramelized crust like I had hoped.

Everything tasted alright, but the glaze failure had me a bit bummed. Any thoughts on how to correct this problem for next time?

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Bad decisions:

Made some casseroles for the freezer a week or so before Thanksgiving - so half of my usual casserole dishes were in the freezer!

There is a classic 'trick' for frozen casseroles: Line the dish with heavy-duty foil, freeze the food, and then pop it out of the dish.

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Currently we're on an alternating schedule of Traditional Thanksgiving/Experimental Thanksgiving and this year it was traditional. I like these because it's the food I grew up on, and I get to be sous for my mom and so I can go by autopilot.

Roasted Turkey

Bread-based Stuffing

Sweet potato casserole with apples

Green Beans with mushrooms and water chestnuts

Cranberry jello mold with cranberries and oranges in it


Apple Pie

We've taken to brining the past couple years--those Sur La Table Brining Bags are a godsend--to increasingly better results. This year yielded the moistest results yet, but I still tinker with the oven too much (my mom's burns very hot) and didn't take the temp in the legs and breast, so the breast came out perfect but the legs were bloody at the bone. :angry:

The stuffing is right out of a bag of mixed breadcrumbs and herbs which we augment with sauteed celery and onion. It's heresy but it's my favorite part of the meal. Perfect little gravy sponge and a nice savory starch bomb.

Gravy was an Emeril recipe at Mom's insistence that was a big hit--standard aromatics were browned, then simmered with the giblets and neck in chicken broth, then finally with the browned bits from the pan and thickened with flour.

No idea where the green bean recipe comes from but we do this instead of the standard casserole and it's always great. It rarely makes it to leftovers.

We cut back on the sweet potato recipe this year and it worked great.

Too much cranberry sauce. I even volunteered that it should be axed entirely but I was outvoted by everyone else.

Good stuff. I can't do anything creative with the leftovers: I just like that meal so much that I don't mind eating it a couple more nights afterwards. My mom did make her usual pronouncement that she's sick of making this meal, which only means next year she'll declare that she misses the traditional stuff when I do something more experimental.

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Bad decisions:

Made some casseroles for the freezer a week or so before Thanksgiving - so half of my usual casserole dishes were in the freezer!

There is a classic 'trick' for frozen casseroles: Line the dish with heavy-duty foil, freeze the food, and then pop it out of the dish.

Now, why didn't I think of that? Thanks.

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A couple of years ago, I tried convincing my mom she shouldn't do everything herself for Turkey day and attempted to get her to at least let us buy pies from Marie Callender's or Coco's. She got mad at me and baked 3 or 4 pies in advance (then froze them...and thawed them for Turkey Day) just to prove she could still make pies from scratch.

This year she bought Mrs. Smith's frozen pies. :blink::laugh:

I go down a day ahead to help be her sous/prep chef and try to shoulder some of the work. She also learned a new word this year: "Delegate"...and had relatives bring certain dishes for the dinner.


The successes this year were:

-The main turkey (19 lbs. cooked in a Reynolds Oven Bag...we swear by the bags...almost 4 hours cooking time and it was perfection).

-The corn casserole

-My mom's stuffing

-Mashed potatoes - they were some of the whitest mashed potatoes I've ever made (I'm in charge of the mashed potatoes). I can't recall what kind of potatoes they were but with lots of butter, some milk, sour cream and cream cheese, it's hard to go wrong with the end result. Guests were fighting for the leftovers.

-Sweet potato casserole (mashed with a oat/granola-ish topping)

-My brother's Andouille/Boudin sausage dressing made with cherry bomb chile peppers...smoking hot but incredible flavor

The bad:

-A second smaller turkey my brother brought. His lesson learned is that you really shouldn't put a rub with salt as an ingredient on a brined turkey. He smoked/cooked it on his Weber grill so it had a great smokey flavor...but, alas, it was quite salty.

-Mom's new lemon Jell-o salad...the topping had to be cooked then cooled and it involved adding shredded cheese on top :blink: No thanks, Ma!


“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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overall it went well. apple cider brined turkey breast cooked a bit earlier than i thought - though my mil's stove runs high. 6 lb bone in took about 1.5 instead of 2+ hours to cook properly so i kept rotating in products. she wanted to precook the stuffing the day before and "reheat" which would have totally dried it out.

sister-in-laws mashed potatoes were more like aligot - very, very gluey. and after all the husband didn't eat them since she used regular milk and butter - things he will not eat.

love the sweet potatoes. will do them again.

have to make sure that the husband is at the table before food goes on. it ended up that there was no blessing and oldest bil was halfway through his dinner before johnnybird wound his way to the table that left his mother and i standing until he could get to his place in the tiny dining room.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.


Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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  • 10 months later...

I have deep fried them, made turducken, skipped the turkey entirely and made Peking Duck, or roasted goose. I've made every manner of stuffing imaginable. I've done Étouffée, oyster stuffing, andouille stuffing, and every other manner of stuffing. Homemade bread cubes. Homemade cornbread. Everything in between.

I've mashed potatoes, twice baked them, truffled them up with no regard to cost. I've made homemade cranberry sauce, year after year, even though people seem to prefer the crap out of the can. You name it, I've done it. Sides? You name it, I've made it. Pies? Everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. Homemade bread? Biscuits? Croissant? Been there, done that.

My go-to dinner is a brined, garlic-butter injected, roasted, free-range turkey, where I know the rancher who raised them. With twice-baked parmesan and herb potatoes, and an oyster dressing (I don't stuff birds anymore. Just pour the juice over the stuffing prior to serving. Same thing. No risk.) With glazed ginger carrots and green beans and the homemade cranberry sauce that nobody eats except my wife and I.

But this year I'm likely to make Yorkshire pudding and probably a goose, because no family is involved -- it's just the two of us. And I'm fresh out of rendered goose fat.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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How about venison? I've done that a couple of times, and am thinking of doing it again this year (my boyfriend's father hunts), something with the back straps and tenderloins. I'm also thinking chestnuts (particularly dried ones that have been reconstituted and cooked in chicken broth until the broth is almost completely reduced and caramelized), and roasted mushrooms, as sides.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums

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