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Lunch break

Alton Brown explains why you should brine a turkey, and offers a logical proof of why stuffing is evil.

In past years, I've waited till Thanksgiving, or the day before, to ask you all what you're making. That, I realize, is stupid. It makes it much harder for me to steal your delicious recipes and ideas. So what's gracing your Thanksgiving table this year?

By Ezra Klein  |  November 23, 2009; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Food  
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We are having about 32 people over with too many dishes to list, but my wife is dry brining a turkey, I'm smoking a ham (brown sugar, OJ, and pineapple juice mop), and I'm making an awesome 1/2 cornbread 1/2 breadcrumb stuffing. Then the usuals: sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. And on top of that, my wife is making a bunch of high end dishes that involve words I don't recognize.

Posted by: StokeyWan | November 23, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Well my family has pretty much the only dry thanksgiving in the country, so being newly 21 I'm planning on bringing a bottle of wine. Also, I spend turkey day in Kansas, and my midwestern relatives tell me mashed potatoes are not standard thanksgiving staples in their part of the country. Can anyone confirm or deny?

Posted by: HughManatee | November 23, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm not making a turkey this year (I'll be the only meat eater this time), but if I was I would try a "dry-brining" (i.e. salting) recipe either at the New York Times, The Kitchen Sink Recipes, or Cook's Illustrated (that recipe also "bards" the turkey with salt pork which sounds kind of fun). I've brined the last 3 years, but I'd try the salting since I've heard it has all the benefits of brining without the risks of giving a spongy texture to the meat. I guess I'll just have to make the Zuni roast chicken to test that out instead.

So the two "main dishes" are going to be cassoulet (all for me yay!) and a Mushroom Shepherd's Pie (vegan). We haven't really decided on side dishes, but I really like a lot of the recipes in the New York Times this year.

Posted by: JWHamner | November 23, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm putting the _Ad Hoc At Home_ cookbook to the test! Little gem salad, lentil & sweet potato soup, fried chicken, carrot stew, rainbow chard, leek bread pudding, potato pave, and ice cream sandwiches! If I were doing turkey, I'd do it a la Cook's Country w/ the salt pork...looked worth trying.

For JW Hamner - I made Zuni Cafe chicken and Thos. Keller's roast chicken (traditionally-brined) from the Bouchon cookbook one weekend to compare - both were excellent, but the honey in Keller's brine led me to give it the nod.

Posted by: JEA1 | November 23, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

There's just 3 of us, me, wife and son, and we're having our customary cheese enchiladas with lots of guacamole. Turkey's a bit of a mess, there's a lot of it, and no one likes it a lot, plus we like doing what we're going to do.

However, I did help feed a gathering (forced) of about 50 turkeys that our CSA is (was) raising for purchase by CSA members. They got a little big, I'm told. Certainly by a week ago they were big enough and numerous enough to be a bit frightening when they all gathered round for a bit of breakfast or dinner.

Posted by: bdballard | November 23, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I was going to cut back, but then found out my dad and stepmom are coming, so it'll be the whole feast. Turkey (no brining, no bacon, just veggies in the cavity and butter and sage under the skin); stuffing cooked separately (Italian bread, celery, onion, sage, and Granny Smith apples); mashed potatoes; gravy; sweet potatoes baked with butter and brown sugar; green bean casserole (the homemade kind, with real green beans, a bechamel sauce, and some sauteed mushrooms, with maybe some fried onions on top); two kinds of pie (traditional pumpkin and a pumpkin chiffon praline); and, of course, the can of cranberry sauce, without which my husband would disown me.

Posted by: laura33 | November 23, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Usually make seitan and homemade cashew gravy, but this year, I think we'll just have the Celebration roast:

Posted by: AZProgressive | November 23, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Cooking for 9-10 friends, with a variety of needs, so everything except the bird and gravy will be vegetarian:

Small turkey with giblet gravy
Homemade cranberry sauce
Mushroom-nut dressing
Succotash (with no cream sauce, ew)
[2-3 other sides coming from guests]

Galatoire's sweet potato cheesecake
Gingerbread apple pie

Posted by: csdiego | November 23, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Roasting a goose -- we usually do that for Christmas, but decided that we like it MUCH better than turkey, and the Canadian friends who are coming over already had turkey for their version of Thanksgiving anyway. So we'll do it now plus possibly again for Christmas.

Recipe: Pretty simple, actually. Scald it 36 hours before -- 1 minute in boiling water on top and bottom. This loosens up the fat so it runs right out in the first 30-45 minutes of cooking. Keep in a cool, dry place until it's time to cook. Stuff with a mixture of wild rise, golden raisins and almonds (you can cook the rise in the quasi-goose broth you get when you scald it). Season with salt and pepper -- no need to brush with oil or butter. Roast at 350 for about 10 minutes/pound, or until internal temp is 175. Siphon off the liquid fat every 30 minutes or so, though this isn't such a big deal with a top-notch roasting pan with rack. Crank up the oven to 425 the last 10 minutes to get the skin really crackling.

We'll also do cassolets heavy on the root veggies (probably parsnips, turnips, carrots, potatoes, and white beans in a light tomato puree sauce, topped with bread crumbs), some mashed potatoes for the kids, maybe some peas to get some green in there.

Spinach fritters and meatballs (we have a big frozen bag of them and have to use them sometime) for appetizer.

Pecan pie for dessert. This is a concession to me -- I don't like pumpkin pie.

Posted by: BridgeportJoe | November 23, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

My husband is on call all weekend, including T-day, so we're not doing anything social. We're going to try the braised turkey recipe you pointed to last week. It looks really good.

Posted by: jnfr | November 23, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Brown is 47 years old and still wearing those hipster glasses like he thinks he's a 20-year-old in hipster. What a jerk. Of course anyone who doesn't like stuffing (the only good-tasting thing on the traditional thanksgiving table) is obviously a jerk and should be run out of polite society. Good grief, what an absolutely insufferably disgusting human being.

Posted by: mellifluent | November 23, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Sweet Potatoes in Orange Shells. We do this nearly every year.

Posted by: stimb | November 23, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Rats. No embedded html. Okay then.

Posted by: stimb | November 23, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Here's a suggestion for breakfast Friday morning: take some leftover stuffing, form it into a small patty, pan fry it in a little oil, and top with a fried egg: Yum.

(A friend of mine has also suggested using leftover Cranberry sauce a la Hollandaise, which sounds like it should work deliciously though I haven't yet tried it myself.)

Posted by: eds209 | November 23, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

mellifluent: I think he mainly means that stuffing a turkey is dangerous (food borne pathogens wise) and makes it even hard to cook the turkey properly (hard enough as it is). I'm pretty sure he is fine with stuffing in general as long as you cook it outside the bird.

Posted by: JWHamner | November 23, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Sweet Potato bread instead of rolls. It's bangin' and easy to make (just a quickbread recipe).

Posted by: Margarita2 | November 23, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Galatoire's Sweet Potato cheesecake. Unbelievable:

Posted by: paulharang | November 23, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the stuffing-is-evil thing, the solution isn't to abandon stuffing the turkey. When the turkey is finished roasting, pull all the stuffing out of it, put it in a big bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and nuke it in the microwave until it's really hot. Problem solved.

What's really evil, of course, is the turkey itself. Does anyone really like turkey very much? I mean, compared to, say, roast chicken? This year, I'm doing ravioli filled with brandade de morue (salt cod, lots of garlic, etc.) in a lobster broth flavored with fennel, saffron, tomato, and orange peel. Then a boned leg of lamb rolled around a stuffing of bread, sausage, spinach, and pine nuts, tied and roasted, with a savory garlic custard on the side. Cheese and sliced pears to finish. Yes, I know all of that sounds really good.

Posted by: thehersch | November 23, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

For a small gathering (3 to 4 people), we cook a turkey breast à la Martha [], roasting the breast on a bed of vegetables, then making the gravy with the pan juices and Madeira, which is truly wonderful. I make my mother's stuffing [some browned pork sausage, onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and chopped walnuts, with the ubiquitous Pepperidge Farm stuffing (chunks, please, not the cubes), and now with homemade veggie stock (thank you, Deborah Madison and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)], which is baked in oven, not in the turkey. Side dishes include one tradition from my family [roasted slices of sweet potatoes, basted with olive oil, with garlic & rosemary] and one from my husband's family [homemade creamed onions, with his delicious bechamel sauce, courtesy of James Beard].

And I make an apple tart for dessert.

Posted by: njprogressive | November 23, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to have a go at a deconstructed green bean casserole, i.e. sauteed mushrooms and green beans in a very light sauce topped with onions. I hope this satisfies my mother-in-law.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | November 24, 2009 2:52 AM | Report abuse

I'll be brining a turkey in salt, pepper, honey, rosemary, and sage. Also, I find that cooking the bird upside down until the last hour, then flipping it and leaving it uncovered for the last hour, makes a good bird.

And if you don't care about making your green bean casserole extremely unhealthy, I guarantee that this will be more popular than the mushroom soup version:

Posted by: MosBen | November 24, 2009 7:46 AM | Report abuse

I don't have to make anything on Thanksgiving, which is one of the things for which I'm thankful!

We do the usual northeastern feast: turkey, mashies, cranberry sauce, rolls, green beans.

Plus, pumpkin pie!

Posted by: ajw_93 | November 24, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

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