Chat Leftovers: Post-Election Eyes on Thanksgiving

With the all-consuming presidential election now behind us, we can now focus our attention on another pressing countdown -- just three weeks until Thanksgiving! In this week's What's Cooking, readers began getting itchy for Thanksgiving ideas and tips. For the next few weeks, we'll ramp up the holiday meal coverage, with a weekly Thanksgiving Clinic feature to help you plan, shop, prep, and most importantly, have fun. Read on.

Centre of Nowhere: So, when can we start talking about the immediate days after Thanksgiving? I am throwing a family dinner (16 people) for a non-Thanksgiving event the Saturday immediately after the big feast, and am wondering what to serve everyone who'll be turkey-ed and pumpkin pie-d to death by then. Suggestions for easy, filling, light and fit for a crowd?

Centre, you haven’t said whether your crew is adventurous or finicky, but I’m going to throw an idea out there nonetheless: What about a curry party? You could do two or three pots of curry, all different – one for chickpeas, one for chicken and one for beef, lentils or shrimp. A fourth pot would be devoted to rice (perhaps you could borrow someone’s rice cooker), and you’d have naan for sopping up juices. I realize you’re in the middle of nowhere, but there are some really good brands of naan available in the frozen section, or you might be able to order online.

This would not only be a departure from the Thanksgiving feast, it would be a great lineup for a big group and great fun to prepare. You could even make some of the stuff in advance and reheat on Saturday. Let me know if you’d like guidance in the recipe department.

P.S. Haven’t forgotten the Curry Club idea. Planning on this after the holidays, unless of course y’all want to forget the holidays and make curry instead for a week in December. Let me know.

Seafood Thanksgiving?: Kim, do you have any recommendations for a seafood Thanksgiving dinner? My sis and I are on our own for the meal as our parents will be on a cruise spending our inheritance. We want to do something different from the normal turkey & stuffing.

In your shoes, I would probably play with octopus on Thanksgiving. You can’t get much different from turkey and stuffing than a plate of grilled octopus tentacles, and it might even magically transport you to that cruise your parents will be enjoying. Talk about a taste of warmer climes!

I love the sound of char-grilled octopus with pineapple sambal from “Fish Forever,” a terrific resource on sustainable seafood by fishmonger Paul Johnson. The pineapple gets grilled as well and marries with a zesty mix of garlic, chiles, fish sauce, rice vinegar and brown sugar. Could make a dynamite first course. You’ll need to boil larger octopuses until tender before grilling. By the way, wild-caught octopus from Hawaii is considered a “good alternative” to the overfished populations in Vietnam and Madagascar, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

For the main, I’m thinking seafood paella or something stewy, with a mix of cephalopods (octopus and squid) and bivalves (mussels and clams). A risotto with any of the above would be slightly less complicated but festive nonetheless. Let me know if you’d like more details on braising octopus.

Falls Church, Va.: For the first time, I'm hosting 10 adults and 3 kids for Thanksgiving. My oven is very small and I'm concerned about fitting a huge bird in it. I'm thinking of getting cut-up turkey parts -- breast, leg -- and cooking that way instead. Have you ever done this? Does this make sense to you? Any pointers?

Do you have one of those apartment sized ovens? That’s what we have at Casa Appetite on the east coast, and I have cooked a 12-14 pounder in my little engine that could with great success. For your crew, you’ll need a 12-15 pounder, if you want leftovers, 10-12 pounds if you don’t.

The tricky part is coordinating oven time for your side dishes, but that would be an issue no matter the size of your oven. My vote: Go for a whole bird over the parts.

Chat Alert: Mark your calendars for two extra Thanksgiving-focused chats this month.
Thursday, Nov. 13: What's Cooking Vegetarian Thanksgiving, for meatless feasting
Thursday, Nov. 20: What's Cooking Thanksgiving, for turkey, giblets, sausage stuffing and all the rest...
Both chats begin at 1 ET.

By Kim ODonnel |  November 6, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Chat Leftovers , Thanksgiving
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Kim, there's a detail left out of the sweet potato hummus recipe over on creative loafing page. How long do the veggies roast? If it's too long ago to fix it there, maybe a pointer in the comments here...

Thanks, sounds delicious!

Posted by: mailergoat | November 6, 2008 12:06 PM

Thanks for your watchful eye, mailergoat. Here's the whole thing:

Sweet Potato Dip
Adapted from 12 Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 medium or large onion
Olive oil for lathering up vegetables
At least 2 tablespoons tahini paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

• Preheat oven to 400. Slice onion in half, and remove papery outer layer. Rub with oil and lightly coat. Wrap in a large piece of aluminum foil. Slice sweet potatoes in half or quarters, depending on size. (Smaller pieces will cook faster.) Do not peel. Repeat oil/foil step with potatoes. Roast until potatoes feel soft when squeezed while still wrapped in foil, about one hour. Open foil and allow them to cool a bit.

With fingers, peel away 2 or 3 tough outer layers of onion. Halve and coasrsely chop one half. Reserve other half for later. Peel sweet potatoes.

• Puree until mixture is creamy. Add tahini. Season with salt and pepper, and if you like, add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne. Taste for tahini; add more if flavor is not coming through.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 6, 2008 1:01 PM

Centre of Nowhere -- what about soup night for your Saturday dinner? You could cook up a few pots, some veggie, some for meat eaters, and even make ahead and freeze the week before. Soup is light and a welcome meal after heavy eating.

Sides could be as easy as salads and bread, with a topping bar depending on the soup you serve. (Minestrone, fresh basil, croutons, and cheese; for black bean soup sour cream, avocado etc)

Posted by: biscotti_girl | November 6, 2008 2:44 PM

Hello Kim

Curry party? Interesting idea. Additions: raita (tasty, and cools/soothes the mouth from the heat of the curry), dal, and a vegetable dish.

Posted by: davidlewiston | November 6, 2008 2:54 PM

After Thanksgiving dinner party sounds like an opportunity for tacos and fajitas (both chicken and beef), rice and corn salad, beans, and Corona.

Posted by: simonsaid | November 6, 2008 3:31 PM

Hi Kim!

Thank you for posting my question to the blog, and thank you and the posters for the ideas. I am sad to report that the fam is not very adventurous when it comes to food and they'd likely not touch a curry (but how difficult is it to make? I'm intrigued, and I'd eat it!).

The soup idea... now that is probably what I should be aiming for: nice and simple. The meal needs to be ready shortly after we arrive home from the afternoon out, so I will make the soups ahead of time... I'm thinking that a carrot or squash soup and a hot & sour soup (for me and any other takers) would be nice and seasonal. I can figure out a salad (pear, walnut, bleu cheese?!) and bread and a dessert (apple crisp?). You guys rock. Awesome. Thank you biscotti_girl!

- Centre of Nowhere

Posted by: con-e | November 6, 2008 4:11 PM

Seafood Thanksgiving: Lobster is the way to go. It's traditional, festive and looks magnificent. A couple of years ago I gave everyone at the table a whole lobster appetizer. It went over well, but the turkey was largely ignored.

I just returned from the grocery store. Whole live lobster was $9.99/lb.

Posted by: davemarks | November 7, 2008 2:04 PM

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