Sunday, November 18, 2007

The crunch factor

I must say, this is a very curious feeling. I am actually looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. I've bitched about the holiday in the past, but this year, for the first time, I have some agency over the holiday menu--my sweet, lovely, lousy-cook mother-in-law is out of town visiting her brother and so I get to be responsible for the meal planning. I contemplated a rather radical Thanksgiving--turkey with Vietnamese stuffing, maybe some steamed kimchi dumplings, that kind of thing. But when I proposed this to the other people who will be dining at the table that night, I saw some confused looks and not much in the way of enthusiastic cheers.

Then I thought about it a bit more and figured that some small tweaks to a more traditional menu could make the meal palatable to me, and still not rock the boat. What I dislike most about the traditional meal that my mother-in-law dishes out each year is the mush factor--pretty much everything at the table has a squishy texture (except for the turkey which, unfortunately, she cooks until it is dry...): mashed potatoes, stuffing, candied yams, canned cranberry sauce, soft rolls.

I don't care for squish.

I found that adding a little crunch back into the meal makes it one that I can look forward to. I'll still make a few mushy things for those traditionalists at the table (buttermilk mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy), but the turkey will be deep fried (using Brian's birthday present), the hush puppies will replace the rolls, the Brussels sprouts are served tender crisp, and there will be a salad with a nice sharp vinaigrette to contrast with the richness of the rest of the meal. Also I'll reduce the sweetness factor--the cranberry relish I'll make is piquant with ginger and jalapeño, and the sweet potatoes will be smoky with Spanish paprika.

So here is our menu:

5 comments:

Jocelyn said...

We're deep frying, too. I'd love to know how you are imparting some flavor into your gravy without the pan drippings. I'm looking at roasting some turkey legs with vegetables and dumping that in.

Kate said...

Aggg--you caught me Jocelyn! Since I don't like gravy much I was just going to go a totally lame route and saute up an onion in butter, add some flour and use canned chicken broth. Maybe add a few mushrooms and a little soy for that meaty umami flavor? I think the only one who will really eat it is my husband and his attention is likely to be focused on the stuffing...

DrPattiS said...

Yum! I have tried and tried to make hush puppies and it always ends up as...squick. I don't know how else to describe it. Do you have any tips for proper hush puppying? :)

Mom said...

We're smoking a bird this year, so I am also roasting a breast so I can make gravy.

Last year, the neighbors deep fried a turkey the day after Thanksgiving and we all brought things to deep fry on the side. I especially loved the mushrooms, onions and cauliflower. Fried turkey has a unique texture from roasted turkey - I think I prefer roasted. It was a really nice get together. Hush puppies will be a great side dish for fried turkey!

Mary Jean said...

Oooo, I'm very intrigued by the vodka pie crust. Do give a report on the results!