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:
- deep fried turkey
- hush puppies (from the Blue Willow Inn cookbook)
- sautéed Brussels sprouts with Parmesan
- cranberry orange ginger jalapeño mint relish
- salad—spinach, romaine, blue cheese and toasted walnuts
- roasted sweet potatoes with smoked paprika
- buttermilk mashed potatoes
- stuffing (a Cook's Illustrated recipe with sausage and fresh sage)
- cheese plate with port, nuts, pears and grapes
- sweet potato pie (I'm going to try the vodka-in-the pie-crust trick that Cook's Illustrated raved about. For a pictorial demo of the crust check out Smitten Kitchen's entry.)