GC#35 – Thanksgiving

Sorry, no pictures until after Thanksgiving, but here’s a tradition approach.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2011

Deep Fried Oysters
With Tartar Sauce

Butternut Soup
Garnished with Apple

With Sausage Stuffing
French Gravy

Jellied Cranberry Relish

Fresh Orange and Cranberry Relish

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Mashed Idaho Potatoes with Garlic

Peal White Onions Glazed

Brussel Spruots with Lemon

Cold Salad Plate
Fennel with olive oil, garlic and lemon
Pickled Beets Julienne
Mushrooms Vinaigrette

Pumpkin Pie

Pecan Pie 
With Vanilla Whipped Cream

I first started keeping Thanksgiving notes in 1999 and I have updated them yearly ever since.  So I began this when I we had kids at home.  The meals were for twelve people, and I rarely made all the recipes in one year. I’ve also noticed that cut way down on butter, and only use cream in deserts.

What an opportunity for leftovers! 

The whole meal is about wretched excess, gathering nuts for winter, so you should have plenty left over at the end of the Thanksgiving feast.  Remember, everything in moderation including excess.

The cooking for me is a mini boot camp vacation.  I am always in the middle of unusually complex and difficult projects with such endless demands that could eat up every waking moment.  So when Thanksgiving comes around, I am ready for an excuse to cook.  In 2005 I was teaching full time at Montgomery College and preparing for a complicate shoot in Saudi Arabia.  In 2011, I am still teaching and writing this blog.

Tradition appeals to me for this harvest festival.  Do the basics, look for fresh, pure ingredients and cook them in simpler and simpler ways every year.

Deep Fried Oysters

 These are a great way of holding off hungry guests.  Oysters are, after all, a solid Thanksgiving tradition.  Hot out of the pan, these will knock peoples socks off

Ingredients for Deep Fried Oysters

  • 2 Cups olive oil – for frying
  • 2  Dozen oysters – shucked
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1/2 Cup flour – seasoned with black pepper and nutmeg
  • 4 egg whites – slightly whipped
  • 1 Cup fresh, dried bread crumbs

Preheat oil to 365 degrees F.

  • Pick through oysters to make sure there are no shell pieces attached and
  • place in milk. Remove one oyster, shake it dry and dredge in seasoned
  • flour.
  • Remove and dredge in egg whites.
  • Remove, shake off excess liquid,
  • and dredge in bread crumbs. Continue until all oysters are breaded.
  • Place six oysters at a time in hot oil and fry until dark golden brown, about 1
  • to 2 minutes. Remove and serve with tartar sauce.

Butternut Soup (Vegetarian) 

In 2002 I made a Vegetarian Butternut squash Soup for the first time.  You can make this without butter for a Vegan version.  In 2011 I would definitely skip the cream.(Recipe for 12)

  • 4 lbs butternut squash
  • 2 tbl butter
  • 4 tbls olive oil
  • 2 large Spanish onion, chopped
  • 4 medium leeks, white part only, sliced
  • 8-10 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups of half and half (optional an unnecessary in my view)
  • Garnish with 2 Granny Smith apple, chopped

Preparation of Winter Squash Soup

  • Roast squash in 350 oven, cut in half with a little butter until the squash is soft.
  • Scoop out the squash pulp.  S
  • auté onions and leeks in olive oil until tender, add the squash for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Simmer 45 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.  Puree in batches.   Reheat soup and add 1/2 and 1/2 until desired consistency is reached.  Garnish with apple.

Vegetable stock (Winter) from The Greens Cook Book.

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup leek greens
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 3 – 4 celery stalks with some leaves
  • 1 cup winter squash
  • 1 cup chard ends
  • 1 medium potato or 1 cup thick potato skins
  • 1/2 celery root
  • 1/4 cup lentils
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaves
  • Sage
  • Parsley
  • 8 cups water
  • Simmer gently for a three hours and strain.


A half pound per person, they say.  About a week before the dinner, I ordered a natural turkey as fresh as possible.  Killed two days ago, the River Falls Seafood Market told me, after living range free on a big farm in Maryland.

  • More than you may want to know about slaughtering turkeys.  Lucy Hupp, an organic gardener in Berkeley in the late sixties, taught me how to kill and dress a live turkey.  You want to keep the bird as calm as possible.  Lucy told me the Chinese have perfected the ritual.  They hold the bird in their lap; caress its neck until the bird, entranced, stretches.  Then they slit the turkey’s throat with a very sharp knife.  The turkey never feels a thing, they claim.  When I raised my own turkeys in Llano, we hung them upside down until they passed out, and then slit their throat.  It’s good to know where your food comes from.  When I first moved to Washington, I could pick out a live turkey at a butcher shop behind Union Station, and come back an hour later when it was dressed out.  The clientele was almost exclusively black, and the live poultry market is long gone from the District and its suburbs. 


This is one place I give into meat, using fried sausage with stale bread and lots of vegetables … onions, celery, finely chopped mushrooms.  The mushrooms make the stuffing lighter.  Lots of sage and thyme.   I used to try different stuffings with rice, wild rice or pilaf as a base instead of bread, but they were leftovers that eventually got thrown away.

  • Stuffing 10 cups (You need about 5 cups for a 10 lb bird, but you can always roast any extra in a pan in the oven.
    • 2 lb sausage
    • 2 cups celery (use the leaves too)
    • 8 cups of soft break crumbs
    • 1 cup minced onions
    • 1 cup minced mushrooms
    • Liver if any and/or oysters
    • Moisten with chicken stock
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Lots of sage and thyme


Since 2003 I’ve used an Italian trick, and roasted several heads of garlic in the pan with the turkey and then squeeze the pulp into the gravy.  Keep a little water in the bottom of the roasting pan at all times will to avoid burning the juices..

Cranberries are a must.  The previous weekend I made two dishes of cranberries

  • Jellied Cranberry Relish in a fish mold from Joy of Cooking
    • 4 cups (1 lb) of cranberries (actually, more like 12 oz, which is what today’s packages hold)
    • 2 cups boiling water
    • 2 cups sugar

Cook for about 5 minutes or more until the cranberries pop, put through a sieve, and pour into a mold dipped in water.

  • Fresh orange and cranberry relish (improves after a few days in the refrigerator). Also Joy of Cooking
    • 4 cups (1 lb) of cranberries (see above).
    • 1 whole orange
    • 2 cups of sugar )a little less 1 ½)

Grind the cranberries and orange together and add the sugar.  Let ripen at least 2 days before using.

At least one white and one sweet potato dish is a must.

  • Candied sweet potatoes (12 people)
    • 6 sweet potatoes (or more if small).  Cook until tender.
    • Peel and cut into slices (either way) and place in a shallow greased pan.
    • Salt and Pepper
    • Maple syrup (1 cup+) or brown sugar (1 1/2 cup)
    • 3 tbls lemon juice
    • Powdered ginger and butter.

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

  • Could alter with whipped sweet potatoes for a change.
  • Creamy, gleaming white mashed potatoes.
  • Or chunky boiled or roasted potatoes with their skins still on.  (The secret of any kind of potatoes is garlic … at a ratio of about a clove per large, Idaho potato!)

 Brussels sprouts with butter and lemon juice.

Parboil briefly until just cooked through,  Add a tiny bit of butter for a richer flavor and sprinkle generously with lemon juice.

Pearl white onions

Everyone loves small white onions caramelized.  The are a pain to peel, but easy to cook.  It means more sugar, of course, but with sugar maples in the north and sugar cane in the south, it’s hard to escape on feast days.

  • Glazed Onions (Gourmet Cookbook) (12 servings)
    • 3 lbs small white onions
    • 8 tbls melted butter
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    • 4 tbls sugar
    • Salt

Cook very slowly until liquid is gone and onions are soft (or bake).

Cold salad plate

This can be made in advance and most actually improve after a day or two in the refrigerator.  Some candidates include

  • Fennel sliced very thin with a dressing of olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, flavored with grated lemon rind, salt and pepper.
  • Pickled beets cut julienne in vinaigrette with a little sugar
  • Fresh mushrooms also julienne in vinaigrette.


  • Apple pie made with Macintosh apples. The best pie book is Country Pies by Lisa Yockelson.  This is her recipe.
    • You’ll find her recipe for the dough in Blog #20
  • Pumpkin pie made from fresh, small sugar pumpkins.
  • Pecan pie, served with vanilla whipped cream.  (Seeds scrapped from fresh vanilla beans really make this a treat.)

Fruit and nuts: End with nuts and big bowl of clementines.

  • In 2003 I first used an Italian version of the butternut soup.   It was very popular, and I made it again in 2006, but far too rich today.
  • Butternut Squash Soup with Crisp Pancetta
  • (12 servings – or more if they are small)
  • 6 lbs butternut squash
  • 6 tbl unsalted butter (8 pieces)
  • Salt and paper
  • 12 very thin slices of pancetta (3 oz)
    2 tbl olive oil & more for drizzling
  • 1 large Spanish onion chopped
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 tbl heavy cream
  • In 400 degree oven bake halved squash with butter, salt, pepper and draped with slices pancetta for 45 minutes or until tender.
  • Crumble pancetta and set aside (best done when they are hot).
  • Heat onions in olive oil, salt and pepper until soft and add other ingredients. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove thyme and bay leaf and blend.
  • Add cream (it really doesn’t need it).
  • Serve garnished with pancetta, thyme leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Brussels Sprouts with Onion and Bacon
    • 1/2 lb lean bacon cut into thin strips
    • 1 Spanish onion thinly sliced
    • 8 garlic cloves halved lengthwise
    • 4 cups chicken stock
    • Salt and pepper
    • 4 lbs Brussels sprouts
    • Cook the bacon in a deep saucepan until brown.
    • Add onion and garlic and stir until soft.
    • Add stock and cook until 1 cup is left (12 minutes)
    • Blanch Brussels sprouts for 3 minutes.
    • Add sprouts to stock and cook until tender.
    • Season with salt and pepper.
    • Remove sprouts and reduce liquid to a cup and pour over.

Rolls. This is retched excess, but they are very good. I found this recipe for rolls in the 11/2001 issue of Food and Wine.  They have to be started the night before.

  • Rolls
  • Heat 1 1/2 cups of milk with 3 tbl butter and 2-tbl sugar, 1 1/2 tsp of salt transfer to a large bowl, and stir in yeast then let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups of flour.  Knead until silky and let rise.
  • Mix 1/2 cup packed, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tbls chopped parsley, 1 tsp thyme and 1 tsp rosemary.
  • Melt 11 tlbs of butter.
  • Butter 18 muffin cups,
  • Divide dough in three, roll into 1 inch thick rope and cut into 18 equal pieces Dip 1/2 in butter, then into cheese mixture, and then put three in each cup with the cheese facing the center.  Refrigerate overnight.
  • Next day, let rise 2 hours, bake at 425 for about 15 minutes, shift to bottom 1/2 way through.

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is a journalist and filmmaker who is now teaching at Montgomery Community College
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One Response to GC#35 – Thanksgiving

  1. John Whiting says:

    From the essay on turkey in my website: http://www.whitings-writings.com/recipes/turkey.htm

    “This year my final drastic solution was to roast the turkey all night at a low temperature, breast down, on an adjustable V-angled wire rack, with a loose covering of foil. (I had put chopped carrot, onion and celery in the cavity and, to give the bird a flavorful start, rubbed it liberally with goose fat and added a good-sized nut of it to the interior vegetables.) When the juices were clear and the joints loose, the bird was removed from the oven and put aside to set for almost two hours on the rack before it was tipped out onto the platter. (As Julia Child has noted, it stays warm, if not hot, for a very long time.)”

    For a handsome breast, I turn the bird over and give it a few minute’s blast uncovered in a very hot oven, checking frequently so that it doesn’t overbrown.

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