What We Bring To The Table: Thanksgiving Edition

By SquirrelFeather Mikhail - 

On the last Thursday of every November we celebrate with food. This particular celebration differs from others throughout the year in that we are celebrating the things that we are thankful for. This has been a tradition since the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in a new land in the year 1621. I wonder if the participants had a clue that this would become a tradition for the American family. While the Pilgrims were thankful for a successful harvest, each person’s reason to be thankful are as varied as the dishes we serve on this most traditional of holidays.

A brief history

Although the first “Thanksgiving” was celebrated in 1621, it was not officially declared a holiday until 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, although New Englanders had been celebrating it for years. Further research has shown that feasting every fall has been a tradition among Native American and European civilizations for hundreds of years. Nonetheless, Thanksgiving has become a time for families to gather and feast and be grateful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon them. A great tradition is to go around the table and have everyone name something they are thankful for. And while the times have changed quite a bit from the Pilgrim’s days, we are all still essentially grateful for the prosperity, no matter how minuscule it may be, we have had over the previous year.

Traditional dishes

The first thing we think of when we picture Thanksgiving, is that big juicy turkey in the center of the table. Whether it is baked, smoked, or fried, turkey is tradition. Then of course is the dressing (or stuffing for my non-Southern readers), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and don’t forget the pumpkin pie, and those are just the basics. A very carb heavy meal to say the least, which is probably why everyone passes out afterwards. I wouldn’t want to check blood glucose levels after that meal for sure.

I always cook so much for Thanksgiving that I do not have to cook for the rest of the week, and I planned it this way on purpose. Prep for the “big meal” takes at least one full day before Thursday, unless we want to eat at 10pm on the big day. Without a doubt, the majority of my preparation goes into my cornbread dressing, but it is well worth it. In the South, it is tradition to have this main staple on your table along with baked mac and cheese, collard greens, fried cornbread and field peas, etc. Most Thanksgivings in the South are essentially a potluck dinner. Everyone in the family brings their best dish or two. This results in a spread that would make Golden Corral jealous and rival any church dinner you’ve ever attended. Wherever you are, the traditional dishes will always be on the table, but it is the preparation that differs by region.
Let’s talk turkey...
Roasted turkey is traditional, but some prefer fried turkey. We fry everything in the South. Preparation can be tricky and more than one first timer has caused a small inferno trying this method. There is the traditional roasting in the oven bag or even a paper bag. If you’ve never had the opportunity to try a smoked turkey, I highly recommend it. I personally recall one year
that we did not have an oven, but had a grill. There we were, butchering a 20 pound turkey and slapping it on the grill and it was phenomenal. And then there is the extreme, the Turducken. If you’ve never heard of this, let me enlighten you. This is a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey, filled with cornbread dressing and sewn up. This unusual dish originated in Louisiana (go figure), but has become popular in other areas of the country. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I would not mind trying it before I pass judgement. Whatever your method, just remember to remove the internal organs before cooking (and save them for the gravy) and always cook your bird to temp. You don’t need a trip to the ER for salmonella poisoning.
Stuffing or dressing
So first, what do you call it? Traditionally, it is called stuffing if it is actually stuffed into the turkey and dressing if it is baked separately. In the South, we call it dressin’ whether it is stuffed or not. We also use cornbread for the base among other ingredients like saltine crackers and/or traditional Pepperidge Farm stuffing… we like bread. Various herbs and spices may be used along with hard boiled eggs, onions and celery and in some cases, shredded chicken. Some put oysters in the dressin’ which is a practice in any state that borders the East or Gulf Coast. Some regions will use fresh baked bread for their base and add ingredients like walnuts, apples, dried fruits, sausage, and even bacon or chorizo. Basically, I feel like you can’t go wrong with whatever you put in your stuffing, as long as it is not dry. There is nothing worse than dry stuffing, except dry turkey of course.
Side dishes
Now here is where it gets interesting. You can basically have anything and everything for sides, and we often do. There are some classics, however, that will never die. Casseroles of all kinds usually make an appearance on the Thanksgiving table. First and foremost being green bean casserole, which seems to be a favorite country wide. It's simple and tasty and there are so many variations you can please anyone's palate, unless they are emphatically anti-green bean. Then there’s corn casserole, sweet potato souffle, broccoli cheese casserole, the list could go on ad infinitum. Basically, you could make an amalgamation of any veggie and it would be delicious in my opinion. Then there are mashed potatoes, rolls, and you must not ever forget the baked macaroni and cheese. Kraft is fine for regular dinners, but Thanksgiving is a special occasion and demands the delicious creamy cheesiness of baked mac and cheese. Then there are the salads… macaroni, potato, pea salad and your regular old garden salad. Some more sophisticated celebrants may go for a slightly fancier options for sides, like roasted brussel sprouts, spinach salad with brie toast, glazed baby carrots, roasted heirloom potatoes and green beans almondine. However you choose to supplement your turkey, you can't go wrong as long as you know your guests, and of course, any potential food allergies or preferences.
Cranberry sauce
This deserves its own section. There are purists who may turn their noses up at jellied cranberry sauce from the can. To be perfectly honest, this is my go to mostly because with all of the other preparation I go through, I simply do not have time to prepare fresh cranberries. It seems easy enough, but truthfully my family prefers the jellied kind. There are so many different ways you can prepare your cranberry sauce by adding different fruits and spices. Cherries, oranges or dates can dress up your cranberries, or you could choose a more sophisticated cranberry chutney recipe or a more adult themed Cosmopolitan cranberry sauce recipe (inspired by the cocktail of the same name).
Desserts
If after indulging in dinner you are craving something sweet, the dessert table will be your next stop. There are few tables that won't have pumpkin pie, although the preparation may differ. Of course there's the traditional pumpkin with nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Then there are the more sophisticated versions, like Amaretto-almond crunch pumpkin pie. There could also be pumpkin pie cheesecake, pumpkin tarts or pumpkin pie parfaits to name a few. Whatever your passion, there is something for everyone. But wait, what about sweet potato pie? Or pecan? Chances are there will be a plethora of pies to choose from including, apple and cherry. A person could go insane trying to choose, so just take a tiny sliver of all of them.
Alternative meals
We cannot forget about our vegetarian and vegan friends, or those on special diets in this article. One more thing to be thankful for this holiday season is the Internet and the abundance of alternative menus offered for those with less "traditional" needs. There are gluten free recipes, keto recipes, vegan and vegetarian options all available with a quick Google search.
For our vegan friends, there are recipes for pumpkin pie, green bean casserole and you can even roast a head of cauliflower as a turkey alternative if you don't like the meatless turkey options. Keto dieters can make an alternative to mac and cheese with cauliflower, stuffing made from keto bread, even keto friendly pies. The possibilities are endless, whatever your dietary needs may be. I may even try a couple of these for my own Thanksgiving feast.

Be thankful
However you choose to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is important to remember that regardless of the food you serve, be thankful. Be thankful for your family and friends and enjoy the time you have together. Be grateful for your blessings, no matter how big or how small and extend that to everyday of the year.

We reached out to the community and asked what folks were most thankful for and here are a few of their responses:
David Gokhshtein: The G Media Family. I’m also thankful for good friends. I’m also thankful for life itself. It’s a beautiful thing. If you’re breathing you have nothing to complain about.
@cryptowendyO: Thankful to be alive
@RedKatLife: I’m immensely grateful for all my crypto fam I’ve met over the past 2 years ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ & many more great folks to meet going forward!
@IAmMikeHanson: Thankful for my 1st forthcoming child in 2020
@LuggageDonkey
my immediate family A, L, Q
my health
my parents
sunlight
clean water
unpoisoned food
Unpolluted air
@CryptoEuclid:I'm thankful for @mysticaloaks and my kids:

@mysticaloaks: I'm grateful for the time I have to spend with those I love, this planet we live on, being born in a time and place in which I have the freedoms I have, and for those I love.
And for beach days like this :

Lastly, we’d like to leave you with a few recipes. Typically magazines are full of recipes on how to create the original dishes, but we thought it’d be fun to showcase a few of our favorite sammies for inventive use of leftovers. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Crunchwrap

Tired of the same ol' leftover Thanksgiving sandwich? This crunchwrap is the perfect way to shake things up. Don't have all the leftover ingredients? No worries! Just use what you've got. Everything short of pumpkin pie will work just fine. 😎

INGREDIENTS

4 large flour tortillas
1 c. leftover mashed potatoes
1 c. leftover green beans
1 1/2 c. shredded leftover turkey
1 c. leftover cranberry sauce
1 c. leftover stuffing
1 c. shredded white cheddar
1/2 c. gravy, warmed, for serving

DIRECTIONS

* 1. Spread 1/4 cup of mashed potatoes in the center of each tortilla, then top with a layer of green beans, turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and white cheddar.
* 2. Fold tortillas around the center, creating pleats. After wrapping, quickly invert crunchwraps so the pleats are on the bottom and they stay together.
* 3. In a medium nonstick pan over medium heat, heat a very thin layer of vegetable oil. Working one at a time, add crunchwrap seam-side down and cook until tortilla is golden on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip crunchwrap and cook until the other side is golden, 3 to 5 minutes more.
* 4. Repeat with remaining crunchwraps. Cut each in half and serve warm with gravy.

(source: https://www.delish.com/holiday-recipes/thanksgiving/a25223451/thanksgiving-crunchwrap-recipe/)

Turkey, Mozzarella, and Kale Pesto Panini

An insanely delicious - and stuffed - panini recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1 bunch kale, leaves stripped and blanched
1 c. fresh basil leaves
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing bread
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 c. walnuts
1 clove garlic
kosher salt
1 loaf ciabatta or focaccia
1/2 lb. sliced turkey breast
1 large tomato, sliced
6 oz. mozzarella, sliced

DIRECTIONS

* 1. Make pesto: In the bowl of a food processor, combine kale, basil, and oil and pulse until combined. Add Parmesan, walnuts, garlic, and salt and blend until combined.
* 2. Slather pesto on ciabatta and top with turkey, tomatoes, and mozzarella. Brush bread with oil.
* 3. Cook in a panini press (or in a skillet over medium heat with a heavy pan on top to press it down) until golden and cheese is melty.
*

(Source: https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a46640/turkey-mozzarella-kale-pesto-pani ni-recipe/)

Turkey-Bacon-Avocado Grilled Cheese

These ingredients are the three best friends that anybody could have.

INGREDIENTS

3 slices bacon
1 tbsp. butter
2 slices bread
2 slices turkey
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 slices cheddar

DIRECTIONS

* 1. Cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, 6 minutes.
* 2. Drain excess grease on paper towel, then wipe pan and reduce to medium heat.
* 3. Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. On the non-buttered side of one slice, place turkey, bacon, avocado and cheddar, then close sandwich.
* 4. Place sandwich in pan; cover and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip, and cook the other side until cheese is melty and bread is golden brown, 2 minutes more.
* 5. Slice in half and serve.
*

(Source: https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a46509/turkey-avocado-bacon-grill ed-cheese-recipe/)