Thanksgiving menu

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This year, we wanted to serve some non-traditional dishes in addition to the classic standards. In fact we considered chucking the turkey entirely in favor of a big roasted salmon. I mulled it over and just couldn’t get comfortable with no bird at Thanksgiving. And Greta has been talking about the wishbone for 11 months.

So here’s the menu my friends:

Shrimp cocktail (courtesy of my father in law) – A great, not too filling appy! Pairs well with any wine I’ll be having.

Roast turkey with truffle butter (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) - Just a small 10-pounder to satisfy the traditionalist in me, and Greta gets her wishbone. In case you are wondering, yes, it was somewhat difficult to find truffle butter and it’s not cheap. Barrak found it at Whole Foods; $6 per small container.

Salt and pepper salmon (courtesy of Tyler Florence) – This is one of my tried and true salmon recipes – just salt, pepper, butter and a hot saute pan. Little known fact: Costco has really great salmon. You can buy big 2-pounders, cut it up into portions and freeze what you’re not using.

Celery root puree (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – Celery root is one of the ugliest vegetables on the planet. It looks like a really shaggy coconut pulled from the dirt — or a faceless muppet, round and craggy with a little green wig on top. Chop off the brown outer layer and it’s all white and potato-like in the middle. You just braise the celery root cubes in chicken stock, butter and heavy cream, and add lots of salt and black pepper. It has a clean, celery-like flavor and gives you an elegant, creamy side without the heaviness of potatoes.

Sausage-stuffed mushrooms (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – I’ve never made these but they get rave reviews online. The mushroom caps bathe in marsala wine and olive oil while you put together the sausage stuffing, which is made creamy by mascarpone and a little bit of parmesan. I thought it was a nice way to get stuffing on the table.

Cranberry sauce – I haven’t decided whether to use Tyler Florence’s or Michael Ruhlman’s. Tyler keeps it simple with orange and cinnamon. Ruhlman uses booze. It will be a gametime decision. In case the name sounds familiar, Ruhlman is Anthony Bourdain’s Midwestern buddy and sometimes makes an appearance on the show, especially when Tony is in Ohio. Ruhlman is the guy who took Tony to strip mall sushi joint Kihachi, one of Columbus’s gems.

Brussels sprouts with bacon (courtesy of my mom) - Here’s mom’s recipe:

Take 2 pounds of Brussels sprouts and boil them in a big pot until they’re bright green and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain, let cool a bit, then slice into halves or thirds if they’re small. Meanwhile, chop or scissor 8 to 12 slices of bacon and saute it up. When some of the fat has been rendered, throw in a chopped onion. Sometimes I use shallots. When that’s all soft and so good-smelling that people come to the kitchen from other parts of the house to see what smells so good, throw your sliced sprouts into the pot with the onions and bacon and give everybody a good toss. Salt and pepper to taste then dump the whole mess into a buttered casserole dish. Pour half (or more) of a cup of heavy cream all over the veggies. I know! Then top with a 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs — I like to push some of the breadcrumbs down into the mix with a rubber spatula. Now hold on to your pantaloons: slice 4 to 6 quarter-inch thick squares of cold butter and lay them over top. I know, I know! You could probably skip that step but really, with all that bacon, who cares at this point? Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Pecan squares (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – Holy Mary mother of God these are good. It’s a sheet pan layer of buttery shortbread - you bake that first — blanketed with a sticky, gooey pecan mixture made with honey, citrus zest and 2 pounds of pecans. It takes two to pour the sticky pecans over the shortbread layer – you need one person to scrape the pot. Then you bake the whole thing again. The pecans around the edges get nice and toasty. I like it better than pecan pie – no weird figgy filler. A single square feels like it might weigh a full pound. So decadent. And an acceptable breakfast in my book.  These are a Thanksgiving tradition two years’ running. The secret is in the citrus. One year, I forgot the orange zest until they were in the oven. I stood in the hot oven door and zested an orange over top. It’s that important.

What are you making for Thanksgiving?

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