How did it come about that Americans are compelled to cook a turkey on the final Thursday of the month of November? One of the first history lessons in school is the story of the three-day feast of Thanks in 1621 shared by the Plymouth settlers and the Wampanoag Indian tribes, a loose tradition followed every autumn until enacted into law in 1863 by Abe Lincoln. But let’s get back to the turkey.
The early settlers were British, and English meals of significance always have a star dish, usually a large roast. The largest bird of the new America was the turkey, and presented a very impressive centerpiece for a real feast of Thanks. Thus, by default the turkey became the star, 45 million of them each Thanksgiving.
This blog entry is not dedicated to cooking a turkey, though personally I brine mine overnight in brown sugar, sea salt, orange juice and thyme. Roast breast down at 400°F for 30 minutes and then breast up at 300°F for approximately 20 minutes per pound. The stars of today’s Thanksgiving meals are really the sides. The web is filled with great ideas for variations of sides, from stuffings and sauces to casseroles, vegetables, sides and desserts. Kristen Dittami, our Manager of Culinary Operations in Marriott’s Test Kitchen, developed 10 great ideas for stuffing that are featured in this months Real Simple Magazine. Check it out and if you haven’t yet decided what stuffing to make, try one of hers! My favorite is the oyster and bacon, but they are all great. Trust me, these recipes really do work.
I think Thanksgiving is really about gathering family and friends together, sharing stories, and creating memories. I come from a family of great cooks, my grandmother’s chicken dumplings are legendary, my dad alderwood roasts the most amazing salmon, and my mom makes incredible “from scratch” pumpkin pie.
One fond Thanksgiving memory for me was the year my mom, the pumpkin pie expert, came to visit and decided to contribute her specialty to the table. Our daughter was just 4 weeks old, and there was a great deal of activity around the new baby as well as the meal preparation. At the end of the meal we sat down to the piece d’resistance…mom’s pumpkin pie. In the chaos of Thanksgiving with a new baby, the new grandmother had forgotten one key ingredient…sugar. For the first time ever, her pie didn’t work, but it reenforced for us just how important family truly is, and the ability for holidays to bring us all together.
Every holiday has significance and a food tradition that acts as the catalyst for bringing people together to share, laugh, reflect, and celebrate. For that, we thank the humble turkey.
What’s on YOUR plate today?