Consider the Turkey (Part One)

It’s long been my policy that if everyone else is doing it–think beanie babies and emoticons–I am not. For this reason, I currently eschew neon, pinterest, the smart phone, slack lines and Jam bands.    

This particular ethos puts me in a pickle when it comes to the 3rd week of November. I happen to love turkey, but only once a year. Usually I simply roast a small hen for turkey sandwiches and then happily disrupt someone else’s tradition with my clove infused cranberry sauce or pear tart tatin. This year, things are a little different: I have been tasked with warming our new home-family-style–with Greg’s request for a “simple” dinner for us and his college-freshman son.  

Dutifully, I think of my own “traditional” dishes–perfect slow-roasted turkey, dried apple and cranberry maple sausage stuffing with sage, pan-roasted Brussels sprouts, corn chowder–but then I woke up this morning burning to kick tradition in the butt.  

This Thanksgiving, I want danger.   

Not the kind of danger that will turn me into a molecular gastronomist overnight, but the kind of danger where I trot out half a new dozen recipes for the BIG DAY. Bored with the old,  I cast about for the new.  

So, at the 11th hour, I’m pouring over cookbooks and magazines skimming for inspiration and that creative pop that comes from putting flavors and textures together in my head. Greg watches nervously as I start making lists. “Nothing too crazy,” he says. He likes his holidays straight up with a side of nostalgia.  Every year, we watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles, along with Pieces of April.  That’s our relationship.

Yet faster than we have agreed on almost anything since we moved in together, we reach a kind of turkey day detente.  Perhaps it’s because I simply hand some menu items over to Greg–he’ll make a pie and appetizers–or perhaps we are getting better at this togetherness thing. Instead of complicating, we pare down.

In the end we create a menu that balances the uncomplicated with the what Greg considers the transgressive (What?  cheddar in the apple pie crust) and both of us are smiling.

For starters, I’ve decided to roast my bird at 425 (something I’ve always wanted to do) with little more than  salt, pepper and olive oil. I’ll be flinging caution (along with the 2 pounds of butter I normally use) to the wind and trusting the meat and the cooking process to make a juicy brown bird. It feels a little like  walking a tight rope slung between two huge buildings and the prospect of pulling it off thrills me immensely.  

For dressing, in the place of dried apples and cranberries, I am opting for a pared-down version with sausage (and maybe some mushrooms). Greg likes a traditional bread stuffing and suddenly, I’m juicy at the idea of making a memorable dressing from only six ingredients.  For the Brussels, there’s a nod to innovation in our plan for a fresh, crispy salad with pickled red onions,  escarole, and a light dressing of buttermilk, olive oil and garlic. Dessert will be Greg’s traditional pumpkin pie along with some kind of apple pie or tart with a cheddar crust.

It occurs to me that Greg and I are creating something new–a home and holiday menu we cook together–and even though I loathe the “T” word, we might just cultivate a few things we’ll keep. 

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it all turns out.
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