JESSICA: An overflowing Thanksgiving table reflects decades of tradition—turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, veggies, pies. And, when families blend and lifestyles shift, traditions face culinary adaptation. In my family, most changes have been subtle: homemade mushroom soup and crispy shallots take the place of Campbell’s soup and french-fried onions in green bean casserole, and bourbon and maple syrup replace corn syrup in pecan pie. The stuffing, well, that’s another story...
GREGG: A favorite of mine, as for many people, is Thanksgiving dressing. I’ve never found a clear answer to the difference between dressing and stuffing, but I look forward to my parents’ dressing every year. Theirs is meat-based, with seasoned pork sausage and ground beef, plus all the turkey giblets ground up and combined with herb-seasoned bread crumbs and celery and onion. Upon arrival at their house, I remove the Nesco cover and see the delectable creation, complete with the slightly crusty edges everyone fights over. I know it’s Thanksgiving.
JESSICA: My mom makes four different stuffings: one for my dad, a sausage-studded creation like his mom makes; a cornbread and white bread offering that mixes my mom’s Southern roots with Yankee flavors; an onion-less version for my brother; and a vegetarian dish for me. Whew!
GREGG: To solidify my status as the non-foodie of this pair, I’ll admit that another item I crave on Thanksgiving Day is a turkey sandwich in the evening when we pull all the leftovers out of the fridge. Simple, fresh, perfect. White meat on a twin roll, slathered with too much Miracle Whip and sprinkled with more salt than I ever use might be my favorite sandwich of the year, and I make sure to enjoy three or four of these undersized gems before Turkey Day officially ends.
JESSICA: Every Thanksgiving, I crave dessert. Some years, when it’s just my parents, grandparents, brother and me gathered around the table, people barely outnumber pies: apple, chocolate, pecan and pumpkin. My mom’s flaky crust overflows with tender apple slices, and my buttery tart glistens with large pecans, maple syrup, and a generous hit of Maker’s Mark bourbon. On Friday morning, Mom and I eat a decadent breakfast of pie and drink mugs of strong coffee.
GREGG: I enjoy Thanksgiving desserts as well, but usually don’t have room for them after our main meal early in the afternoon. The pies and tortes and bars are often first sampled in the evening…after my turkey sandwiches.
JESSICA: Since Gregg and I will spend Thanksgiving with our respective families this year, I suggested that we cook and eat our own feast together before the holiday. We decided to deviate from all traditions and prepare new dishes. Poring over my many foodie magazines, I turned down pages with promising recipes. Butternut squash bread pudding? Green beans with lemon and walnut? Mmm. One selection was a raw carrot, scallion, and cranberry salad. I imagined vivid colors and vibrant flavors. This could be our signature dish!
GREGG: I was a bit leery of how the cranberries would mix with onion and vinegar, but a Thanksgiving table isn’t complete without great side dishes to complement the staples of the holiday, and this one sounded interesting.
JESSICA: Gregg took the lead preparing the dish, as I assembled a root vegetable gratin. When dinner time arrived, I admired the bright dish. After several bites, I declared it fresh, cleansing. Fun.
GREGG: The aroma of the dish fooled me, as the vinegar was a bit overpowering to the nose, even to someone who loves sour foods. The taste was vastly different…the fresh flavors mixing well, and the sourness much more subdued to the taste buds than it was to the nose.
JESSICA: The heady dose of stomach-settling ginger and astringent vinegar in this salad may be just the tonic you need after overindulging during a Thanksgiving feast.
GREGG: Our experiment may have suffered from too much ginger for my taste, but overall, it was a tasty combination of flavors. The sweetness of the carrot and cranberry blended well with the strong taste of vinegar and onion. And the word “bright” from the magazine is well-chosen for this dish. This one is worth another attempt, perhaps with less ginger and maybe less onion.
Happy Thanksgiving (or Turkey Day, or Pie Day) from our corner table to your dinner table!
Pull up a chair and dish:
Do you call it dressing?...or stuffing? And if that isn't your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal, what is?
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Carrot and Cranberry Salad With Fresh Ginger Dressing
(The bright flavors are a nice counterpoint to rich foods.) 8 servings.
7 large green onions
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 level tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
4 cups coarsely grated peeled carrots
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
Cut tops off onions. Cut tops lengthwise into thin strips; cut strips into 2-inch pieces. Chop half of onion bottoms. Place remaining bottoms in blender; add vinegar and ginger. Puree, occasionally scraping down sides of blender jar. Strain puree into measuring cup, pressing enough solids through to yield 1/2 cup dressing; season with pepper.
Place carrots and cranberries in large bowl. Add onion tops and bottoms. Toss with enough dressing to coat.
(Recipe from November 2009 issue of Bon Appétit.)