Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday hands down. No questions asked. It is an entire day that is about food. And not just any food, my favorite kinds of food: earthy, fall-y, squash-y, nutmeg-y infused food. And then there is pie. Pumpkin pie to be exact. Nough said. The one thing that I would change though, and that I fully intend to mandate when I become grown up enough to host this spectacular endeavor of both cooking and eating, is that stretchy pants are not only welcome – they are mandatory. I mean, when is there not a better time to wear 4-way stretch, high-wicking fabric? Sure, wear some snazzy earrings, slap on some cologne – do whatever you need to do to look and feel Thanksgiving-top-notch, but then complete that experience with some stretchy pants. You will thank me for it later.
I also like to eat Thanksgiving at the appropriate time of 6-7PM. I am just not ready to embark on the Thanksgiving train at noon or 3. I simply have not had the mental and physical preparedness necessary for such a feat. Last random Thanksgiving thought: who are those people who say that they are too full to eat breakfast the next morning? That has never, ever happened to me. I wake up thinking about if I can somehow mash my turkey into my pumpkin pie in order to relive such glory on one plate so that it constitutes one serving. I also just love breakfast, and the morning after is a crucial and delicious one.
This is actually my first all Paleo Thanksgiving. Luckily, my Thanksgiving clan this year (my dad, step-mom, and sister) are also Paleo, so no big battle of the ages going down regarding the menu planning. That being said, the holidays - especially ones centered on food, and on traditional, gluten and dairy infused experiences - can be anywhere from tricky to seriously un-fun. Here are a couple things I would say about that. A) Take a deep breath. The holidays shouldn’t be a time ridden with stress and guilt. No, it’s probably not a good idea to subsist mainly on Christmas cookies from here on out, but allow yourself a few special occasions to just enjoy yourself, your family, and whatever delicious thing they have put on the table. And then just walk away. Go back to eating in way that makes you feel good and powerful. You don’t need to harp on one meal or one day.
B) Make the holiday/meal your own. I mean, don’t be a jerk about it, but take this as an opportunity to change the focus of the meal or to add a little intrigue if you are going to someone else’s abode. Suddenly the meal doesn’t need to be all about heaviness and sheer indulgence, it can be about ingredients – about food! Sure some things are going to taste different – don’t think that they won’t, but take the chance to try something different, to find a way that your lifestyle fits into whatever holiday you are about to dive into this season.
C) Wear stretchy pants. Just sayin…
I’ve decided to outsource for this post to some of my favorite blogs (and my mom) in order to construct a theoretical Paleo Thanksgiving. Hopefully this list will help damper the, “what the f*ck am I going to make for Thanksgiving and how will can I feel less like butt at the end” experience. Remember, choose your battles, but also don’t be afraid to mix it up. Don't be afraid to establish some new traditions.
What I’m making for Thanksgiving...
- Cider & Spice-brined Turkey, My Mummsie (and she makes a damn good Turkey – like it is actually one of the highlights of your plate good Turkey.)Brine semi-thawed or thawed bird for 15-20 hours. This recipe is for a 14-23 pound bird.
- 2 gal apple cider
- 5 quarts of ice
- 2 c. Kosher salt
- 1 tsp onion powder or minced union
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 8 Bay leaves
- 2 T cracked peppercorn
- 2 T cracked allspice
- 2 T cumin seed
- 2 T cracked coriander
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
In a large pot heat 2 quarts of apple cider and every thing else on the list excluding the ice. When sugar and salt have dissolved, add ice. Stir until mostly melted. I have over the years taken to using a clean ice chest/cooler that is only a little larger than the bird. In this way it stays submerged. Also, you can use frozen water bottles to keep the bird chilled and avoid having to add more ice and diluting the brine.
Brining makes the turkey so much more tender and flavorful! After brining, you don’t need to season quite so much, but you can just stuff the bird loosely with fruit (such as oranges or apples), and a few herbs, and insert butter and sage under the breast skin. I also tend to use a smaller bird – larger birds are just older and tougher. A chef I know recommends if you need a bigger bird, just buy two and roast them both. Then you can also have one to present and have one carved up for serving ahead of time.
Roasting is a sensitive thing! I tend to preheat oven to 375 degrees and then reduc immediately to 300 degrees for roasting. May have to put foil over breast to keep from overbrowning, depending upon your oven. Generally the rule I use is 20-25 minutes per pound.
The MOST IMPORTANT rule is to take the bird out and let it rest for at least 20 minutes under foil and towels before serving. This will bring the juices back into the bird and make it delectable.
Example of my last two roastings: 17# turkey, started at 375 degrees, then reduced to 300 degrees for 2 hours, then 250 degrees for another hour. Took out after 3 hours total with 170 degrees measured in thigh with meat thermometer. It was perfect. But this was at 8000 feet, so may be shorter at lower altitude!!! This was also with a heritage turkey, which has slightly darker meat.
Gravy: Easy Paleo Herb Gravy, From nom nom paleo
Stuffing: Carmelized Onion and Sausage Stuffing, PaleOMG
Cranberry Sauce: Paleo Cranberry Sauce, Multiply Delicious (I'm going to warn you, this is probably going to taste like cranberries, not like sugar. Mentally prepare yourself for that rather tart, yes, I am a real cranberry, experience...)
Veggies: Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Bacon, nom nom paleo (make these in life all of the time!)
- Roasted Butternut Squash Mash, this lady here
- Velvety Butternut Squash, The Clothes Make the Girl
- Cauliflower Carrot Herb Mash, Multiply Delicious
- Garlic Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes, nom nom paleo (I'm not a big garlic fan - that always seems to shock people, so I would probably rock these sans garlic for a neutral gravy vehicle.)
- Creamy Acorn Soup with Sage Brown Butter, this lady
- Bacon and Chive Sweet Potato Biscuits, PaleOMG
- Almond Rosemary Biscuits, Multiply Delicious
- Ultimate Walnut Pie Crust with Pumpkin Filling, Mark's Daily Apple (I think I may play around with making a little extra crust in order to use a pie pan - as I don't have a tart pan - and use cashews to thicken the batter instead of arrowroot powder - really just becasue every time I use arrowroot powder I spill it everywhere...)
- Triple Chocolate Chipolte Cake Truffles, Civilized Caveman, but guest post by Urban Poser (just in case you don't feel complete without some dark chocolate.)
- Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, this lady
- Chewy Pecan Pie Brittle, PaleOMG (because why not!)
Leave other kick butt ideas in the comment section! 6 days and counting...