Reinventing Thanksgiving, Part III: Jazz Things Up


Regina Charboneau

Editor's note: This is Regina's third post in a series about reinventing traditional Thanksgiving foods. To read the first post, click here, and for her second, click here. Or click here for a recipe for "turkey parfait."

I am re-thinking the title of my three part series on Thanksgiving foods—maybe it should have read "Jazzing Up Thanksgiving." It appears some think I have been trying to tip the sacred cow by using the word "reinventing." If my ideas for "jazzing" up cranberries created such an uproar with readers ... wait until I share Bob Blumer's "turkey parfait" recipe. If cranberries with figs are jazz, his recipe may seem punk rock to you.

Many are familiar with culinary adventurer Bob Blumer, the host and co-creator of the award-winning television series Glutton for Punishment. When I asked for an idea from his new book, Glutton for Pleasure, he provided the perfect intro and recipe. His surreal Gourmet Institute of Culinary Research says "the average Thanksgiving feast requires two months of negotiating, three weeks of planning, no less than 14 shopping trips, 23 1/2 hours of prep time, 5 hours of cooking, and 12 hours of baking. At mealtime, the first serving is inhaled in a matter of minutes, and seconds are scarfed down in ... well ... seconds. Desserts dissolve into thin air. Then everyone falls into a trytophan-induced coma and it's all over for the cleanup."

Whether you keep it the same, jazz it up, or punk it out, it is about being with family and friends. No matter what my menu is, I find grateful diners happy for the effort.

Blumer's thinking behind his "artistic" approach to leftovers is inspired by his belief that once so much energy has been put into preparing a festive bird and the usual constellation of traditional side dishes, it's only fair that you should get more out of your leftovers than just a turkey sandwich. Of course, as I am sharing ideas from some new books that are out for the holidays, I am in no way saying these recipes are for everyone. Just remember there are often three generations at a holiday table. I believe they all need to be recognized. As I wrote in part one of this three-part series, Generation Y, born in the '80s, now includes top chefs who have had the entire world at their fingertips since birth, because they have never not known the Internet. They also have had Food Network for most of their lives, which has opened this generation up to more foods than any of us were exposed to growing up before the 1980's. The combination of the two has created much more open and experimental cooks and diners.

I know I have written in the past about my family Thanksgiving here at Twin Oaks. As of yesterday there are 132 attending. I know this number may seem exaggerated, but to sum it up when you are one of nine children and your mother was one of nine, it does not take long to get up into double digits and beyond at holidays. People often ask me how I cook for such a large family. It is easy: I use a calculator. It is just math, organization, and freezer space. Last year I did a three-part series on planning ahead for Thanksgiving. It is probably worth a review if you have a crowd coming this year.

Let's talk turkey. You can brine, smoke, fry, inject, stuff, and roast a turkey. There are many recipes on the Internet and in cookbooks, and I am sure you all have a family recipe in a kitchen drawer or stuck in your favorite cookbook. Last year I also shared my favorite recipe for turkey, made with anchovies. I have prepared turkey this way for nearly 30 years (that number is scary to me). I had mostly favorable reviews but I had one reader respond last year that his turkey was undercooked. I reviewed the recipe again and re-tested it and it worked for me. I am thinking his turkey may have still been partially frozen or his oven may not be calibrated correctly. If I was in any way responsible for ruining anyone's holiday, I sincerely apologize.

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Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of Regina's Table at Twin Oaks. More

Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of two cookbooks: A Collection of Seasonal Menus & Recipes from Regina's Kitchen and Regina's Table at Twin Oaks.

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