I'll say, first, that I'm excited at the prospect of sharing a lovely, traditional, Thanksgiving turkey dinner with our hosts on the weekend.
I am anticipating a delicious meal and delightful company.
There is no reason, however, that a big group of people eating roast turkey and pumpkin pie should be considered the only "real" way to have Thanksgiving dinner. I've been imagining some alternative menus that might fit better for certain individuals.
Anyone with a small apartment, and limited cooking facilities (maybe a small refrigerator and a stovetop with no oven) would find it challenging to prepare a big turkey dinner at home.
However, there are ways to adapt without resorting to warming up frozen boxed dinners in the microwave. You could, for example, serve Waldorf salad, followed by braised turkey drumsticks (see recipe), with mashed potato and turnip (cooked together), and pickled beets, topped off with blueberry grunt for dessert.
Fran's Braised Turkey
Sauté one large thigh and leg of turkey in olive oil in a deep frying pan with a cover or a heavy casserole that can be used on the stovetop. Add about 250 mL (1 cup) each of onion and carrot, and cook over medium heat until onion becomes soft and translucent.
Add about 175 mL (¾ cup) each of white wine and chicken broth, a few crushed garlic cloves and some sprigs of fresh thyme. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours, until the turkey is very tender. Place the turkey on a platter, and cover loosely with foil to keep it warm.
Increase the heat and reduce slightly (concentrate by evaporating some of the liquid). Thicken by stirring in some cream or roux (butter/flour mixture); reduce heat and cook until it reaches the desired thickness.
Remove the turkey from the bones, and return the meat to the sauce. Makes 2-4 servings.
Turkey is not on the menu for vegetarians, and unless you love the other components of the traditional holiday meal and want to substitute the tofu equivalent of a turkey for the real bird, you can dream up your own celebratory dinner. To prepare a meal for lacto ovo vegetarians (who eat milk products and eggs), I might start with a small serving of butternut squash soup topped with croutons and move on to a savoury main dish pie of spinach-and feta-stuffed filo pastry, called spanikopita, served with carrots glazed with currant jelly or lemon juice, and roasted eggplant.
For dessert, poached fresh pears served with assorted baklava.
Many people have to work on Thanksgiving, holiday or not, making it a challenge to prepare a special meal. Ideally, someone else would cook Thanksgiving dinner. If that isn't an option, then a make-ahead dish may be the best solution.
The following recipe can be made and stored in the fridge for one day or frozen. If frozen, allow to defrost in the refrigerator overnight, and heat at 175 C (350 F) until bubbly and very hot, approximately 1 hour. Serve the chicken lasagna with steamed broccoli, garlic bread and sliced tomatoes. A lighter dessert, such as fresh grapes and nice cookies, would go well with this meal.
Adapted from Chuey, Patricia, Eileen Campbell and Mary Sue Waisman: Simply Great Food, Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2007
9 lasagna noodles
25 mL (2 tbsp) canola oil
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 large mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ green bell peppers, chopped
250 mL (1 cup) chicken stock or white wine
1 kg (2 lb) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 2.5 cm (1 inch) dice
2 chicken bouillon cubes (omit if using chicken stock instead of wine)
250 mL (1 cup) sour cream
25 mL (2 tbsp) all purpose flour
15 mL (1 tbsp) minced fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
750 mL (3 cups) shredded white cheese (your choice: part-skim mozzarella, Swiss, white cheddar, gouda or gruyere)
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, until al dente (tender to the bite). Drain and set aside in a little cold water to prevent sticking.
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté celery, onions, mushrooms, garlic and green peppers until tender about 5 minutes.
Add chicken stock or wine, diced chicken, and bouillon cubes (if using). Cook until chicken just barely turns white and bouillon cubes are dissolved, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, move chicken and vegetables to a plate or shallow dish.
To the liquid remaining in the pan, add sour cream, flour, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5-8 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Return the chicken-vegetable mixture to the pan and stir to combine.
Line bottom of lightly-greased 3 L (13 x 9 inch) baking pan with 3 noodles. Spread one-third of the chicken-vegetable mixture on top of the noodles, then sprinkle with 250 mL (1 cup) of cheese. Make two more layers of noodles, chicken-vegetable mixture and cheese, ending with cheese.
Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes. If freezing, chill, wrap and freeze the dish now; reheat and brown at serving time.
If eating immediately, remove foil and bake for 10 minutes or until bubbly on the sides and cheese is lightly browned.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at email@example.com.