Friday, November 1, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Every year I write a Thanksgiving blog, and this year I'm going to provide some gluten free (don't groan) ideas; at Preferred Sonoma Caterers we had many more requests for gluten free friendly menus and I've learned quite a bit, a few items I'm actually liking the gluten free options better.  But that's the next blog, so check back next week, and again in the middle of the month for some more modern T-day ideas.  But let's start out the month with revisiting some classics.

Let's start out the afternoon with a Thanksgiving cocktail...  The Happy Pilgrim... hubby and I invented with one a few years ago when we couldn't find a cocktail recipe that went well with Thanksgiving.

Happy Pilgrim
1 shot wild turkey bourbon - must have turkey!
1 shot ginger beer
2 shots cranberry juice
1/3 shot orange bitters
Shake and serve over crushed ice
garnish with a fresh cranberry

Now on to stuffing, classic stuffing is a must, but what is classic stuffing.  It depends on where you are from, or perhaps where Grandma was from.  In my family, the Runge side, the traditional stuffing is a classic bread stuffing.  Lots of celery and onions with plenty of sage.  It is baked in the turkey with extra crusties along the legs.  It reflects the Germanic origin of much of the county.  From my time in Austria I recognize this recipe is very similar to bread dumplings from Germany - my family heritage.

“Traditional” Stuffing
Stuffs a 12 to 14lbs turkey
1 loaf simple white bread - cubed
2 yellow onions - diced
1 small head celery - diced
2 sticks butter
2 Tbs dry rubbed sage
3 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 cups chicken or turkey broth

Sauté onions and celery in butter with the sage till tender.  Place bread cubes, sautéed vegetables and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Add broth till soft, then season with salt and pepper.  Stuff into a rinsed turkey cavity.  The just a standard roast of the turkey.

In Mr. PSC’s family, from the Otis side of the Balshaw side, there is a potato stuffing that I have come to love.  Part of their heritage is from French Canada and shows in this recipe for Tourtiere.  Traditionally this is meat and mashed potato baked in a pie pan with two crusts and served as a main dish.  But his Granny (or perhaps her Granny) decided it would be better used for stuffing a Turkey.  That is his family’s tradition.

Tourtiere Stuffing
1 lbs breakfast sausage - browned
1 yellow onion - diced
2 lbs Russet potatoes - peeled & boiled
1 Tbs dry rubbed sage
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 1½ cups chicken stock

Boil the potatoes till fork tender, then drain and allow to cool slightly. Brown the breakfast sausage and break up with a fork, and remove from the fat.  Add diced onions and spices to fat, sauté till tender.  Mash the potatoes, add the onions and spices, then season with salt and pepper.  Add chicken broth as necessary for texture.  Place in a rinsed turkey or bake in a pie pan (with or without crust) on the side.

You might be wondering about the difference between dressing and stuffing.  The only real difference is geography.  Northerners call it stuffing, while Southerner’s prefer dressing.  One of the most used components in southern dressing is corn bread.  Not what most of us consider corn bread, but a denser version that is cut and laid out to dry.  Corn bread has a much crumblier texture so the stuffing is much softer.

make up to 2 days in advance
2 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup plain flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking soda
1 1/3 cup milk
2 eggs - beaten
6 Tbs veggie oil

Mix the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients, then bake in a 9 x 13 pan for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Allow to sit out and dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Corn Bread Stuffing
1½ cup celery - chopped
1½ cup onion - chopped
4 Tbs butter
3 cups turkey or chicken broth
1 tsp sage - ground

Sauté the onions and celery in butter, add sage, then add to the crumbled cornbread.  Add liquid to soften.  Now it is ready to stuff in your turkey and roast.

Many of you out there might have the addition of a vegetarian to your Thanksgiving table.  The question is what to serve that they will enjoy.  What about stuffing a pumpkin?  Small sugar pumpkins are perfect for this.  When choosing your pumpkin make sure that is labeled as a cooking pumpkin.  Choose one medium size and free of blemishes, wash, cut off the top approximately a third of the way down.  You will need to scoop out the seeds and string, the rub the interior lightly with salt and pepper before stuffing.

You can use the pumpkin as an extra vessel for more stuffing (more stuffing is always great), or make it a dish of its own, with another stuffing.

Turkey, of course.  But how to cook it.  A few years ago I experimented with several different methods (brine, deep fry...), but in the end it was the classic that won.  If you would like to know the results you can find them at  And don't let my opinion stop you from experimenting, it was a lot of fun

Of course you can always take the easy way out.  Every year we offer a full Thanksgiving meal for 8 to 10 to go.  Just re-heat and voila, Thanksgiving!  Or just order a few of the dishes the make life easier.  You can find the Thanksgiving catering menu at

Happy Thanksgiving!