Turkey overload. Are you tired of talking about turkey?

I sure as hell am. And thank you ma'am. It's the most boring thing in the food world but you know it's always coming your way in November with pics on the front of every damn magazine (and unfortunately I get them all). There are so many other more desirable things to celebrate the holiday with; duck, capon, white truffles and so on.

  • Posted by: pierino
  • November 21, 2013


Bevi November 22, 2013
My kids and godchildren and great godchildren are fascinated by the yearly Thanksgiving bird, which they take turns preparing. For them, making the herbal compound butter to rub under and atop the skin, stuffing the bird with dressing and herbs, and going out to the grill to baste the bird is a yearly ritual that they love. They feel a part of our communal tradition, and I love to watch their happy involvement. I feel that, as a cook, I am completely engaged and satisfied to see the excitement and love that this brings to my younger ones. To me, that's creative.
littleman November 22, 2013
No, I'm not tired of it at all. Why should I be? It only comes around once a year. A week from now, most of the leftovers will even be gone. If I don't want to see photos of turkeys, or anything else now that I think of it, I just don't look at them. It's not about showing off, and it's not even solely about food. “Sometimes the white meat is a little overcooked. But that’s Thanksgiving! It’s not necessarily about the food, is it?” Thomas Keller, Bon Appetit, November, 2013. Which had a beautiful photo of a turkey on its cover. May your Thanksgiving be hearty and joyful, all.
Greenstuff November 22, 2013
Different people have different ideas of "tradition." A lot of people seem to think that Thanksgiving means turkey. Not me. But one Thanksgiving, when I was actually serving turkey, I had a guest go ballistic upon hearing that I wasn't serving mashed potatoes. She started going through my cupboards, and even though I don't routinely stock potatoes, she found some and promptly whipped up a batch of mashed potatoes. After that, I've never invited people to Thanksgiving without finding out what they can't live without. Luckily for me, this year I'm going to my brother's house, and they aren't wedded to turkey either. Not necessarily having turkey IS our tradition.
pierino November 22, 2013
First, thanks to all of you for your contributions to this "untraditional" thread of ideas. Again I think of Thanksgiving in terms of family and friends---after that I'm your total psycho nut job. And I would like to remind everyone of the wisdom of my hero Calvin Trillin that spaghetti carbonara should be on the table, as it was introduced to Native Americans by "the big Italian fellow" Christopher Colombus.
Diana B. November 22, 2013
Oh, Maedl, garlicky pork roast - that sounds fabulous! I usually spend Thanksgiving with friends who are very committed to the traditional, so I just bring my pecan pie offering and shut up (although I love taking home some turkey and stuffing for sandwiches later). This year, however, I'm bringing a jar of homemade spiced cranberry-blueberry sauce with red wine and gently suggesting it could be served, too, in case anybody would like to try something a little different... Still, as long as I don't have to spend it with my family, it's all good!
AntoniaJames November 22, 2013
Great thread, pierino and everyone else. Some people really love, and find comfort in, consistency and predictability. I raised two kids who don't fall into that category. They're so open minded we could grill your Korea Town flank steak and they'd think it was great . . . as long as somehow before Sunday they got their "special" sides, i.e., dishes I typically make on holidays and have since they were young (fennel alla fiorentina, and potato "featherbed" dinner rolls come to mind). I think I'll ask them next week how they'd feel about not having a turkey. I'd probably go the capon route. Last year, I made a turkey roulade, stuffing a flattened breast with Italian sausage, etc. It was fantastic, though I must admit that I kept thinking, as I was eating it, how I really should have adapted the recipe to incorporate those stuffing ingredients into a polenta-based dish, skipping the turkey altogether. I bought a whole bird which I broke down myself (it actually cost less to buy the bird than just the breast -- truth weirder than fiction), so I had drumsticks and thighs which I braised for using in sandwiches, hash and leftover-turkey-with-mushrooms over toast. ;o)
pierino November 22, 2013
Excellent point amysarah. When I'm in San Francisco one of my guilty pleasures is going to Lefty O'Douls on Geary. They have a buffet line and turkey is on the menu everyday. So there's your turkey sandwich. I'm just approaching this from the point of view of a real cook---it's boring and you think hard how to make it better, and somewhat less boring.
And I do understand that people take comfort in tradition. I am not one of them. In fact the "tradition" of turkey at Thanksgiving really only dates back to the late 19th Century. So, not that long ago in tradition terms. I'm actually more interested in how it's done in the other "Americas" as against the typical Norman Rockwell magazine cover.
amysarah November 22, 2013
Hmm...well, I guess I'm just not a "real cook" then. But I do think about how to improve this much debated turkey, so there's that. Re: tradition - it's been a tradition in MY life, which is all I'm talking about, not the original pilgrims who clearly never met a Butterball. As for Norman Rockwell...to loosely quote Woody Allen, my family was far too busy fleeing the pogroms to pose for any paintings - with or without a turkey.
amysarah November 22, 2013
I'm not a big turkey fan (give me a sandwich the next day though.) I'm much more about the sides, and while a few are in demand yearly, I always do at least a couple of new ones - trying the brussels sprouts with sherry vinaigrette and prosciutto breadcrumbs from Nancy Silverton's Mozza Cookbook this year. Ditto with the pies/desserts (this yr's new entry is the Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie featured here recently.)

Having said that, I love the ritual (of which there are ever fewer) of roasting a turkey. I especially like that this holiday is non-denominational, all that's needed to connect to its rituals (turkey included) is be American....or not - some of our best have included friends from England, Italy, Canada and Guatemala, who all loved it. Re: being boring - I figure I have 364 other days every year not to cook turkey. Happy to do it for my family, who like it more than I do, one night per year.
dymnyno November 22, 2013
I love having friends and whatever family I can entice all at my table at the same time for a traditional turkey, but it is the sides that I get excited about preparing, like the dressing, vegetables and desserts. Thanksgiving is the only day that I cook a turkey . Last year I practiced a new brine the week before thanksgiving and we were so tired of turkey by the end of the week(sandwiches, pie, soup) that we had fish on Thanksgiving(luckily we were on Maui).
Soozll November 22, 2013
Mary had a little lamb,
a little pork, a little jam
a little egg, a little toast,
some pickles with her turkey roast
An ice cream soda, topped with fizz..
Boy, how sick our Mary is.

It's all the stuff you can do with it and the meals and sandwiches after, Pierino. Somebody has to get the bird done right.
Maedl November 22, 2013
I agree that the traditions create a sense of continuity. For me came with baking for Christmas. There were certain cookies that we HAD to bake--Lebkuchen, Springerle, Pfeffernüsse, and butter cookies. The choice of additional cookie varieties were open to negotiation!
Pegeen November 22, 2013
I grew up in a very large family. None of us kids cared, in the slightest, if it was a turkey or a wildebeest. We cared about the traditions of always having certain dishes, the comfort of knowing that certain family members would always bring them, in the rites that happened on those days, and knowing as much of our family as possible would be there. A lot of comfort in the traditions and the rituals although anyone teen-age would certainly carp and roll their eyes about that.
Maedl November 22, 2013
Pierino, if there is anything I hate to hear, it’s “But we’ve always done it this way!” Shake it up, I say, and you may discover you’ve always been doing it the wrong way!! Go for the Momofuku brussels sprouts!!!
QueenSashy November 22, 2013
I am with pierino... Although I never get tired of talking about stuffing, especially when chestnuts are involved.
Maedl November 22, 2013
I’ve long been bored with the emphasis on turkey in November. We had turkey for Thanksgiving when I was growing up, but Mom got pretty tired of it and branched out to other big roasts. I was most happy when we had a garlicky pork roast or clove-encrusted ham, both of which had more flavor than the big bird, which I always thought tasted like a mouthful of cotton. We did have some favorite side dishes, though, which endured on our Thanksgiving table--peanut soup, green rice or hominy grits casserole, creamed spinach, and dried corn cooked with milk, butter and maple syrup. We picked up the peanut soup tradition from Virginia. The green rice and hominy grits casseroles came from a trip to Charleston, SC; the dried corn, from multiple Thanksgivings in Pennsylvania; and the creamed spinach from my grandmother. Those dishes I miss. Perhaps if I had access to an heirloom turkey or wild turkey, I might have more avian enthusiasm, but the thought of those industrial, big breasted birds doesn’t tempt me. And this year, I won’t have a chance to celebrate because I’m teaching a class in the evening. I’ll make up for it at Christmas!
pierino November 22, 2013
Well put Maedl. It's those other dishes that make it interesting. I know how to cook turkey. I'm good at it. But after cooking 50 or 60 turkeys in your life you want to do something else. For me it's the something else. Green rice and grits sounds great to me. I've never tasted peanut soup but I sure would like to.
I guess my gripe is that anytime (not just Thanksgiving) a turkey is supposed to be cooked I get stuck with the job. And it's just a boring cooking platform to work from. This year I flat out refused. I offered a few alternates; capon, goose, duck---anything with flavor. And of course I got shot down. "Because we've always done it this way" is not a very persuasive argument to me. So next week I'm just focusing on the sides. I will be inflicting the Momofuku brussels sprouts on the unsuspecting communards.
creamtea November 22, 2013
I'm afraid to answer; I might contribute to the overload and I don't want to traumatize anyone. [I'm ok with it.]
ATL November 22, 2013
I find something very comforting In all the pictures and rituals. Kind of a combination of a warm bath and a featherbed, but expressed through food and tradition.
ChefOno November 22, 2013

Actually I'm okay with it all. And even if I weren't, my family insists everything be the same as Mom used to make. It is, after all, tradition. Over the years I tried just about everything, from deconstructing the pies to variations on the cranberry sauce only to hit solid resistance. So, roast turkey it is, with all the usual trimmings. The day before, the morning of -- those are an entirely different matter…

inpatskitchen November 22, 2013
I'm with Chef Ono. The only thing I've changed is frying the turkeys rather than roasting. Other than that, it's basically the same...green bean casserole, mushroom and bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, fruit salad and my mom's cabbage and sauerkraut. It's what everyone expects and looks forward to! (And hey...it's only once a year!)
inpatskitchen November 22, 2013
I'm with Chef Ono. The only thing I've changed is frying the turkeys rather than roasting. Other than that, it's basically the same...green bean casserole, mushroom and bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, fruit salad and my mom's cabbage and sauerkraut. It's what everyone expects and looks forward to! (And hey...it's only once a year!)
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