My goal for Thanksgiving this year was to make the meal as delicious and as nourishing as possible by working with high-quality organic ingredients, incorporating traditional foods principles, and reducing the amount of starchy foods on the plate. I myself have maintained a gluten-free diet since mid-September, so I tried to eliminate gluten from as much of the meal as I could without leaving gluten-eating family members feeling deprived. The result was a gluten-free (and nearly grain-free) feast with a few gluten-containing options for those who wanted them.
The centerpiece of the meal was a slow-roasted heritage Narragansett turkey (GF, grain-free, traditional, organic). This guy was 16.5 pounds and barely squeezed into my roasting pan. I brined it for about 12 hours before rubbing it with herbed grassfed butter and stuffing it with onions and lemons; My husband put it in a very low oven at midnight with some white wine in the roasting pan underneath, and it stayed there, mostly covered with foil, until 2 pm, when I pulled it out to rest and give the side dishes some oven time.
Every year I make a pot of stock from all the vegetable trimmings, mushroom and herb stems, and the turkey giblets, all of which I typically discard afterwards. This year I had the stock started in the crockpot on Wednesday, since that was when I cooked most of the side dishes and desserts and prepped the turkey. However, I held off including the giblets until Thursday morning because I was determined to make actual giblet gravy (GF, traditional) this year by incorporating neck meat, gizzard, and some liver; I browned all three pieces in a skillet, let them simmer with the stock for several hours, then pulled them out and minced them up shortly before dinner. I used my typical beurre manie method of making gravy: this involves deglazing the roaster with white wine and some strained stock, pouring off the drippings and separating out the fat, heating the drippings with extra stock in a large saucepan, and finally mixing some of the fat with a thickening agent to whisk into the liquid. This year, to make our gravy gluten-free, I used sweet (or glutinous) rice flour instead of wheat flour, and it thickened in a nearly identical fashion.
We tend to alternate years with green beans or Brussels sprouts with Thanksgiving dinner, and this was a green bean year. I hadn’t done an actual green bean casserole in ages, however, and it sounded really good. The recipe I went with is actually paleo and vegan, bound together with a creamy (but dairy-free) parsnip-based mushroom sauce that was seasoned with nutritional yeast. I prepared this dish on Wednesday, and I used up some of the excess mushroom sauce as gravy for the onion-smothered pork chops we had for dinner that night. On Thursday, this dish just went in the oven to warm up when the turkey came out.
I always make sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving for Jeremy, but this year I have finally come to terms with them myself as well. In fact, this year I didn’t even bother making regular mashed potatoes–just these twice-baked sweet potatoes with bacon-sesame brittle (GF, grain-free, organic). I roasted the potatoes on Tuesday to keep the oven free, and on Thursday afternoon, I mashed them up with organic miso, pastured eggs, and grassfed butter to go in the oven alongside the green beans when the time came. The brittle took just a few minutes to prepare: Nolan came and collected his usual bacon tax, and then I crumbled up the rest of the bacon with organic sugar and sesame seeds in a nonstick skillet, let the sugar melt down to caramel, and poured it out on a silpat. This stuff was incredibly delicious and added just the right touch of savory sweetness to the sweet potatoes–I will be hard-pressed not to make a batch every single time we eat sweet potatoes from now on!
I wanted to have some sort of greens dish on the table this year, and braised collards (GF, grain-free, traditional, organic) ended up winning out over a spinach salad with roasted squash. This recipe was mostly improvised: I sautéed onion and garlic in my cast iron skillet, added finely chopped collard greens and some stock from the scrap pot, and let it cook down for an hour or so, while the turkey rested and the rest of the sides baked. When we were nearly ready to eat, I garnished it with handfuls of crispy soaked pepitas, crumbled chevre, and homemade honey-sweetened dried cranberries. It was delicious, and I probably should have made it with two bunches of collards instead of just one.
Aside from sweet potatoes, one of the few things Jeremy always wants for Thanksgiving dinner is bread stuffing. I contemplated a variety of grain-free or gluten-free stuffing recipes, but in the end, I decided to keep this side dish simple and classic for him, using cubed sourdough bread that I dried in my dehydrator (no need to leave it on the counter overnight that way). We have a shortage of baking dishes right now because not everything survived the move from Oregon, so I decided to take the stuffins route this year. As a bonus, the single-serving portion size meant that they cooked faster than one large dish, so they could go right in the oven alongside the sweet potatoes and green beans. Stuffing has never been my personal favorite because of the soggy texture, so I had no problem passing on this dish and letting Jeremy and my parents divvy it up between them.
We had lots of fresh cranberries this year, so I went a little cranberry crazy. I was determined to try a lacto-fermented relish (GF, grain-free, traditional) for the first time, and did an improvised version with cranberries, fresh orange juice and organic Gala apples tossed with cinnamon, a little organic sugar, a pinch of Himalayan sea salt, and some whey strained from organic Bulgarian yogurt. On Monday afternoon, I set the jar, covered with a towel, on top of the running dehydrator, which kept it a bit warmer in our cool house, and it fermented until dinner on Thursday. I thought it was absolutely delicious, sweet and tart and fragrant.
I also made a more traditional cranberry jelly (GF, DF, grain-free) for Jeremy, cooking down cranberries with more apple, adding organic lemon juice, minced fresh ginger, vanilla extract, and a little plain grassfed gelatin. I didn’t taste this one after it set up in the refrigerator because Jeremy ate it all–guess it must have been acceptable!
Finally, I used the last of our large bag of cranberries to make fresh juice, boiling the berries in filtered water until they burst. I drained two cups of the burst berries and tossed them with a little honey to dehydrate, then liquified the remaining berries into a concentrated juice which needed just a little straining (the strained solids went into the cranberry jelly–no waste here!). I ended up with a pint of fresh cranberry concentrate with enough natural pectin that it tried to gel on top when I refrigerated it. I’ve been adding it to our water bottles and smoothies by the tablespoon since then, and it would be lovely in pan sauces or glazes for meat as well. After enjoying it fresh for a few days, the rest of the juice got frozen in ice cube trays for future uses.
I made two desserts this year, both gluten-free. The first was a pumpkin-maple custard (GF, DF, grain-free, paleo, organic) made with homemade pumpkin puree, coconut milk, and pastured eggs, sweetened with maple syrup. The recipe filled a pie plate and two ramekins, and came together firmly enough that I could still cut it into pie-shaped wedges. I served it with grassfed non-homogenized whipped cream, and also made a batch of with pie-crust cookies (full of gluten) sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and cut out in the shape of pumpkins, leaves, and turkeys for those who felt the need for crust with their pie. I thought it was delicious on its own, and ended up eating most of this dessert myself over the next week.
I also made a gluten-free apple crisp with organic Fuji apples and an oat-based crumble. It was tasty, and the gluten in it was unmissed, but I didn’t eat much of it because my parents took half of this dessert home, and Jeremy polished off the rest!
Nolan did alright with his Thanksgiving dinner this year. He had noodles tossed with shredded turkey and giblet gravy, and thought the pie crust cookies were great. Theo, who was 6.5mo old (and is wearing a handknit undyed organic cotton vest I originally made years ago for Nolan), got to try his first turkey, pureed with bone broth; he thought it was great and ate quite a bit. He is also now a fan of sweet potatoes mashed with coconut milk and bone broth.