Non-traditional (non) Turkey Day

Published 4:44 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2008

By by Kerry Bean – publisher
When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was filled with family traditions: waking up early to watch the Macy's parade, going to a movie in the afternoon while the turkey sat in the oven, and an early evening dinner with all the trimmings.
In the Whipple house, though, “all the trimmings” meant a dry turkey (my dad is a bit passionate about food safety), green beans from a can (we children thought Green Giant tasted better than fresh), cranberry sauce shaped like the can (I never knew there was such a thing as actual cranberries) and Stove-Top stuffing (I never had the real thing until I was in college).
You might think this means my mother couldn't cook, but that's not true. She was just trying to satisfy the varying whims and palates of a house full of crazy people. Since her children are older and have more sophisticated tastes, we've all expanded our repertoire a bit.
Last year was my first attempt at Thanksgiving dinner. I made a turkey, homemade stuffing, real mashed potatoes and other not-from-a-box dishes.
This year, with a 7-month-old trying to figure out how to crawl across the kitchen floor, we might be back to basics. In fact, if it's a really bad day, we might try something non-traditional - like Spaghettios.
Of course, you can go a non-traditional route and still get a delicious dinner on the table quickly. Over the years, my family has amassed some recipes that are special enough for a holiday but still quick to prepare.
Here's a favorite mean dish that would make a beautiful presentation but takes a fraction of the time to prepare compared to a turkey. If you are not interested in using bourbon, just leave it out of the marinade. It takes just as delicious.
Bourbon pork loin
1/4 cup bourbon (preferably Maker's Mark)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1-pound perk tenderloins
Combine all ingredients in a plastic bag. Close the bag and set on plate.
Allow tenderloin to marinate overnight in the refrigerator or at least 1/2 hour at room temperature, turning the bag occasionally.
Cook four inches from hot charcoal about 15 minutes (or broil about 6 inches from heat 15 to 18 minutes). Baste occasionally during cooking.
Slice thinly before serving. Serve with French bread. Serves six to eight.
A couple of years ago my brother-in-law Greg, among the best cooks in our family, served roasted sweet potato wedges for Christmas Eve dinner. Nearly everyone in my family - we're a white potato crowd - hesitantly tried them and realized we had been missing something all those years.
Roasted sweet potato wedges
Large sweet potatoes (each one can feed two people)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel sweet potatoes and cut them into wedges and toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.
Pumpkin pie is supposed to be a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but it never seems to make an impression in my family. Most of the pie is usually left over. Unfortunately, one year there was so much left over that someone at my uncle's house set it on top of the refrigerator to get it out of the way.
He found it the following Easter.
To ensure you get your pumpkin flavor in with no moldy leftovers, here's a great dessert that incorporates pumpkin with my favorite sweet - chocolate.
Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet
Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.
Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth.
Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds.
Stir in the chips.
Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges.
Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes.
Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.
Lisa will be back next week with the real Cook's Corner.
If you have any recipes you'd like to share with her, please e-mail them to