What We Talk About When We Talk About Thanksgiving
Bread sauce, lasagna appetizers, adobo turkey tails, and holiday contemplation
“Please, no marshmallows.” — Tom Colicchio
I don’t know how many times I’ve complained about having to do Thanksgiving articles on the Wednesday before the holiday. I started doing said articles in probably 1981; by 1984 I was tired of it and was doing stories about how to avoid turkey at Thanksgiving.
Still: I like Thanksgiving. I like turkey, for that matter. And Food with Mark Bittman wouldn’t really be a food podcast if we didn’t acknowledge Thanksgiving. It’s a weird holiday, for sure; for many reasons, including its problematic history and the fact that many of us have to have conversations with relatives that we’d rather not have.
But despite it all, we still do it. And hopefully, for many of us, it’s evolved into something warmer, happier — a tradition to look forward to. Regardless of how you feel about the holiday, you probably do it! And no one can deny that the foods that are tied to Thanksgiving are some of our favorites — and really, represent autumn in a way that not much else does. Except maybe … leaf peeping in Vermont.
When I was growing up, we took the subway to Astoria, to my grandparents’ house. And we did eat turkey. But nothing else on that table had anything to do with what most people in America talk about when they talk about Thanksgiving.
When my kids were kids, we used Thanksgiving as an excuse to travel, often abroad. Or we celebrated it the traditional way — with some groaning and moaning — usually with extended family.
Recently, though, I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving every year, and have come to enjoy it more. To ring it in this year, we’ve gathered some of our favorite past guests to talk with us about what they cook, how they celebrate, their memories of holidays past — plus, we got some really incredible cooking tips.
We talked to so many people that we’re splitting the Thanksgiving show into two parts, one today and one next Wednesday, which we can hope you listen to as you cook. So! With us on today’s episode, we have Tom Colicchio, Stephen Satterfield, Sheldon Simeon, and Nigella Lawson (we mention on the episode that Nigella is doing a huge US book tour right now; those dates are here).
Please listen and subscribe, and please review on Apple, as it really helps. Recipes below — my Brussels Sprout Salad, and Tom’s Sausage Stuffing With Caramelized Onions.
Thank you, as always. — Mark
Brussels Sprout Salad
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes
1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1. Use the shredding blade of the food processor to shave the Brussels sprouts into thin pieces; you may have to work in batches. Or slice them thinly crosswise by hand.
2. Transfer the sprouts to a large bowl and add a large pinch salt. Gather handfuls of the shreds together, rubbing, lifting, and separating them until the salt is distributed and the shreds soften a bit.
3. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, and a generous sprinkle of pepper. Toss thoroughly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 6. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon if you like, and serve cold or at room temperature.
Tom Colicchio’s Sausage Stuffing With Caramelized Onions
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Time: 30 minutes
2 10-ounce packages breakfast sausage
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and in 1/2-inch dice (1 cup)
1 carrot in 1/4-inch dice (1/2 cup)
1 celery stalk in 1/4-inch dice (1/2 cup)
1 leek, white part only, washed and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 small onion, minced (1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 to 3 cups chicken broth
2 pounds crusty French bread, cubed and dried overnight
1 cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1. Place sausage in a large skillet over medium heat and cook until browned, turning frequently, 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer sausage to paper towel-lined plate. Reserve fat in pan. Cool sausage, then chop. Return pan to stove. Add fennel, carrot, celery, leek, onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables are lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place fennel seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, tossing frequently, until fragrant and lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and 2 cups chicken broth together. Add bread and stir until coated evenly. Add sausage, sautéed vegetables, raisins, thyme, sage and fennel seeds. If bread cubes seem dry, add additional chicken broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn into a 3-quart gratin dish and cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until stuffing is brown, about 10 minutes more.
— Recipe courtesy Tom Colicchio