THANKSGIVING IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
Thanksgiving menus vary according to regional bounty and the food preferences of each successive wave of American immigrants. But, these differences aside, most Americans expect their turkey to be accompanied by stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie may also be considered essential. The rest is open to interpretation. Southerners may prefer cornbread dressing, while bread stuffing (white, wheat or rye) dominates in New England and wild rice may be favored further west. Side dishes may include pasta in Italian American communities, sauerkraut in Polish neighborhoods, macaroni and cheese, collards and sweet potato pie in African American households, noodle kugel in Jewish homes or roasted pork, white rice and black beans in Cuban American gatherings. On the West coast dungeness crab season starts in early November, as does deer hunting season in the Northeast, and whaling in Alaska, with predictable consequences for the Thanksgiving table. Beaujolais Nouveau arrives at about the same time, albiet in France, with the same American results.
The menu that follows draws from familiar flavors in the Pacific Northwest: salmon, wild mushrooms, pears, fresh herbs and hazelnuts, as well as the increasing number of good local vineyards.
MENU: THANKSGIVING IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
THANKSGIVING PLAN OF ATTACK
THE WEEK BEFORE
o Make a shopping list and identify any ingredients that may be hard to find. Track these items down early or, if they aren’t available, make substitutions or menu changes. If you are using a purchased brine mix, buy that, and turkey brining bags (Williams Sonoma is a likely source).
o Inventory your cooking equipment against the menu and make sure you have what you need to prepare each dish. Check your linens, china and flatware and clean anything that needs it. Decide which serving pieces you will use for each dish. Buy cocktail napkins and candles. Make place cards.
o Order flowers from your florist if necessary. Buy liquor and wines.
o Order turkey to be picked up the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. You want a fresh-killed, never frozen bird (resist the temptation to avoid crowds by picking it up earlier – storage in most home refrigerators is a problem).
o Order any baked goods – pies, rolls, etc. – that you plan to purchase, not bake yourself. If the bakery is open Thanksgiving morning, and you can assign a helper to pick up your order, do that. Otherwise, pick up on Wednesday.
o Clean out your refrigerator to make room for all of the comestibles to come.
o You can make the olives two weeks ahead. If you want pickled seckel pears as a turkey garnish, they also can be made well in advance.
FIVE DAYS AHEAD (Saturday)
o Buy the ingredients for the roasted turkey stock. Prepare and store, refrigerated.
FOUR DAYS AHEAD (Sunday)
o Buy all the remaining non-perishable ingredients on the shopping list.
THREE DAYS AHEAD (Monday)
o Buy the ingredients for the turkey brine. Prepare and chill overnight.
o Make the cranberry relish.
TWO DAYS AHEAD (Tuesday)
o Pick up turkey and brine it.
o Buy all the perishable items on shopping list.
o Tear bread for stuffing into ½ inch pieces, spread it out on a jelly roll pan and leave it, uncovered, overnight to dry.
o Set the table.
ONE DAY AHEAD (Wednesday)
o Make stuffing
o Make salmon rillettes. Refrigerate in mold.
o Make wild mushroom soup. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered.
o Bake Mrs. Shenk’s pumpkin cake. Cool to room temperature and cover.
THANKSGIVING DAY (Thursday)
o Stuff and roast turkey and dressing.
o Make the gravy.
o Make mashed potatoes.
o Take cranberry relish, olives and salmon rillettes out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature at least an hour before you plan to serve them.
o Make blackberry cobbler
o Make the green beans
o Make coffee, tea, etc.