David Theiss: Savor the family and the turkey this Thanksgiving

The days have gotten shorter. The trees have lost all their leaves after a spectacular show of colors. The nights are filled with the autumn smell of fireplaces warming our homes. The temperatures are dipping below freezing, requiring us to bundle up. All of these wonderful attributes of Carson City in the fall remind me Thanksgiving is near.

Thoughts of past Thanksgivings bring back fond memories of family and friends spending time with each other. Where there was talk of recent adventures, passing on family traditions to the younger generations, sharing what we were thankful for, and of course eating a fabulous meal cooked by many, including the main course, turkey.

President Lincoln, encouraged by Sara Hale, an influential editor at the time, proclaimed that Thanksgiving be a national holiday. She suggested the last Thursday in November because, as she said, “harvests were done, elections were over, and summer travelers were home.” She also believed a national thanksgiving holiday would, “unite Americans in the midst of dramatic social and industrial change and awaken in American’s hearts the love of home and country, of thankfulness to God, and peace between brethren.” So, in 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday even though it had been observed annually, earlier. In his declaration the holiday would be observed the last Thursday in November. In 1941, Congress finally made Thanksgiving an official holiday.

Newer suggestions to Thanksgiving traditional fare have surfaced in recent years. One noted for its originality, the turducken. This is a combination of turkey, duck and chicken that is boned out and placed into each other with different stuffings to make a wonderful gastronomical treat.

We make these birds with several types of stuffing from Cajun to apple cinnamon and cornbread stuffing. Other popular foul include duckling, goose, pheasant and quail or the individual serving bird Cornish game hens. All are excellent dinner entrées but turkey still remains the predominant main course. There are some 46 million birds eaten on Thanksgiving Day alone.

Our family’s tradition includes one regular roasted turkey and one smoked turkey. The smoked turkey is a no nitrate product we produce that’s cured with maple sugar and hickory smoked for many hours to give it a fantastic flavor. My nephew dislikes regular turkey but loves the smoked one. We cook large ones to make sure we have enough for leftovers, as turkey sandwiches are highly sought after.

Another favorite is the deep-fried turkey. Its popularity has risen in the last 10 years. It’s great fun to make, but it can be a dangerous task if not carefully carried out. The original flavor for these turkeys included a Cajun spice you injected into the bird as to give a flavor throughout the bird. It has a crispy browned exterior and the normal cooking time for these turkeys are fast, usually about 45 minutes to cook. There are so many varieties for the main course and we haven’t even talked about all the side dishes. If you stay with tradition, you have mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, creamed corn, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, homemade rolls and pies. Just thinking about it is making me hungry, Yum!

Thanksgiving, what I understand to be a standalone holiday, centered on togetherness, and thankfulness, has somehow morphed recently. It now seems to be a precursor to Christmas for many. My wife and I are noticing more and more that big companies are opening earlier and earlier encroaching on family time.

I remember when you were hard pressed to buy a gallon of gas on Thanksgiving Day, let alone the whipped cream that was forgotten on your shopping list. You just did without or borrowed it from a friend or neighbor. My understanding of modern day Thanksgiving has changed from a day of thanks, to a day of hurry and get in line for the best deal for Christmas. It saddens me more and more family members cannot attend our family festivities because they have to work. Author John Clayton sums up my feelings for Thanksgiving well: “Thanksgiving is a time when the world gets to see just how blessed and how workable the Christian system is. The emphasis is not on giving or buying, but on being thankful and expressing that appreciation to God and to one another.”

Here’s a great little recipe for some leftover turkey if Uncle Dave hasn’t eaten all for his turkey sandwiches.

Turkey Tetrazzini

is an American dish that includes pasta, turkey, a cream sauce and mushrooms.

16 ounces of pasta (I prefer fettuccine or linguine)

1/2 cup butter

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese

4 cups cubed turkey

1 cup chopped onions

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs

Preheat oven 400 degrees

Cook pasta according to directions on package but just barely al dente, drain and reserve. In large skillet over medium high heat, add butter and onions, cooking until translucent, and add in the mushrooms and chicken broth. Cook 4-5 minutes, adding salt and pepper. Make a rue from the flour and add to skillet with the heavy cream. Boil then simmer for 3-4 minutes until thickened. Stir in 1/2 of the grated Swiss cheese stirring continually until cheese is incorporated in the sauce. Add the turkey and stir.

In 9-by-13-inch baking dish: Grease the dish, pour skillet contents into baking dish, spread evenly, sprinkle rest of the Swiss cheese over the top of the mixture and then sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs over the cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden brown on top. Enjoy.

David Theiss is the owner of Butler Gourmet meats, Carson City’s premier Butcher shop providing your Quality holiday meats since 1973. Any meats discussed in this article are available at our store for all your special occasions.


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