Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Menus from Food Magazines, part 1

Unless you're totally overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of political advertising right now, you've probably noticed that the November issues of most of the food magazines have arrived on newsstands, complete with Thanksgiving menus. If you're looking for inspiration to help plan your menu for the biggest food day in the US, there are lots of options. Since I'm a food magazine addict enthusiast, I decided to help you decide which magazine has the best menu for you by summarizing the offerings of each. (Note: this will be a 2 3-part series of posts)

Everyday Food's November feature is "The Easiest Feast Ever;" the menu has a "Downhome Tradition" theme, including:

  • Roast turkey with brown-sugar and mustard glaze
  • Bourbon gravy
  • Pecan cornbread dressing
  • Stewed green beans with bacon

  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Basic cranberry sauce
  • Also included is a basic pie crust recipe, plus recipes for pumpkin cream pie, chocolate pecan pie, cheddar-crusted apple pie, and coconut custard pie
  • Bonus: a preparation schedule, beginning 3 days before Thanksgiving
My summary: the menu has a relaxed family-style appeal, with classic recipes which have been "kicked up a notch," but shouldn't push anyone outside the traditional Thanksgiving menu comfort zone. I love the compact size of Everyday Food, and that the focus is primarily recipes, with clear instructions, pictures, and small bits of relevant information dispersed throughout. The November issue has several down-to-earth recipes that look good, including a feature on Flat Iron steaks.

The cover of Cooking Light features a pecan pie and advertises "112 festive, fabulous recipes . . . and more in our holiday cookbook." The extensive holiday cookbook section includes:
Appetizers, drinks, and salads: spinach salad with gorgonzola, pistachios, and pepper jelly viniagrette, roasted cauliflower soup with hazelnut oil, arugula salad with goat cheese, bacon, and balsamic-fig dressing, gingered pear and brandy cocktail, pink grapefruit and lychee cocktail, spicy baked pita chips, orange chipotle-spiced pecans, shrimp skewers with coconut, jalapeno, and cilantro dipping sauce, traditional hummus (with three flavor options), caramelized sweet onion dip, and white hot spiced chocolate

Main dishes:

  • Spice-brined turkey with cider pan gravy
  • Roast turkey with onion and cranberry chutney
  • Shallot and sage-roasted turkey with shallot gravy
  • Red currant-glazed cornish hens and pearl onions
  • Turkey cutlets with pancetta sage sauce
  • Mixed peppercorn beef tenderloin with shallot-port reduction
  • Beef tenderloin with roasted tomato salsa
  • Marinated beef tenderloin with caramelized onion and mushroom ragout
  • Seared beef tenderloin with dijon and herbs
  • Braised lamb shanks with parsley-mint gremolata
  • Classic bouillabaisse with rouille-topped croutons
  • Maple-sage roasted pork tenderloin
  • Parmesan and root vegetable lasagna
Side dishes: several varieties of mashed potatoes, gratin of cauliflower with gruyere, and soft polenta with wild mushroom saute
Desserts: cranberry oatmeal bars (with variations), pear pie with streusel topping and caramel sauce, old-fashioned gingerbread, chocolate roulade, and yellow butter cake with vanilla meringue frosting
Extras: fig-walnut sticky buns, beer-cheese bread (with variations), buttermilk biscuits, apricot mustard sauce, saffron aioli, chunky chai applesauce, classic cranberry sauce, pistachio-cranberry scones, bakery dinner rolls
Bonus: "Gifts from the kitchen," with suggestions and recipes for homemade Christmas gifts and a "Holiday meal strategies" section with lots of tips

My summary: The holiday cookbook section is comprehensive and should have something to please everyone. However, if you're indecisive and/or unwilling to make a glaze, reduction, or chutney, this may not be the perfect Thanksgiving menu for you. Cooking Light always does a great job of making delicious food a little lighter, and this issue is no exception. Outside the holiday section, there are several more recipes, a travel feature (this month it is North Carolina), and lifestyle and health articles (mostly geared toward women).

Gourmet magazine has the requisite perfect turkey on the cover. Inside the magazine, editor Ruth Reichl reveals Gourmet's plan to take your Thanksgiving dinner "Over the Top." The menu includes:
  • Foie gras toasts with sauternes gelee
  • Pecan and goat cheese marbles
  • Smoked-sable tartare with beets and watercress
  • Roast turkey with black truffle butter and white wine gravy
  • Chestnut, leek and apple stuffing
  • Cranberry, quince, and pearl onion compote
  • Parsnip puree with sauteed brussels sprouts leaves
  • Roasted sweet potato rounds with garlic oil and fried sage
  • Wild mushroom bundles
  • Celery apple granitas
  • Seckel pear tart with poire william cream
  • Spiced pumpkin souffles with bourbon molasses sauce
  • Bonus: wine advice and a 3-day "game plan"

If the "Over the Top" menu sounds a bit over the top for you, Gourmet has more menu options:

  1. A menu incorporating Latino flavors, which includes: chipotle meatballs; mango pomegranate guacamole; plantain chips; clementine jicama salad; adobo turkey with red chile gravy; cornbread and chorizo stuffing; cranberry pineapple salsa; roasted chayotes with garlic; sweet potato coconut puree; poblano potato gratin; lattice apple pie with Mexican brown sugar; rum ice cream; and chocolate cinnamon cream pie.
  2. A "Four Hour Feast," including: carrot fennel soup; extra-moist roast turkey with pan gravy; sage stuffing; cranberry tangerine conserve; haricots verts with bacon and chestnuts; roasted potatoes and shallots; cider poached apples with candied walnuts, rum ice cream, and cider syrup.
  3. A "Vegetarian Feast" with the following recipes: marinated olives; sliced fresh fennel; cheese plate with crackers; artichokes braised in lemon and olive oil; mushroom and farro pie; parmesan-roasted butternut squash; cranberry sauce with dates and orange; moscatel-glazed parsnips; smashed potatoes with roasted garlic gravy; sauteed broccoli rabe; kohlrabi and mache salad; prune, apricot, and cherry frangipane tart; pumpkin tart with anise seed crust; and roasted chestnuts.

My summary: Unless you are a real foodie (or someone in your family has a gourmet catering business), Gourmet's Thanksgiving menus may be a little overwhelming. The "four hour feast" is by far the most reasonable for the everyday cook - it utilizes some ingredients you may not be used to but should probably be able to find without a huge struggle. I will probably never make 95% of the recipes in Gourmet, but I have a feeling the other 5% will be absolutely amazing and will make my subscription worthwhile.

Magazines featured in the next post: Bon Appetit, Cook's Country, Saveur, Everyday with Rachael Ray, and whatever else shows up in my mailbox. (Note: I don't subscribe to or buy all these magazines - some are borrowed . . . seriously!)

Update: Find more Thanksgiving menus here and here.

No comments: