Thanksgiving isn’t just about Turkey anymore

When I was growing up, in the 60’s-70’s, Turkey in our house (of 12 people) was a once a year event. Thanksgiving consisted of a large stuffed Turkey, slow-cooked in an oven at 200 degrees for 7 hours (wouldn’t the health department have a field day with my mother!); mashed potatoes whipped to death, canned peas with pearl onions, cranberry sauce that kept the shape of the can from which it came, frozen green beans, Pillsbury crescent rolls and wine that came in a large bottle (not to be confused with a magnum, or double magnum). Pumpkin and apple pies for dessert with cool whip. No coffee.

Fast-forward 35 years. My husband has taken our family, friends, and relatives of relatives on a food odyssey. Seventeen years ago we began with our first deep fried turkey. Ten years ago we added a grilled, butterfly leg of lamb. Four years ago, charcoaled oysters. All of this is in addition to a myriad of appetizers, vegetables, side dishes, his grandmother’s cheddar cheese and pineapple Jell-O mold (which is surprisingly good), breads, salads, pies, low carb desserts for my sister-in-law’s parents.

Two years ago I walked out of the house on Thanksgiving morning and was greeted by my nephew and his friend Matt carrying a pig on a spit. Now we have a roasted pig. Last year we needed to try out our new Chairman of the Bird poultry rub on a roasted turkey. Now we have two turkeys. This year Stan and our niece have been talking about what they can bury in the coals of the pig pit. I stopped listening; it’s just better to be surprised.

Although we all operate off of Stan’s master spreadsheet, there is still mass chaos.

We finish up the meal with several toasts of thanksgiving. For this purpose, we use Wisniowka, a traditional Polish cherry liquor, or death liquid depending on how much you drink.

My nephew summed it up pretty well in his Thanksgiving essay from 7th grade. Here is an excerpt:

“Thanksgiving with my family is different than with most other families. It’s mostly different since we don’t eat dinner until about nine o’clock because my uncle has to make more and more food because he is such a good chef. He always makes his famous lamb that he puts his own marinades and sauces on to make it just right… And his deep-fried turkey is perfectly cooked and seasoned. …At the table, no one talks until they are finished with their meal because they don’t want to put down their fork and stop putting food in their mouth to talk since the food is so delicious…”

Thanksgiving with my family in New Jersey is very fun and entertaining, and the food my uncle makes for everyone is so good you can’t stop eating it until you throw up. It is one of my favorite times of the year because of these reasons”

Happy Thanksgiving – because it actually is NOT about the Turkey. It’s about what it means to be thankful for everyone and everything.

Here are a Few of Our Family Recipes

Grandma Gorski’s Heavenly Pineapple Mold

1-3oz package lemon

1 cup boiling water

3/4 cup pineapple juice

1 and 1/4 cup crushed pineapple, well drained

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup whipping cream, whipped 

Dissolve Jell-o® in boiling water. Add the pineapple juice. Chill until slightly thickened. Fold in well-drained, crushed pineapple, cheddar cheese, and whipped cream. Pour into a 1 and 1/2 quart mold. Chill until firm.

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Butterfly Leg of Lamb

The Silver Palate Good Times Cook Book

1 cup dry red wine

3/4 cup soy sauce

4 large cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons slightly bruised fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 butterflied leg of lamb (4-5 pounds)

Combine all ingredients and pour over lamb. Refrigerate 6 hours turning frequently. Drain the meat retain marinade.

Grill over hot coals 20 min. per side, baste with marinade frequently. Check for doneness after 30 minutes frequently. Slice into thin slices to serve.

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Stan’s Special Oysters

Oysters sourced from Barren Island Oysters in Maryland

18-24 oysters (freshly shucked on a half shell)

1 cup butter (melted)

4 cloves garlic, crushed

Crushed Red pepper to taste

Black pepper to taste

1/c each Parmesan and region cheeses, shredded

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

For this one, you need a grill. We use a baby weber with traditional charcoal and add Jack Daniels wood chips once the charcoal is ready. If using a gas grill, heat to medium.

Shuck the oysters and place on a cookie sheet.

Combine melted butter, garlic, onion and red pepper. Put in a squeeze bottle.

Place cookie sheet with oysters on the grill/smoker. Squirt the butter mixture liberally over the oysters.

Close the lid of the smoker/grill.

Mix together shredded cheeses and parsley.

When oysters puff up (about five minutes), sprinkle cheese mixture over the oysters. Put the lid back on. Once the cheese bubbles, remove the oysters and serve.

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Nuyens Wisniowka (100 proof)

Wisniowka is a traditional, medium-sweet, Polish cherry vodka infused with the juice and other extracts of cherries. No decent bar should be without it. Although my father in law makes his own, you can purchase Wisniowka online, in fine cities like Rome and Utica, New York, and now in Wegman’s

A word to the wise – if you plan to drink more than an ounce, make sure everyone has a designated driver and enforce a strict “no cell phone pictures” rule.

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