Crunch and tang!
November 17, 2015 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I need some Thanksgiving menu guidance. I feel my current menu is missing some crunch/freshness/tang.

So far my menu is thus:

1.Turkey..oven style. stuffed with apple, celery, herbs for flavor but not for eating. Skin rubbed with butter and herbs
2. Stuffing, on the side. Bread stuffing with apples, cranberries, bacon.
3. Mashed potatoes and grave
4. Bacon wrapped dates
5. Carmelized brussel sprouts
6. Duck pate crostini
7. Cranberries, jelly and regular.

All of this makes me drool quite a bit...but I think I am missing some crunch and freshness. BUT, I don't want to do a salad. Any ideas? I am wide open to suggestions.
posted by ian1977 to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
A few suggestions:

2. Consider adding an aromatic to your (for eating) stuffing. Celery, fennel, etc...
3. Consider champ instead of straight mash. That's mash with green onions or leeks. Leeks are my favourite here.
4. Consider doing a mix with water chestnuts (or go full Rumaki and add chicken livers too)
posted by bonehead at 8:16 AM on November 17, 2015

Why not just lightly steam some green beans? You don't have to come up with another involved dish, just steam them for a couple minutes (so they still have crunch), squeeze some lemon juice on there, add almonds if you feel like it, dump it in a serving dish and bob's your uncle.
posted by cakelite at 8:16 AM on November 17, 2015 [13 favorites]

I do roasted green beans tossed with fresh lemon juice, good olive oil, salt, and pepper. I usually roast them with whatever nut I have on hand, generally pecans, walnuts, or almonds. Much less guilt-inducing than the traditional green bean casserole that is yet another carb overload.
posted by gatorae at 8:17 AM on November 17, 2015 [8 favorites]

When I think freshness, I think caprese. Just sliced tomato, mozzarella, basil, topped with a little decent balsamic. So simple, yet if you get some quality ingredients, it's amazing.
posted by General Malaise at 8:22 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

This recipe for cranberry sauce with candied ginger is very tart and fresh-tasting.

Consider frying the brussels sprouts, for a lighter, crisper texture.
posted by bradf at 8:22 AM on November 17, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. One quick edit....its mashed potatoes and gravy. Not grave. :P
posted by ian1977 at 8:25 AM on November 17, 2015

We just made this recipe and it was DELICIOUS. If you only lightly steam the green beans they'll still have crunch, and the vinaigrette is zingy and delicious. You can also add some lemon zest/juice over the brussel sprouts
posted by brilliantine at 8:27 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

CRANBERRY RELISH. I know you've got cranberries listed there at #7 but I can tell you without even knowing the specifics that you're doing it wrong. Don't feel bad, it can happen to anyone. The cranberry relish we do in my family answers the crush and tang and freshness problem in spades. IT'S THE BEST DAMN CRANBERRY RELISH. The way my mom makes it is a little different from how I make it, personally I prefer my version, but I'll give you both (I'll put what I do differently in brackets and italics) and let you do it choose your own adventure style:


1 large box black cherry Jello (strawberry or cherry can also be used) (or mix ‘n’ match 2 small red flavors);
1 ¼ cup sugar [I use half this]
2 cups boiling water
½ cup lemon juice
⅔ cup cold water (use the drained pineapple juice as part of this liquid)
1 medium orange, seeded, but unpeeled and ground [I only use half the peel]
1 tart apple (Granny Smith is best), seeded but unpeeled and chopped finely [I just give it a couple blasts in a food processor]
8 ¾ oz. canned crushed pineapple (reserve liquid)
1 lb. fresh cranberries, ground
1 cup celery, finely diced
1 cup pecans, chopped [I leave this out]

Dissolve gelatin and sugar in two cups of boiling water. Add the lemon juice and cold water. Grind
cranberries and orange in food processor. Add to gelatin along with chopped apple, celery, nuts, and pineapple. Chill until set, several hours. Serves 8-10.
posted by phunniemee at 8:28 AM on November 17, 2015 [8 favorites]

I know you said no salad, but this is a warm salad that I'm planning to make for thanksgiving:
posted by snaw at 8:29 AM on November 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Maybe a bit basic, but I feel like this season always calls for a big bowl of fresh pomegranate seeds. If you want to get fancier, I might to a cold quinoa salad with pomegranate seeds and cucumber.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:30 AM on November 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

We do Szechuan green beans for Thanksgiving. Zippy spicy and crunchy! I don't have a specific recipe, I usually just Google one.
posted by cabingirl at 8:31 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Pickled vegetables, several kinds, served with the main course. Store-bought or homemade. Essential for the Thanksgiving table.
posted by neroli at 8:36 AM on November 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

We're roasting cut up apples & brussels sprouts together.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:37 AM on November 17, 2015

You can make a crunchy, tangy-sweet fresh fruit salad: cube some apples, dip them in lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. Add some lightly toasted walnuts/pecans/cashews for more crunch. Add some sweet cut-up citrus and banana (also dipped in lemon juice) for sweetness. Growning up, we had this with poppy seed dressing (also pieces of celery, but I _hated_ that part).

If I were doing this, I might also include a side dish of freshly peeled/sliced cucumber, maybe with a gentle sprinkle of salt or a very mild vinaigrette.

One other green and elegant dish: lightly steamed asparagus. You can serve this with a vinaigrette, or some fresh lemon wedges, or maybe even a fancy vinegar.
posted by amtho at 8:42 AM on November 17, 2015

You said you didn't want salad, but what about celery apple fennel slaw? I didn't know I wanted salad, but I think I might make this myself.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:42 AM on November 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

How about an alteration for your caramelized brussels sprouts?

Brussels Sprouts Hash with Carmelized Shallots

The cider vinegar gives it a lovely tang, and the cooking method for the brussels sprouts leaves them with a little bite. It is a damn tasty dish.
posted by slipthought at 8:44 AM on November 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Our cranberry relish is dead easy. Take 2 lb of cranberries, one medium orange, and a cup of sugar. Chop orange into slices, and then run everything (orange peel too) through a food processor until it's relish-y in texture. Making it the day before and let it kind of sit overnight. It's crunchy, tangy, sweet and awesome.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:55 AM on November 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

Baby carrots or carrot coins with ginger. There's a million recipes out there that ask for honey or butter as well. A little of that works well as glue, but the crunchy carrots and tangy ginger may give you what you seek. I'd steam them, to keep crunch and save on oven space, but you could probably even microwave them.
posted by carmicha at 8:57 AM on November 17, 2015

This is why folks invented the relish tray: to get the juices flowing and offset the rich, heavy, umami-type nature of most Thanksgiving food.

My grandma's relish tray was black olives, cornichons, celery sticks, and radishes on ice. IT wasn't bad. But it's really easy to update a relish tray: pickled carrots and fennel, other pickled root vegetables, intersting herb dips for radishes, mixed olives with herbs, cucumber slices, red and yellow pepper slices picked or fresh with a light dip; steamed asparagus spears...etc.

For me, the trick to a great relish tray is to avoid crackers or breads and avoid cheese. Try as they might, people fill up on these, and even eating a few crackers with cheese is a complete appetite-duller. Keep the veggies and pickles light, crisp, fresh, and not weighed down with lots of dairy and grain products. It's a terrific way to start the meal!
posted by Miko at 9:17 AM on November 17, 2015 [13 favorites]

I do pearl onions in red wine vinegar with some pickling spices. And some sugar.
posted by jbenben at 9:20 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

A couple of tricks:

Roast your brussels, yes! Delicious. The moment they come out of the oven, toss them in just enough sherry or cider vinegar to get a couple of drops on each one. (This is good for basically any roasted or fried veg except potatoes). There won't be enough that it tastes vinegary, per se, just enough to wake up your tastebuds.

In a similar vein, tossing cooked vegetables in a sexy vinaigrette (e.g. at the restaurant right now we steam-roast carrots in a packet, then halve them. For service, they get grilled and then tossed in a vinaigrette made from carrot juice) can up the 'fresh' taste without resorting to salad.

Pickling is fantastically easy, especially if you're not planning on preserving. And will give you a light fresh flavour and crunchy texture. Virtually anything can be pickled, as long as it's not very starchy. So for example... take some shallots and slice them as thin as you can, ideally on a mandoline if you have one. In a nonreactive (steel, not aluminium) pan, bring to a boil a mixture of 4:4:1 water:white wine vinegar*:sugar. Put your shallots in a heatproof container and pour over. A tangle of these tossed into your brussels after cooking would be delightful, or a couple of pieces on your pate.

* don't use white vinegar, which is derived from grain and has a harsh flavour.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:26 AM on November 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

This isn't a recipe but on a whim last year (okay, because I had a cute serving dish and nothing to put in it) I chunked up a fresh pineapple and it was DEVOURED. Pineapple is very festive and is a wonderful palate cleanser; fresh, crunchy, sweet, cool, acidic, tangy. Perfect with all that hot rich creamy food. Would go great on a pickle tray; can be grilled if fresh is too plain.

Also agree that a simple preparation of string beans, lightly steamed and dressed with citrus or wine, would be excellent (but you are already having brussels sprouts and two green veg might be a bit much depending on the crowd.)
posted by kapers at 10:13 AM on November 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Peas and Baseballs: frozen peas and baby pearl onions, lightly steamed from frozen. Can add butter and mi, but you don't need to.

Pickled watermelon rind, if you can find it, is a nice addition to a relish tray.

You could also do a seasonal fruit salad, which is another minimal-effort dish.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:14 AM on November 17, 2015

Steamed, chilled, cubed yams, with fine grated fresh beets, dried tart cherries, almond slivers, and angle sliced celery. Dressed with key lime juice, dill, cumin, sweet honey mustard, and olive oil. If you throw in smoked salmon chunks and shredded parmesan, you have a cold dish with lots of crunch for folks who eat fish, but not fowl.
posted by Oyéah at 10:17 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Kenji Lopez-Alt's fried Brussels sprouts has made my thanksgiving guests cry out of rapture, it's so good.

It's tangy, a little spicy...a good contrast to the turkey and potatoes and stuffing.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:21 AM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese from Smitten Kitchen is what you want. Pecans and celery add the crunch, and goat cheese brings the tangy element.
posted by minsies at 11:35 AM on November 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I know you said no salad, but I wonder if you might consider a Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad instead of the roasted Brussels sprouts you have planned. One recipe is here but there are tons of others around the web if that one doesn't turn your crank. I've just been eating bag after bag of this packaged salad (with a tangy Balsamic dressing instead of what's included) and it's so, so tasty.

Two words of advice: if you do decide to make a shaved sprout dish, Trader Joe's sells bags of pre-shredded sprouts. If you shred them yourself, don't use a mandolin to do it unless you have a cut-proof glove.
posted by kate blank at 11:53 AM on November 17, 2015

I made this brussel sprout dish last Thanksgiving and it went over quite well

3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved, and sliced very thin
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and chopped


1. 1. Whisk lemon juice, mustard, shallot, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Slowly whisk in oil until incorporated. Toss Brussels sprouts with vinaigrette, and let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

2. Fold in cheddar, apple, and hazelnuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

I used a food processor to shred the sprouts, any crisp apple would work in this recipe and I suggest tossing it in the vinaigrette the night before if at all possible. It soaks up beautifully and remains crisp.
posted by Julnyes at 12:09 PM on November 17, 2015

Try smitten kitchen's acorn squash with chile-lime vinaigrette. Very tangy, and yet also very Thanksgivingy.
posted by ostro at 12:33 PM on November 17, 2015

For crunch and tang: roast one part brussels sprouts and one part radishes in the same pan. The radishes should be about the same size as the sprouts. Cut all of 'em in half, toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, spread on a big baking sheet and roast until done (shake or stir a couple of times during the roast).

For tang and freshness: this carrot mash is crazy delicious and very fresh-tasting. We test-drove it last year and now it's a permanent part of the T-day roster.

For crunch and tang and freshness: I'm partial to these sparkling sugared cranberries, which go well with both desserts and savory stuff. And I also like serving pomegranate arils as garnish (they're great on stuffing).
posted by ourobouros at 12:35 PM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Growing up, there was always a 'relish tray' with celery, olives and pickles.

I make cranberry ice, because my Aunt Dot made it that one time I went to their house for Thanksgiving and I loved it. The recipe is pretty flexible. 1 can cranberry jelly, 1/2 can frozen limeade, fresh lime juice, water, probably 1.5 - 2 cups, all to taste. Or use OJ instead of lime. Or raspberry. Blenderize well. Freeze in a metal pan, mashing with a fork pretty often. Serve in wine glasses after everything else, when palates benefit from a clear cool taste. it will not stay frozen. Kids like it.
posted by theora55 at 3:49 PM on November 17, 2015

I made remoulade a couple years ago for this exact purpose and it was a very welcome addition, and seasonally appropriate. I think I substituted greek yogurt for the mayonnaise, because the whole purpose was to have something crunchy and sharp tasting, not unctuous like mayo. Not sure which recipe I wound up using. Looking at this Martha one I linked to, I would toss the apples and celery root with the lemon juice first to prevent browning, and I'd maybe add some dried cranberries because that would be pretty and work with the flavors.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:29 PM on November 17, 2015

Nthing relish tray. Ideally multiple kinds of pickles, multiple kinds of olives, many sliced veggies -- bell peppers, carrot sticks, celery sticks, broccoli, tomatoes, etc. The more colors, the better. (I love to throw in large shreds of purple cabbage, but somehow others don't appreciate this as much.) Dips can be nice, but they are not critical.

This is the highlight of Thanksgiving for me (and it was always my "cooking" job as a kid, since I loved it more than everyone else). I mean, probably being thankful for people/things should come first, but let's just say I'm very thankful for pickled foods.
posted by ktkt at 6:33 PM on November 17, 2015

hm, maybe you meant you don't want to do a leafy green salad (I approve, those are a bummer)? What about a raw carrot salad with lots of lemon, or something with fennel and apple, maybe like this? That last one is screaming for a handful of pomegranate seeds sprinkled over it too.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:49 PM on November 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I made this Cranberry Shortbread for New Years last year... popular demand requires it for Thanksgiving this year.
posted by Marky at 9:29 PM on November 17, 2015

Wow, Miko, I had completely forgotten about the relish tray. It was such an integral part of any good dinner growing up (that is, any dinner where we had a guest) that I'm surprised how quickly the trend passed.
posted by kanewai at 9:37 AM on November 18, 2015

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