Stuff The Turkey, Not Yourself

November 20, 1991|By Carol Cutler | Carol Cutler,Copley News Service

Who says Thanksgiving has to be a gargantuan meal? Traditional, yes, but no creature should be stuffed other than the turkey. The family should walk away from the table, not waddle.

With the country's concerns about money and waste, Thanksgiving 1991 seems the perfect moment to be sensible and show restraint. Who enjoys eating turkey for a week after the event?

Plan this holiday meal as you would any other dinner party. Count how many people will be eating and construct your meal accordingly.

Say you'll only be eight. Then, obviously, a whole turkey is excessive. If you want turkey meat, consider just the breast. A stuffing can still be tucked underneath it in the natural curve of the breast.

But other birds can do just as well. A juicy capon is an excellent substitute for the smaller table. Usually weighing between 7 and pounds, it will nicely serve eight since the neutered male chicken develops a broad, meaty breast.

If the bird has been stuffed, eliminate one starch dish. You really can celebrate Thanksgiving without serving both white and sweet potatoes. If both are prepared, they will be eaten -- or picked at.

The choice depends on what other vegetables you will be serving. If creamed onions are on the menu, then go for sweet potatoes so there won't be too many white mounds on the plate.

It also is customary to include Brussels sprouts on the Thanksgiving table. Though on other occasions they can be elevated to a higher status when combined with chestnuts, don't pair the two for this day. Chestnuts are quite rich and are squandered in this meal.

A tangy cranberry relish to round out the menu for both piquancy and color completes the meal. Stop. Don't add the glazed carrots, corn pudding, squashes and every other Thanksgiving accompaniment you've ever heard of.

The palate can only handle so many different taste sensations -- a parade of dishes only confuses the taste buds and thickens the waist.

Remember, there's still dessert to get through. I am a traditionalist at this point. I find pumpkin and mincemeat pies perfect harvest-time endings to the meal. They are not lighthearted endings, to be sure, but they belong. Bake 8-inch pies instead of 9- or 10-inch pies and serve small wedges of each, or just of one if someone so desires.

One must face the fact that there are those out there who don't like either of those traditional pies. They usually are the (x husbands. I used to bake an apple pie as well, just in case. No more.

The usual centerpiece is a cornucopia spilling out an abundance fresh fruits, nuts and decorative (non-edible) squashes. In our practical mode, let's not display temptation with the fruits and nuts. Do something quite different and with a fresh twist.

Buy small heads of pretty lettuces in different colors and plant them tightly together inside a pretty bowl with a bit of water in the bottom. Don't drown them. A spray of fresh water over the leaves before dinner will give the greens a sparkling look. The next day your centerpiece becomes salad.

With this sensible approach to Thanksgiving you save yourself a lot of work, your friends and family will feel much better and the refrigerator will not have to work overtime.

Ginger-baked cranberries

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

4 cups (12 ounces) cranberries

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup ginger ale

4 or 5 fresh ginger slices

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse berries, and place them in single layer in baking dish. Pick off any remaining woody stems.

Sprinkle on sugar, pour in ginger ale and mix all together with a spoon. Pat berries back into single layer, and tuck in ginger slices.

Cover dish, and bake for about 20 minutes without stirring. Remove ginger slices. Can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled.

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