Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. There's one reason, only one reason, of course: the food. Short, sweet, simple. For many years now, I have insisted, I mean seriously insisted, on hosting our family's Thanksgiving dinner. It is a combination of seriously traditional and somewhat innovative with the innovative usually coming from my siblings and children.
Our family is fun and diverse. We are also not without our distinct and sometimes unwavering positions about what holiday food should be. We have family members who are vegetarians, family members who fondly remember brown-and-serve rolls and don't think it's Thanksgiving without them, family members who love stuffing from a box or cranberry sauce from a can, family members who like to make sauce from real cranberries and pies from real pumpkins, carnivores, omnivores, sugar-holics, health nuts, you name it. And I love it all, the cooking and trying to please part at least. I am embarrassed to say that I get excited about making food for people I love that cannot conceivably do their health any favors, but it's true. To the variety of tastes and dietary restrictions, this year I have added the complication of Paleo consciousness. What should be one pleasant meal, shared with gracious thankfulness has become what could turn out to be a political and dietary minefield.
For years our meals have had two or three of many foods that traditionally focus on meat. There's turkey gravy and vegetarian mushroom gravy. There's stuffing (dressing really) with meat, which usually has homwmade croutons, and without, which usually has Mrs. Cubbison's Corn Bread Stuffing from a box. We have a roast turkey, two sometimes, and a vegetarian wanna-be turkey. I love to roast turkeys, no smoking or deep frying or other nonsense for me. I do like turkey, but as far as I'm concerned, the primary reason for cooking a turkey is to have a basis for making gravy. If I could, I might just live on gravy. Luckily for me, or not depending on one's perspective, I'm really good at making gravy. I started making gravy as an adolescent, maybe even earlier, and have worked for years to perfect it. I make phenomenal gravy, sorry about the lack of modesty here, but I really do. It's smooth and silky and rich and flavorful. It's just not really healthy, and that's a serious issue, holidays or no.
I have a couple of issues going with trying to work on healthier gravy, not the least of which is that I really like the gravy I have been making, just the way it is. I like it, but actually, I can no longer eat it the way I've made it for years, not even a taste. Traditionally, I've used milk, cream, wheat flour, and a dash or two of soy sauce and Worchestire for color, in addition to turkey stock and pan drippings from the just-roasted turkey. Last year I substituted sweet rice flour for the wheat flour and made it without milk (sigh.) Sweet rice flour is wonderful for straight across substitutions in gravy and sauces. It is, however, a grain, a highly processed grain at that. This year, no grains will be on my plate at least, and I selfishly would like to eat some of the things I look forward to on Thanksgiving. I'm working on a couple of possibilities, one a simple reduction and the other using coconut flour. Lots of gravy expected around our house in the next week or two. We will see which wins this year.
Either way, this year the turkey gravy as well as the vegetarian mushroom gravy will be made at least a day ahead. I have realized how easy it is to do many dishes ahead and have them ready in the freezer or refrigerator for reheating on Thanksgiving Day. And forget about trying to perfectly time potatoes for mashing while you're juggling a hot turkey and too many guests hanging out in the kitchen. I'll go into detail in a day or two about mashed potatoes (and mashed cauliflower) prepared ahead and perfectly, painlessly reheated in a crock pot.