A young boy wrestling a turkeyHolly’s folks are coming up to visit us this Thanksgiving, so this morning I thinking about what to cook for the big holiday. I really like to cook and I don’t have a chance to do big family dinners much, what with it being just Holly and I, so when a holiday comes around, I tend to get a bit excited.
My first thought was to do a more traditional southern style dinner. It’s a style that Holly and I are quite familiar with and it’s just good comfort food. Then I got to thinking that since her folks are coming up, they’re kind of used to this style of cooking for the simple fact that they are from the deep south. So the idea of doing something they’re already used to, didn’t seem so exciting.

So I did what I always do when I’m at a loss for a menu – I went to Food Network.com. I’ve garnered a lot of excellent recipes from there and it’s the first place I turn to when I’m looking for something new. I found that they had a whole section devoted to Thanksgiving and with it a whole range of recipes to choose from.

Since the meat choice is the centerpiece of the dinner, I figured that was the first thing to nail down. I’ve done pheasant and quail for past holidays, but I thought going with the traditional turkey would be fun this year. So the next step was to determine which way to cook it and that led me to wide array of choices, but I was able to narrow it down somewhat and was down to two choices: Italian Style Turkey (Roasted with Fennel Spice Rub), or Deep-Fried Turkey.

What was nice though, is that once I make a decision on how to prepare the Turkey, there is a whole menu already associated with each recipe. That certainly makes it easy to plan the whole meal. The problem is, they both sound delicious and I can’t decide which one to go with.

Southern Thanksgiving
This menu was from the “Southern Thanksgiving” episode of Paula’s Home Cooking, by Paula Deen. She’s known for her diet-killing delicious southern recipes, so I know that each dish will be finger-licking good.

The menu includes the following:
   » Deep-Fried Turkey
   » Southern Cornbread Stuffing
   » Giblet Gravy
   » Fancy Green Beans
   » Canned Cranberries
   » Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes

Now you may be thinking that Deep-Fried Turkey isn’t a traditional southern dish and you’d be partly right. Deep-Fried Turkey is a relatively new way of preparing turkey, but it has become a staple in Louisiana (where I’m from) over the past 10 – 15 years. In other words, it’s not that uncommon, but I don’t know that I’d call it “traditional” either. Regardless of it’s status as a Thanksgiving tradition, it is mighty tasty. 🙂

Nouveau Fancy
This menu came from the “Relaxing Thanksgiving” episode of Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. I’m not familiar with Michael Chiarello, but his recipes sounded delicious. I also didn’t know how to label this menu, but since it’s something that I’d expect from a fancy restaurant, I labeled it “Nouveau Fancy.”

The menu includes the following
   » Whole Roasted Turkey with Fennel Spice Rub
   » Panettone Stuffing
   » The Definitive Mashed Potato with Roasted Garlic
   » Yams with Toasted Spice Rub
   » Cranberry Citrus Dressing

A lot of new flavors and ingredients, which sounds like fun. I love a good spice rub and two of the recipes include that, so it’s very tempting. The only item missing from the menu is a dessert, but I could do a tiramisu, or even borrow the Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes recipe from Paula Deen.

A Gastronomical Decision
Having it narrowed down to the two menus should have made my decision easier, but it didn’t Both menus sounded great and both would offer a challenge and still be fun to make. Looking them both over, I was plagued with questions.

Will the Southern menu be too “been there done that?”

Will the Nouveau Fancy be too adventurous and over the top?

I’ve never done a fried turkey before, will that add too much stress and difficulty to the meal?

The Roasted Turkey calls for two turkey, which means I’ll have to adjust the recipe, could that mess things up?

Are the Fancy Green Beans too fancy?

What the hell is Panettone anyway?

Will Mal and Inara ever kiss? Whaa!?! ???

The Obvious Answer… Both!
If I had an army of people to feed, then the obvious answer would be to do both. That’s not reasonable, nor would I even attempt it even if I had an army to feed, but it would allow me to try both. Then it hit me, maybe I could do both! I could do the Southern style for Thanksgiving and the Nouveau style for Christmas.

Christmas will probably be spent here in Nashville with only Holly and I and my Mom if she’s in town. All three of us are fairly adventurous “foodies”, so the Nouveau menu would be better served with us three. Holly’s Grandmother is fairly choosy on what she likes to eat, so a more traditional menu would be more to her liking. So the dilemma is solved and I get to try both menus!

It’s hard to believe that I could spend so much time thinking about what I’m going to eat in 3 weeks, but I’m from Louisiana – that’s what we do. As the old joke goes…

You know you’re from Louisiana when you sit down to eat and the topic of conversation is food you’ve recently eaten, the food you’re eating now and the food you plan to eat in the future.”