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Cookbook Review: The Thanksgiving Cookbook

This week I mentioned that as Thanksgiving approaches, we all need great sources for our great national feast. There are four great Thanksgiving cookbooks that endure:

  • The Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan, 2001
  • The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan, 2008
  • The Thanksgiving Cookbook by Holly Garrison, 1991
  • Thanksgiving Dinner by Anthony Dias Kathryn K. Blue, 1990-

I said I had reviewed all these books before and would repeat those reviews here this week to give you a chance to plan ahead for this year.

I lied. I have never, ever posted a review of Holly Garrison’s important The Thanksgiving Cookbook. I’m remedying that now.

Of course, Suzi and I have been using this book since 1991 and I’ve already suggested some recipes for you:






The Thanksgiving Cookbook is more than a cookbook. It’s a guide to the entire feast. Chapter 2 is Making Things Look Pretty: Decorating the Food and Setting the Table. It takes a while, in this book, to get to the turkey.

There are chapters for

  • Appetizers and Hors D’Oeuvres,
  • Soup, Salads, and other First Courses
  • Relishes and Condiment
  • Vegetables and Side Dishes

It’s all the way to Chapter 8 when you get to Stuffings and Dressings. There’s seven pages just on the theory of “stuffing” versus “dressing.” One goes in the bird, one is cooked on the side. Yes, this book was written thirty years ago when people did put stuffing in the bird. Recently, it’s been suggested that it is wiser to keep the stuffing out of the bird. Worried about things being too dry? Just make your dressing with lots of liquid and, of course, as the dressing bakes you can ladle on more moisture.

I know, there is nothing like stuffing baked in the bird with the bird juice dribbling for hours. Sometimes culinary science, and food safety, can be a buzz kill.

There are thirty pages of dressing ideas here. Are you one of those people who secretly, privately look forward more to the dressing than the bird? The classic recipe comes first, but number two in the book is Bacon and Oyster. Other ideas include:

  • Calvados Rye
  • Fresh Sage, Sausage, and Apple Stuffing
  • Wile Rice Pean and While-What Bread Stuffing
  • Dried Tomato and Fresh Basil
  • Spinach and Pine Nut
  • Cracked Wheat and Apricot
  • Pear and Pine Nut
  • Apple, Bacon and Walnut
  • Grape and Wild Rice

Holly indicates that some of these ideas are great for alternative birds: Cornish game hens, chicken, capon, duck or goose. What you can see is that Holly is motivating you to really, really up your Thanksgiving table. One of those recipes I just listed is destined for our bird this year. Which one? Oh, gee, that will be a game time decision. [Yeah, there’s pun there. Read it again.]

We are going with turkey, for sure, but Chapter Nine: The Main Attraction, does suggest options beyond that one bird: wild turkey, chicken, capon, squab, goose, beef roast, and ham. These ideas are accompanied by a quick discussion of how to carve each choice. This year, this year I sweat to God I am going to read about how to carve that turkey. I sort of ad hock it each year and the results, while edible, look a tad ragged.

Chapter Ten: Gravy and Other Sauces Savory and Sweet, is worth the price of the book. How often do you make gravy? Do you do with confidence or with trepidation? There is a recipe here, just one page, but it will make you smile: Roast Turkey or Roast Chicken Pan Gravy Like Grandmother Used to Make.

My grandmother made damn good gravy. This year so will we.

There’s a chapter for bread on the way to Chapter Twelve: Desserts. Yes, Pumpkin Pie is here but you were going to make that anyway. The big decision is what else:

  • Walnut and Molasses Pie
  • Caramel and Pecan Apple Pie
  • Autum Cherry Pie
  • Bourbon Pecan Pumkin Pie
  • Pear and Cranberry Crisp

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

And then Chapter Thirteen: The Leftovers. That Friday is always a challenge. Can you really just eat more turkey and stuffing and gravy and potatoes? Sure you can. But, there is always:

  • Turkey Curry
  • Fusilli with Turkey and Ham
  • Turkey Hash
  • Old-Fashioned Creamed turkey in Toast Cups
  • Buffalo Turkey Salad
  • Spicy turkey and Pita
  • Hot Turkey Soufflé Sandwiches

How do you sum up such a wonderful book? The Thanksgiving Cookbook can last you a lifetime. With wonderful variety and beauty each year. It’s thirty-two years old and ageless. Thirty-two years young.