The Thanksgiving meal is the world’s simplest, and therein lies its beauty of presentation and flavor, simple wholesome foods that commemorate the first harvest that the Pilgrims enjoyed nearly 400 years ago. But there seems to be a certain thrust among food experts to complicate this simple menu.
What ever happened to the beautifully oven roasted turkey? Now the turkey must be brined first, which is to say soaked in a solution of sugar and salt before it can be roasted even though it may have already been injected with an anonymous fluid. And if that isn’t novel enough, try a different cooking method. Deep-fry the bird in equipment made especially for the purpose. Both approaches are supposed to guarantee a moist turkey when simply limiting roasting time will ensure the same result and taste better.
What could be tastier than sweet potatoes or yams roasted in their skins? The answer seems to be candied yams with maple syrup. You peel and slice the potatoes into rounds and layer each stratum with sugar and cinnamon, then drizzle with melted butter and maple syrup as though the sweet potato were actually sour and required treatment.
Cranberry sauce, made from those delicious, tangy berries, was long ago transformed into a benign canned jelly. It then developed into a relish with orange zest and juice, not bad. The latest transformation requires the addition of bourbon or port. And, no, this is not a new cocktail. But where is real cranberry sauce hiding, the one made from actual cranberries, popping in a pan with a little sugar?
Stuffing is maybe the most creative exercise on the menu. My least favorites are those made with several meats and a fish or two. What happened to the breadcrumbs, apples, onions, and nuts of old that were packed into the turkey cavity and exited with not only the combined flavors of the ingredients but also the turkey juices? Where is that recipe?
My heart-felt plea is simply this: Let’s get back to basics, basic flavors and wholesome foods, faithfully presented on our tables and in our plates. And any recipe with more than four ingredients, excluding salt and cooking oil, should be suspect because, instead of focused flavor, it produces chaos and exaggeration and makes you want to order in a pizza next time. By the way, the four-ingredient rule applies to pizza. Have you ever eaten pizza where it was born in Naples, Italy? The ingredients are as follows: crust (flour, yeast, olive oil), tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil. It’s the most intense and flavorful pizza that you’ll ever eat. In case you’re counting, I’m ignoring the yeast because it’s just a catalyst for the dough.
Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving from us to you.