An Alternative Thanksgiving Menu

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“Of course I’d be honored to write a Thanksgiving post for JoyofKosher.com but there’s only one problem...we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.” I’m Canadian, my wife is Czech, our kids are Israeli and even though we’ve been living in the States for nearly eight years we’ve never really gotten into it. There are a number of reasons we don't, none of them religious. As a Rabbi I feel that celebrating Thanksgiving is perfectly permitted, maybe even sensible. But as a family, especially a rabbinic family, we rarely have quiet times. Every weekend is busy; of course Shabbat is packed, but then so is Sunday. (Oh yeah, and my wife dislikes turkey.)

Thanksgiving for us is one of the few times we can count on everyone else being busy and leaving us to ourselves. I’m a University Chaplain and a Hillel Rabbi and the campus is like a ghost town during the Thanksgiving recess. The streets are empty, no one calls us, and we have a chance to have what I imagine a weekend is like for people who are not Shabbat observant. A little quiet, some leaf-raking, a bunch of football and some nice food.

Since we use this as an opportunity to embrace the stereotypical American weekend experience, at least the one we imagine, I usually go a little crazy and design a menu worthy of any Superbowl party buffet table. I channel my inner junk-food-junky and make kosher versions of party food standards. Over the years this has ranged from subs to hoagies, sheet-pans of over-the-top aged cheddar cheese nachos, deep-fried cheese, really, deep-fried anything.

We don’t normally eat this way; we live in a city without any kosher restaurants. In fact I feel strongly about not eating this way. But once in a while it’s ok to indulge and I think it might even be good for our kids to taste these foods at home and realize that they are a treat and not a normal diet.

What follows are a few recipes loaded with indulgences. This isn’t a menu per se, rather it is a list of recipes and treats that you can make as part of a meal or a buffet or just to totally indulge.

• The Quebecois Hot Chicken Sandwich - the Poutine’s big brother
Hand cut fries cooked in rendered chicken fat
Sauce Poutine/Velouté for both of the above
Buffalo wings with Soy Cream Dip served with hand cut fries
Beef sliders with a variety of toppings

While Poutine has gained fame across the continent for its brilliant combination of french fries, gravy and cheese curds, we shouldn’t forget that Quebec’s homegrown fast food industry has other delights. The Hot Chicken Sandwich is an amazing combination of roasted chicken, white bread and Poutine sauce.

We begin with the sauce, which is based on a traditional sauce called a velouté, essentially a roux combined with veal, beef or chicken stock. In the case of Poutine sauce it can also be augmented to include extra pepper, some acid, whatever is to your taste.

Any one of these dishes is a meal in itself and each one can be adapted to more healthful eating. The sliderscan be made of lean meat and more vegetable and carbohydrates filler can be used to reduce the amount of red meat consumed. The toppings I’m suggesting are also pretty over the top but a variety of fresh vegetables and low salt/sugar condiments are also possible.

The wingsare baked and a lot of their fat renders off. They can be coated with jarred sauces, BBQ sauces, many other options. Homemade honey mustard is a particularly good choice for those avoiding salt and processed sugars.

All the potatoes can be baked, instead of fried, with a minimum of fat, especially if using a non-stick pan. Consider recipes on the internet that use egg-whites to help create crispy coatings on fries.

The hot chicken sandwiches are very adaptable. There is a pareve vegan powdered gravy on the market that is passable and can adapted to your taste. Consider changing up the bread, serving more peas, whatever you feel is best for you and your family and guests.

Enjoy Thanksgiving, we will. Don’t call or write, we will be too busy eating to answer.