Weekend Gourmet

A turkeyless pre-turkey meal

CORRESPONDENTNovember 14, 2010 

Ask a food writer or editor what is the toughest thing to write about, and the unanimous response will be Thanksgiving.

Why? We want to think that our readers look to us for new ideas and menus, so we struggle to add a new twist to this holiday meal. For Christmas, Easter or the Fourth of July, we can mess with the fixings, or show you a new method or taste. But we're wasting our breath for Thanksgiving. Nothing is more sacred than a family's traditional menu.

The fourth Thursday in November is the meal of memories, of family, of things set in stone. I know tables with four types of dressing and three cranberry sauces, each with a different emotion. At my table we'll have at least three gravies - a pan, a giblet and a cream. We will have mashed potatoes for my brother-in-law and a bottle of French's mustard that he will drizzle over the potatoes (he's an in-law so I can't help him).

I was talking with Amy Tornquist, chef/owner of Watts Grocery in Durham, and she mentioned that she put sausage in the gravy one year and "my cousin almost had a stroke. We've been eating the same thing for Thanksgiving for a hundred years, and God help anybody changing anything."

We know what we will eat the day after Thanksgiving - a turkey sandwich - but what about Wednesday night before the feast? It needs to be quick and relatively simple but it also needs to taste darn good and be as far from the next day's meal as possible. Here I can offer some guidance without stepping on anybody's toes.

What does everyone love and think to be somewhat festive? Shrimp. It's the ultimate party food. So what if we make it fun and messy to eat and with a completely different set of flavor profiles than we will consume the next day?

That's what Cajun Shrimp Boil Skewers accomplish. Make a spice rub, and add some andouille sausage and you've got supper on a stick. Give the skewers a quick grill, remembering not to overcook the shrimp. Line the table with newspaper, put out a roll of paper towels, a big bowl of slaw, add some hot sauce and throw the skewers in the middle. You can serve them with cornbread, slaw and cold beer. Little fuss and not much muss.

Reach Fred at fdtfx1@earthlink.net.

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