"Thanksgiving 101," Rick Rodgers

Pros: Fabulous recipes; lots of tips and hints to answer your questions
Cons: Layout
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

First posted 11/22/2000

Every Thanksgiving my fiancee and I throw a really big feast. It’s just an excuse to cook for people – we love to cook. This year we served 24 dishes including the mulled cider, eggnog, and spiced pecans.

I noticed “Thanksgiving 101” a couple of years ago, but I skipped over it at the time. Our feasts were going very well, so why did we need it? Besides, we often served fairly non-conventional fare, so I didn’t want a book of all the standard Thanksgiving recipes.

This year I got it anyway. I’ve been on a cookbook kick for a while now, so I couldn’t resist. I just wish I’d bought it a couple of years ago.

The best feature of this cookbook is that it tells you how far in advance you can make each recipe. It’ll even tell you when you can make portions of recipes in advance. Yay! This is incredibly useful information when you’re cooking enough food that you really need to cook all week.

This cookbook doesn’t particularly take low-fat considerations into account, but it isn’t difficult to substitute. The “Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole” is great made with low-fat or fat-free cream cheese and fat-free sour cream, for example.

This cookbook has an entire chapter of recipes you can make with leftover turkey.

It also has several menus, complete with timetables for when you should make the various dishes. It goes into some detail about planning things out ahead of time to ensure that things go smoothly and easily. It’s hard to ask for much more than that!

I needn’t have worried. There are plenty of unusual and interesting things in here, like Savory Cheddar and Jalapeno Jelly Cookies, Pumpkin Tortellini in Chicken Broth, Cranberry Waldorf Salad, “Tamale” Stuffing with Pork, Chiles, and Raisins, Cranberry and Fig Sauce, Rosemary and Cracked Pepper Muffins, Cranberry Cheesecake, and Pumpkin-Walnut Roulade with Ginger Filling. My favorite so far is the Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup.

There are still plenty of options for those who want slightly more traditional Thanksgiving fixings, however: Winter Squash and Sage Soup, Perfect Roast Turkey with Best-Ever Gravy, Sausage and Apple Stuffing, Old-Fashioned Mashed Potatoes 101, Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce, Buttermilk Biscuits 101, Deep-Dish Pumpkin Pie, and Apple Pie 101.

You’ll also find information on making the perfect piecrust, and on a number of various turkey preparation and cooking methods: oven-blasted turkey, herb-brined roast turkey, smoke-grilled cider-basted turkey, deep-fried turkey, and so on. You’ll even find information on the difference between fresh and frozen turkeys, self-basting birds, free-range birds, kosher turkeys, and wild turkeys.

This is the perfect cookbook for anyone considering putting on a holiday dinner of any type. I’m tempted to make an entire feast out of it one of these years. There’s a whole lot of information for the cook who feels a little overwhelmed by the idea of cooking for a lot of people; there are various question-and-answer sections on all sorts of topics. And as if that weren’t enough, the food is delicious!

My only misgiving is that the layout often causes recipes to trail from the front of a page onto the back, requiring much flipping back and forth.

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