Who says you can't start out your Thanksgiving Day feast with a little shrimp — or shrimp toast? Why not make a flavorful salad one of the stars of your table? And maybe serving Cognac pumpkin cheesecake in place of regular pumpkin pie would really wake up your guests!
Or how about carving up some "evil turkey" this Turkey Day?
If you're hosting Thanksgiving or bringing a side dish to this year's turkey feast, here are some ideas for spicing up and bringing some fresh ideas to the table this year, by way of your local markets — or your own initiative in the kitchen.
The Soup Shoppe at Riverwalk in Basking Ridge, which of course sells soup, offers a Harvest Bisque that is popular for Thanksgiving, said co-owner Brian Moscetti. The bisque features a very fall-like combination of roasted sweet potatoes, apples and butternut squash, Moscetti said.
But a popular appetizer for Thanksgiving this year seems to be Italian shrimp toast, Moscetti said.
The Soupe Shoppe also will be open on Wednesday selling a variety of pies, including Harvest Moon, with apples, pears and berries, he said. He said the shop has been selling turkey that's ready to roast, dressed and ready for the oven, or ready for the table, Moscetti said.
The Montery Gourmet on Route 202 in Bernardsville will be presenting a spread of desserts and side dishes on Wednesday that might transform a humdrum turkey dinner into something more memorable.
Honey glazed sweet potatoes are served with praline pecans and orange zest. And along with some of the usual pies, including apple, pumpkin and coconut custard, what guest wouldn't be tempted by Monterey's Cognac Pumpkin Cheesecake ($18.95) or German Chocolate Cake ($18.95)?
Wegmans will answer twitters about Thanksgiving turkeys
And do you have any specific questions about cooking that turkey? Wegmans Executive Chef Mark Makovec will be answering questions via Twitter from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Just tweet to @Wegmans, and use the hashtag #Turkey911.
Wegmans, on Route 202 in Bridgewater, will be open Thursday as well, until 5 p.m., and will reopen again at 7 a.m. Friday.
Check out the store's website for helpful recipes, tips for a variety of Thanksgiving meals and information on catering if you would prefer not to cook.
Who says salad can't add excitement to your feast?
On Tuesday afternoon, the deli down at A&P grocery store off King George Road in Basking Ridge, was assisting with a little creative planning for Thanksgiving with more than 25 salads (besides the basics), including a antipasto spread and tomato mozzarella?
And maybe you can replace a drab stuffing with a little cornbread stuffed with chili, which reportedly is pretty popular at A&P.
Meanwhile, Kings Supermarket, with a store in Bedminster and in Basking Ridge, always provide a spread of dishes and desserts. The Thanksgiving sides are on display in the deli case.
But along with all kinds of pies and dishes, a savvy Thanksgiving cook might look around at all the cookies, cakes and the cheese section to come up with a few surprises for Thursday's party.
Chris Leen, seafood manager at Kings in Bedminster, said that people sometimes buy shrimp for hors d'oeuvres or some shrimp or salmon for a guest who won't eat turkey.
But Leen said that on Thanksgiving, turkey still usually takes center stage for most feasts.
However, that doesn't mean that you can't try one of these turkey recipes with a little twist that may have your guests talking for years about your version of Thanksgiving turkey — and hopefully, asking for a recipe such as one below:
Just the name of this recipe makes my mouth water. An Allrecipes.com user contributes this Greek take on turkey, which combines ground beef and pork with tangerine juice, rice and other ingredients for an in-bird stuffing. This one requires no pre-made brine.
Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for a Cajun-spiced turkey is not for those looking for a simple roast bird this Thanksgiving. It calls for the equipment and safety precautions necessary to deep-fry a good-sized bird, but for those looking for a little extra flavor and adventure this year, this may be the perfect alternative to the oven. The results will undoubtedly be delicious, but be sure to heed the safety tips at the bottom of the recipe before attempting. If you want the Cajun flavors without the hassle, risk and calories of deep-frying, try this recipe from Jimmy Bannos.
This recipe calls for the use of a turkey breast roast, but variations can be worked out fairly easily for a smaller whole bird or even diced meat for a stir-fry or bake. I’ve made chicken dishes with a very similar yogurt marinade to this one and the key is letting the meat soak up the sauce overnight. The flavors are intense and aromatic, and will definitely lend themselves to a unique Thanksgiving meal.
This recipe’s name—and its use of whiskey—intrigued me. A flavorful blend of unconventional ingredients make this dish sound delicious and feasible, and it requires fairly simple preparation. Check out the chef’s note to see how you can use a crock pot for a quicker, easier version of this recipe. Some of the user comments also have great ideas for stuffings that use the same components.
If you're in the mood for something more traditional this year, try this recipe:
The Food Network’s Alton Brown brings us this fairly simple (for a whole turkey) and by-the-book recipe, which uses a brine peppered with allspice berries and candied ginger. It takes about 10 hours of total cooking time, not including defrosting.
TELL US: What is your favorite way to cook a turkey on Thanksgiving? Do you use any special ingredients? What are your favorite side dishes or desserts? Write your comments in the comment section below.