Gut Check Shares Thanksgiving Family Recipes

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From us, to you. | Mabel Suen
  • From us, to you. | Mabel Suen

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. It's officially crunch time. Here at Gut Check, each of our families have different Turkey Day traditions and recipes that we love. One of the worst best parts of the holiday is spending time with family, and the food really does bring us together. Check out four of our favorite family Thanksgiving recipes after the jump.

See also: The Perfect Cocktails to Drink on Thanksgiving

Chiffon Cake

Okay, so cake for Thanksgiving dessert isn't exactly traditional, but neither is my family. Thanksgiving to me is a great, big pot luck not unlike our other crowded get-togethers. Older generations prepare silver trays full of heaping Vietnamese and Chinese dishes, but one day a year, there just so happens to also be a roasted turkey present! Homemade fried egg rolls repose on styrofoam plates next to my corn, and I have to be careful to not accidentally get chow mein and fish sauce in my mashed potatoes.

Growing up, I was always told that the family's elder members simply do not care much for hyper-sugary treats, and now I attribute it to the fact that they lacked overly processed corn syrup infused foods in their diets growing up outside of America. Over the past couple of years, I started bringing a simple chiffon cake iced in barely sweetened fresh whipped cream to the dessert table, and there are never leftovers. Looking for a recipe? Try Alton Brown's.

To counter the cake's lack of seasonality and relevance to the typical holiday fare, I also made Smitten Kitchen's apple mosaic tart with salted caramel last year. The tart apples and salty caramel provided the necessary counterbalance to not overwhelm the Wilford Brimleys of the bunch.

-- Mabel Suen

Next: sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Casserole

There's just something about sweet potatoes covered in pecans and brown sugar that screams Thanksgiving. I started making this Ruth's Chris classic casserole five years ago, when I was living out of town, to give me a little comfort on my orphan Turkey Day. It was such a hit that I'm sure I was invited back, year after year, just so I would bring the dish. Now that I'm back home for the holiday, I can't wait to share it with my family.

There are many variations of this casserole, but I find that this classic one is the best. For those who think sweet potato casserole needs marshmallows, trust me - the sticky sweetness of buttery pecans and brown sugar is infinitely better. I have a little with the main course, but my favorite way to eat this is for dessert with a glass of tawny port. Life doesn't get any better.

Sweet Potato Casserole Crust

1 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup flour 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred) 1/2 cup butter (melted)

Sweet Potato Mixture

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (you can use canned, but I prefer to roast my own) 1 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 eggs (well beaten) 1/4 cup butter, melted

Directions:

1. Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and butter in mixing bowl. Set aside. 2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 3. Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and butter in a mixing bowl in the order listed. Mix thoroughly. 4. Pour mixture into buttered baking dish. 5. Sprinkle the surface of the sweet potato mixture evenly with the crust mixture. 6. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to set at least 30 minutes before serving.

-- Cheryl Baehr

Next: oysters!

Oyster Dressing

Our Thanksgiving table has always been full of classic dishes -- mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn souffle, stuffing, pumpkin pie. But we always have two types of dressing: regular and oyster. The recipe is from my great-grandmother, Virginia Cottingham Castle. The Cottinghams came over from England in the early 1600s, and have always struck me as awe-worthy -- that includes the dressing.

My own grandmother continued to make it at Thanksgiving dinner on the farm, where everyone scarfed it down. Except for my aunt, that is, who had to have oyster-free stuffing. Now that my grandparents are gone, my mom and I are the only ones who eat oyster dressing; we always have the two dishes on the table. The card in my mom's recipe box was typed with a typewriter (as are many of her recipes). Mine isn't, but the dressing itself is a tradition that I'll cook for my children, too, though our name hasn't been Cottingham since 1929.

Oyster Dressing

Toast two loaves of bread in oven until until almost burned. Break into pieces. Can be done several days ahead and left in paper sack on shelf or done WAY ahead and frozen; but be sure to to take it out and let it dry out at least over night. When ready to bake, put in large kettle, pour hot broth over and cover. Let steam for about 15 minutes and then add more broth if not sort of mushy. Make broth same as for gravy; but this brother will have to be salted; for it will not have the salt from the turkey cavity like the gravy drippings. When the brother is sort of firm/mushy; add 24 ounces of oysters -- either standard or select. I drain them some; think the oyster taste is too strong if you don't. Put in a large and small casserole and bake about one hour, more or less! at 350 degrees.

-- Nancy Stiles

Our last recipe is noodles. Yep.

Grandma's Chicken 'n Noodles

The centerpiece of most Thanksgiving tables is of course the turkey, but for me it's just the opening act, relegated to the edge of the plate. Instead, I head straight to the big pot of my Grandma's Chicken 'n Noodles, a veritable delicacy passed down from Great Grandma Olson. Grandma insists it's a simple dish, but mysteriously no one else in my family has ever successfully replicated it. I have to believe there's more to it (love? happiness?) that only my Grandma knows about. Essentially, you just take some chicken and throw it in a pot of boiling water with powdered chicken bullion (salt and pepper, too); wait a while and then discard skin and any bones and throw in egg noodles.

Full disclosure, Grandma admits that she does not in fact make the noodles from scratch as her mother once did, but hey, these are modern times and the grocery store is right down the street. When complete, the steaming noodles and broth is delicious, with strips of chicken distributed throughout. But the real key is to then ladle the Chicken 'n Noodles onto a bed of creamy mashed potatoes and then rip off some chunks of a dinner roll for dippins'. I usually save a big space in the middle of my plate for this spectacular dish -- everything all is simply a side dish.

Grandma's Chicken 'n Noodles

4 chicken breasts 3 tablespoons of chicken bouillon 6 cups of water 1 package egg noodles Salt and pepper Onion or garlic powder (optional)

Boil and then shred the chicken breasts. Bring six cups of water to a boil and add chicken bouillon (and the garlic or onion powder, if using). Throw in the shredded chicken and egg noodles. Add salt and pepper to taste and let the stock thicken. Key: ladle over creamy mashed potatoes and eat with a dinner roll.

-- Zach Garrison

Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. Email us!

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