Thinking "outside the bowl" again

mac n cheese 003

I’ve been stuck in a rut when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. I serve the same tired old recipes year after year – so I’ve decided to break out of the box and jazz up my feast next week.

I woke up at the crack of dawn feeling all domestic and decided to do some experimentation. Let’s call it “research” – I’m hoping I can deduct this activity from my taxes.

Here was my breakfast – mac a rita and cheese served in a sherbet glass with a side of fillet mignyams (boiled sweet potatoes wrapped in bacon and roasted). Yummo. I shared the recipe last week on deluded diva, but I had to cook mine way longer than the recommended 15-20 minutes. I think my oven has a leak or something.

Now, I’m not going to go all Martha Stewart on my guests, but I’m gonna shake them up a bit. My aunt is all bothered about it.

mac a rita cocktail

“What? No spinach Madeline,” she whined.

We’ve had that dish every Thanksgiving for going on 35 years and I’m just bored with it. She got all huffy and said “Well, I”LL bring the spinach Madeline.” See how that works? She also brings a Honey Baked Ham and about a million desserts.

So I got to thinking, which is always dangerous. Why not try serving an old favorite like mac and cheese in sherbet glasses – margarita glasses would be better, but I don’t have any of those so I use the sherbets I inherited from my mother.

Actually I borrowed this idea from a caterer in my area who served mashed potatoes in cocktail glasses for a function I attended recently. I thought it was a great idea and it imparted a little bling on low-country fare.

I’m going one step further for Thanksgiving by serving mac and cheese as an appetizer. My regular recipe will be stuffed loosely into tart shells (made from rounds of bread pressed into mini muffin tins and baked). When the shells are stuffed, I sprinkle them with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of evoo and chopped parsley. They will broil briefly to get a little crunch.

If you’re really ambitious you could serve the mac and cheese in a parmesan tuile – very easy to make. Just grate a bunch of parmesan in a pretty thin layer in circles on to a cookie sheet that you’ve covered with parchment paper. Bake until bubbly. While the cheese is still warm, put each diskette over a mini ramekin or small bowl so it moulds into the shape of a little cup. Let cool and it will set and then you can fill them with mac ‘n cheese I warn you though, these are addictive and delicious without any stuffing.

Another dashing presentation for the lowly mac and cheese would be to stuff it in a tomato shell, douse with parmesan cheese and broil until lightly browned.

Oh, I saw the Yummo lady (Rachel something or other) prepare her Thanksgiving feast yesterday. She baked her dressing all mounded up in muffin tins. I thought that was pretty cool, but worried it might get a little dry. So when I get the cornbread dressing all gushed together I may baked a few muffins and see how they turn out. Will let you know.

And Paula Deen gave me the best idea of all. She sliced a can of boring jellied cranberry sauce into thin slices. She mixed cream cheese, mayo and pecans and formed little sandwiches with two slices of cranberry sauce. Very pretty and maybe someone will actually EAT the cranberry sauce this year. No one in my family seems to like it, but I dutifully serve it and dump it down the garbage disposal at the end of the day.

I’d love to hear what you are doing for your Thanksgiving feast, especially if it’s a little non-traditional.

28 thoughts on “Thinking "outside the bowl" again

  1. Last year, after 22 years of cooking the same things every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I decided to leave some dishes out and try some new ones. I mentioned it to my husband and kids about 2 weeks before the big day and they revolted. For them it isn’t the same if we don’t have (insert dish here). So I backed down and cooked the same ole food with no changes. It is only once a year, and the time spent together is more important than the food anyway.
    Now I am wondering how old the kids will be before I can quit putting coloring books and crayons in their Christmas stockings. At 18, 20, and 22 you would think now would be the time, but they get upset if they don’t have them. Ahhh…traditions.

  2. You know what…you’re so right. Regardless of whether it’s good or not..that’s what they expect. I’ve been making copper pennies for years (marinated carrots in tomato soup – you know the routine) -I hate making it but that’s the one thing my family loves. I guess because we only make it at Thanksgiving.
    Okay = get the carrots. Check.

  3. You probably wouldn’t want to try this, that is unless you are celiac or at least gluten sensitive, but we have had some very unusual (though they LOOK traditional, for the most part) Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

    Actually, even NORMAL people like the cornbread which we make from a combination of non-traditional flours (‘nother words they are not made from wheat or other gluten containing flours that celiacs can’t eat).

    Most celiacs aren’t also sensitive to dairy casein, eggs, yeast, and soy, but we happen to be. No problem, there are substitutes for the dairy that don’t have casein in them, and an egg substitute called Egg Replacer, but actually, there are some recipes that get around all these issues quite well.
    The cornbread of which I speak is sooo good that the inlaws even like it. The recipe calls for pine nuts, but it’s not absolutely necessary, just gives some additional crunch and is different.

    The first Thanksgiving after we learned which allergens were making us sick, my sister made the most delicious gluten, et al-free pecan pie. In addition to the syrup, the secret ingredient in the body of the pie was some of those dates that start with “m” and, I think, end in “drool.” There are several syrups that one may use, but for some reason, we elected to use Agave syrup in place of the traditional corn syrup or some of the other syrups allowable with the recipe. I must say, it was waaaay gourmet!

  4. I failed to mention in the previous post that we have stopped making the cornbread into dressing, and instead, just eat the cornbread as it is for holiday meals because it’s so different and good. If anyone just wants to fix something different, I should be able to get the recipe.

    If you and yours like dates, maybe you could use all the regular ingredients in the recipe’s proportions along with the m’dates. This is for sweet-aholics!

  5. Let me know if any of you ever want to try making a crustless pudding out of canned pumpkin (or sweet potato) and canned coconut milk.

    I think I threw in some plain gelatin to give it that giggle and help it to firm up during one of my experiments. Not sure I ever got the right consistency, however. (I must be southern ’cause I never write amounts of anything down!) Anyway, I cooked the stuff in some of those little individual serving glass things you can throw in the oven. (My French is not so good anymore!)

    No fair using ANY dairy products in this if you want to figure this one out.

  6. Thanksgiving dinner is always the basics for us. Turkey, gravy, canned cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing with lots of sage, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, corn pudding, green bean casserole or plain green beans, deviled eggs, fruit salad, and rolls. Dessert is always pumpkin, sweet potato, and pecan pies with cool whip, and a pumpkin log.
    Christmas dinner is the same except a ham instead of a turkey. Any time I forget something or leave something out, or try to change a recipe I am in the dog house.
    By the way 2 of my 3 grown children have finally agreed to no coloring book and crayons in their stockings.

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