For several years now, I've picked up a turkey for the purposes of cooking it on the Friday after Thanksgiving. While others are out fighting over Cabbage Patch Dolls at the stores, I'm hanging around the house, listening to classic jazz and cooking a 12-15 lb bird. Not only do I get the joy of leftovers (something you miss out on with big family gatherings), but I can also experiment and try new things.
This year I didn't do anything fancy, just put two lemons and a tangerine inside the cavity of the turkey, and poured apple cider over the whole mess every once in a while. It turned out juicy and flavorful, and several days later I'm still enjoying the leftovers.
The Girlfriend is on a big no-carbs kick, so I had to come up with a Thanksgiving side dish that didn't involve starch or bread. Luckily, while at Schnuck's in Cordova I spied a bunch of cardoons. I was surprised and excited: I'd eaten them in Italy but had never seen the stalks in the U.S. For the uninitiated, they look like big, two foot long celery but taste like artichokes. I trimmed them and sliced them into four inch segments, then boiled them in salted water with lemon for 45 minutes. That's the standard way to prepare them before further cooking. Afterwards, traditional preparations include baking them with a white sauce and cheese or battering and deep frying slices.
In the spirit of healthy eating, I elected to wilt a bunch of rapini and a red bell pepper, and then included the cardoons towards the end. If I had prepared hot olive oil and butter with anchovies to pour over all of it, then I would have had a semi-authentic bagna càuda. I also made some homemade cranberry sauce (using 2/3 cup of organic Florida cane sugar rather than the typical full cup of sugar). Why would you ever use the canned stuff when the real thing is so easy and delicious?