No doubt, as you and yours gather around the Thanksgiving table next week, someone will ask everyone assembled to talk about one thing for which they are most grateful. At our tables, the same. And those sentiments are heartfelt and make everyone tear up and are what it's all about. But today, it's all about the food. So, as we look forward to the great feast with hungry anticipation, here are the Thanksgiving foods we're most thankful for.
Stuffing: It is sooo bad for you. But, once a year, the ultimate homage to bread is worth every calorie. — Linda Bergstrom
Cranberries I: I love their tart flavor, versatility (with savory foods, as desserts and more) plus they last forever in the freezer (so I can have cranberry quick bread in July). My favorite sauce? Fresh berries coarsely ground with a small orange (half the rind included) in an old-fashioned meat grinder, mixed with sugar then chilled for 2 or 3 days before serving. Oh, and I love how they bob about in water. Honest. — Judy Hevrdejs
Cranberries II: I am NOT thinking of those lovingly homemade concoctions ripe with grated ginger, orange rind and mooshed-up berries. I’m thinking of the jellied cranberry sauce in the can that’s all clear and jiggly. Even though gourmets may sniff at jellied cranberry sauce as kid’s stuff, there is a very grown-up protocol to its service. You have to open the can the right way, which when I was 8 meant taking off both ends and slowly pushing the cylinder of jelly out, intact, into a footed, cut-glass crystal bowl where it lay, shimmering, like some sort of crimson Calo, the dog food our beagle, Sammy, enjoyed. If you did it right, you got all the jelly into the bowl without any slopping over the sides and you might even see an imprint of the can’s seam running down the side of the jelly. You had to look quick in my house because my distracted mother would rush by with a spoon, breaking the magic by stabbing the cranberry sauce into little chunks that gleamed like glass. She thought the jelly looked pretty that way but, for me, the dish looked rather diminished all broken up. The cranberry sauce had lost the almost psychedelic punch – it was the 1960s after all - of the untouched whole. — Bill Daley
Green-bean casserole made from scratch: Fresh green beans, homemade creamy mushroom sauce and fresh bread crumbs are topped with the can’t-be-replaced canned french-fried onion rings. My daughter made this a few years ago from a recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated and the difference between her casserole and the standard one was a revelation. It’s a time-consuming dish to assemble, hence the gratitude when someone volunteers to tackle it. — Denise Joyce
Roasted beets, straight from our backyard garden. It’s not so much the beets themselves as what they represent. My wife HATES beets. My sons won’t touch them. But my wife will grow them, harvest them and cook them so I can have roasted beets — bright-red nuggets of true love — on my Thanksgiving plate. — Phil Vettel
Cherry pie: I love pie, much more than cake, and cherry is the pinnacle of fruit fillings stuffed between crusts. Twice a year, I get homemade cherry pie (from locally grown tart cherries, which make a huge difference in flavor and texture): my birthday, when my partner, Chris, makes it for me (instead of birthday cake, blah), and Thanksgiving, when my buddy Lisa bakes her yearly version. For both, I am grateful. — Joe Gray
Gigio’s Pizza: I know this is the antithesis of Thanksgiving and home cooking, but I am thankful the crisp, cheesy, gooey, foldable New York style slices that come out of this super divey Uptown pizza joint (4643 N Broadway; 773-271-2273). Not to be confused with the unrelated (but good) Evanston pie shop under the same name, this one features a diverse and colorful clientele, especially around 2 a.m.—closing time on Friday and Saturday. While the cooks have very occasionally fallen off their game, they almost always dazzle me with an incredible product at a low price ($16.50 for a large cheese pie), a culinary gift for which we can all be thankful in these tough times. — Monica Eng
Sambal oelek. I know there was life before sambal oelek — we still have a warm place in our heart for you, Tabasco — but no other condiment can bring so many dishes alive like sambal. Leftover turkey sandwich, for sure. Stuffing? Why not? Even mashed potatoes, if need be. Thank you, sambal. — Colin McMahon
Dark meat. So much more savory than the white. I’m also thankful that most people mysteriously prefer white meat. — Josh Noel
Pumpkin bread pudding: An autumnal dinner party several years ago led to the following conclusion: pumpkin is absolutely perfect in a well made bread pudding. So I tried it for a dinner party of my own a few years back, and it has become a Thanksgiving staple ever since. Even my beau, who very vocally “hates all things squash-related,” will eat it. It’s that good. There’s no one recipe that I use; it’s really a combination of several and taking the favorite elements from each. The key? Real, oven-roasted whole pumpkin halves, as opposed to the canned stuff. It makes a huge difference. — Lauren Viera
Ten @ 10: Foods for which we are most grateful
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