Thanksgiving Side-Dish Face-Off: The round where everyone wins because it’s just lots of vodka

Thanksgiving Day Bloody Mary Bar: Thanksgiving Day. Day drinking. Clearly the two things are related.

Let’s use an etiquette guide to learn about ourselves. Everyone is one of these:

  1. When hosting Thanksgiving, don’t forget the importance of a champagne punch to keep your guests happy while you work in the kitchen.
  2. When hosting attending Thanksgiving, don’t forget the importance of a champagne punch Bloody Mary Bar to keep your guests yourself happy while you others work in the kitchen.
  3. When begrudgingly attending Thanksgiving, don’t forget the importance of a Bloody Mary Bar vodka to keep yourself happy from punching someone and/or crying while you others work in the kitchen.
  4. When begrudgingly attending Thanksgiving awake, don’t forget the importance of a Bloody Mary Bar vodka to keep yourself happy from punching someone and/or crying while you others work in the kitchen.

Which one are you? Thanksgiving is a magical day that transports me from No. 4 to No. 1 and back again.

Etiquette aside, we truly do have a Bloody Mary Bar as part of our Thanksgiving menu. It’s even a crucial plot point in my “Eat Drink Thank” Thanksgiving trailer. You should have one, too. It’s a long day of cooking, and Bloody Marys offer the perfect justification for day drinking. And by day drinking, I mean morning drinking. Whether you’re in the kitchen or an innocent bystander, you could stand to take the edge off.

This year’s Bloody Mary Bar features horseradish vodka, basil vodka, tomato vodka and bacon (but vegetarian) vodka with a Bacon Salt rim. Jam your glass full of pickles and olives and, if you drink too much, start eating until you’re back to normal. Thanksgiving day drinking isn’t about passing out, people. That’s trashy. You save that for your night drinking, and then you blame that stuff in turkeys that makes people tired. I, as someone who does not turkey, must stay strong and last the entire day without passing out. That’s why I practice for this all year long.

OK now. Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Side-Dish Face-Off will pit a traditional dish, a new-to-me dish and a modern dish in the ultimate battle of wits.

Go get your Bloody Mary Bar ready.

Thanksgiving Side-Dish Face-Off: Winner of the salad round

vs.

Shaved Root Vegetable Salad Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

Raw. Healthy. Pretty. These salads have it all. But only one can win the Thanksgiving Side-Dish Face-Off.

Whether you’re hosting or bringing a dish, Thanksgiving side dishes should strive for two things: being fairly easy to make amid a dozen other things going on in the kitchen, and convincing everyone at the table that you are a genius. That’s what everyone goes for, right? The ability to say, “Oh, that? It was easy to make!” and sort of mean it while also presenting something that looks quite complex.

Both of these dishes win in that regard. They’re not hard to make. They’re essentially fun takes on slicing — one through a mandolin and the other through a shredder — that result in unexpected salads.

So let’s stack these dishes up according to some common Thanksgiving conundrums:

Easier to make: Shaved Root Vegetable Salad. If you have a mandolin, anyhow.
Will impress people at the table: Shaved Root Vegetable Salad. It’s just so pretty. Seeing paper-thin radishes hanging out with beets — it’s hard to beat (see what I did there?) that. The Kale and Brussels Sprout salad was just green on green, though it pepped up once I turned it into Kale Slaw.
Can be prepped ahead of time: Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad. In fact, massaging the kale with salad dressing and letting it sit for a day helped bring the flavors together. Yeah, I got sensual with my salad. So?
Will satisfy fussy eaters: Both lose here. But they’ll satisfy smart eaters. Focus on them.

All that said, the ultimate winner is … the Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad.

As gorgeous as the Shaved Root Vegetable Salad is, you’re still eating a plate of raw root vegetables. Healthy and beautiful, yes, but so is the Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad. Using a familiar ingredient in a new way, where the taste still comes through but it’s transformed into a new texture, worked really well. And one batch lasted for several days. I do recommend the Kale Slaw trick with your leftovers — it added a nice sweetness, and brought more color to the dish. I was really happy with how it turned out.

The Shaved Root Vegetable Salad looks so great, but each bite is just a raw root vegetable with some dressing. It has a great wow factor if you plate each serving individually … but who does that on Thanksgiving? We’re looking for stuff that’s OK getting trampled by mashed potatoes and drowned in cranberry sauce and gravy. The Shaved Root Vegetable Salad is too dignified for such things.

Throw the Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad on your Thanksgiving menu for an easy-to-make, filling, unique crowd pleaser.

Next Up: Some traditional dishes take on some modern dishes. We’re talking green bean casserole and Israeli couscous with butternut squash.

Thanksgiving Side-Dish Face-Off 2: Shaved Root Vegetable Salad

Shaved Root Vegetable Salad: So pretty. So thin. We should all try to be more like Shaved Root Vegetable Salad. I mean, not you. You're already so pretty and so thin. But those other people. They should try.

Thanksgiving Side-Dish Face-Off continues today with a Shaved Root Vegetable Salad facing off against the Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad, which then morphed into Kale Slaw.

Shaving things, as it applies to food, is more appealing than it first appears. I will now provide examples: chocolate shavings, shaving a paper-thin slice of apple and placing it in vodka, shaving potatoes and baking them instead of sitting in your pantry eating potato chips and crying. I am now out of examples, but you see the possibilities here.

Or perhaps it’s just my love of mandolins, a device that provides magical slicing options and the ability to accidentally commit suicide while cooking. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Side-Dish Face-Off: Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

Behold: Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad. So good that you ignore the fact that "brussels sprout" is a weird thing to say. They should have called it "Baby Cabbage on a Stick." Imagine the state fair tie-ins and trickery. Damn, sometimes I wonder why no one checks with me on these things.

We’re kicking off the Thanksgiving Side-Dish Face-Off today, as I am the type of person* who documents hosting his first Thanksgiving and then creates a fake movie trailer about it. First up, Salad No. 1: Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad. Next, Salad No. 2: Shaved Root Vegetable Salad.

If you hated brussels sprouts as a kid, I hope you’ve apologized to your parents for being wrong. Because you were wrong. They are delicious. They are what would happen if cabbage were miniature and grew on stalks. You cannot deny that that is nature at its finest. Think of something you like, and then imagine it miniature and on a stalk. Better, right? Yeah. Better. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Side-Dish Face-Off

Sometimes after you cook a nice meal for your family, you stand in the corner behind a camera and document them. Everyone enjoys it.

We hosted Thanksgiving for the first time last year. As people do, I set up cameras around the house to capture the experience and create a fake movie trailer about it. It was more or less a dry run to see if I had it in me to create a video cooking blog. And I did. Are you thankful for that? I bet you are. You’re welcome.

As we gear up for hosting again this year, I’m trying to cook as many side dishes as I can to see which ones should make the cut for the big day. Side dishes are the real magic of Thanksgiving, right? Last year’s spread, 19 dishes in all, included homemade macaroni and cheese (we made the macaroni fresh that day), chestnut and parsnip croquettes, pumpkin pie made from scratch and 16 gallons of vodka.

I’ll have more on the side-dish face-off soon. First up: kale and brussels sprout salad vs. shaved root vegetable salad.

Happy Halloween: Black vodka, apple brie panini and our party’s mascot

Happy Halloween! We hosted our Boo! Boo! Booze party two nights ago and the house is still in recovery mode. It was well worth it, though, to get a chance to  throw in some creepy twists to our kitchen skills.

The Zombie Attack! game, with everyone hunting the house and yard for zombie versions of the guests, was a nice distraction as we kept food and drinks going in the kitchen.

The other highlights:

Boo! Boo! Booze!

Mummy Apples: white chocolate, then layers of peanut butter, caramel and pecans.

We’re hosting our Boo! Boo! Booze! Halloween party tonight. Among the treats: Mummy Apples, which are covered in white chocolate, peanut butter, caramel and pecans.

I’m turning the black vodka screwdrivers into shots, served in layered shot glasses, alongside a Witch’s Brew of orange juice, sherbet and other mysterious things like dry ice and probably a soy version of eye of newt or some such thing. That’s what witches drink, right? Continue reading