Let’s Talk Food: Thanksgiving is this Thursday

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Mexican casserole.

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Turkey sandwich with grilled Mamane Bakery sourdough bread.

This Thanksgiving is going to be like no other. We cannot gather with friends and family. We will have our little celebrations with just our core family.

It is probably difficult for me to wrap my head around that because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, when we invite family and many friends. It is the opportunity to get together, sometimes once a year, and we often have 50 people over for Thanksgiving lunch. I loved to prepare from Wednesday, making sure everything was ready to be served at noon on Thursday. I often had at least two of my three sons helping me during the critical hour before service.

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But this year, the eldest, Reid, is stuck on Maui, unable to come back to celebrate with us because of COVID-19. It is easier for him to fly to Las Vegas than to fly back to Hilo! Neil is in Germany, where there is a lockdown because of the increase in cases, and no restaurants are open. Thank goodness I have Dean and his family to celebrate the holiday with.

It is interesting that our meal centers around the turkey because as history has it, it is the bird Benjamin Franklin wanted to be our national symbol, and not the bald eagle. Franklin thought the eagle was a “rank coward, lazy and a bird of bad moral character.”

After concluding a long mission to France, he was pleased by the confusion in France because, “in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and with a true original native of America … a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that.”

However, Franklin did not win his argument and the bald eagle ended up on our currency, on the insignia of our Navy and on the great seal of the United States, and the turkey ended up on the Thanksgiving table as the center of the plate.

It was President Abraham Lincoln that made Thanksgiving a national day of hope, thanks and forgiveness, right in the middle of the Civil War.

So, on Thursday, even if we are only with our core family, and not with the rest of the family and friends, let’s be thankful, let us forgive and let us have hope!

Many of you will choose to order out instead of roasting a turkey. But for our mental health, even if it is a small turkey, it might be good to roast one anyway. This is the only time of the year you are able to buy fresh turkey, which, to me, is the only way to have turkey.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a restaurant and ordered roast turkey. Needless to say, I could not eat it as it tasted so badly freezer-burned. Then my son, Dean, bought a frozen turkey from a store a week later. It might have been last year’s turkey because it also had a funny freezer burned taste!

So no more frozen turkey for me, especially because the fresh turkeys are now available! The ads in this week’s paper list fresh turkeys for sale from $1.99-$2.09, making it a very affordable center of the plate ingredient.

There is nothing like a leftover turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich! Using Mamane Bakery’s sourdough bread, spread mayonnaise on one side and toast that side. Turn the bread over when the mayonnaise side is toasted, toast the other side. Place the turkey, cranberry sauce and melting cheese on the mayonnaise side, cover with the other slice of bread and toast to melt the cheese.

Here’s an easy leftover turkey enchilada casserole that the kids would enjoy.

Turkey Enchilada Casserole

Serves: 8-10

4 cups shredded turkey meat

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano leaves or 1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 (29-ounce) red enchilada sauce

Salt to taste

2 cups shredded jack cheese or a Mexican cheese mix

2 packages corn tortillas

Chopped fresh cilantro

In a 6-quart pan over high heat, stir turkey, onion, garlic, oregano and cumin in oil to heat all ingredients. Stir in 1 cup enchilada sauce. Add salt to taste.

Cut tortillas in half. Arrange a fourth of the halves evenly over the bottom of a shallow 3-quart casserole dish, overlapping to fit. Sprinkle a fourth of the cheese evenly over the tortillas, then top with the turkey mixture and a fourth of the remaining enchilada sauce, spreading each level. Repeat to make two more layers of tortilla, cheese, turkey mixture and sauce; top with another layer of tortilla and sauce, then cheese.

Bake in a 425-degree or convection oven until cheese is melted and the casserole is hot in the center, 20 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

•••

Love curry? You can make a variety of curries from different countries and add the leftover turkey at the end to finish the dish.

A fruity curry with apple, such as Japanese curry; one with ground almonds to thicken instead of flour, which would make it gluten-free; one with coconut milk, typical of Thai curries; one with butter or ghee like the Indian butter curry; one with yogurt like an Indian curry; or one with tomato gravy to start.

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Yummy, can’t wait till Friday to eat leftover turkey!

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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