Well, well, well, Bittens. It's finally Thanksgiving season! And you know what that means. We'll be doing our usual full-court press of Thanksgiving Day coverage, including a test run of recipes from our own Fakesgiving dinner (which we're hosting this weekend!). Plus we'll have a full index of all the Thanksgiving recipes included in this year's big food magazines, and more.
Let's kick things off today with our take on the big Thanksgiving trends in this year's food magazines.
You don't want to be caught serving a Thanksgiving dish that's so last year, do you? Perish the thought!
So let's take a look at what's popping for 2016:
Fewer Chefs, More Grandmas
In recent years, we've seen food magazine Thanksgiving menus take a direct cue from chef and restaurant trends. But across the board this year, things are a whole lot more basic. We're not seeing cheffy preparations -- there's not much that's smoked or tagined, preserved or pickled, or brined or brûléed. And there seem to be far fewer trendy ingredients or global spices. Whither ras al hanout? Whither Chinese five-spice? Whither kale??
There's also a noticeable lack of those fetishized heritage American ingredients we've seen so much in recent years. Things like sorghum, bourbon, benne seeds, barley, grits and apple cider just aren't showing up as much this year.
Instead, everything seems much more straightforward and middle-of-the-road classic (with the possible exception of some rather out-there dessert flavors, and with the exception of one Asian Thanksgiving feature in Bon Appétit).
Pie, Pie, Pie, Pie, Pie
Of course pie is always a big part of the Thanksgiving dessert menu. But we usually see plenty of cakes, mousses, trifles, cobblers, bread puddings and even ice creams in the dessert mix as well.
Not this year: Of the 46 dessert recipes we indexed, 41 -- 41! -- were pies. Sure, some of those are "tarts," or "tortes," or "slab pies," or even one "tarte soleil." But those are all just other ways of saying "pie."
That's not to say this year's pies are boring. Quite the opposite. As we mentioned above, some of this year's pie flavors would surely raise a few eyebrows when Aunt Doreen sidles up to the dessert table. Lavender? Miso? Limoncello? Tex-Mex Apple? Green Tomato Mincemeat? (For those of you doing the pie challenge, we nearly assigned Green Tomato Mincemeat to you, but then we just thought that was cruel.)
Also, here's a mini-trend: A chocolate-and-sesame flavor combination. Two different pies this year, one from Bon Appétit and one from Martha Stewart Living, include this unconventional flavor pairing.
We'll help you make sense of all this pie in our Fakesgiving coverage -- as well as our Pie Challenge reader reviews, which we'll be posting in a couple weeks!
What The Heck's a Hasselback?
Get to know hasselback: It just might be showing up on your Thanksgiving table this year. What is it? It's simply a method of thinly slicing a potato, but not slicing all the way through, resulting in a single spud with multiple slices -- sort of akin to an accordion, or a fan. The preparation is named for the 300-year-old Hasselbacken restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, which began serving hasselback potatoes in the 1940s or '50s.
Hasselback preparations show up now and then in food magazines, but not typically on the Thanksgiving menu. This year, we saw two different recipes for hasselbacks -- interestingly, neither one is for traditional potatoes. There's Hasselback Butternut Squash with Bay Leaves in Bon Appétit, and Brown Butter Hasselback Yams in Real Simple. That's notable, considering we've never come across hasselback anything for Thanksgiving in the years we've been cataloging Thanksgiving Day guides from food magazines.
As we've done in years' past, we compiled all the recipes in all the big food magazines and created word clouds to see what specific ingredients really stand out. Take a look!
First, here's literally all the names of the recipes in one big cloud. Nothing surprising here: All the usual suspects that you'd expect. (You can click on these to enlarge them.)
Now here's the same cloud but with the most commonly appearing words -- turkey, pie, stuffing, etc. -- stripped out:
Now let's take a look just at side dishes. As you can see, potatoes and Brussels sprouts are far and away the most prominent sides:
Here's a look just at the potato dishes. Mashed potatoes definitely edge out sweet potato recipes:
Finally, here's a cloud of all the dessert recipe names. See what we mean about the dominance of pie?
Watch tomorrow for the full index of all the Thanksgiving recipes in this year's magazines!