Last year at the traditional non-paleo Thanksgiving I went to, I ate until I was about to burst, and felt completely disgusting. This year, however… I’ll probably do exactly the same thing (sigh). BUT, you don’t have to! Especially if you’re doing the cooking where you can control the recipes.
Last night I experimented with some traditional Thanksgiving recipes in an attempt to make them more caveman friendly. These are base recipes that you can certainly improve upon, and cater them to your specific tastes. My specific Thanksgiving tastes come from my Grandmother’s cooking. She was a Russian immigrant who learned to cook from Poles, so a Thanksgiving meal had to be learned. But she was a great cook, so even her basic adaptations of American cooking left an indelible mark on my palate all these years later. Let’s see if I can recreate her recipes to make them 100% paleo. Hopefully this will inspire you to make your favorite Thanksgiving dishes 100% paleo too!
A very simple thing you can do to make your Thanksgiving meal more paleo, without any extra work, is to make everything from organic ingredients. And I mean EVERYTHING! Even if you’re eating grains, legumes, salt, dairy, potatoes, processed food, and sugar (my 7 NO’s of paleo eating), at least if you’re eating organically, you won’t be ingesting any chemicals, and that’s a good start on the road to becoming a caveman.
When eating meat, the best choice for us to eat a wild animal. They have the leanest meat, and the healthiest fat! If you can’t find (or afford) a wild turkey, try finding a pasture-raised turkey (also known as an American Heritage turkey), the next best thing. If that isn’t an option, get an organic turkey (which probably means it’s chemical free, but was fed organic corn and soy, things turkey’s don’t eat in the wild). And if all else fails, just pour yourself a Wild Turkey on the rocks and watch some football.
I found some affordable wild and pasture raised turkeys from the websites EAT WILD (http://www.eatwild.com/) and LOCAL HARVEST (http://www.localharvest.org/), but truthfully, cooking a whole turkey for myself is just too much food for one person. Plus, I only like the dark meat, so it would be a waste. Then I went looking for a small wild bird, like a partridge, or pheasant (much like they probably ate at the first Thanksgiving), but the prices were kind of outrageous. So for the sake of this paleo experiment (and my wallet), let’s defrost that pasture-raised chicken from my freezer and PRETEND it’s a wild turkey! Okay? Okay!
All Ingredients, All Organic, All the time!
It’s basically the same recipe as my French Roasted Chicken, so look it up for some great cooking tips. Classic Thanksgiving flavors (and aromas!). Obviously I made a chicken, so to cook a turkey, cooking temperatures will vary depending on the size of your bird and the shitty-ness of your oven.
Rub the whole bird with a generous amount of olive oil, then sprinkle on your finely chopped herb mixture. I suggest cooking the bird breast side down for the first half of cooking for two reasons. One, it allows the fat to drip down into the dryer white meat, making it super moist! And secondly, it browns the bottom of the bird nicely. When you flip the bird over (breast side up), re-apply some olive oil and the last of the herb mixture to the top. The olive oil gives that gorgeous brown color, and amazing crispy skin, that skin freaks like me go wild for!
Oh, and don’t carve your turkey at the table, otherwise you run the risk of dropping the whole thing on the floor, and you’ll look like a major cave-hole!
The sky’s the limit on organic veggie choices for your table, so cook what you love. I just want to show you a technique for root vegetables. Line the bottom of your roasting pan with them so they cook in the drippings of the turkey, along with the herb combo that drips down as well. And don’t bother breaking them up into pieces, roast them whole. They turn out great! Plus they flavor the gravy too!
Speaking of gravy, this was so simple to make. Consider it the evolution of my gravy experiment from when I made pot roast a few weeks ago. All I did was take the bird drippings and whisk in some coconut flour until it was the consistency of gravy. No need for a roux, because coconut flour can be eaten raw (unlike wheat based flour, which has to be cooked in order to be eaten, which is why it ain’t paleo!). You can add some more spices if you want, but it should have plenty of flavor if you seasoned your turkey well with the fresh herbs and spices.
Now that we have gravy, we need mashed potatoes!
I’ve made this before, so look up the recipe HERE, you lazy bastards! If you like, add something to it like roasted garlic, and fresh herbs to kick it up to another level! You could also use celery root!
This was my grandmother’s best Thanksgiving dish by far. She had to make extra, because we ate twice as much of it as we did any other component of the meal, including the turkey! It was only when I got older did I realize the two main ingredients were the American classics Wonder Bread and Corn Flakes! Talk about definitively NOT paleo. Well, that ends now, because this recipe came out fantastic, and it’s TOTALLY PALEO!
It starts with the “bread.” I have this recipe for almond bread, that I’m not thrilled with. But I’ve been playing with it for almost two years now, and I did manage to make some killer matzoh balls from it. Well, I took that same matzoh ball recipe, and baked the dough mixture in a loaf pan. It came out in the shape of a, um, well, a loaf (duh). I made it and froze it weeks ago, and defrosted it just for this occasion.
In a cast iron skillet I sautéed some finely chopped celery, onions, garlic, black pepper, and a few mushrooms for texture and flavor. Once they were soft and translucent, I took it off the heat. Once it cooled, I took my loaf of matzoh ball and laid it on top of the celery onion, etc, mixture. Then, using a masher, I mashed it (duh) into bite sized chunks. I then added some chicken stock (which I also freeze and defrost for recipes that call for it). Not enough that the mixture gets soupy, but just enough to make it wet. Next went in my fresh herbs. This really MAKES the dish. Fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and tons of fresh sage! Finally, I add an egg (which is why we let it cool), and mixed it all up. Spread it out in the pan (I used a cast iron pan because that’s what I own, and it goes from the stove top to the oven, but use whatever pan you have), and bake it in the oven at 350 for about a half an hour.
It tastes JUST like Thanksgiving stuffing! This will DEFINITELY be a frequent side dish when I make chicken in the future. My grandmother would be totally proud. If your grandmother used sausage, apples, carrots, walnuts, etc, feel free to add them. It should be simple to make your own paleo sausage using organic ground pork, and spices.
Fresh Sage (lots of it)
1 cup of Almond Flour
1/3 cup of Arrowroot
3 TBL of Olive Oil
1/2 cup of Water
Green Bean Casserole:
This was the biggest challenge for me. The traditional recipe I grew up with is a paleo nightmare. Birdseye Green Beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, and Durkee Crunchy Fried Onions. Enough sodium in one dish to give a caveman a stroke! Okay, let’s start paleo’izing!
The first problem is the main ingredient itself, green beans. As you know green beans are legumes, and therefore not paleo. But as I’ve said before, not all legumes are created equal. Green beans fall through the paleo cracks because it defies one of my golden rules, “If you can eat it raw, you can cook with it.” Well, it’s the rare oddity of a legume that can be eaten raw. I’m positive a caveman would have eaten one if he came across them. It definitely has a lot of nutrition, but it also definitely has some toxins. Anyway, if you’re not as paleo
anal strict as I am, one dish of green beans will certainly not kill you. But instead, I used broccoli stems!
I julienned the stems of broccoli and simmered them in chicken broth until soft.
In a separate pan, I sautéed some finely chopped mushrooms, celery, onions, and garlic in olive oil. Once translucent and soft, I throw it into the pot of chicken stock and broccoli stems. The juice created by the cooked mushrooms add to the chicken stock to make a mushroomy broth! Next, I sprinkle in some coconut flour and stir until it’s the consistency of cream of mushroom soup (and hence, green bean casserole). Feel free to experiment with almond milk, or coconut milk if you prefer. Once it’s the desired consistency, I add some black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dry sage, dry thyme, and dry rosemary to taste.
Finally I take some onion rings and dip them into a batter of egg and coconut flour and fry them until crispy in coconut oil. Once done, I mix some into the casserole, and I top the dish with the rest. Here’s a pic of the leftovers:
Not bad, not bad at all. It needs some tweaking, but it’s not a bad start.
I might eliminate the broccoli and try this recipe again in the future as just cream of mushroom soup!
Okay, so there’s the main meal, let’s summarize in the form of a dinner plate, shall we?
Going clockwise from 12 o’clock, we have our white meat “turkey” breast (wink wink), then our “bread” stuffing (nudge nudge), our mashed “potatoes” (okay, cave-hole, I get it, are you gonna make a cutesy comment on every dish?), our “green bean” casserole (I guess you are), and it’s all smothered in our gravy (no quote marks necessary)!
I ate like a starving man, just like I do every Thanksgiving. The only difference is I didn’t feel sick or bloated afterwards. It was a good full. I’ve never experienced a good full after such a heavy meal before. I’ve only experienced the bad full, after a huge heavy meal full of grains and potatoes. This is the kind of good full only paleo eating can achieve! And there’s no salt, so I won’t be swollen for a week.
I’m not crazy about cranberry sauce, so I didn’t make any. But if you want, I encourage you to make your own using a combo of organic cranberries, honey, lemon juice, and spices.
What I am crazy about is dessert! Certainly, my Paleo Pumpkin Cheesecake would qualify for this special holiday meal! As would my pumpkin and apple pie recipes which you can find on my recipes page. In fact, why not make my paleo apple pie, and top it off ala mode with this…!
Paleo Pumpkin Ice “Cream”:
Using my paleo ice “cream” recipe as a base, throw into the food processor one slightly defrosted frozen banana (per serving), add in some canned organic pumkin (if you could freeze and slightly defrost some beforehand even better), some honey, 3 shakes of cinnamon, 2 shakes of nutmeg, and 1 shake of all spice (or one small dash of clove if you don’t have any allspice).
There it is, folks. You too can have a paleo holiday season if you want it. Enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving and Ugga-Bugga from the Cooking Caveman!