Farmed turkey for Thanksgiving? Tired mashed potatoes on the side? Honey-glazed ham for Christmas? Believe it or not, you don’t have to follow those rules. Why not switch it up and try something new?
Take it home
Three weeks ago we got to sit in on a tamale how-to in the kitchen of Picos. These ladies were working magic testing the new tamale flavors which are offered at their tamale outpost in the restaurant parking lot.
What made the cut as favorite at our tamale tasting? Chicharron, pork with red chile, and portobello mushroom and huitlacoche, also known as Mexican truffle (all shown below). Prices start at $9+ a half dozen, $18+ a dozen. These mushroom tamales as a side dish at Thanksgiving are quick and easy. Just pick them up from the Picos, steam them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, stack them on a festive platter, and serve. Don’t forget your mole and chile con queso, both available at the booth with the classic flavors of tamales norteños and oaxacaños.
Why not try sweet tamales for dessert instead of the usual pie? We tried the strawberry and two versions of dulce de leche tamales that launched this week at Picos. (One version of dulce de leche has nuts, the other doesn’t.) Strawberry tamales? They’re light and anything but syrupy-sweet. You can buy the tamales daily through Christmas Eve, but be prepared for long lines on Wednesday, November 22, since the tamale truck is closed on Thanksgiving. Operating hours are 11 am to 7 pm at 3601 Kirby.
Need more help with traditional appetizers and sides for your Thanksgiving feast? You could turn to Central Market’s Holiday Hotline which makes it so easy to order anything from a few sides to the entire meal for any party size, online – you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before. (Highlight on this great deal on a holiday breakfast package featuring egg casserole with smoked salmon and potatoes, fruit salad and fresh orange juice that serves 6 people, only $29.99 and another task you can cross off your list next Thursday.) The Holiday Hotline can assist you with your meal-planning now through November 21, and then November 24 through December 22. Make sure you get your orders in before the deadlines so that your holiday meals are effortless.
Want to make it yourself, but ready to go wild? On Tuesday we took a wild game cooking class at Central Market, which was coordinated with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Our fabulous instructors coached us through grilled quail (below), roasted duck (above) and venison tenderloin as well as sides such as cheesy grits casserole, roasted Swiss chard and celery root, The Best Sweet Potatoes and a blueberry accompaniment to drizzle on the venison.
You can purchase venison, quail and duck at Central Market; Central Market butchers will even semi-debone the quail for you. Quail could be a fowl substitute for turkey if you’re serving a prime rib at Thanksgiving but don’t want to forego the bird, and duck is a perfect option for smaller holiday gatherings. Side note: If you’re a hunter and have a chance to have your venison processed at a facility that’ll also make you tamales, don’t pass it up. Just make sure they use stew meat instead of ground venison, and plenty of seasoning.
Dining out on Thanksgiving… it’s a thing. If you’ve ever been in a position where you’re forced to have Thanksgiving catered (for example, in the case when a family member is in the hospital and people aren’t emotionally prepared to cook) you know that it can be a huge relief even for those who live to cook for three days before Thanksgiving.
Even more thrilling (and easy) is simply making a reservation and dining at one of your favorite restaurants where you know the food and service will be perfect and you’re responsible for generous gratuity, not the dishes.
Rainbow Lodge is hosting a Thanksgiving menu that is your choice of three courses for $58 (not including drinks and gratuity) with the option for a late-night snack, to go, for $5 extra. That wild game duo is calling your name. Make your reservations here, with seatings from 11:15 to 7:30.
Another beast in the wild game culinary world, Brennan’s of Houston has added the turducken-stuffed quail to its Thanksgiving menu. Again, reservations are filling up fast so make sure you secure your seats now. Seatings begin at 11 am, and the price before gratuity and beverages is $60 per person. Take a look at the menu and make your reservations here.