The day after Halloween, I walked into a department store and was immediately assaulted by the sound of Christmas music.

Can someone please compose some Thanksgiving tunes? I feel like America’s ultimate family gathering is being squeezed out by overzealous merchandisers.

Celebrated the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is a day set aside to give thanks for our blessings and the annual harvest. It’s a time when we join our loved ones in a feast of turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, homemade dressing, various side dishes and the ubiquitous pumpkin pie.

Once we’ve gotten our fill, and a couple of hours before we go back for seconds, most of us watch a little football, followed by a nap.

And, of course, to finish off the day properly, we go shopping for Christmas presents.

I want to go back to the days when all we did was spend the whole day together as a family and partake in what is arguably the year’s most wonderful meal.

If we have to shop, let’s do it on Black Friday.

I’m through ranting. Let’s think about next week’s big dinner.

Here is the top-rated turkey recipe on the Food Network website. Let’s give thanks to chef Alton Brown.

Good Eats Roast Turkey

• 1 (14- to 16-pound) frozen young turkey

Brine:

• 1 cup kosher salt

• 1/2 cup light brown sugar

• 1 gallon vegetable stock

• 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

• 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries

• 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger

• 1 gallon heavily iced water

Aromatics:

• 1 red apple, sliced

• 1/2 onion, sliced

• 1 cinnamon stick

• 1 cup water

• 4 sprigs rosemary

• 6 leaves sage

• Canola oil

Two to three days before roasting, begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat, combine the brine, water and ice in a 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast-side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed. Cover and refrigerate or set in cool area for eigth to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half-sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick and 1 cup water in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for five minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14- to 16-pound bird should require a total of two hours to 150 minutes of roasting.

Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil, for 15 minutes before carving.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

 

This rich, cheese-laden gratin from The New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark is a more savory take on the usual Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole.

Sweet Potato and Gruyere Gratin

• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan and foil

• 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

• 2 cups heavy cream (or half-and-half)

• 3 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

• 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

• 3 cloves garlic, grated or minced

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

• 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

• 3 large eggs, lightly beaten

• 3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 large or 5 medium), peeled

• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• 1 2/3 cups grated Gruyere

Heat oven to 400 degrees and generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or shallow gratin dish. Butter a piece of foil large enough to cover top of pan. Sprinkle Parmesan all over bottom of pan.

In a medium pot, bring cream, sage, rosemary, garlic, nutmeg and a pinch of salt to a simmer. Simmer until reduced by 1/4, about 10 minutes.

In a large, heatproof bowl, whisk eggs just enough to break them up. Slowly pour hot cream into eggs to combine, whisking while pouring, and reserve the mixture.

Meanwhile, slice the potatoes into 1/8-inch-thick rounds.

Place 1 layer of potatoes in the pan, slightly overlapping as you go, using about a third of the slices. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste, then pour 1/3 of the egg mixture over potatoes. Top with 1/2 cup Gruyere. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and 1/3 egg mixture. Top with 1/2 cup Gruyere. Top with remaining potatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste and remaining egg mixture (but not the remaining cheese). Press down to compact the potatoes. Cover with foil and bake until potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes.

Remove foil, sprinkle top with remaining 2/3 cup Gruyere and bake until browned and bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve.

Make 12 servings.

 

How I landed on the Tallahassee Democrat website, I don’t know. But I do know I love this classic cornbread dressing recipe.

Traditional Southern Cornbread Dressing

• 9-inch round pan cornbread

• 1 cup unsalted butter, melted

• 1 medium sweet onion, chopped

• 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

• 3 stalks celery, chopped

• 4 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and chopped

• 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

• 2 to 3 cups chicken broth

• 2 eggs, beaten

• Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add butter to a large skillet over low heat. Stir in onions, celery and green bell pepper. Saute vegetables for 10 minutes or until softened.

While the vegetables are cooking, crumble cornbread in a large bowl and add hard-boiled eggs, 2 cups chicken broth and poultry seasoning. Add the vegetables when they are done and mix well to combine everything. You can use a spoon, but your hands work best for this task. Taste and add kosher salt and ground black pepper. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Don't be alarmed if the mixture is soupy. If it's not, add up to 1 more cup chicken broth, a little at a time, until it is soupy. It should be about the consistency of thick cornbread batter.

Pour the mixture into a well-greased 9x13-inch baking dish.

Bake uncovered 45 to 50 minutes, or until the dressing is set and golden brown.

Makes 10 servings.

 

This corn casserole from browneyedbaker.com is an ideal side dish for Thanksgiving.

Cheesy Corn Casserole

• 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, divided

• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

• 1/2 cup cornmeal

• 2 teaspoons baking powder

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 32 ounces frozen corn, thawed, divided

• 4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts divided

• 1 cup sour cream

• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

• 2 eggs, lightly beaten

• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.

Cut 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese into 1/2-inch cubes. Shred the remaining 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper and cayenne.

Place half of the corn and the scallion whites in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it reaches a coarse puree, about 10 pulses.

Stir the pureed corn mixture into the flour mixture. Stir in the cubed Monterey Jack cheese, remaining half of the corn, sour cream, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, eggs and melted butter until combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the shredded Monterey Jack cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake until the casserole is slightly puffy and the cheese is golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the scallion greens and serve.

Makes eight to 10 servings.

 

Do you remember the wonderful rolls served at Porta’s on Grand Avenue years ago?

Many local residents have fond memories of them, as evidenced by a recent request.

Here is Sally Porta's recipe.

Porta’s Rolls

• 1 cup milk

• 2 packages yeast

• 1 tablespoon Crisco

• 2 tablespoons sugar

• 2 eggs, beaten

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 cup yellow food color

• 4 cups flour, plus extra as needed for kneading (as in bread texture and feel)

• Butter, for brushing rolls

Combine ingredients. Lay or roll out dough to about 1/2-inch thick. Using a round biscuit cutter, cut each to biscuit size and fold over. Brush tops with butter. Arrange close in a pan. Let rise until double in size.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake biscuits 18 to 20 minutes or until tops are brown.

Makes about 40 rolls.

Notes from Sally Porta: Use all-purpose flour and rapid-rise yeast (Fleischmann's). Just throw the ingredients together. The secret to the rolls is in the kneading and rising. You must pamper the dough. You can knead it and let it rise two or three times. Sally said you can tell it's ready to bake by the texture. Also, you can place the dough in the freezer, take it out and let it rise. As far as the food color, use as much or as little as you want.

Looking for a recipe? Have one you’d like to share? Write to Potluck, Times Record, P.O. Box 1359, Fort Smith, AR 72902. Email: jharshaw@swtimes.com.