Site Seer: Surfeit of recipes on Web tempts Thanksgiving cooks
November 21, 1996
Web posted at: 6:30 a.m. EST
From CNN Interactive Writer Kristin Lemmerman
(CNN) -- Thanksgiving can be a beautiful holiday. Your family is together, and with everyone looking forward to a long weekend, it's easy to think of things to be thankful for.
If only things were so easy for the designated cooks, facing judgment from their mothers-in-law on the moistness of the turkey, the sweetness of the pie and the fluffiness of the biscuits. If you're the "chosen one" for this holiday meal, take heart. Once again, the power of the Web is at the ready, bringing published pages from Epicurean experts to your discriminating palate.
Take it from the pros
Foodwine.com is an online magazine published monthly by electronic Gourmet Guide Inc. This month, several pieces have potential for the Thanksgiving cook, including a "Thanksgiving No-Brainer" in which your shopping list has already been itemized, an invitation for your guests is waiting for you to copy it and a timetable shows you how to cook your entire Thanksgiving meal in four hours.
The magazine, like most these days, offers a searchable archive of its stories. It also hosts bulletin boards on a range of topics, so you can pick the one that interests you; a calendar of events at the James Beard House; and a "FoodDay" column, updated daily.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving, I would have said that for actual cooks, the only useful area of the Epicurious Food site was the recipe file -- and that useful only for people who already knew where they wanted to go with their feast. However, just in time for holiday planning, some creative folks on the Epicurious site blew out a new Thanksgiving meal search engine that lets you design your menu based on regional or health interests.
As in the site's regular recipe file, the recipes were originally published in both Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines. If nothing appeals to you in the Thanksgiving menus suggested (it's possible, even though there are 16) you can always check out the regular file -- just tell the search engine what you want the main course to be, and theoretically several recipes will pop right up. I had more trouble than usual with constant time-outs from the search engines, but persistence eventually won out.
After the holidays, you might want to keep visiting Epicurious, since its selection of non-Thanksgiving articles is as engaging as the special occasions material. A recent surf turned up a story on growing and using herbs, and another giving tips on how to politely eat almost any food. Regular features include cookbook and restaurant reviews, and a listing of what's currently fresh in your local market.
Who else but the country's best-known turkey company to ask for tips on preparing your turkey? Butterball, the company, has fielded almost 2 million calls from would-be turkey preparers and has collected the answers in Butterball Online -- how to carve the turkey, how big a bird to buy and, of course, how to cook the traditional Thanksgiving's main course.
In fact, the site provides not just turkey recipes, but also low-fat recipes, chicken, side dishes, stuffing (call it dressing, if you prefer) and, yum, desserts. Check out the plan-ahead menu that lets you relax with your family and friends when they show up, or see instructions for grilling your bird on the barbie. The site also provides copious information on handling the leftovers. And if you get stumped while prepping for T-Day, the company's toll-free help number is listed on the site.
The Kitchen Link's focus is links to other sites with recipes. However, for the holidays it has collected recipes from its users -- check them out if you're planning a turkey, but want a new way to cook it. A recipe for Black Turkey struck me as particularly interesting -- a good narrative with the potential to produce a tasty bird, too.
Alternatives to turkey
Most of the sites mentioned above offer meats you can serve that aren't turkey. However, if you're sick of eating meat dishes every year, you're a vegetarian or your annual Thanksgiving tradition is to find a new recipe nobody's ever tried before, Veggies Unite! might be the ticket.
The site offers more than 2,000 recipes; with such a concentration, you can find one suitable to just about any occasion. A special Thanksgiving menu is available. If you try a Veggies Unite! recipe, be sure to go back and tell Veggies Unite members how you liked it. Critique from other cooks are linked to most recipes.
Outside the recipe realm, the site has a number of other useful items, including a weekly meal planner, a newsletter, book reviews and a number of bulletin boards dedicated to discussions about vegetarianism and living a healthy lifestyle.
The Dinner Co-op page isn't a fancy page. It's maintained by a group of people in Pittsburgh who have been dinner co-oping for years and is run on a university server.
But the recipes it compiles, which cover every course of a full meal, span more ethnic cuisines than any others I saw, including Thai, Indian Spanish, French and Chinese. About 600 recipes are available. They are organized only by course; however, you can search through them to find ingredients that appeal to you. And a Thanksgiving menu is available.
Note: For those unfamiliar with the concept, in a dinner co-op, you eat with the same group of people once a week or once a month and set the menu ahead of time; each diner is responsible for preparing one menu item and bringing it to the host's home.
MMMMM ... dessert
Godiva Chocolatier's elegant, refined site, replete with pictures of carefully molded chocolates, might tempt you to order a box of the luxury treats for yourself ... or to check out the extensive chocolate recipe list, where you might find the perfect dessert for you and your Thanksgiving guests. Many of the recipes were clearly created just for Godiva, which is to be expected, the first obvious example being the "Biscotti, Godiva" in which Godiva liqueur is an ingredient. (I didn't even know Godiva had a liqueur until I visited this site.)
However, many more of the recipes were originally published in Chocolatier magazine, that bastion of complicated chocolate confectionery. Not all the recipes listed require a candy thermometer, nor do most take three days to prepare. Recipe difficulty is indicated by an * (* being easy, like the recipe for Basic Chocolate Cake; ** being moderately difficult, which most of the recipes are).
You can view the recipes in alphabetical order, by category (cakes, candies, pies, puddings, etc.) or by using the search engine, which allows you to name your flavor and narrow your choices down to only easy, moderately difficult or hard recipes. Try a search for "pumpkin" to find some gourmet alternatives to the classic pumpkin pie.
Come see Site Seer next Thursday, and we'll tell you how to work off all the weight you put on from preparing the recipes we helped you find!
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