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Turkey-free Thanksgivings

A turkey-free Thanksgiving doesn't have to be all salads and sides. See more pictures of the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.
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Ben Franklin may have regarded turkey as an honorable bird, but many folks don't think it's much of a palatable meal. The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the harvest, and it's purpose was to give thanks for the bountiful crops. The feast consisted of many dishes, only one of which was turkey. So, even if you're insistent on mimicking the feast served by our ancestors, you're not stuck with a Turkey-only meal. Your Thanksgiving protein doesn't have to be a snoozer, so skip the tryptophan and mix it up a little. Here are some ideas for dishes for your turkey-free Thanksgiving.

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Though unconventional, duck can make a great substitution for turkey.
Though unconventional, duck can make a great substitution for turkey.
Roy Hsu/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

If you want to feast on fowl that doesn't gobble, there are options for game birds that many foodies find to actually be tastier than turkey. Duck is a favorite and is known for its rich dark meat. It can be roasted just like a turkey or you can fancy it up and serve duck a l'orange. If you're feeding your inner Anglophile, you may want to serve up a goose, which is a common European holiday meal. Cornish game hens look like tiny chickens, and each eater gets her own. When properly prepared, they are moist with a somewhat sweet taste. Pheasant is a small, but pricey, delicacy that has rich flesh similar to a Cornish game hen. If the tiny game birds are a road less traveled for some of your guests, you may want to start with partridge, which has a milder taste than most. Or, you can always just serve chicken.

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No one says your Thanksgiving protein originally had to have a heartbeat. Tofurky was an exciting invention for many non-meat eaters for whom holiday meals mainly meant a small selection of side dishes. If you've never partaken in a tofurky, then here's what you're in for: It's a loaf of tofu that has the texture and taste of a turkey. It even comes stuffed with whole wheat bread crumb stuffing and a side of meatless gravy. If a loaf of soybeans isn't your style, perhaps you'd prefer a nut roast. This classic vegetarian meal resembles a fruitcake, but it consists of breadcrumbs, veggies, soy sauce and, you guessed it, nuts. Walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, you name it -- it's pretty much chef's choice.

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You can create new Thanksgiving traditions by serving favorite meals that you cook year-round. Thanksgiving can still be good grilling weather, especially if you live in the Southern United States. So, throw some steaks on the grill and serve them with traditional Thanksgiving side dishes like green bean casserole and stuffing. Fish is another great option, especially since fish dishes were thought to be part of the original Thanksgiving feast. Pork chops, lamb chops, short ribs and even lasagna are all acceptable main dishes for your Thanksgiving fare. As long as the company is good and the food is plentiful and delicious, your guests will be mighty thankful.

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Sources

  • Clark, Melissa. "Turkey-free Thanksgiving Recipes." Epicurious.com, 2010. http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/thanksgiving/nonturkey
  • "Classic Nut Roast." Veg-world.com, 2010. http://www.veg-world.com/recipes/nutroast.htm
  • Crosariol, Beppi and Waverman, Lucy. "Have a turkey-free thanksgiving." Theglobeandmail.com, September 30, 2010. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/thanksgiving/have-a-turkey-free-thanksgiving/article1318387/
  • Sachteleben, Marilisa Kinney. "Thanksgiving Game Bird Options for Turkey Haters." Associatedcontent.com, November 9, 2009. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2363988/thanksgiving_game_bird_options_for.html
  • Schwartz, Shannon. "The History of Thanksgiving Day - Let's Talk Turkey!" thehistoryof.net, June 27, 2008. http://www.thehistoryof.net/the-history-of-thanksgiving.html
  • "Thanksgiving." History.com, 2010. http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving
  • "Turkey Alternatives." Globalgourmet.com, 2010. http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/egg/egg1196/pheasant.html#axzz11xqm4I5v

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