GAME OF THANKS

By Jill Gleeson Photography Courtesy of Chelsea Monroe-Cassel

Tired of turkey and dressing? An epic feast inspired by recent television classics like the Game of Thrones or The Sopranos will make your Thanksgiving more than memorable.
It’s that time of year again. Football is on the tube, leaves are drifting down from the trees and pumpkin spice is everywhere. Yep, autumn is in full swing and that means Thanksgiving, long one of America’s favorite celebrations, is on its way. But just because Thanksgiving has been a holiday forever, or at least since Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed it one in 1863, doesn’t mean that we can’t monkey around a bit with tradition. This year, why not liven up your festivities with a themed Thanksgiving?
Think about the possibilities. You could stick close to the holiday’s roots and ask everyone to show up in their best pilgrim attire. Or, consider a salute to flower power, with guests dressed in bell bottoms, headbands and tie-dyed tees. Dish up granola, spin the Grateful Dead and request everyone only use words like “groovy” and “far out.” A luau-themed Thanksgiving would be fun, too. Hand out leis, serve roasted pig and tropical punch, and play ukulele music.
Movies can provide inspiration for your shindig — the “Star Wars” saga anyone? And so can television shows: “Game of Thrones” in particular makes for a perfect Thanksgiving theme, according to Chelsea Monroe-Cassel, who penned the 2012 Game of Thrones cookbook, “A Feast of Fire and Ice,” with her friend, Sariann Lehrer.
As Monroe-Cassel notes on her blog innatthecrossroads.com, “Out of all the holidays in the year, I think Thanksgiving might be the best suited to a Westerosi interpretation…Thanksgiving, in many families, is characterized by cold weather, a groaning table laden with an absurd amount of food, and inter-family drama. Sound at all familiar?”
Monroe-Cassel provided us with a couple of favorite GofT-themed Thanksgiving recipes, but we encourage you to go beyond the menu. Ask your guests to come in costume; pre-made Game of Thrones-wear is available online. Or, make your own — grab a long platinum wig, a stuffed dragon and come as Daenerys. Have your hubby don a fur-trimmed cape, dark curly wig and grow out a little facial scruff for a killer Jon Snow impersonation. With so many epic GoT characters to choose from, there should be no repeats among your guests. We just hope no couples come as Jaime and Cersei.

Game of Thrones-Themed Thanksgiving
Honeyed Chicken/Turkey
Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer
Cook’s notes: The sauce reduces down to a thick, syrupy consistency, which melts ever so slightly when drizzled over the hot chicken. The raisins soak up the sauce, and become absolutely delicious little morsels.
Ingredients:
1 whole chicken for roasting
olive oil/butter (~1 Tbs)
Salt
Sauce:
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup honey
Dash of mint, dried or fresh (abt. 1 tsp.)
Small handful of raisins
1 Tbs. butter
Rub the chicken down with olive oil/butter and salt. This makes the skin crispy and delicious. Cook in an oven at 450 degrees F for approximately an hour, or until the juices run clear, and the thick meat of the breast is no longer pink.
While your chicken is roasting away in the oven, combine all ingredients in saucepan and allow to simmer until the raisins plump and the sauce reduces slightly. Remove from heat, and when the chicken is done, spread the sauce and raisins over the bird.

17th-Century Pumpkin Pie
Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer
Prep: 15 minutes
Baking: 35 minutes
Makes 1 9″ pie
Cook’s notes: Although the recipe doesn’t call for any spices, if you’d like to include some, feel free! Also, I used some roasted, pureed pumpkin I had leftover after straining out the juices. However, canned pumpkin also works great.
Crust Ingredients:
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1 stick butter
ice cold water, just enough
Filling Ingredients:
1 cup warm milk
2-3 Tbs. melted butter
1/2 cup turbinado sugar, plus extra for sprinkling over the top
2 cups pumpkin (1 lb.)
pinch salt
2 Tbs. ground almonds

Prep the crust by rubbing the butter into the flour. Add the salt, egg yolk, and just enough water to bring the dough together. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4″ thickness. Line a pie pan with it, and crimp the edges into a decorative design.
Combine the warm milk and melted butter. Pour over the sugar and stir until there are no grains of sugar remaining. Stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing the filling thoroughly. Pour this into the prepared (but not prebaked) pie shell.
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes, or until the filling seems set. Allow to cool before slicing.

Sopranos-Style Thanksgiving
Before “Game of Thrones” was even a twinkle in HBO programmers’ eyes there was “The Sopranos.” Set in the New Jersey mob world and detailing the lives of Tony Soprano, his associates and family, it ran from 1999 to 2007. As does Italian-American culture as a whole, entire scenes in the show revolved around the cooking, serving and consuming of food, making a “Sopranos” Thanksgiving easy to accomplish.
The key is to serve New Jersey-style Italian cuisine. Red sauce, thick with meats like sausage or hamburger, and mozzarella cheese draped heavily over everything, are key. Chicken or veal parmesan would make a fine main course, with baked penne alongside. Start off with an antipasto — a massive platter laden with cured meats including pepperoni and capicola, provolone cheese and marinated veggies — and consider tiramisu for dessert. For extra authenticity, talk like a true New Jersey Italian and pronounce capicola “gabagool.”

Baked Penne
Jill Gleeson
1 large can whole tomatoes
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 1/2 lb. ground beef, extra-lean
3 – 4 large fingers of garlic, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 large (1 1/2 lb. bag) shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
Crushed red pepper, basil, parsley, oregano, salt (to taste)
1 1/2 lb. penne

Boil penne, leaving it undercooked by about 1 1/2 minutes
As you wait for penne to cook, combine cans of crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes that have been pulled apart into smaller pieces and tomato paste into large pot and simmer.
Heat olive oil in a large pan, add garlic and onion and saute, so that the onion is translucent and the garlic is soft, but not browned. Add ground beef and as it cooks chop it with spatula so that there are no large chunks. When ground beef is browned, add mixture to tomatoes. Add spices to taste (about 1 to 2 Tbs. parsley and basil, 1 Tbs. oregano, 1 tspn. hot peppers and 1/2 tspn. salt). Simmer on low for at least a half-hour, adding a little water to thin out sauce if necessary. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large baking dish, add enough sauce to cover bottom of dish. Add layer of pasta, layer of sauce, sprinkle parmesan lightly over top and add layer of mozzarella cheese. And another layer of pasta, sauce and parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes in oven. Add layer of mozzarella cheese and bake for 5 minutes.

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