Thanksgiving Trend Watchers Test Recipes So You Don't Have To

Nov 23, 2015
Originally published on November 20, 2015 6:50 pm

For those who like to try new recipes at Thanksgiving, let Clay Dunn and Zach Patton be your guides. They're the couple behind the food blog, The Bitten Word, and every year before the holiday, they scan 10 leading food magazines to identify recipe trends. Then they try out about 20 of the most intriguing recipes for a pre-Thanksgiving meal with friends, called Fakesgiving.

All Things Considered's Audie Cornish was a guest at their Fakesgiving in October. She invited Dunn and Patton into the studio to find out which dishes they deemed the hits and the ones they thought were duds.

Here's a selection of some of Dunn and Patton's top picks for 2015.

  • Porchetta-Style Roast Turkey Breast from Bon Appetit. "It's a turkey wrapped in delicious bacon. It has a paste of bacon and herbs on the inside, as it's wrapped and rolled," says Dunn.

  • Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Maple Gastrique from Cooking Light. Says Dunn: "It's indicative of a larger trend in side dishes we see at the Thanksgiving table this year, which is inclusion of vinegar."

  • Ancient grains are "a really big trend that we see throughout the 10 food magazines we look at recipes from," says Patton. This year, the recipes "treated the grains in really unusual ways. The barley might be smoked or the rye berries might be pickled." They chose a Shaved Apple and Fennel Salad with Crunchy Spelt from Cooking Light. The spelt "almost takes on the consistency of unpopped popcorn." Overall, Patton says, it was a "refreshing salad, side dish with this great crunch from the fried spelt."

  • Grapefruit Cornmeal Cake from Food & Wine. "This actually reflects a really big trend we saw, which is this real focus on citrus flavors and tropical fruit flavors, which again is really not something that is typical for the Thanksgiving table," says Patton. "It is this really dense cake that is really brightened by the flavors of grapefruit and then you pour over a sugar poppyseed glaze. It really reminded me of the flavors of a lemon poppyseed muffin."

And the duds:

  • Tex-Mex Green Bean Casserole from the Food Network. "It's more cheese than green beans, it's covered with homemade Dorito topping that you bake, it is a cheese bomb," says Dunn.

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Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

All right, folks, break out the cutting board, turn on the stove and pulse that food processor like you mean it. Yes, Thanksgiving prep is just around the corner. For those of you who like to try new recipes but maybe you don't know where to start, let Clay Dunn and Zach Patton be your guides.

ZACH PATTON: Hey, Clay?

CLAY DUNN: Yeah?

PATTON: Where are the mashed potatoes from - what magazine?

DUNN: They're from Cooking Light.

SHAPIRO: They're the couple behind the food blog The Bitten Word, and every year, well in advance of the holiday, Patton and Dunn scan America's food magazines. They identify recipe trends and try some out for a pseudo Thanksgiving meal with friends. They call it Fakesgiving. This year, my co-host, Audie Cornish, was a guest - strictly for reporting purposes, of course. A few days later, she invited Zach Patton and Clay Dunn into the studio to talk turkey and side dishes.

DUNN: We love Thanksgiving, but we think turkey is the least-exciting part of the entire meal. We did two birds this year. One, there's a two-hour preparation, which we love the idea of 'cause getting a turkey cooked in time is always a challenge.

PATTON: Probably going to perk up a lot of people's ears, the idea of roasting an entire 14-pound bird in two hours. And it turned out beautifully.

DUNN: The second preparation that we did was sort of the it turkey from this year. It's a porchetta-style turkey that multiple magazines featured different themes on.

AUDIE CORNISH, BYLINE: Basically ham-wrapped, right? (Laughter).

DUNN: It's a turkey, it's wrapped in delicious bacon. It has a paste of bacon and herbs on the inside of it as it's wrapped-up and rolled. Really delicious. I loved it as sort of a different take on turkey.

CORNISH: I also think the dinner is not about the turkey (laughter). I'm really obsessed with the sides. And you guys had a lot of fun twists on typical sides.

DUNN: For sure. So we made a sweet potato with a maple gastrique, and it's indicative of a larger trend that we see in side dishes at the Thanksgiving table this year, which is the inclusion of vinegar. So these sweet potatoes have a maple gastrique, which is like a sweet-and-sour sauce that you cook down until it's really thick. You drizzle it over these roasted sweet potatoes. It's really delicious.

CORNISH: So not so much with the marshmallows, is what you're saying.

DUNN: No marshmallows here.

CORNISH: Now, there was one smell I did not expect that came wafting from the sides table. I believe it was the Dorito.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: And it came from what is a familiar dish for many of us, the green bean casserole. Somehow this involved a food processor. Who wants to raise their hand and admit to trying this recipe?

PATTON: (Laughter). Clay will admit to trying this recipe.

DUNN: So they weren't Doritos, they were homemade Doritos, first of all.

PATTON: (Laughter).

CORNISH: What? Wait - dial it back. Are you serious? (Laughter).

DUNN: They were actually homemade Doritos. So the dish is a sort of cheesy Tex-Mex green bean casserole. It's more cheese than green beans. It's covered with a homemade Dorito topping that you bake. It is a cheese bomb. One of our friends referred to it as a treasure roll, which we thought was pretty funny.

CORNISH: It earned a round of applause, right (laughter)?

DUNN: It did...

CORNISH: And not a slow clap.

DUNN: ...As we announced all the dishes at the beginning. And it was the only dish to earn applause. Sadly, one of our least-favorite dishes on the menu, but we're really glad we tried it.

CORNISH: Another trend that you talked about, ancient grains. OK, what are we talking about here?

PATTON: So with ancient grains, this is a really big trend that we saw throughout the 10 food magazines that we look at recipes from. The thing that we loved about the recipes that we saw this year was that they treated these grains in really unusual ways. So the barley might be smoked or the rye berries might be pickled. And one of the dishes that we tried that sort of embodies this idea was a shaved apple and fennel salad with crunchy spelt - spelt, which is a kind of a wheat. This recipe, you fry it and then it almost takes on the kind of a consistency of un-popped popcorn kernels.

CORNISH: Yeah.

PATTON: And then we mix it in with the shaved apple, the fennel, this really great mustard vinaigrette. And it really was a really refreshing salad, a really refreshing side dish, with this great crunch from that fried spelt.

CORNISH: I have to admit when I saw the title on the menu, I was like, that's a pass. But then I had already started eating it, and it was delicious. I don't want to leave without asking you about dessert because there's a lot of like, brown sugar and pecans and pies. You didn't do an apple pie. I thought that was a bold move.

PATTON: We didn't.

CORNISH: What was on the menu, grapefruit cornmeal cake. Stay with me, listeners.

DUNN: (Laughter).

CORNISH: I did not think (laughter) this was going to be a good idea. Tell me where you saw this. Does this reflect an actual trend?

PATTON: This actually reflects a really big trend that we saw, which is this real focus on citrus flavors and tropical fruit flavors, which again, is not something that is very typical for the Thanksgiving table. And what we really wanted to try was this grapefruit cornmeal cake, which was from Food and Wine magazine. It is this really dense cake that is brightened by the flavors of grapefruit, and then you pour over a sugar poppy seed glaze. It really reminded me of the flavors of, like, a lemon poppy seed muffin.

CORNISH: Absolutely. That was the first thing I thought, was, this is lemon poppy seed cake.

DUNN: I have to say I think that was my favorite dessert. It was so bright and delicious.

CORNISH: Now lightning round. You don't have to say the offending magazine, but, winners and losers - recipes that were either not worth it, not good. Zach?

PATTON: I might have to say the Tex-Mex casserole was the loser for me.

CORNISH: Burned, Doritos.

PATTON: Burned Doritos. It was good, it was good. It just was one of those things that tasted almost more like a Super Bowl side dish than a Thanksgiving side dish.

CORNISH: All right. Clay?

DUNN: My least-favorite dish was a take on cranberry sauce that included blueberries, which I thought was just amiss for Thanksgiving. I don't think that blueberries belong in your cranberry sauce.

PATTON: It tasted just like jam.

CORNISH: That's Clay Dunn and Zach Patton, the guys behind the food blog The Bitten Word. Thanks so much for coming in.

DUNN: Thank you.

PATTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.