In the imaginary world to which I often find myself retreating, traditional holiday meals are replaced with a series of small-plate dishes, all based around one thematic ingredient. Turkey, for instance. In its traditional Thanksgiving/Christmas permutation, it can be good, but is rarely exciting or adventurous in any way. (To me, at least. I'm well aware of the vast turkey-n-giblets army that exists out there in meatspace, and they are no doubt currently mobilizing to exact an ugly revenge upon me for disrespecting their traditions.)
Call it blasphemy, but I think (and have repeatedly called for) traditional Thanksgiving food to submit itself to a radical re-thinking. For my part, I think the turkey should be cooked a day or two prior to the big familial gathering, to enable the serving of multiple turkey-themed appetizers with something of an international flare. And if my wife and I ever gather enough cache with our normaloid relatives to host the big holiday at our place, I'd like the lead-off dish to be Sichuan-Style Hot and Numbing Sliced Turkey.
"Numbing" being the key term here, friends. This dish is H-O-T, but the heat is balanced wonderfully by the sweetness of the vinegar and cilantro-based dressing. Furthermore, we switched out the Chinkiang vinegar for the plain old rice wine variety, and also substituted almond slivers for crushed peanuts (simply to avoid a market run on a brick-ass cold day.) No matter: the results were far beyond delicious even with said tinkering. Foolishly, I only made enough for one serving, but we've still got a pile of leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer and a ramekin full of homemade chili oil. So guess who's coming to dinner? (Again.)
[Photo: Serious Eats]