Eating the Past: Thanksgiving dumplings
Welcome to this special Thanksgiving episode of Eating the
Past. I’m Laura Gelfand, and on today’s show we’ll continue our
exploration of the humble dumpling with Thanksgiving dumplings.
Now these may not be part of every American’s family tradition, but I
think maybe they should be.
Thanksgiving is a complicated holiday, culturally and historically,
but the focus of eating the past is food, and today I’ll be talking
about what to do with the leftovers that are filling your fridge,
inducing guilt and maybe even some regret.
Dedicated listeners will recall that dumplings—no matter what
kind—are primarily a way to stretch expensive or special
ingredients by encasing and cooking them in an inexpensive, edible
Thanksgiving dumplings are no different. If you can’t bear
the thought of another turkey sandwich, then I may have a solution
for you, and the beginning of a new tradition!
Extensive internet research turned up three distinct variations on
the Thanksgiving dumpling. The first is related to the southern
chicken and dumplings that Jamie Sanders spoke about on this show a
few weeks ago.
You simmer wet dough in diluted turkey gravy with
leftover vegetables and turkey mixed into it. The results look like
something an annoyingly picky child might really enjoy.
More interesting are the Thanksgiving dumpling recipes that
resemble gyoza, a dim sum staple.
For these you chop up everything you’ve got: turkey, stuffing, vegetables,
and mix it up with mashed potatoes, squash casserole, gravy, whatever,
to make a uniform filling. then you spoon this into thin wonton wrappers,
seal them, and fry/steam them until they are crisp on the bottom and
The best part is that you then add fresh ginger to your
cranberry sauce, thin it out a bit, and dip your dumplings into the
bright and tangy results. Thanksgiving leftovers you can eat with
A final variation, featured on the Jewish food society website, is for
Thanksgiving kreplach. Kreplach are dumplings that closely
resemble tortellini, and may indeed be venetian in origin. they first
appear in Jewish communities in Germany in the 14th century, and
Ashkenazi Jews typically eat them during the high holidays.
The Jewish Food Society website featured the story of a Holocaust
survivor who immigrated to the US after World War II, and who made
kreplach with Thanksgiving leftovers to merge her past and present.
For her, the act of making kreplach is a commemoration of
her many friends and family who were killed in Germany. But filling
the kreplach with Thanksgiving flavors celebrates America, a land
where she built a new life and raised a happy family.
It's apparent that Thanksgiving dumplings can jam a lot of cultural
baggage--as well as plenty of leftover turkey--into their small,
tasty packages. It may not be too late to innovate with the contents
of those increasingly unappealing containers in your