Food, family, friends, and football. What holiday could be more of an American classic? Of course, we’re talking about Thanksgiving here. As most Americans know, we celebrated our first thanksgiving in 1621 when settlers and Native Americans sat down for a delicious feast of celebration and goodwill. Ever since Abraham Lincoln officially set the 4th Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, it has filled our minds (and stomachs) with visions of turkey, potatoes, turnips, and pies. Contrary to popular belief however, turkey played a very minimal role in the first Thanksgiving.
Being that this festival was held in a coastal area, seafood was the star of the show for the most famous meal of the 17th century. Lobster, mussels, clams, oysters, and eels made up the bulk of the menu. Fresh cod and bass were also served up by dozen. In fact, it was said that Chief Massasoit went to and from the ocean “carrying as many eels as he could handle”.1 In addition to the seafood, wild game birds such as geese, ducks, and swans were served, but it is not known for certain if turkey was included at all. Due to these lesser known facts, it almost seems as though the First Thanksgiving should’ve been called the Fish Thanksgiving. On a sobering note, there wasn’t much sugar or flour available, so this means that the attendees of the First Thanksgiving feast had to go without pie (poor guys).
We may be 391 years separated from that now famous feast, but that doesn’t mean that we need to be bound to the traditional and stereotypical standards of the day when it comes to whipping up our Thanksgiving dinners. While the turkey will always get top billing, there are many regional seafood-based sides around the United States that serve as excellent supporting actors when it’s showtime and the meal is laid out on the table.
Right here in New England, lobster is frequently served alongside the bird by many families on Thanksgiving. If that sounds up your alley, you should stop in for some fresh live lobster at our Old Saybrook seafood market while supplies last, because we’re sure to get several orders for them. In the Gulf Coast region, especially in Louisiana, seafood-heavy jambalaya is a Thanksgiving dinner staple. This is a dish consisting of fish, sausage, rice, and many spices and we’ll touch on that in a little more detail later on. In Alaska, whale meat and seal meat are frequently feasted on during thanksgiving and in Hawaii, salmon spread is a very popular side dish.2
Turkey and lobster together at last – Image courtesy of Slashfood.com
While we have many great Thanksgiving recipes to share, we decided to go with a spicy little number called Gulf Shrimp Jambalaya, courtesy of FoodNetwork.com. If you’re looking to make this with some gulf shrimp in CT, come on over and see us at Atlantic Seafood Market where we provide white gulf shrimp in Old Saybrook daily.
Ingredients: 2 lbs of Medium White Gulf Shrimp, 1lb of Andouille sausages, cut into circles, 1 Spanish onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces 2 green peppers cut into 1/4 pieces, 3 stalks of celery cut into 1/4 pieces, 3 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 dash of crushed red pepper, 1 tsp Cayenne pepper, 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, 2 fresh bay leaves, 1 fresh bundle of thyme, 5 chopped scallions, and 2 cups of long grain rice.3
Directions: 1. Shell the shrimp and put the shells in water to boil for 20 min to create a stock
2. Lubricate a large pot with olive oil and add the sausage pieces and cook for 5 minutes
3. Add in the peppers, celery, and onions and season with salt and the crushed red pepper
4. Cook this mixture for about 8 minutes or until it softens. Then add in the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, and then add in the tomatoes and cayenne pepper
5. Stir in the rice and add 4 cups of the shrimp stock with along with the bay leaves and thyme and cook for 25 minutes.
6. Add in the shrimp and cook for 5-7 more minutes and shrimp is pink. Top with scallions and you’re ready to serve!3
Image Courtesy of FoodNetwork.com
Just remember, if you’re looking to bring a little bit of the sea to your Thanksgiving table and enjoy a more historic meal, Atlantic Seafood Market has you covered with fresh live lobsters, the best clam chowders in ct, Old Saybrook’s best mussels, clams, and oysters, and excellent whitefish choices such as cod and bass.
1.The 1621 Thanksgiving
2. McCulloch, Caitlin
What the Pilgrims Ate at the First Thanksgiving
3. Burrell, Anne
Gulf Shrimp Jambalaya