A White House Thanksgiving

This is what President Harry Truman had for Thanksgiving in 1947. (Click to enlarge.) What dishes are going on your table this year?

My favorite holiday is Thankgiving. No dispute.

After all, it’s a holiday that basically crafted entirely around the consumption of turkey. I’m not entirely sure that this is what Lincoln had in mind when he established Thanksgiving in 1863, but hey, it’s not called “Turkey Day” without reason.

But given that some people may want to give thanks without the hassle of cooking a turkey, we’ve selected a few recipes from our Presidential Libraries that would taste delicious with or without the traditional roasted bird. Many of these recipes could be served year-round: at picnics, for Sunday suppers, for potlucks, for anniversaries. After all, giving thanks and sharing meals with loved ones doesn’t come just once a year.

For starters:

George and Laura Bush’s Deviled Eggs

12 large eggs, boiled hard and peeled
1 tablespoon (plus) soft butter
1 tablespoon (plus) mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Yucatan Sunshine Habanero sauce
Salt to taste

Cut eggs in half and set aside. Put egg yolks in food processor and add all ingredients. Process for 20 seconds or until mixture has blended. Check for taste and increase mustard, salt or Habanero sauce if desired.  Place mixture in piping bag with star tip and pipe into egg halves. Sprinkle with paprika and chopped parsley. Chill for about an hour before serving.

Note about Yucatan Sunshine Habanero sauce: Habanero is a type of hot sauce, which can be substituted with Tabasco sauce. Yucatan Sunshine and other brands of the sauce can be purchased at most local supermarkets nationwide. The Bushes used the Yucatan Sunshine Habanero when living in Texas, and their White House chef used the sauce in a variety of recipes.

Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson’s Popovers

1 cup of sifted flour
1 cup of milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of shortening (melted)

Mix and sift flour and salt. Combine eggs, milk and shortening; gradually add to flour mixture, beating about one minute or until batter is smooth. Fill greased sizzling hot pans three-quarters full and bake in very hot oven (about 450°) about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate (about 350°) and continue baking for 15 or 20 minutes.

For the table:

Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Pumpkin Thyme Crust

2 Frenched racks of lamb
1 cup pumpkin purée
2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup bread crumbs from good bread
3 teaspoon olive oil

Remove excess fat from lamb. Salt and pepper the meat and sear on all sides in a saucepan with a little vegetable oil. Place in a 375° oven for about 20 minutes depending on the size of the rack. Cook three-quarters of the way from your desired doneness. Let the rack sit on your counter and rest 20-30 minutes. When slightly chilled, spread pumpkin puree on the back and top of the lamb. Mix bread crumbs with salt, pepper, thyme and olive oil. Roll the rack of lamb in the bread crumbs. Put back in the oven to brown and finish. When done, cut chops and serve.

Herbert and Lou Hoover’s Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes

6 sweet potatoes
2 tablespoon butter
2 cups chopped walnuts

Boil the sweet potatoes, then mash with a potato masher to remove all strings. Add butter. Add nutmeg and salt to taste (try small amounts the first time!) Add cream enough to make a soft consistency. Fold in walnuts. Put into baking dish and bake for 10 minutes. Cover the top with marshmallows and bake until lightly browned on top.

Gerald and Betty Ford’s Celery Stuffing

About 8 servings

1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped
1/3 cup butter
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch white pepper
5 cups diced stale bread
1 cup giblet broth
2 eggs, beaten

Sauté the onions and celery in the butter until tender but not brown. Combine the seasoning and the bread and mix together with the onion and celery mixture. Combine giblet broth and eggs. Add to stuffing. Mix well.

Richard and Pat Nixon’s Corn Soufflé (A Nixon Family Favorite)

3 cubes of melted butter (about 3/4 pound)
1 cup flour (scant)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups half and half cream
3 cans cream of style corn
8 eggs, separated into yolks and whites

Combine all ingredients except corn and eggs, and cook until it thickens. Add 3 cans of cream-style corn. Cool to lukewarm. Add 8 beaten egg yolks and 8 beaten egg whites. Pour into a 3 quart buttered pyrex dish and set in a pan of water to bake. Bake at 350° for about 1 hour or until knife inserted comes out clean. Pour some melted butter over the top. Makes 12 servings.

For dessert:

Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s Pumpkin Pecan Pie

4 slightly beaten eggs
2 cups canned or mashed cooked pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine the ingredients except pecans. Pour into pie shell. Top with pecans. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes, or until set.

Ike and Mamie Eisenhower’s Deep Dish Apple Pie

6 tart apples
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Grated rind of 1 orange
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 pastry recipe (below)

Pare and core apples; cut into eights. Place in deep, greased baking dish. Combine sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg, lemon rind and orange rind. Sprinkle over apples. Dot with butter or margarine. Top with thin sheet of pastry, pricked in a design. Bake in hot oven at 425°. Serves six.


2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
cold water

Sift flour; measure. Mix and sift flour and salt. Cut in shortening with 2 knives or pastry blender until flour shortening particles are about the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cold water over mixture and mix in lightly with a fork. Continue adding water in this fashion until pastry gathers around fork in a soft ball. Divide pastry in half and roll each half separately on lightly floured board to 1/8” thickness. Handle rolling pin very lightly. Makes enough for two crust 9” pie.

Note: Make ½ this recipe for deep dish or one crust pies.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s Peanut Brittle

3 cups granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 cups water
1 cup white corn syrup
3 cups raw peanuts
2 tablespoons soda
1/2 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Boil sugar, water and syrup until spins thread; add peanuts. After adding peanuts, stir continually until syrup turns golden brown. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients; stir until butter melts. Pour quickly on 2 cookie sheets with sides. As mixture begins to harden around edges, pull until thin.

All of these recipes were generously shared by the Presidential Libraries and collected by Publications and Research Assistant Kathleen Lietzau from the Foundation for the National Archives. You can find these recipes — and more! — in our cookbook Eating with Uncle Sam and our exhibit catalog What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?

One thought on “A White House Thanksgiving

  1. President Lincoln’ 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation, which oroginally established the holiday, can be viewed at ARC 299960.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *