Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving for Two


The measure of my success on Thanksgiving Day is how many times I have to call my mom (if she’s not physically with me). This year was one of the maybe two or three times I’ve cooked Thanksgiving away from home and away from that maternal safety net, where fears of undercooked birds and dried-out dressings are calmed.

This year, I only called her three or four times. Which is a success! That is between my first-ever attempt at making Parker House Rolls (recipe to come), gravy issues and an organic turkey that came out of its 8-hour brine a strange purple-blueish color:

Have you ever noticed color differences with organic turkeys?

I switched from Whole Foods to Costco this year and probably saved $5-$10 on an 11-pound organic bird. My Costco didn’t let me down! Mom helped me figure out that the strange not-yellow/white/pink bird was probably closer to what a real turkey should look like before it’s pumped full of hormones and processed. I would highly recommend Costco as I’ll be getting my birds there indefinitely!

I took a chance on a new turkey recipe this year, since it was just Grant and me and we didn’t have kids/other people to impress. Bon Appetit had an article about neo-traditionalist turkeys, basted with a soy/mirin butter sauce. The cover photo was so beautiful that I just had to try it and thank goodness I did – this may be my go-to turkey recipe from now on.

The turkey comes out such a deep golden amber – almost mahogany – and the well-seasoned meat and drippings make for some excellent gravy!

A few turkey rules that I always follow, before we get to the recipe:

  1. Smaller is better – once you get above 16 lbs they are impossible to cook evenly (according to many reputable sources, including my taste buds).
  2. Brine – I just did 2 c. salt dissolved into 2 gallons of water – brined for 8 hours (Cook’s Illustrated warns not to do it more than 4 hours due to over-salting).
  3. Dry overnight – Once out of the brine, I pat the turkey dry, put it in its roasting pan and into the fridge overnight – this dries out the skin so it roasts nice and crispy.

Adapted from Bon Appetit…I probably should have made and blogged about this weeks ago, like all the professional bloggers. But I am a humble at-home cook with no time or patience for doing Thanksgiving early or – gulp – twice!

The Neo-Traditionalist Roast Turkey

Ingredients:

  • 1 10-14-pound turkey, giblets and neck removed, brined and fridge-dried overnight, then left at room temp for 1 hour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce (I used regular – oops!)
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 3 sprigs rosemary

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 450°. Set a rack inside a large roasting pan. Pour 4 cups water into pan (note: I used chicken broth!). Tuck tips of wings under bird. If turkey is not brined, rub bird inside and out with 3 T kosher salt. Season inside and out with pepper and place on rack in pan. Place onion and celery in cavity. Rub 3 tablespoons butter over turkey. Roast turkey, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, stir remaining 3 tablespoons butter, soy sauce, and mirin  in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth. Add rosemary. Cover; keep glaze warm over lowest heat (not simmering).
  • Reduce oven to 325°. Baste turkey with pan juices; add more water or stock if needed to maintain at least 1/4-inch liquid in pan (I probably used 6 c. of stock total). Roast for 30 minutes; baste with pan juices. Brush lightly with glaze.
  • Continue roasting turkey, basting with pan juices and brushing with glaze every 30 minutes, and tenting with foil if turning too dark, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165° (juices should run clear when thermometer is removed), about 2 3/4 hours total. (Note: I couldn’t get mine above 155 degrees, after 3 1/2 hours, so I took it out and it was fine. The juices were running clear).

Let stand at room temperature under foil tent at least 30 min, or until ready to carve.

Meanwhile, I heated up/finished all my sides, made a quick gravy and dressed up the turkey for its head shot. I usually just throw whatever herbs I have left over onto the plate. But if I were home, I would have been fancy with some berries or something.

Proof that my eyes are bigger than my stomach…I ate half of this:

Hope you all had safe and successful Turkey Days – I probably have two more days’ worth of leftovers to go – not bad.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

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Thanksgiving in the Mountains

Whew! Thanksgiving was a blur this year. Grant and I took a mini-vacay to Bald Head Island the weekend prior, so the following week was a flurry of prep-cooking, cleaning and getting ready for my family’s arrival.

Finally, it was the day before Thanksgiving and the six of us caravanned up the Blue Ridge Mountains to enjoy the holiday at the cabin.

My menu:

  • Herb-roasted turkey with giblet gravy
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Parker House rolls
  • Cheesy broccoli (with Cougar Gold sharp cheddar cheese)
  • Roasted cauliflower with herbs
  • Italian-style dressing
  • Classic cornbread dressing
  • Carrot ribbons with almonds and browned butter
  • Cranberry compote
  • Pecan pie

I overdid myself with all the side dishes – let’s just say that next year, I will only be making one type of dressing.

We brined the organic turkey overnight, then rubbed it under the skin with an herbed butter compote and stuffed it with aromatics. It roasted beautifully.

A few sides were my roasted cauliflower with Parm-Reg cheese, lemon and herbs (thyme, rosemary, tarragon).

My favorite dressing to make is one of Giada de Laurentiis’ – an Italian-style dressing made with sourdough croutons, apples, cranberries, chestnuts, sausage, white wine and lots of herbs and spices.

I also made my mom’s famous spaghetti-squash casserole, which is a squash simply cooked and mixed with bacon, wild mushrooms and swiss cheese (and a dash of nutmeg).

I finally wised up and bought a food mill, which is quite cumbersome but produced my best-ever mashed potatoes, made with two whole roasted heads of garlic, milk and butter.

Hope everybody had a fabulous holiday. I am over my turkey hangover and ready to get some new recipes posted for you. Stay tuned! xoxo

Thanksgiving!

An organic table setting.

Holy cow, this weekend has been a whirlwind of eating, drinking and making merry. I barely have the energy to type right now, so I’ll make this post a quick roundup of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t do a good job with the photos because I was too busy zipping around the kitchen like a maniac. Thank goodness I had help!

Appetizers:

Cheesy dip: this is a famous family recipe that you will seriously hate yourself for loving so much. Even the snootiest of people love this mixture of Velveeta, cheddar cheese, garlic, cumin, fire roasted tomatoes, green chilies and cilantro. All melted together, it is a favorite dip for every party.

Cheesy dip

Turkey puffs: A twist on a Martha Stewart recipe – puff pastry layered with Dijon mustard, Gruyere cheese, Parmesan cheese and then brushed with a paprika butter.

Gobble?

Cut into turkeys and baked until golden.

Next, the veggie plate. I made an easy falafel dip with garbanzo beans, cumin, garlic, parsley, cilantro, red pepper flakes, lemon juice and olive oil. I served it with cut up celery, pepper, carrots and cucumber:

The dinner course isn’t as well photographed. We brined the turkey and rubbed it with butter and herbs, stuffed it with more aromatics and then roasted it for three hours:

Ready for carving!

We had many side dishes: cornbread stuffing, apple-chestnut stuffing, cranberry relish with rosemary and walnuts, parsnip risotto with a balsamic drizzle, green beans with pine nuts and prosciutto, maple-bourbon sweet potatoes, roasted cauliflower with herbs and Parmesan and home-made rolls.

Serving up.

My favorite part was the gravy! Using all the turkey drippings, we made a dark roux and then whisked in chicken stock. That’s it! So rich and delicious – I just finished the last of it off today, over some stuffing.

Dessert:

We had a pumpkin pie from Fresh Market, but the star was undoubtedly Merissa’s bourbon pecan pie, complete with hand-cut leaves on the crust.

We also made a dutch apple pie with a strusel topping, because who can have enough pies?

I hope everybody had a happy and filling Thanksgiving. I am thankful for the friends and family around me (near and far), my job, my health and my cat.

Cheers! xoxo

A Pretentious Thanksgiving

Ever since I knew that friends of ours have hosted a Pretentious Thanksgiving at their D.C.-area home for the past five years, I’ve wanted to be invited.

This year was the best to join: it was the best-of Pretentious Thanksgiving, meaning that guests voted on their favorite dishes from the past five years, all of which would be featured at the dinner.

So, a little context: A couple that Jesse will soon be related to began this tradition based on their love of hosting parties and the idea that making it pretentious would be funny. People could dress all uppity and the food would be ridiculously full of itself. A wine pairing would be included in each course, with a tobacco course between before the dessert course.

Over the years, the party has grown from eight people to 24 people, making it quite the pretentious social event. People drive from all over the East Coast to attend, partying like a bunch of Gatsby guests lingering well into the night.

I am basically in love with this party idea. I enjoy themed parties and I love wearing pearls and argyle even more! The weekend was so breathtakingly awesome that I’ll tell the rest of the story with pictures, from our shopping trips to food preparation to the meal itself.

We started at the farmers' market, full of beautiful fall bounty

All these colorful radishes! Whoever heard of black radishes?

Brussel's Sprouts

We came for haricots verts and got caught up by the wild mushrooms.

When we got home from the market, Merissa and I began making the mantle decoration, for which she had bought some small squashes. She hollowed them out and inserted a scented votive candle. Then, we foraged for pretty leaves, acorns and pine cones around the garden. I even clipped some beautiful Japanese maple branches to add to the decor.

I am obsessed with these!

Martha Stewart, feel free to call us anytime

All decorations aside, the night was about the food. Here is the menu:

First course: Sweet-potato ravioli with browned-butter sage sauce, toasted pine nuts and fried shallots.

Ravioli is stuffed, ready for boiling

It was simply amazing. A-Maze-Ing. Red pepper flakes added a nice pepper kick and those shallots on top...I will be making this again SOON.

Second course: Cranberry salad with spiced pecans, goat cheese and a sweet vinaigrette.

I can love any salad with spiced nuts and goat cheese. And healthy!

Third course: Haricot verts with roasted potatoes, walnuts and Roquefort

They make this dish every year. I guess I hadn't had Roquefort cheese before because this blew my mind. It tasted rich, savory and somehow smoky. Drool.

Fourth course: stuffing…

Wild mushroom stuffing, which was the most expensive dish of the night.

Oyster stuffing: I always dreamed that oyster stuffing would contain that much butter...and be that delicious. Heaven.

And turkey two ways: smoked…

The boys fussed over this all night.

And roasted with herbs:

A beautiful scene

(Tobacco course)

Dessert course: Pumpkin profiteroles with rum-caramel sauce

Paired with a sweet sherry.

And let’s not forget a whole lotta wine:

I’ll be hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner in a couple weeks, and while it may not be pretentious, it hopefully will be as delicious as this special meal. I just hope I get invited next year!

Cheers, friends. xoxo

Thanksgiving novice

Well, I think I’m still full from our national day of gluttony.
I must say that Thanksgiving dinner was a success, although we probably made more dishes than we could handle.
I included some of our dishes below, but those exclude mom’s carrot ribbons with almond butter, cheesy broccoli and clover-leaf rolls.
I was mostly in charge of the turkey, and I must say that buying an organic or free-range bird is totally worth it. The white meat is darker than traditional turkey breasts, so it’s more juicy and full of flavor. Because I decided to sort of wing the recipe, I was nervous the whole three hours of cooking, but stuffing the herbed butter under the skin was a good idea. What doesn’t taste better with butter?Also, brining is a must.
We had breakfast today at Pilot Butte Drive-In and are looking forward to mom’s turkey soup tonight, followed by more board/card games.
Cheers!
Dining-room table ready for grubbin'

Dining-room table ready for grubbin

Brined, rubbed with herb butter, stuffed with aromatics

Brined, rubbed with herb butter, stuffed with aromatics

My roasted cauliflower with herbs, lemon and parmesan

My roasted cauliflower with herbs, lemon and parmesan

Mom's cranberry sauce with orange

Mom

Smiths sweet potatoes and cornbread/cranberry/apple/sausage stuffing

Smiths sweet potatoes and cornbread/cranberry/apple/sausage stuffing

Garlic mashed potatoes

Garlic mashed potatoes

Gobble gobble, bitches!

Gobble gobble, bitches!

Dad took this picture of his plate.

Dad took this picture of his plate.

Preparing for Thanksgiving

The semi-calm before the storm….

My counter, waiting for chopping and baking.

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My fridge, absolutely packed with ingredients…and my turkey (pre-brined)!

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And my centerpiece: Chinese lanterns.

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