|This turkey's waving at us! Photo credit: Levent Neyse|
Oh, I can smell the rich perfume of a turkey roasting in its juices, wine, and aromatics, the Glühwein simmering away on the stove, the pies taunting me on the windowsill (does anyone else do that to themselves?). You know, the sense of smell is the strongest sense attached to memory, and I can tell you that the fragrance of Thanksgiving brings back some lovely memories from Thanksgiving here at home in Louisville as well as the holiday I bought along with me to Austria and Spain. You can always find loving people to share a glorious meal with, even when you're far away.
I know I'm waxing poetic and you can probably see the stars in my glazed over eyes, but seriously this holiday is a dream for me. People often find it stressful, what with all the relatives and friends coming over, wrapping your head around a double-digit guest list, and preparing the meal of the year for at least a full day, if not two. If you're worried about any of the above (plus any other grievances you might have), my advice to you is to relax and don't freak out! If something doesn't turn out right, chances are you have 15 other choices to make someone happy. If you have a list of dietary restrictions to take care of, don't worry--there are plenty of substitutes to make sure everyone is full. Finally, whether this is your first or 50th Thanksgiving, remind yourself that we are all fortunate to be able to share a great meal together, in peace and good company. So, take it easy! There's no need to stress. Here are some tips to get you through the holiday:
Planning is key! Check out Insider Louisville for Preparation & Decoration suggestions Follow this link:
Louisville Lady Gourmet's Thanksgiving Special Part I: The Game Plan
Collect and organize your recipes into a menu. If you have never tried a recipe before, it would behoove you to put it through the test kitchen before unveiling it on the table.
Here is my menu for this year with some extra suggestions (I'm not really making ALL of this):
Assorted Cheeses and Homemade Crackers
Root Vegetable Terrine
Celery Root and Apple Soup
Main course and sides:
Herbed Buttered Turkey
Sourdough Sage Stuffing
Roasted Potatoes and Apples (AMAZING)
Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon and Maple
Sweet Potato Soufflé
Braised Red Cabbage
Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Assorted Squash (Butternut, Acorn, Pumpkin, etc)
Roasted Cranberry Sauce
Fresh Baked Rolls
So, I clearly won't be able to give you all the recipes (you'll have to wait a few years for the release of my cookbook, hah!). However, the suggestions featured in bold will be written out below, and the linked recipes are already on the blog!
To tackle this day, it is smart to plan which recipes you can make ahead and which recipes you must make day-of. Desserts can all be made the day or night before Thanksgiving, and that frees up your oven. Much of the food can be prepped the day before, like chopping and grouping ingredients together by recipe. If you can set out your mise en place ahead of time, your assembly will be much much easier to handle.
So, for every recipe you can measure out the spices and reserve them in bowls with labels, chop up all the onion you need and put it in a bag in the refrigerator, then measure out what you need from there. Same thing goes for your carrots, celery, etc. Float your chopped carrots and celery in water though, so they don't try out. I've done this before and it makes the Thanksgiving flow much easier to handle, and the kitchen is cleaner throughout the day. Plus, you are more relaxed ahead of time, so you are less likely to miss ingredients in a mad rush.
Herbed Buttered Turkey
Aromatics (rosemary, thyme, sage)
Root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, potatoes)
I have been fortunate enough to never have a dry turkey on my Thanksgiving table, and I give my thanks to this wonderful recipe (and the patience to wait for the turkey to soak up all its glorious juices). I buy my turkey fresh, not frozen, every year. Many people chose to brine their bird to seal in the moisture, but I have neither the patience nor space for that, so I use this herbed butter rub to prepare my bird.
First you need to wash and dry your entire bird inside and out. Reserve the "nasty bits" including the neck for your gravy or for turkey stock.
Mix together about a stick of softened butter and your choice of aromatics. I think an herbes de Provence mix would be nice, and I use a mixture of rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and black pepper. Season to taste.
Then you slather that turkey in the butter. Separate the skin from the breast and liberally distribute the butter under the skin to protect the precious white meat (this is where most people experience dry meat). Coat the rest of the bird, wings, legs, bottom, everything in the herbed butter. If you sprung for fresh sprigs of your herbs, throw them in the cavity of the bird so you can get flavor from the inside out. Also rub some of that butter in the inside cavity. Bonus!
Put the turkey on a roasting rack and distribute the onion, garlic, root vegetables, 1 C wine and 1 C turkey stock in the roasting pan. SO. MUCH. FLAVOR!
Follow Tom's turkey ritual by following the link above. You do lower the temperature after the first 20 minutes or so and make a foil tent, so don't freak out--it's still low and slow. I am cooking a 14 lb bird, so it will probably take 3.5-4 hours. A meat thermometer is indispensable in this case--especially if you want the Norman Rockwell bird and not something that's been hacked into 1000 times.
Roasted Potatoes and Apples
Granny Smith Apples
Fresh black pepper
Preheat your oven to 400º
I probably cooked up 5-6 red potatoes about the size of my fist and one granny smith apple. This ratio worked out because the green apple was able to make a pleasant surprise without overwhelming the red potatoes. Every other bite I would run into a sweet, tart roasted green apple delicately kissed with olive oil and thyme and it was so lovely. The trick here is to cut the potatoes smaller than the apples so that everything cooks about the same--the apple, due to the sugars, will roast quicker and become soft before the potatoes, so give it a chance to compete!
Mix the olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and thyme together and pour it over the chopped potatoes and apples in a roasting pan. Now get your clean hands in there! Your hands are the best mixer ever, no wooden spoon can compete (unless you're turning hot things in the oven), and this way you can make sure that every piece is covered with the olive oil mixture. Your hands are waterproof, so just wash them afterwards--if you do this with salad dressing too, you'll never go back!
Roast away in the oven and turn every 10-15 minutes until they reach your desired golden happiness. Great accompaniment to the Thanksgiving spoils!
Braised Red Cabbage
1 Head red cabbage
4-5 Garlic cloves, crushed
White wine -or- Apple cider vinegar
Garnish: fresh chives
Chop the head of cabbage into two and remove the core. Then you simply slice off thin strips of the cabbage until you've cut it all up. Then crush your garlic cloves and you're ready to go! Easy prep, easy cook.
In a large pot, heat about 2 T of olive oil until it is shimmering and add your cabbage. Toss and turn that cabbage until it is well coated and has a chance for every piece to get some heat. Throw in the garlic and stir with the cabbage until you smell those warmed cloves release their fragrance. By this time you might have a few pieces sticking to the bottom...never fear it is time to add the wine or apple cider vinegar! About a 1/4 cup will do, if you need more then just add more, there really isn't a measurement. Now listen to that hiss...and scrape up the brown bits at the bottom--they add such a wonderful flavor to the entire dish. At this point you can stir well and put a top on it, checking periodically if the liquid has dried up and tossing the cabbage up a bit. The top will help cook everything through, and deal with the quantity of cabbage because a full head can be a big deal.
Braising means slow cooking, so you can cook as long as you want to. Keep tasting the cabbage until it reaches the desired braise, sweetness, and color you are aiming to achieve. Serve with a garnish of fresh chives.
Homemade Green Bean Casserole
I love love love The Splendid Table, and this recipe has changed me forever on Green Bean Casseroles. I am the one who strategically places herself next to the green bean casserole on Thanksgiving in order to sneak bites directly out of the casserole dish. That's love. What Lynne has done with this recipe is add some real surprises like flavoring with bay leaf, clove, and nutmeg...and it seriously changes the dynamic from wonderful to mind-blowing! My only suggestion would be to make a roux and stir it into the cream of mushroom as a thickener. If you follow the link above, she actually gives you another recipe for Cream of Mushroom soup, and perhaps that will come out thicker. Either way, the flavor is so phenomenal that I could sacrifice the gloopy soup for that delightful cream sauce.
As you can see, the ingredients do not include French's French Fried Onions, and you may scoff, but I think I've moved on from that point in my life. These thinly sliced onions crisped up in olive oil add the perfect flavor to this dish. I'm aiming for as much non-processed food as possible, and I found that my beloved Green Bean Casserole was the first to be revamped! Couldn't be happier that I chose to do that!
Your first step is to blanche the green beans in boiling salted water for a little under 5 minutes. They will bloom into a bright green color and swell a little bit. At this point, drain the beans and set aside in a colander.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Wait until the olive oil is shimmering and then add the onions, they will sizzle and start to caramelize after about 3 minutes if you sliced them thin enough. Cook them to your desired shade of golden awesomeness without burning them, strain and remove them from the oil and lay them on paper towels or cheesecloth. Reserve.
Preheat your oven to 375º at this point.
Prepare the cream of mushroom by reheating the olive oil over high heat, and adding the quartered mushrooms. The quartered mushrooms are incredible in the final product--even non-mushroom lovers have commented on how great the taste and mouthfeel are! Brown the mushrooms in the skillet. What will happen is the mushrooms will release their water and start cooking in their juices, when the juices evaporate and redistribute, the mushrooms should be brown enough. Then it is time to add the bay leaf, cloves, salt and pepper, then deglaze with wine, scraping up the bottom of the skillet.
If you are making a roux, do so while the wine is reducing. Heat a skillet with a bit of olive oil over high heat and add 2T of flour, then cook until your desired color, which will be pretty light for this dish. Add the roux at the end as a thickener.
Allow the wine to reduce almost completely and then pour in the half and half. Heat on medium heat now until the half and half thickens. Go fishing for the bay leaf and clove and remove them, then season with salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. You can add your roux now and thicken up the soup. Throw in the green beans and get everything mixed up. Then turn into a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes in the oven. Then put the onions on top and cook another 3-5 minutes until warmed.
4-5 Bottles red wine (quality is negligible)
3/4 C sugar (see why it's negligible?)
Peel of 1-2 Oranges
2 Cinnamon sticks
5 Whole cloves
1 t Ground ginger
Optional: additional spirits like bourbon, rum, cognac, vodka, etc.
I fell in love with Glühwein when I lived in Austria. This drink is typically served at the Weihnachtsmarkts or Christmas Markets--and yes, they are as magical as they sound. Because I associate this warm drink with a happy holiday, lifelong friends, and soaking up the culture of the "Old World", it has become a staple to my holiday season. So here is the recipe I brought back with me, along with many happy memories.
In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients together and heat until the sugar has dissolved. This is the perfect time to serve the Glühwein, but you can keep it heated over low heat or even in a crock pot--open for self service. If you are adding additional spirits to give this mulled wine a little kick, stir it in while the Glühwein is heating. Serve in festive mugs and I can guarantee merry-making will ensue.
|Turkey napkin: folded at my home workstation :)|
And that, dear friends, is my guide to a Happy Thanksgiving! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send me a comment. Also, check out my planning and decorating suggestions:
The happiest of holidays to you and your gathering of friends and family. It's sure to be delicious!