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Friday, November 18, 2011

Fall Comfort Foods Final Edition: Thanksgiving Feast

Have you ever experienced flames on Thanksgiving???  I have.  Picture it: Kure Beach, 2006.  My mother and I rented a beach house for the week.  We brought everything necessary for our mini-vacation to the beach house, including the pots and pans and food for the Thanksgiving feast.

As you will see, this feast takes days to prepare.  My mother and I had slaved away preparing the gravy base and our favorite Thanksgiving dessert, Biltmore bread pudding with caramel sauce.  The turkey was in the oven, and the cornbread dressing was prepped – ready to be cooked for dinner.

My mom had assembled the cornbread dressing in one of my cute little red ceramic casseroles.  She placed said casserole on one of the burners of the stove in order to give herself more counter room to prepare the rest of the Thanksgiving dinner.  Both of us then went on the deck to take in some sunshine.  As we’re watching the waves, trying to spot some dolphins, we hear the beach house fire alarm.  I run back into the house and see my little red casserole, broken on the range, cornbread dressing in flames on the burner. 

My mother is used to gas ranges.  She rarely has the occasion to cook on electric.  With a gas burner, you can clearly see when the burner is on because you see flames under your pot.  It isn’t so easy with an electric range.  Most of the time you can tell when a burner is hot because the coil is bright red, but for some reason my mother failed to notice that the burner was never turned the whole way off.   My poor little red casserole was ceramic, and never intended for direct heat.  It cracked under the heat applied to its bottom, spilling delicious dressing onto the hot burner.  The flames were about a foot high.

I saved the day by quickly transferring the dish and stuffing to the sink, stopping the flames and any further damage to the beach house.  My mom cried.  I tried not to laugh.  I mean, you have to laugh about these things.  That is the year we had StoveTop stuffing for Thanksgiving. 

My mom traditionally comes to me on Thanksgiving, rather than me coming to the big OC to spend it with the rest of the family.  We have collected what we believe to be the best recipes for the holiday; some of them our own, and some of them from the experts.  On our menu you will find:

Tom Colicchio’s Herb Butter Turkey and Gravy
Bobbly Flay’s Cornbread Chorizo Dressing
Grandma Nancy’s Candied Sweet Potatoes
Grandma Nancy’s Cranberry Relish
Katie’s Wonderful Whipped Potatoes
Grandma Nancy’s Pumpkin Pie
Biltmore’s Bread Pudding

In order to avoid StoveTop Stuffing on Thanksgiving, make sure you plan your cooking in advance.  Do your shopping in advance, leaving you precious days to locate the crap you forgot.  In order to make you less crazy, and to leave the oven for roasting the turkey and finishing the dressing on Thanksgiving Day, most of these recipes should be done ahead of time.  If you follow these guidelines you should have a painless Thanksgiving dinner!  As long as the dog doesn’t tackle the turkey and consume it, to your horror, on the dining room floor (also another true story that happened to my grandparents).

Three Days Ahead:

            -Clean out your fridge.  You’re going to need all the extra room you can get!

-Do Grocery Shopping.  (See shopping list at bottom of post)

-Make Pumpkin Pie & Biltmore Bread Pudding.

            Grandma Nancy’s Pumpkin Pie
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 ¾ cup pumpkin
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
1 2/3 cup canned milk

Combine ingredients.  Pour into uncooked pie crust.  Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350° and cook an additional 45 minutes.  Store in the refrigerator. 

            Biltmore Bread Pudding
            FOR THE PUDDING:
8 cups cubed day old bread
9 eggs
2 1/4 cup milk
1 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 TBL lemon juice
2 TBL butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Place bread cubes in a greased 13x9x2 pan. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour evenly over bread.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the sugar, water and lemon juice to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook until sugar is dissolved and mixture turns a golden amber color. Stir in butter until melted. Add cream. Remove from heat. Serve with bread pudding.

Two Days Ahead:

-Make Cornbread.  Allow to dry out.

            1 ¼ cups yellow cornmeal
¾ cup AP flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Brush 8-inch pan with butter or oil and place in the oven for 10 minutes. 

Stir together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Don’t overmix. Scrape batter into the hot pan and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and baked through. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let sit out overnight if using for stuffing/dressing. 

-Make Gravy Base.

            Gravy Base
            2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
            2 pounds turkey necks and/or wings
            2 cups diced onions
            1 cup diced peeled carrots
            1 cup diced celery
            6 cups (or more) low sodium chicken broth

Melt butter in heavy large deep skillet over high heat.  Add turkey necks and/or wings and sauté
until deep brown, about 15 minutes.  Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until vegetables are deep brown, about 15 minutes.  Add 6 cups chicken broth and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour gravy base through strainer set over 4-cup measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract
liquid.  If necessary, add enough chicken broth to gravy base to measure 4 cups.  Cool slightly.  Refrigerate uncovered until cooled, then cover and keep chilled.  Rewarm before using.

            -Make Sweet Potatoes.  (These actually benefit from a few days in the fridge)
                        Grandma Nancy’s Candied Sweet Potatoes
4-6 yams
1 cup – 1 ½ cup brown sugar
½ cup orange juice
1 stick butter
½ teaspoon salt

Wash and cut off woody portion.  Do not pare.  Boil till tender.  Then remove skins.  Cut into wedges.

Mix remaining ingredients together in cast-iron skillet.  Bring to a boil, then pour over tender yams in oven proof baking dish.  Bake 30 minutes at 350°.   Rewarm before serving (can be microwaved).

One Day Ahead:

            -Make Cranberry Relish

                        Grandma Nancy’s Cranberry Relish
                        1 package cranberries, ground
2 oranges, seeds removed and ground
2 cups sugar

Add sugar to ground cranberries and oranges.  Store in refrigerator several hours before serving.  Serves 6-8. 

            -Make Dressing.

Cornbread Dressing
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ pound diced chorizo or Italian hot sausage, casings removed
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
1 large stalk celery, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
Cornbread, broken into small pieces
2-4 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
2. Heat butter in large pan over medium high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook until soft. Add the cornbread and 2 cups of the stock and stir to combine. The mixture should be quite wet, if it appears too dry, begin adding the remaining stock, a half cup at a time. Stir in the sage, thyme and cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
3. Scrape into a large buttered baking pan or large cast iron pan and refrigerate until time to bake.

            -Ensure Turkey is thawed, if using a frozen bird.

Thanksgiving Day:

            -Prepare Turkey

Tom Colicchio’s Herb Butter Turkey
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, divided
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme plus 15 fresh thyme sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon plus 5 large fresh tarragon sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary plus 5 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage plus 4 fresh sage sprigs
1 fourteen to sixteen pound turkey
4 cups chicken broth
¼ cup all-purpose flour

Mix ½ cup butter and all minced herbs in small bowl; season herb butter with salt and pepper.  Transfer 2 generous tablespoons to another small bowl and reserve for gravy; let stand at room temperature.

Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 425°F.  Rinse turkey inside and out and pat dry.  Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin.  Rub 4 tablespoons herb butter over breast meat under skin.  Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan.  Sprinkle main cavity generously with salt and pepper.  Place 4 tablespoons plain butter and all fresh herb sprigs in main cavity.  Tuck wing tips under.  Tie legs together loosely.  Rub remaining herb butter over outside of turkey.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Place turkey in oven and roast 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.  Roast turkey 30 minutes; pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon plain butter to roasting pan.  Roast turkey 30 minutes; baste with pan juices, then pour 1 cup broth over and add 1 tablespoon butter to pan.  Cover turkey loosely with foil.  Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting with pan juices and adding 1 cup broth and 1 tablespoon butter to pan every 45 minutes, about 1 hour 45 minutes longer.  Transfer turkey to platter, let stand 30 minutes (internal temperature will rise 5-10 degrees). 

Stir pan juices into bowl; whisk in gravy base.  Melt reserved 2 tablespoons herb butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat; add flour and whisk constantly until roux is golden brown, about 6 minutes.  Gradually add pan juice-gravy base mixture; increase heat and whisk constantly until gravy thickens, boils, and is smooth.  Reduce heat to medium; boil gently until gravy is reduced to 4 ½ cups, whisking often, about 10 minutes.  Season gravy with salt and pepper.

            -Prepare whipped potatoes.

Katie’s Wonderful Whipped Potatoes
4 large russet potatoes, washed and peeled
½ stick of butter
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons Duke’s or Hellman’s Mayonnaise
Salt & White Pepper, to taste

Boil potatoes until soft, about 20 minutes.  Drain potatoes, add butter and whip with an electric mixer until smooth.  Slowly add heavy whipping cream until the potatoes reach desired creaminess.  Add mayonnaise, salt and pepper; whip until incorporated.  NOTE:  Taste along the way to make sure your potatoes are seasoned to your liking.

            -Cook Dressing (recipe above) Bake in the oven until firm and the top is golden brown, 20-30 minutes. 

            -Heat sweet potatoes.  I microwave them, but if you have room in the oven you can heat them up there, for about 20 minutes.  Watch so that they don’t get too brown.

            -Cook corn.  We always used the frozen stuff for the holidays.  Add a teaspoon or so of sugar to make them especially delicious.
            -Serve Cranberry Relish

            -Heat bread pudding & sauce.  Again, not too good for the microwave!  Heat up the pudding in individual bowls.  Serve the sauce on the side.

            Serve!  Enjoy!!!

Shopping List:

1 lemon
2-4 onions
1 lb. carrots
1 bunch celery
4-6 yams
1 package cranberries
2 oranges
Fresh rosemary
Fresh tarragon
Fresh thyme
Fresh sage
4 large russet potatoes

8 cups cubed day old bread

2 pounds turkey necks and/or wings
½ pound fresh chorizo or Italian hot sausage
1 fourteen to sixteen pound turkey

13 eggs
3.5 cups heavy whipping cream
2 lbs. Butter

Spices and Baking
Vanilla extract
Black pepper
White Pepper
1 2/3 cup canned milk
1 ¼ cups yellow cornmeal
All-purpose flour
Baking powder
Brown sugar

1 ¾ cup pumpkin
14 cups (or more) chicken broth
2 tablespoons Duke’s or Hellman’s Mayonnaise

Orange juice

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