Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving: The Day or How to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner

So, I had a whole schedule set up and it seemed to give me a whole bunch of time from about 11-3. I was excited, it wasn't going to be a hard day at all. I should have remember that starting late and taking breaks would throw my timeline off, but we only started 1 hour behind schedule, so I think we did pretty well. (One of my big reasons for writing this is so that next year, I can do better - when I try to remember what to do).

My menu is pretty traditional.

Stuffed Mushrooms (new this year as finger foods while waiting for the meal)
Mashed Potatoes
Baby Peas
Brussel Sprouts (H. is bringing those)
Creamed Onions
Cranberry Sherbet
Faux Croissant Rolls
Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie
Vanilla Ice Cream and/or Whipped Cream
The post for this is in the order that I was cooking, not the order that it was served.
I had put my bread crumbs (coated with plenty of sage, pepper and salt) in the oven the night before, but they weren't quite ready - so I turned the oven back on and then fell back asleep (not exactly according to plan) so they were a little darker than planned, but still tasted fine.

Once they were ready, I could make the stuffing and then get the turkey in the oven. The plan for this was 9am - I got it in by 10, so only 1 hour behind schedule right at the start.

This is my mom's recipe. It's easily enough for 15-20 people.

1 loaf of bread crumbs (well flavored with sage, salt and pepper)
3 apples
1 large onion (I actually used a small onion and 2 shallots that I happened to have)
1 box golden raisins
1 cup of pumpkin seeds
2 sticks of butter
  1. Melt the butter in a pan
  2. Toss in the onions, apples, raisins and pumpkin seed. Flavor with sage, salt and pepper (I used both white pepper and black fresh ground)
  3. Cook until the onions are clear
  4. Put the bread crumbs in a paper bag (I use 2 paper bags - double bagged), dump in the fruit mixture and shake it up

Cooking the turkey is the easiest part of Thanksgiving - but it's the part that impresses people the most. I've never had a problem and I've done just about everything wrong that you can do (like forgetting to take it out of the freezer, etc.). I did a 20lb bird for 10 people because I knew that I wanted plenty of leftovers - and really it is a lot of turkey.

1 Turkey
1 - 2 sticks of butter (softened)
Chicken or turkey stock
Pepper (both black and white)

  1. Stuff the turkey (this is optional - I do it because I like the taste and have never had a problem, but I know some people worry about it, so I also serve it separately)
  2. Mix the sage, thyme, pepper and salt in with the butter to taste (it should look pretty grey-ish green)
  3. Use your hands to get in between the turkey and the skin (just on top). Once you've got the space, take half of the butter and push it in between the turkey and the skin.
  4. Take the second half of the butter and spread it on the outside of the turkey

  5. Put the turkey in the pan and put in about an inch of the stock (I used to work water, but why not use stock - I used turkey, but chicken would be just as good)
  6. Put in the oven at 350. Cover the turkey with a sheet of aluminum foil for the first 3-4 hours. Remove it, but then keep an eye to make sure that it doesn't get too dark and put the foil back if it starts to (I put mine back after about 2 hours). Make sure that there's water in pan for the whole time as well (I think that's the magic to keeping the turkey moist).

I got complements on what a good looking turkey it was (butter makes the skin extra crispy), but I forgot to take a picture.

This is a must for Thanksgiving. It's totally simple though. If its good, 2 squash should feed about 15 (so I don't have quite as much leftover as I'd like).

2 butternut squash
1/2 - 1 stick butter
white pepper
maple syrup

  1. Put the butternut squash in the oven at 350 (I did it while the turkey was cooking) for about 1 hour (until a fork goes in easily)
  2. Let it cool til you can touch it. Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and discard. Then scoop out the flesh into a bowl
  3. Add the butter and season to taste (I used about 2-3 T of maple syrup and 1-2 t each of salt and pepper)

I almost stopped seasoning my squash 2 times, but then just kept going. And everyone loved it - they said that it was the best squash ever (and I would say that I have to agree - it was amazing).

Creamed Onions
This is just a standard cream sauce, but if you do it right - it's delicious - especially with the onions. We added this to our family menu for my uncle, but now I love it.

2 packages frozen pearl onions (I made twice what I needed so you could probably half this)
1 stick butter
~4Tbsp flour
~2 cups of milk
white pepper (you may be noticing a theme, but I only use freshly ground black and I thought that it was too much for some of the dishes, so I highly recommend having the white pepper)

  1. Put the butter in the top of a double boiler and melt it
  2. Add flour until you have a smooth paste (not paste like from elementary school, somewhere between ketchup and mayo)
  3. Add milk slowly until you have a nice cream (it's still a bit watery - at least for me, I used skim milk), so then I kept it heating until I got it a little thicker - mostly done.
  4. Add the onions about 5-10 minutes before you remove from the heat (I put it back in the oven with about 30 minutes to go to heat it back up)

Stuffed Mushrooms
This recipe is one my friend K uses all the time. It was my first time making it. I ended up with a lot of extra stuffing - I need to figure this out.

30 oz mushrooms (big enough to stuff)
1 onion
1/2 - 3/4 cup Jarlsberg cheese (grated)
1/2 - 3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 - 1 cup
thyme (fresh if at all possible)

  1. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Dice the stems in a food processor. Put the mushroom heads upside down in a pie plate
  2. Chop the onions and mix with the mushrooms, grated cheese, bread crumbs and thyme.
  3. Stir in the cream
  4. Make loose balls of the stuffing and put them in each of the mushrooms
  5. Bake for 25-35 minutes at 350

These went over very well. And they were the perfect little bites to stave off starvation without filling people up before the big meal.

Mashed Potatoes
I made about 7 lbs and have way more than I need - for 10 people plus good leftovers, probably 5 would have been enough.

7 lbs peeled potatoes
1 package cream cheese
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick butter

These are just boiled then mashed. The key is to make sure that there's enough of the good stuff (cream cheese, butter and heavy cream) as well as that its well seasoned.

This is Step 3 - rolling them out and baking them.

Bread dough
1 beaten egg

  1. Take the previously made dough and divide in thirds
  2. Roll one of the thirds into a flat pancake (it should be about 12 inches in diameter)
  3. Cut into eight pie shapes
  4. Place a bit of egg at the tip of each triangle
  5. Roll the triangles into croissants
  6. Place on a baking sheet (I usually fit 12 on one). Brush the top with the egg and then dust with sugar. Let rise for 1/2 hour.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes (I usually put them in as everything else comes out and they're hot and ready to eat as everyone is actually seated)

Turkey drippings

  1. Remove the turkey from the pan and put it on top of two of your burners (assuming your pan is that big) - (This year I had to cook down my drippings a bit, but usually I just start with what I've got)
  2. Add flour to the drippings to create a paste
  3. Slowly add milk and keep stirring until its mixed in - I usually add 1/2 -1 gallon of milk (I use skim, but that's only because that's what I've got)

Baby Peas
2 packages frozen baby peas

  1. Microwave and serve

It is absolutely not Thanksgiving for me without the peas. I mix the peas in with the potatoes, stuffing, turkey and gravy - I guess it's sort of like a Shepard's Pie or something, but I really need that bright green flavor in the middle of all that heavy Thanksgiving-ness.

I forgot to take a picture of the plate the night of, but here's what the leftover plate today looked like (same as that night except for the brussel sprouts and cauliflower (that L brought).


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