Thanksgiving will be a bit different in our house this year. On Thanksgiving Day my son Mark will be recuperating at Children’s Hospital from kidney surgery. We have so much to be thankful for. We live in a community with some of the countries best doctors and we are blessed to be able to choose them. Mark will be well cared for but will miss the big feast, gathered friends and crazy board games usually associated with Thanksgiving. So this year we made our feast of Thanksgiving early so Mark could enjoy it. He and I made it together and along the way we photographed a few of our favorite parts of the meal. I understand from some of my friends that preparing a turkey is still a mystery or a daunting task. The truth is that it couldn’t be easier. We have one large oven so in order to fit all the dishes that accompany the bird on the table, we cook the turkey out side on our 19 year old Webber grill. It’s been the most reliable purchase of our 20 year marriage and it never fails us. Unless my oldest son leaves the gas on after the last time he used it and the tank is empty when you need it…I’m just sayin’.
Let me back up… One of our favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner is the cranberries. There’s always been a debate over which cranberry sauce is the best. My husband loves, not likes, loves the gelatinous cylinder shaped mass from a can. I prefer good old fashioned homemade cranberry sauce. With only 4 ingredients and 15 minutes of cook time it’s worth giving it a try. Cranberry Sauce 1 bag fresh cranberries 1 cup sugar 1 cup water the zest of one orange one orange sliced thinly about 10 thin slices. Add all ingredients to a sauce pan. On medium heat simmer stirring occasionally. When the mixture starts to bubble and froth stir constantly as it begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Pour into glass jar with air tight lid. Keeps in the refrigerator for weeks.
Now back to the turkey.
Some say fresh taste better but this year, because we are cooking early, and most stores do not have fresh turkeys available yet, we are going with frozen. Over the years I’ve made both and find if you prepare it properly both frozen and fresh produce a delicious turkey. I usually thaw it fro 24-36 hours in the refrigerator in it’s original wrapper. Then I remove the packets of turkey parts from inside the cavity. There are usually two, the neck and the organs. I simmer these with a few cups of water to make stock for my dressing so don’t toss them.
Place the turkey it a large plastic container with a lid. I use a brine to soak the turkey until it is completely thawed. Everyone has their own method and opinions on this subject but after almost 30 years of cooking Thanksgiving dinner I believe this makes the most juicy and tender bird.
For the brine, I add about half a gallon of apple cider two oranges cut up a 1” piece of peeled fresh ginger 1 cup of Kosher salt and enough water to cover the bird. It will float so use a heavy dish to weigh it down. Cover and refrigerate for another 24 hours. Yes, this requires a great deal of refrigerator space. We have an extra one in our garage. If you don’t you can use a cooler packed with ice just as easily.
When you are ready to cook your turkey, remove it from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Some years we stuff it and others we don’t. This year because we wanted to photograph the finished bird we cooked it unstuffed. I make a mixture of dried parsley, dried sage, sea salt and pepper. and rub all the skin of the bird with seasoning. I cut an orange in half and put it inside the cavity with few sprigs of fresh herbs, parsley sage and thyme. Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together. This year I wanted to show you how you can present your bird three different ways from simple to fancy. So I chose to cook the turkey on a bed of chopped root vegetables. You can choose the ones you like. I used onion, tri colored carrots, acorn squash, turnips, parsnips, whole baby portabella mushrooms, purple potatoes and redskin potatoes. Just chop them into large pieces and season with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. I added a but of turmeric and cumin too. Place the bird on top of the vegies and cook at 325 for the allotted time for your birds weight. I use a thermometer and cook until the temp reads 170. I baste the bird with turkey stock and apple cider about every half hour. About, 2/3 of the way through the cooking time I remove as many of the nicely cooked browned vegetables as possible. If left there the entire time they will over cook and burn. Once your turkey is finished remove it from the heat and let it rest at least ten minutes before cutting. Use this time to prepare your platter for it’s presentation. Simple and rustic on a cutting board. Served on the root vegetables in a vintage pan. A platter decorated with decorative leaves from the florist and fresh fruits. Any way you present it, it’s going to taste great! Inspired by Bon Appetite’s Thanksgiving issue Mark and his Dad styled this plate for the table just to see if they could do it like the cover shot. Not bad. I grew up with green bean casserole, my sister Catherine’s favorite and a staple on thanksgiving tables across the country. We tend to like Brussels sprouts better so the green beans get ditched at our house. But…we love mushrooms, most often found in the green bean casserole in the form of soup, so I have added mushrooms to our holiday tables for years. This dish comes from an appetizer served in a restaurant I worked in during college called Palio in Ann Arbor MI. It’s still there and I think this dish is still on the menu. There, it was called crostini alfungi. The Mushrooms were served over small pieces of crostini which soaked up the delicious sauce. It calls for assorted mushrooms which I can always find at Heinen’s. I’m not a fan of reconstituting dried mushrooms so I always seek out fresh. Crostini Alfungi
2 tsp olive oil
one shallot chopped
about two pounds assorted mushrooms shiitake, chantrelle, cremini, portobello, oyster, white button your choice.
add to sauté pan start to reduce mushrooms add 2 Tbs herb butter *recipe below
2 cloves fresh garlic chopped
1/2 cup sherry wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tsp fresh Thyme
1 inch piece of fresh ginger grated
cook to reduce to a slightly thicker consistency.
*Herb Butter Ingredients:
1 cup of white wine
1 Tbs minced garlic
puree garlic and white wine and set it aside
1 Tbs of chopped parsley
1/2 of small red pepper, finely diced
1/2 of a small green pepper, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs chopped oregano
1 Tbs chopped thyme
1 Tsp dried sage
2 & 1/2 pounds of unsalted butter
Directions: Mix all together in your food processor, then slowly add in the pureed mixture of white wine and garlic. When it’s blended to a smooth consistency, put it in small airtight containers or roll into tubes with saran wrap to refrigerate or freeze and use as desired.
The best thing about the herb butter is that, once you’ve made it, you can keep it in your fridge or freeze it and put it in anything, from steaks right off the grill to Sautéed vegetables to pasta.
We normally serve this mushroom dish on crostini but, for Holidays it goes great on the turkey or mashed potatoes. As a leftover, they are fantastic mixed with fresh pasta!
Another american classic, sweet potatoes! Sometimes mixed with butter and cream and topped with toasted marshmallows. OH my goodness just saying it makes my teeth hurt. I like actually tasting the sweet potato and with all those sweet add ins it hard to know what the vegetable actually tastes like. Some years I cut the potatoes into chunks, toss them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them at 400 for about 20 minutes until they’re golden and have dark edges. The natural sugars in the potatoes caramelizes and tastes fantastic. This year I tried to compromise. The result, sweet potato flan. A bit sweet but lightened up just a bit and served in individual serving jars. The cool thing is that this can be a side dish on your holiday table, dessert or even breakfast. This is a recipe I found on one of my favorite sites Food52 It was adapted twice from the original. That’s the beauty of cooking. You can take inspiration from recipes and adapt them to suit your taste.
Sweet Potato Flan serves 6
1 cup mashed sweet potato (I used left over baked sweet potato)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Carmel Pecans or walnuts and Maple Yogurt
1 tsp butter
1/2 cup nuts broken or whole
1 tsp sugar
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1Tbs real Maple syrup
Heat the oven to 325F. In a blender, combing all flan ingredients and purée until smooth. divide the purée into among six custard dishes. Put the custard dishes in a large baking pan and pour hot water into the pan until it reaches 1 inch up the outside of the custard dish. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. (tip, put the pan into place in the oven, then carefully pour the water into the pan. This avoids splashing water into the custard cups when moving) The flan should be set and barely quiver when shaken. Let cool.
While the flan is cooling, melt the butter in a small pan over low heat. Then add nuts, and sprinkle with sugar, stir to coat evenly. Cook stirring frequently, until the sugar coats and caramelizes the nuts. Remove to a plate and sprinkle with salt. Chop if desired. In a small bowl combine the yogurt and maple syrup. Taste and add maple syrup if desired. Serve the flan topped with a spoonful of the yogurt then topped with caramelized nuts. We used the extra baked sweet potatoes to make one of our favorite leftover dishes. My son loves to make fresh pasta so he made a quick batch. We melted 3-4 TBS butter in a sauté pan. When just about melted add 12 fresh sage leaves. Cook on low until the butter browns and the sage leaves start to get crisp at the edges. At the very last minute toss in about 1 Cup cut up chunks of the baked sweet potato. Pour mixture over fresh cooked hot pasta. Add a but of sea salt and enjoy! We hope your Thanksgiving is a happy time, filled with great food, friends and family. Let us know if you have tried and enjoyed any of our favorites. We would love to hear about your favorites. Happy Thanksgiving!