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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Simple Thanksgiving Day Dinner

Simple Thanksgiving Day Dinner

Follow my simple rules and Thanksgiving won’t be the stressful mess it always seems to be. First of all, the actual dishes prepared for Turkey Day are about the simplest we make throughout the year. The key is to focus on a few that you as the host want to make and have others bring the remaining dishes. This has to be done with a little forethought, though. When guests ask what they can bring, tell them what to bring. “Could you bring a pumpkin pie?” Or, “Since you make that yummy cole slaw, could you bring that for the dinner?” And don’t accept no for an answer. I recommend you have guests bring cold dishes or those that don’t need to be refridgerated. Avoid having guests bring dishes that have to be re-heated. The oven is already occupied! By the turkey, no less. You as the host should prepare the following dishes:

Roasted Garlic Turkey, Gravy and Cornbread Stuffing adapted from Jacques Pepin

Cranberry relish/chutney adapted from the recipe of the back of the Ocean Spray brand cranberry package

Mashed regular or sweet potatoes

These recipes are simple and allow you to impress your guests and have fun at your own party, too!

Roasted Garlic Turkey


1 12 pound turkey (brined if possible. See my video on brining chicken)
2 cups chicken stock
1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 teaspoon salt (if you don’t brine turkey)
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 onions peeled and very coarsely chopped
4 carrots peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 teaspoon starch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon soy sauce

If you don’t brine turkey, rinse bird thoroughly under cool water and pat it dry with towels. Place turkey breast side up in roasting pan (on a v-rack if you have one) and roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until nicely browned.

Remove pan from oven and flip turkey onto breast using silicon oven mitts or folded up kitchen towels, Strew vegetables around turkey and place both halves of garlic head inside turkey cavity. Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees and roast for 1 hour.

Add chicken stock to roasting pan and bake turkey for another 30 minutes. Turn off oven and let turkey rest for 30 minutes to an hour. This is when you would put in your cornbread stuffing.

Shortly before serving dinner, remove turkey from oven, place on serving platter and return to oven. Remove veggies with slotted spoon and place in bowl of food processor. Strain pan juices through a paper towel – lined funnel into a wide-mouthed mason jar or pyrex measuring cup. Let rest for 5 – 10 minutes and than ladle off as much fat that has floated to the top as possible.

Pour skimmed juices into processor and process with veggies until smooth. Transfer to small sauce pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Add starch/water mixture, stirring until thoroughly incorporated. Simmer for 1 more minute, cover and remove from heat.

You are now ready to serve your turkey!

Cornbread Stuffing

I prefer to make my own cornbread, but whichever bakery-bought cornbread you like will do. Try to avoid cornbreads that are too sweet or too greasy.

I like this recipe because it incorporates one of my ‘leftover makeover’ techniques. You can use fancy ham for this stuffing, but I prefer just to open up a pack of lunchmeat ham I have for my young daughter and slice that into ribbons for this dish.

4 T unsalted butter
1 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped. Use two if you don’t have scallions on hand.
2 ribs of celery, diced
5 scallions, washed and minced
12 oz of cornbread
1 cup frozen, canned or fresh corn kernels
2 t herbes de Provence
½ t freshly ground black pepper
3 oz ham, cut into ½ inch pieces
¼ cup chicken stock

Melt butter in skillet

When hot, add onions, celery and scallions and sauté over medium high heat for about 3 minutes.

Transfer veggies to bowl and add crumbled cornbread, corn kernels, herbes de Provence, pepper, ham and the chicken stock. Toss lightly to avoid further crumbling of cornbread and place in 6 – cup loaf pan.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes or longer until browned on top and hot inside. Remove from oven and set aside until ready to re-heat in oven with turkey.

If making a day or more in advance, refrigerate until Thanksgiving Day and remove from fridge in the morning. Place in oven with turkey after oven has been turned off. (See turkey recipe above.)

Cranberry Relish

1 large orange, washed
1 bag of fresh cranberries, washed in cold water
¾ cup to 1 cup sugar

Quarter orange, skin and all, and then chop quarters into 4 or 5 pieces each.

Add to bowl of food processor with bag of cranberries and sugar. Process until desired consistency is reached. Can be made 5 days in advance.

Mashed Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes

1 5 lb bag of yellow potatoes or sweet potatoes
1 T salt
½ cup heavy cream (add more if you really like it decadent)
½ stick unsalted butter (ditto)
1 t black pepper

Peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch chunks, approximately.

Add to large pot with salt and cover with cold water.

Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Temper cream with a couple tablespoons of the boiling water to avoid curdling cream. To do this, simply stir the hot water into the cream. A little hot water hitting a lot of cold cream is a lot better than a little cream hitting a lot of boiling hot potatoes!

When potatoes are fork tender, remove from water with slotted spoon and place in metal bowl or double boiler. Add butter, cream and black pepper. With a heavy duty whisk or potato masher or, if necessary, a sturdy fork mix ingredients until smooth.

Place metal bowl or dbl boiler over another pot with simmering water 1 hour prior to serving potatoes. If you need to transfer the potatoes to another bowl for serving, make sure you heat up serving bowl by filling with boiling water and letting sit for 3 minutes.

If you are using sweet potatoes, sprinkle mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and a few pat of butter just before serving.

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