October 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu

Set the Foundation----The Turkey

Alton Brown's Turkey Brine

I followed these great instructions for BRINING a Turkey. It came out fabulous- the best turkey I have made or tasted. I didn't put this up for Thanksgiving beforehand because I wanted to try it first. So, in preparation for a holiday dinner, here it is. Amazinging easy. No fuss during cooking time. I couldn't believe how simple it was.
  • 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • Canola oil
Click here to see how it's done.
2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving. 
Adding the accompaniments------  Side Dishes
Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Port

  • 2 cups cranberries
  • Juice and chopped zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup Port
  • 1/2 cup sugar, or more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1teaspoon cornstarch
  1. In a small saucepan combine cranberries, orange juice and zest, port, sugar and cinnamon. 
  1. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmering and cook until cranberries are tender, stirring occasionally. 
  1. In a small cup make a slurry with cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. 
  1. Whisk cornstarch mixture into cranberry sauce and cook, whisking, until sauce thickens. 
  1. Taste and add more sugar, if necessary. 
Chefs note:  I like small amounts of cooked fruit, so I pulse this in a blender or food processor before serving.  

Macaroni & Cheese with Nutmeg and Gruyere
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
  • 1 quart milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp white Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  1. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. 
  1. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
  1. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. 
  1. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. 
  1. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. 
  1. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well.
  1. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
  1. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Dust with Cayenne pepper if desired,
  1. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly.

Mashed Potatoes with Chives
4 pounds golden potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons chopped chives  
  1. Put the potatoes into a large pot, add the bay leaf, 2 tablespoons salt, and cover with cold water. 
  1. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  1. Drain them well and remove the bay leaf. 
  1. Meanwhile, heat the cream and 3 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. 
  1. Mix the potatoes with hand beater or stand mixer to desired consistency. 
  1. Add remaining butter to help with beating. 
  1. Add the hot cream and season with salt and pepper. 
  1. Mix together with a spoon and add the chives.

Chefs note: I spoon the finished potatoes into a casserole dish, spot with more butter and place into a heated oven to keep warm and to finish off with a nice crisp top.

Squash Bisque
 Ingredients for Soup:
  • 3 to 3 1/2 pounds squash-butternut, acorn or a mix; approximately 2, seeded and quartered
  • Unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Place the quartered squash onto a half sheet pan, brush the flesh of the squash with a little butter and season with 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the white pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until the flesh is soft and tender.
3. Scoop the flesh from the skin into a 6-quart pot.
4. Add the broth, honey and ginger.
5. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, approximately 7 to 8 minutes.
6. Using a stick blender, puree the mixture until smooth.
7. Stir in the heavy cream and return to a low simmer. Season with the remaining salt, pepper, and nutmeg. 

Butternut Squash Risotto


  • 1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
  • In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter.
  • Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  • Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes.
  • Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
  • Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan.
  • Mix well and serve.

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