Friday, December 11, 2009

thanksgiving dinner {aka: recipe overload}

This Thanksgiving was spent with just our little family, and I was really excited to cook up a feast. I wanted to cook a turkey and all of the fixings, preferably doing many parts from scratch, and I did! {Or rather, WE did... as Derek did as much of the work as I did. He's quite handy in the kitchen, among other rooms... wink!} Here's what we made {I use the term loosely, seeing how some parts- the cranberry sauce, for example- were mostly just served}: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams, "squeaky" beans, rolls, cranberry sauce and olives. It took us the better part of Thanksgiving morning, but mmm- was it worth it!

RECIPE: Thanksgiving Turkey
{Note: This turkey recipe was actually a result of our "winging it" (pun not intended but haha- winging it). We had a few ideas originally and then added a few ingredients to make the turkey pair better with the stuffing, etc. It turned out being pretty scrumptious.}
1 10-ish lb. turkey
poultry seasoning
fresh herbs {labeled poultry something-or-other,
including rosemary, sage and tyme}, diced
1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and diced
1 medium onion, diced
ground pepper
sea salt
oven bag {non-edible!}
Defrost turkey if frozen {this takes a good day or two, so think ahead}. Remove innards {giblets?}. Place in oven bag, but keep open- for seasoning. Rub liberally with poultry seasoning, ground pepper and sea salt {to taste}. Sprinkle/pack fresh herbs all over bird. Toss apples and onions in there... on top, wedged into crevices, whatever. Sprinkle a teensy bit of cinnamon on top, and close the bag.
Follow cooking instructions, but I'd recommend cooking the turkey at 300F for 3ish hours (definitely follow the internal temperature on this one, though, not the time itself... no one likes a raw, nasty turkey!). We did ours at 350F for 2 1/2 hours, I think, and it was wonderful and moist... but sort of tough. Strange. We figure more hours at a lower temp would be better. I guess we'll see next year (we don't eat a lot of whole turkeys around here besides).

RECIPE: Sage, Sausage and Apple Stuffing
{Note: This recipe is originally from (Food Network Kitchens). I just cut theoriginal recipe in half (which was plenty and then some for our family of 2 3/4), not quite halving some things, and did my best to follow their instructions. Also, we bought a loaf of French bread, cubed it up into 3/4 in. pieces, then set it out overnight to dry/stale. We probably ended up using 3/4 of the loaf in the end, so more like 12 oz. or so of bread total- more than they recommended. Whatever it was, it was yum.}
12-ish oz. stale bread cubes
4 Tbs. butter, plus more for greasing pan
3/4 lb. sage sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. chicken broth
1-2 tsp. (ish) dried parsley
1/4 c. walnut pieces, chopped {called for "toasted"- totally forgot that part!}
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 325F. {We still had it on 350F from the turkey, adding this to the oven during the turkey's last little while of cook time.}
Melt 2 Tbs. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until it loses it's pink color, but barely- not so much that it's dry. Add the sausage and pan drippings to the stuffing cubes. Melt the remaining butter in the pan. Add the onion, apple, celery and salt. Cook until the vegetables get soft, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and parsley and bring to a boil.
Pour the vegetable mixture over the stuffing cubes and toss until evenly moistened. Mix in the walnuts and eggs. Loosely pack the stuffing in the prepared pan and cook uncovered until the top forms a crust, about 40 minutes. Drizzle about 2 Tbs. of turkey pan drippings or melted butter over the top. Cook until the top is crisp and golden, about 20 minutes more {we broiled it at the end, I think}. Serve immediately or warm.

RECIPE: Mashed Potatoes
evaporated milk
salt/pepper, to taste
Peel and cube potatoes {the smaller the cubes, the quicker they'll cook}. Put in a pot and cover with cool/luke-warm water. Bring to a boil {this takes a while}, then continue to cook until potatoes are soft. Drain water. Mash the potatoes {you can whip them a little if you want more fluffiness}. Add butter, evaporated milk, and salt/pepper to taste- and/or until the potatoes are the desired consistency. Serve warm with turkey gravy.

RECIPE: Turkey Gravy
3 Tbs. butter
3-4 Tbs. flour
turkey pan drippings, strained
salt/pepper, to taste
Melt butter in skillet over high or medium-high heat. Add flour and quickly whisk. Let the floury taste cook out by letting the mixture bubble for a minute {just don't let it burn}. A little at a time, add the turkey pan drippings, whisking continuously to avoid lumps. Continue whisking and bring to a boil. Add salt/pepper to taste. Whisk and boil and whisk and boil until the gravy is to your desired thickness {it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, imo}. Serve hot.

RECIPE: Candied Yams
2 large yams, peeled and sliced
brown sugar
Rub butter all over the yam slices and place on a baking stone {Pampered Chef is a bazillion times better than other brands, I promise you}. Sprinkle liberally with brown sugar. Bake for 30ish minutes at 350-400F or until yams are soft on the inside {think: potatoes} and slightly crispy on the outside. Remove from stone (put in bowl/on plate/whatever) and sprinkle with a few mini-marshmallows. As the yams rest, the marshmallows will melt a bit, spreading their yummy sweetness. Serve warm.

RECIPE: Roasted "Squeaky" Beans
1 pkg. frozen "squeaky" beans
olive oil (EVOO)
Preheat oven to 350-400F. Dump frozen "squeaky" beans {green/yellow string beans? I'm not actually sure of their technical name} onto a stone, preferably one with raised edges. Lightly drizzle with olive oil {by lightly drizzle, I mean don't dump}. Season with salt/pepper to taste and bake/roast in oven for 30ish minutes. Yummy.

I'm gonna be honest with you. We did nothing whatsoever to invent these rolls. We bought frozen Rhodes rolls {they come as little frozen dough balls}, sprayed Pam {probably the GV equivalent, again- to be honest... and I prefer the canola oil version} into muffin tins, placed one dough ball into each lil' hole, sprayed with Pam again, covered with plastic wrap and let rest for several hours- to rise. Once they were big and beautiful, we baked them according to package directions (10ish minutes?). I think Derek melted butter over the tops when they were done, but I'm not actually sure. They're really easy and better than anything I could make.
Another great idea for Thanksgiving dinner rolls: Golden Corral. I love their rolls. They're big and beautiful and fantastic! If you're not the kneading type, do things my way. You won't regret it. :)

RECIPE: Cranberry Sauce
Again, I did nothing. I like the jellied, canned variety the very best. I think we splurged and went with Ocean Spray brand, but really- I'm pretty sure the cheap stuff is equally good. We just didn't want to risk it, ya know? Anyway, I tossed the can in the fridge the night before so the yummy "sauce" {we all know it's not a sauce, right?} would be cold... then 2 seconds before serving time, I opened the can, plopped the stuff out, sliced it {for prettiness-sake} and DONE. Derek doesn't like the stuff, but I love it... and James seemed to, too. Tart and squishy and pure bliss...

RECIPE: Olives
Same as with the cranberry sauce. Just buy a can, refrigerate, open can, drain and serve. Though some important advice: Large pitted black olives like this absolutely must be eaten off the fingers. Finger puppets a la olive are really the only way to dine. Do it. The Pilgrims will thank you.
And that's it. Happy Thanksgiving to all! {Don't forget your post-dinner naps; you'll need 'em!}