A reflection on this year’s Thanksgiving dinner starts out in a nearly identical fashion to last year’s Thanksgiving dinner post: we’ve just moved; we want to cook Thanksgiving dinner because we love sourcing and cooking elaborate meals; we view Thanksgiving as a fitting celebration after an exhausting move. What’s better than relaxing around a table filled with food and wine?
Last year, a week and a half before Thanksgiving, we moved across states. This year we merely moved 1.5 miles away. Though I’m enjoying my toned hamstrings, our apartment is a 4th floor walk up, meaning that this move felt just as exhausting as the last one! But climbing thousands of stairs while balancing boxes does guarantee a judgment free zone when you go back for your 3rd plate of food…or that extra slice of pumpkin cake.
Thanksgiving was a smaller family celebration this year, as my parents were out of the country. We were joined by Justin’s mother, who--after counting how many steps it took to get to our apartment (47?)--arrived with a healthy appetite. Good thing, because we cooked a 17 pound turkey and 5 side dishes!
Here’s what we ate…and ate…and ate.
Sweet Potato Puree w/Browned-Butter Maple Syrup
Recipe Source: Martha Stewart
Notes: I used yams instead of sweet potatoes. This dish literally made itself. I roasted the yams before we cooked anything else. I then let scooped the flesh out of the yams and let them sit for the next several hours. When dinner was nearly ready, I topped them with browned butter, maple syrup, and pecans. The yams were so flavorful that they barely needed these additions!
Active Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
4 pounds sweet potatoes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 1/2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick sweet potatoes a few times with a fork. Bake on a foil-lined baking sheet until tender, 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.
2) Scoop out flesh from sweet potatoes, and puree in a food processor with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt until smooth (you may need to do this in 2 batches). Season with pepper.
3 Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add butter; cook, swirling, until deep brown with a nutty aroma. Remove from heat; swirl in syrup. Reheat puree; transfer to a bowl. Pour butter over top; sprinkle with pecans.
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with White Balsamic
Recipe Source: Bon Appetit
Notes: Justin and I picked up these beast-like carrots and fennel from the Dumbo Farmers’ Market. Their flavor seemed to be in direct proportion to their ugliness. The root vegetables absorbed the rosemary and vinegar while cooling down from the oven. Earthy and comforting!
Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
2 1/4 pounds medium parsnips, trimmed, peeled, cut into 3x1/2-inch sticks
1 1/2 pounds medium carrots, trimmed, peeled, cut into 3x1/2-inch sticks
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine parsnips and carrots on large rimmed baking sheet. Add oil and remaining ingredients; toss to coat. Spread in even layer on baking sheet. Roast until vegetables are tender and brown around edges, stirring occasionally, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Recipe Source: Real Simple
Notes: I admire Real Simple’s recipe testers. At this point, I’ve made many different dishes from Real Simple. With rare exception, each is clearly written after being tested and re-tested for optimal flavor. This gratin was one of the biggest hits of the dinner. To make things a bit more colorful, I used one purple cauliflower. The panko crunch on top elevated this dish from basic casserole to memorable casserole.
Active time: 20 minutes
Total minutes: 45 minutes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
2 small heads cauliflower (about 3 pounds total), cored and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
6 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (1 1⁄2 cups)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Heat oven to 375° F. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Fill a large pot with 1 inch of water and fit with a steamer basket; bring the water to a boil. Place the cauliflower in the basket, cover, and steam until very tender, 12 to 15 minutes; drain well.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle with the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Whisk in the cheese, nutmeg, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, whisking, until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and gently fold in the cauliflower; transfer to the baking dish.
4. In a bowl, toss together the bread crumbs, parsley, oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the cauliflower and bake until golden brown and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes.
Spicy Brussels Sprouts
Recipe Source: Food and Wine
Notes: I was giddy when I found this David Chang recipe in last year’s Food & Wine. David Chang is a real genius in the kitchen, so I trusted that this recipe would stand out at the table. I feared that the dish might be too spicy, but ultimately, everything was well balanced. This is the most funky, unique Brussels Sprouts dish I’ve ever had. Who else would pair Rice Krispies, fish sauce, and mint with their sprouts and get away with it?!
Total time: 25 minutes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup Rice Krispies or other puffed rice cereal
1/4 teaspoon togarashi (see Note) or cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 small red chile, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped mint
4 cups roasted or boiled brussels sprouts (about 2 pounds), halved lengthwise
1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add the Rice Krispies and togarashi and cook over high heat, stirring, until browned, about 30 seconds. Season with salt. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the skillet.
2. In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, water, sugar, rice vinegar, lime juice, garlic and chile and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cilantro and mint.
3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat until nearly smoking. Add the Brussels sprouts; cook over high heat, stirring, until charred in spots and heated through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Just before serving, sprinkle the Rice Krispies on top and serve right away.
Rustic Herb Stuffing
Recipe Source: Bon Appetit
Notes: After devouring this stuffing, all three of us remarked that we should keep this recipe for next year. It might be nice to have a dish that we make year after year, even on the years that we don’t host. “Our herb stuffing.” We made an herb stuffing last year, but found the flavors to be bland and rather disappointing. Not this year--the swiss chard mingled perfectly with all of the herbs and sautéed green onions. I wish I still had leftovers of this dish!
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
1 16-ounce loaf country-style French bread with crust, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 11 cups)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter
2 bunches green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups finely chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch Swiss chard, stems cut from leaves and discarded, leaves coarsely chopped (about 12 cups)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth
3 ounces coarsely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1) Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread bread on large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until bread is dry, about 15 minutes. Cool.
2) Melt 10 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add green onions and next 8 ingredients; sauté until celery is tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add Swiss chard and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes.
3) Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place bread cubes in very large bowl. Add warm vegetable mixture; toss to combine. Whisk eggs and 3/4 cup broth in medium bowl. Add egg mixture to stuffing and toss to coat. Mix in Parmesan, if using.
4) Add more broth (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup) to stuffing if dry. Transfer to dish. Cover with buttered foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil; bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
Roast Turkey w/Fried Sage and Pecans
Recipe Source: Food and Wine
Notes: Justin handled the bird…and did an amazing job with it. He had to be quick on his feet to adapt parts of the recipe that simply didn’t make sense. When you’re reading the recipe below, look for his changes in bold. Arlene and Justin both said that the turkey was so moist that it barely needed gravy. I had a small bite and can attest to this!
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours and 30 minutes
2 sticks butter
¼ cup flour
4 cups veggie stock
1 cup toasted pecans
1 cup sage leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Transfer the pecans to a food processor and let cool completely.
2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until very lightly golden, about 1 minute. Add the sage leaves and fry, stirring gently, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sage leaves and garlic clove to a paper towel–lined plate and let cool. Add half of the sage leaves and the garlic clove to the pecans in the food processor along with the butter and 1 tablespoon of salt; pulse until smooth. Transfer 1/4 cup of the butter to a small bowl and stir in the flour; reserve. Could probably use 1.5 sticks of butter instead of two sticks. Two sticks made a paste that felt way too thick.
3. Beginning at the neck end, gently separate the turkey skin from the breast and legs using your fingers. You may need to make a very slight slit in the skin with a paring knife in order to get a grip on the skin. Season the turkey cavity with salt. Rub half of the pecan-sage butter from the food processor under the skin, spreading it over the breast and thighs.
4. Set the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan and scatter the carrot and onion in the pan; add 1 1/2 cups of water. Rub the remaining pecan-sage butter from the food processor all over the outside of the turkey. Roast on the bottom rack of the oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted deep in the thigh registers 170°; halfway through roasting, add 1 1/2 cups of water to the roasting pan and tent the turkey with foil. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let rest for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, strain the pan juices into a large measuring cup; discard the solids. Spoon off the fat and discard it. (You should have about 2 cups of defatted pan juices.) In a large saucepan, boil the turkey stock until it is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes. Set the roasting pan over 2 burners on high heat; add the reduced stock and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom and side of the pan. Strain the stock into the saucepan, add the pan juices and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the reserved pecan-sage butter with flour and simmer over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt.
6. Carve the turkey, transfer to a platter and garnish with the reserved sage leaves. Serve the turkey, passing the gravy at the table.
Tomorrow: We didn't make our Thanksgiving cake, but I still plan on sharing a few pictures of it with you! (*And shockingly, we still have leftovers of the cake!)