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A THANKSGIVING TABLE – BASICS

ROASTED TURKEY

The holidays are imminent and it feels like the year blew by in a sneeze. Hard to believe we are being catapulted into Thanksgiving and we’re inundated ad-nauseam with Christmas decor even before the trick-a-treaters have left our doorstep. No doubt a segway into the commercialized bombardment of Black Friday sales.

Thank goodness for family gatherings, where we rejoice in togetherness and food continuously plays a significant part on these occasions.

The strategy has commenced for this yearly feast. If you are anything like me, I like to plan ahead. The menu, guest invites and grocery lists are no doubt underway with strategizing things that can be done ahead to minimize toiling in the kitchen. Consider preparing your turkey stock, which freezes exceptionally well. And on that note, now’s the perfect time to clear out the freezer of items that probably have been there from the antediluvian age. You’ll need that room for freezing leftovers. And cranberry sauce can also be prepared a few days ahead.

These are the basics prerequisites for Thanksgiving table, that get embellished with the delightful sides and some amazing cranberry sauces and chutney recipes.  Together with the ill-fated and resplendent turkey, the gravy and the dressing – those are three basic components that truly translate into Thanksgiving, your table will be glorious, completely festive and Instagram-worthy. Additionally check these pre-dinner nibble bits and some avant-garde and inventive cocktails that will be sure to whet the appetite at your gathering.

BASICS

TURKEY STOCK

Creating homemade turkey stock is as easy as making chicken stock.  There’s little difference in flavor and unless you purchase a turkey for the parts, you’re probably going to go for the ready-made turkey stock option, which is always economical, a time saver and many places, such as Trader Joe’s have a low sodium option.

However, if you are going to be adventurous and make your own, there are ways to circumvent purchasing a turkey.  Many supermarkets sell turkey wings and legs.

4-5 turkey wings – washed, dried, and seasoned with Salt and pepper

Olive oil

1 onion – quartered

3 carrots, scrapped and cut into large chunks

4 sticks of celery with their leafy tops – cut into chunks

1 leek – washed throughly and cut in half

1 heard of garlic – cut in half

1 parsnip – scarped and cut into chunks

10 whole black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 whole bunch of parsley – washed

2 sprigs of thyme

1 TSP Kosher salt

 

PREHEAT OVEN TO 450F

On a cookie sheet lined with foil, add the wings and roast for about 45 minutes turning halfway through.

Tie together the parsley and thyme sprigs.

Transfer the wings to a large stockpot and add the veggies, bay leaf and parsley-thyme bundle, salt and peppercorns. Add enough water to cover – about 6-7 cups.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 3 hours on very low.

Strain through a sieve and separate into freezable containers. Remove the stock (as much as you may need) from the freezer the night before and place in the fridge to thaw. The rest can be used for soups and gravies.

 

PERFECT ROAST TURKEY

PREHEAT OVEN TO 325F

1 10-12 LB turkey – Washed, dried and giblets removed

2 apples

1 lemon – quartered

Sprigs of fresh rosemary, sage, thyme and bay leaf

4 shallots – halved – unpeeled

5-6 whole garlics unpeeled

2 carrots

2 sticks of celery

1 onion – quartered

The simplest turkey recipe for a 10-12 LB turkey, which comes out perfect every time. Remove the giblets and discard the liver from the cavity. Wash and dry very well. Keep the giblets for the gravy.

Inside the cavity, add shallots, garlic cloves, apples, lemon and aromatics (rosemary, thyme, sage, bay leaf).

Salt and pepper the turkey evenly on all sides. Have 1 ½ sticks of butter at room temperature. Place the butter in a bowl. Chop some herbs very finely and mix them well with some with some garlic powder, onion powder a pinch of salt and pepper. Chill the butter in the fridge so it’s easier to handle. Carefully lift the skin under the breast and the thigh/leg areas and insert pads of butter all over. Rub the remaining butter on the exterior of the turkey.

Place the turkey, breast side up on a roasting pan, with the carrots, celery and onion around it and roast for about 2 hours tented with foil.

Remove the foil, crank the temperature to 425F, baste with more butter and roast for another hour uncovered. Insert a poultry thermometer in the thigh area to read 165F. Remove some of the pan drippings to make the gravy.

NOTE

For larger turkeys, allow 15 minutes more per pound

 

NOT YOUR TRADITIONAL STUFFING

STUFFING

 

 

 

 

Many are selecting to make stuffing separately and stuff the bird with aromatics. This method is easier for serving, it makes for a very moist and delicious stuffing, not to mention it can be done ahead of time and the presentation is stellar.

 

 

Mirepoix – 2 celery sticks, 1 medium carrot, 1 medium onion – chopped into very small pieces

¼ cup of white wine

Half of an old baguette – cubed (It can be sliced and dried in the oven)

Herbs – chopped sage, rosemary, parsley – about 2 TBSP each

1 LB of ground breakfast sausage

1 cup of corn bread crumbled (a store-bought corn bread muffin or bread is perfect for this recipe)

½ LB of white mushrooms – chopped finely like for Chanterelles

1 cup of chopped pistachios

1 cup of dried dates – chopped

1 TSP fennel seeds

1 cup pf cranberries

3 large eggs

1/4 TSP fresh grated nutmeg

2 cups of low sodium chicken broth – warmed through

¼ cup of fresh cream

 

PREHEAT OVEN TO 400F

In a cookie sheet add the cubed old baguette and the chunks of corn bread and place in the oven so they dry out for about 10-12 minutes. Add to a large kitchen working bowl.

Butter a 9×13 large baking dish and set aside.

LOWER THE OVEN TO 350F

In a deep skillet, add about 3 TBSP butter and start softening the mirepoix for a few minutes. Add the finely chopped mushrooms. After about 15 minutes, deglaze the pan with the white wine. Allow to reduce for about 2 minutes. Add the chopped herbs, fennel, chopped dates, cranberries and nuts to soften. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl with the breads. Season generously with salt and fresh cracked pepper. In the same pan, start browning the sausage, add to the bowl with the drippings.

In a small bowl beat the eggs well, seasoning them with salt and pepper. Whisk in the cream and the nutmeg. Add that to the bowl with the stuffing ingredients. Add half of the broth and allow it to soak into the bread and add the rest mixing well.

Add the mixture to the prepared baking dish and dot with some butter. Place the baking dish on a deep cookie sheet and pour some water (bain-marie) around the dish.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes. Remove and allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

 

GRAVY

GRAVY

A classic component part of a Thanksgiving table and for the faint of heart, making gravy is a cinch – however, achieving depth of flavor so it doesn’t taste like dishwater is not so easy. The trick is to always whisk and not stir with a wooden spoon – remember, a good gravy has to be lump-free. It’s the flavor of the roux that makes or breaks a stellar gravy. Toasting the flour so it achieves a nutty and robust taste. How do you know when the roux is ready to receive the warm turkey stock?  When the roux has achieved the color of graham crackers and it smells like popcorn.

 

4-5 TBSP unsalted butter

¼ cup of APF

4 cups of turkey stock – (ensure the stock is kept hot to make the gravy)

2 TBSP Madeira wine (or dry sherry)

2 cloves of garlic

½ onion – rough chop

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

1 cup of pan drippings from roasting the turkey

1 bay leaf

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

In a saucepan, add the turkey stock, the herbs, onion, garlic, bay leaf, neck and giblets from the turkey and simmer for about 30 minutes, season with salt and pepper.  Strain broth.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute, over medium heat – the roux will become smooth in texture and a golden color. Continue whisking 1-2 minutes till it’s the color of toasted almonds – being careful not to burn it.  Gradually whisk in the warm turkey stock, the pan drippings, 2 TBSP of Madeira wine and keep at a simmer for about 15 minutes. Check the seasonings and adjust with some salt and pepper.

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