Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Triumphs!

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So I haven't made a full-scale Thanksgiving dinner in a really long time (over 2 years) and this year I was determined to really branch out. I've gotten into cooking (obviously) in the past year and wanted to challenge myself and make some seriously delicious food.

I have to give props to some of my favorite Food Network chefs whose recipes are directly responsible for the incredible feast Aaron and I were able to enjoy with our good friend "Waskie" last night. Alton Brown's turkey recipe was awe-inspiring and completely 210% worth the pain in the butt brining process. Alex Guarnaschelli's recipe for Parker House Dinner Rolls was my first attempt to ever make bread and the judges from "Dancing with the Stars" would have been impressed with my exuberant dance in the kitchen once the dough started to successfully rise!

I used a lot of great recipes, here is our menu:

- Alton Brown's "Good Eats" Turkey
- Alex's Parker House Rolls
- Ellie Krieger's Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole
- Oyster Bacon Stuffing (a Real Simple magazine recipe)
- Sausage Sage Stuffing (a Real Simple magazine recipe)
- Broccoli Cheese Casserole (my mother-in-law's recipe)
- Cranberry Sauce (in a can - because we like it that way!)
- Basic Gravy (a Fine Cooking magazine recipe)
- Pumpkin Pie (a Food Network magazine recipe)
- Ina Garten's Fresh Lemon Mousse

Whew! It was quite a feast and I am thrilled at the leftovers! We're making "Gobbler" sandwiches tonight and then later this week I'll share with you all some great recipes that will use up most of those leftovers. Instead of posting recipes for all the dishes listed above in this one blog post, I decided to just post the turkey, gravy and the stuffings. Tomorrow I'll post the dessert and bread recipes and by Sunday I'll have posted the rest of the side dishes.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, we absolutely enjoyed it and although I was cooking non-stop from 2-6pm, I had SO much fun doing it (and enjoying the fruits of my labor)!

Good Eats Roast Turkey

- 14-16 lb. frozen young turkey
- 1 red apple (quartered)
- 1/2 onion (quartered)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup water
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 6 leaves fresh sage
- canola oil (for coating the turkey)

- 1 gallon vegetable stock
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
- 1 1/s tsp. allspice berries
- 1 1/2 tsp. chopped candied ginger
- 1 gallon heavily iced water

This recipe does take some advance planning, but believe me - it is absolutely worth it! Two or three days before starting the actual brining and then roasting process, thaw your turkey. Do NOT thaw it on the countertop, thaw it in the refrigerator or in a cooler set at 38 degrees. Pretty much the same day you start to thaw that turkey, you can make the brine.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries and candied ginger in a large stockpot (mine holds 2 gallons) over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve the salt and sugar - bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the brine from heat, cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

2. The night before or early in the morning on the day you'd like to eat the turkey: combine the brine, water and ice in a 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (remove the innards and save the neck in the refrigerator to use for gravy later) breast-side down in the brine. If you need to add more water to make sure it is completely submerged, that's fine...we did! Cover and either refrigerate or set in a cool area (i.e. our garage) for 8-16 hours. Turn the turkey once halfway through the brining.

3. Once the turkey is brined, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it well inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine, then place the bird on a roasting rack inside a roaster or half-sheet pan and pat it dry with paper towels. (please excuse our turkey - its one leg is a little wonky!)

4. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick and 1 cup water in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add the mixture to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird, tie the legs together with kitchen twine and coat the skin liberally with canola oil - then sprinkle the skin with salt and pepper. Place the neck in the bottom of the roasting dish and add about 2 cups of chicken stock (this will be used to make gravy later)

5. Roast the turkey on the lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.

6. Reduce the oven temperature to 350. A 14-16 pound bird should require a total of 2-2.5 hours roasting time. Insert a meat thermometer and be sure the bird reaches 161 degrees before you pull it out of the oven. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for at least 15 minutes before carving it up. Ours was a little high - closer to 170 than 160-165 but it was still perfectly moist and delicious!

Now onto the stuffings! That's right - plural...I made two. I couldn't decide! They're actually made from the same base recipe, just with different additions near the end. I made an Oyster Bacon Stuffing and a Sausage Sage Stuffing.

Stuffing Base


- 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 large loaf Italian bread (I used Sourdough for the Oyster Bacon Stuffing)
- 2 medium onions (chopped)
- 4 celery stalks (thinly chopped)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 large beaten eggs


Heat oven to 375. Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish and divide the cubed bread between two rimed baking sheets and bake until dry and crisp (about 12 minutes).

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender and beginning to brown. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, then transfer to a large bowl and let it cook for 10-12 minutes.

3. Add the bread, broth, eggs and 1/2 tsp. salt - tossing to combine. For the oyster bacon recipe - add 6 slices of cooked bacon (in bite-sized pieces) and 16 chopped smoked oysters. For the sausage sage stuffing - add a pound of browned breakfast or Italian sausage, 3 tbsp. chopped fresh sage and 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley.

4. Transfer the stuffing to a greased baking dish and cover with buttered foil - bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20-30 minutes more until the top is browned.


- roasting pan contents (remove neck from pan)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- salt and pepper


Place the empty roasting pan across the 2 burners over medium-high heat. Add the wine and cook - scraping up the brown bits stuck to the pan for about a minute.

2. Pour the contents of the pan into the measuring cup of skimmed juices. Add enough chicken broth to make a total of 4 cups of liquid, then set aside.

3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour in with the butter to make a roux - cook it whisking frequently until deep brown. Keep in mind that the darker the roux, the richer the flavor. Add the 4 cups of liquid and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened - 8-10 minutes. Season the gravy with salt and pepper and strain (if needed - we didn't need to) before serving.

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