Creating a Delicious and Flavorful Thanksgiving Meal

Creating a delicious and flavorful Thanksgiving meal is easy with a little planning ahead.  There is one thing I want to say about Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful for all you have such as your home, your job, your family (even if they are nuts), your friends, the food on your table, your health, the love of friends and family, etc.  With that in mind, enjoy the day.  Don’t worry about your diet – you’ll work off the extra calories on Black Friday!

Let’s start with the turkey.  Most people struggle their entire life to put a juicy bird on the Thanksgiving table.  Years ago, this dilemma was solved for me (before it was ever and issue to be honest) by someone I worked with whose brother was a chef.  He told me to roast the turkey for the first hour to hour and a half breast side down.  All the juices run down into the breast.  Then flip it over and continue roasting until done.  I have never had a dry turkey since I started roasting breast down.  Go ahead a season the turkey as you normally would.  Throw some celery, carrots and a quartered onion into the cavity and roast breast down with the oven temperature set according to the instructions on the turkey wrapper.

Homemade stock 6

Next, the mashed potatoes.  I always have homemade soup stock in my freezer.  I use it for anything that cooks in water (rice, pasta, potatoes, veggies, etc.) because the stock adds more flavor.  Slice your potatoes as you normally would but instead of boiling them in water, use stock (chicken, turkey, beef, it doesn’t matter).  I also add a few whole, peeled cloves of garlic to the water along with salt and pepper for additional flavor.  When the potatoes are done, don’t use a mixer to mash.  If you over mix the potatoes they will turn “glue-y”, instead “mash” them with a potato ricer.  This is a contraption that presses the cooked potatoes through tiny holes.

Potato Ricer

I “rice” the potatoes into a large bowl and add the additional ingredients to the same bowl.  By the way, I “rice” the cooked cloves of garlic into the potatoes too.  Now add the heavy cream (not milk), butter (yes, real butter, not margarine), salt and pepper and you are ready to go with delicious mashed potatoes.

Serving green beans?  Cook the beans in stock also.

Cranberry Sauce – I like to make my cranberry sauce a few days ahead of time so the flavors get a chance to meld.  Place your whole cranberries in a non-reactive sauce pan and add the juice of two oranges, 1/3 c granulated sugar, 1/2 t ground cinnamon, and a dash of cayenne pepper (don’t worry, it won’t be too hot.  The cayenne will add a little something that wont be identifiable but will be yum!).  Cook until the berries start to pop.  Cool down then place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.  Thanksgiving day remove from the frig and serve at room temp.

Bread Rolls – I like to use the focaccia recipe on this website and instead of pressing into a baking sheet, place balls of the bread dough into muffin tins.  Bake according to the instructions (check the internal temp. of the rolls – if it is 195 – 200 degrees, they are done.  Serve with butter that is room temp.  Delicious!

Stuffing or Dressing – I buy a few loaves of bread from the bakery at the grocery store – get a variety.  Slice the loaves into cubes and toast on a baking sheet a few days before Thanksgiving.  Add herbs of your choice (we like thyme, basil, garlic, and a little bit of sage because it goes a long way).  Melt butter in a skillet and add onion, celery, salt, and pepper.  Pour onto the bread crumbs and mix.  Add soup stock (again, any flavor works) and mix until well coated and all the stock and butter is absorbed.  Place in an oven safe baking dish and bake at 400 degrees F for 30-45 minutes or until hot through.

Gravy – I like to use the drippings from the turkey along with (you got it) soup stock.  You will end up with a richer tasting gravy than if you use water.  I just use salt and pepper in my gravy.  I have never cared for giblet gravy but if you like it, just cook the giblets in the soup stock and then use that in the gravy.

What to do with the turkey bones after you have cleaned the meat off?  I love to take the bones, place them back into the roasting pan and back into the oven to roast.  Yes, roast the bones!  When you have a good brown to the bones, remove them and place into a large stock pot of water.  Add three or four bay leaves, a few cloves of peeled garlic, some herbs of your choice, salt, and pepper and cook.  I like to do this part the day after Thanksgiving (no, I am not a Black Friday shopper – crowds make me nuts!) so I will cook the stock for four or five hours.  Cool the stock, strain to remove the bones, leaves, etc., and portion into containers for freezing.  Now you have a supply of delicious soup stock ready and waiting.

Now after a day or so of leftover turkey sandwiches, I take the meat and make turkey veggie soup or turkey gumbo.  I love a leftover turkey sandwich on white bread with mayo (a throw back to my days growing up in southern Illinois) but I only need one and I’m done!

In the next days and weeks I will be posting recipes and photos of pies and cakes for the holidays.  Sweet Potato Pie, Pecan Pie with Bourbon Caramel Sauce, Pumpkin Pie, Red Velvet Cake, Crème Wafers, Thumbprint cookies, etc. So check back and see what’s new.  In the meantime, remember to relax, it’s just the holidays!




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