I fully intended to take a whole bunch of pictures of what I made for Thanksgiving this year, or at least one picture of the "spread" that filled our little IKEA dinner table, or the mess that the kitchen turned into after Dave carved the turkey. Instead, I'll just share the recipes and maybe put some random pictures in for fun. How's that for an LBDelicious Thanksgiving special?
MENU ITEM 1: DIPS A LA LINDSEY
Thank goodness for Lindsey, who brought snackins and wine for pre-meal noshing. She prepared a delicious cheese ball (8 oz block of cream cheese, shredded cheddar, worcesteire sauce, rolled into a ball and then rolled in chopped pecans, a personal favorite here at Casa Dawmilam) as well as Knorr's spinach dip, served with Triscuits and Wheat Thins. We ate this while watching the American Kennel Club Dog Show.
MENU ITEM 2: ROASTED TURKEY
Recipe: 11 pound turkey, bought frozen, defrosted on Wednesday by placing in a small cooler, placed in a bathtub, under the faucet with a small trickle of cold water running for 12 hours, then placed in the fridge overnight to allow for any last-minute thawing.
Preheat oven to 425. Remove turkey from packaging and remove insides. Make sure you get them all, or else you'll end up roasting a bag containing the turkey neck along with everything else, and when your husband carves the turkey and everyone's hanging out in the kitchen drooling over the meal, you'll get laughed at. I learned this the hard way this year.
Rinse the turkey under cold water (inside and out); pat dry with a paper towel. Place in your roasting pan, on a rack. Stuff the cavity with a sprinkle of salt, whole peppercorns, sage and thyme, a lemon, carrot, celery, whole head of garlic, and some onion. Truss the bird. Make a little sage butter (stick of butter, softened, mixed with sage) and place it between the skin and the breast meat. Unlike what Ina Garten said, make sure the butter is just soft, not melted, or it'll turn into a big ol' greasy mess when you try to place the mixture on the cold turkey. Learned this one the hard way too, this year. On the outside of the skin, rub with oil, salt, pepper, sage and thyme. In the bottom of the roasting pan, pour some chicken stock, white wine, and the leftover veggies that didn't get stuffed in the cavity of the bird. This will ensure a delicious gravy.
Roast for 25 minutes at 425, then lower heat to 350 and roast until the meat thermometer reads 155-157, about 2 hours. I overcooked mine slightly because I didn't check the temperature early enough. Start checking the temp at about 1 hour 45 minutes, or get yourself a really nice thermometer that can stay in the bird the whole time and beep when the temperature reaches the point you want.
MENU ITEM 2: GRAVY
After the turkey has cooked, pour the pan drippings into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. While it's coming to the boil, whisk together about 1/4 cup of flour with about 1/4 cup of milk. Whisk the milk/flour mixture into the sauce, a little at a time, until gravy reaches desired consistency. Try not to drink it all before the guests arrive.
MENU ITEM 3: CRANBERRY SAUCE
(My recipe is adapted from one that Tyler Florence has.)
This is a day-before (or 2-days-before) dish, which makes it even more lovely. Take 1 bag of fresh cranberries. Rinse them, put them in a saucepan. Add about 1 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, zest of 1 lemon, juice of a lemon, couple tablespoons of orange juice, about 1/3 cup water, and a splash of orange liquor. Simmer on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste occasionally to correct seasoning/sweetness. Remove cinnamon stick before serving.
MENU ITEM 4: CORNBREAD DRESSING
I am not the biggest fan of dressing, but everyone else loves it, and I hear it's just not Thanksgiving without it. I still don't think this recipe is the best (will probably have to consult with the grandmothers to find out what I'm doing wrong), but I followed Paula Deen's recipe here. It was alright.
MENU ITEM 5: GREEN BEANS
There is division among my guests about how to cook green beans. Dean & Donna like them *really* cooked; Dave, Lindsey and I like them *barely* cooked. I solved this problem by purchasing about a pound of fresh green beans, and boiling them all together in salted water for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, I removed half of them to stop the cooking process, and allowed the remaining beans to cook for another 10 minutes. We topped both sets with butter, salt and pepper. Everyone was happy!
MENU ITEM 6: SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
This is my FAVORITE, favorite favorite menu item. I heart sweet potatoes, and I especially heart sweet potato casserole. I made it as buttery and sweet as I could, on purpose. Again, I took a cue from Paula Deen and made this recipe. It was hard not to eat it all before Thanksgiving. Really. Hard for me to sleep on Wednesday night knowing this casserole was in my fridge, all alone, waiting on me to go to town on it. I thought I'd miss the marshmallows on this particular recipe, but the brown sugar/pecan crumbly top made up for it. I added cinnamon at the last minute to make the house smell even warmer. Her recipe was:
*start with about 3 large sweet potatoes, roasted (at 450 for 1 hour), cooled, removed from peel, and mashed in a large bowl
*melt one stick of butter
*add about half that stick of butter to the sweet potatoes, along with about 1/4 cup half and half or cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla (wow, did that make a difference), 1 cup of sugar, and 2 eggs
*prepare the topping: 1/4 cup flour, 1 cup brown sugar, some cinnamon, and about 1/2 cup chopped pecans, tossed together with the remaining melted butter
*place sweet potatoes in a baking dish, top with topping, bake for about 35 minutes at 350.
MENU ITEM 7: PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE
Lindsey also contributed our dessert. MMMM, it was yummy! I think this is the recipe she used, found here on epicurious.com. I'm so glad she accidentally left it at our house, because I want another piece right now.
All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving. We had much to be thankful for this year. I really enjoyed taking a whole day to cook for people I love, especially since they seemed to enjoy the food. My best advice for those of you who are going to attempt a full-on Thanksgiving dinner at some point in your life is pretty much the same as it was last year: don't stress about it. Don't over complicate your mission, which is to make a meal for your family. If something goes wrong, it'll provide a funny story to tell for future generations, like that time Megan and I were helping Grandmother make Thanksgiving, and she was making meringue for a pie but forgot to put sugar in the egg whites (we still laugh about that, and my aversion to eggs in general). You don't have to spend a lot of money on ingredients (I probably spent about $100, just because my pantry was empty and I had to re-stock a lot of basics), and if you put some thought into it, everything is pretty much done before the guests arrive.
The day ended with everyone in a food coma, which I took as a huge compliment.