When it comes to food, I'm not a big fan of the traditional. Just because you have been eating the same thing for the last 20 years doesn't necessarily mean that it is a great idea.
I always like to try new things (it can totally be an old recipe, as long as it is new to ME) and frequently tire of eating the same thing all the time....I just think that there is so much amazing food out there.....why always eat the same thing?
So you'll have to understand that when it comes to meals like Thanksgiving, I always feel like I'm stuck in a bit of a conundrum....in my neck of the woods, when the temperature drops, people expect turkey. And they expect the full-meal, roasted, sage-seasoned bird deal. No ifs, ands or buts.
Definitely nothing exciting or new.
So for a couple of years, I caved to expectations and made the bird the old-fashioned way. And to a certain extent, I still do that. There's nothing revolutionary or different about the way I make my turkey.
But one thing I always found absolutely maddening was the fact that you would have to slave away all day to make a super-rich, heavy meal, only to have the hordes descend and gobble it in less time than it took to set the table.
So I've altered the way I serve Thanksgiving without too much mucking around with the traditional flavours. It works out pretty well.
We were just a weeeee little group this year (only 5), but good conversation was there in abundance and I think we all ate our fill.....
Appetizer: Turkey Dumplings with Cranberry-Soy Sauce
This was a nice light appetizer - good for snacking, good cold and easy enough to make up in advance. YUM.
1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
1/4 lb (125 g) lean ground turkey
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) minced ginger
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) sodium-reduced soy sauce
1/4 t pepper
3/4 cup (175 mL) shredded Savoy or Napa cabbage
1/2 cup (125 mL) shredded carrot
1/4 cup (50 mL) green onions
32 round dumpling or square wonton wrappers
Cornstarch for dusting
1 cup (250 mL) cranberry sauce
2 tbsp (30 mL) sodium-reduced soy sauce
1/2 tsp (2 mL)minced ginger
2 tbsp (30 mL) thinly sliced green onion
1. Heat 1 tsp (5 mL) vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Crumble in turkey and brown well. Add the carrot, cabbage, green onions, ginger, soy sauce, salt and pepper.
2. Cook, stirring for 3 to 4 minutes or until the cabbage is wilted. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.
3. Moisten two edges of each wonton wrapper with a little water. Place a rounded spoonful of the filling in the centre of each; fold to enclose, pressing to seal. Place on a baking sheet dusted with cornstarch to keep wontons from sticking. Cover with a damp towel. (You can layer them in a container if you put waxed paper between the layers. I made them up the day before).
1. Heat 1 tsp (5 mL) vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add a single layer of the wontons. Cook, without turning, for 2 minutes or until just golden on the bottom.
2. Add 1/2 cup (125 mL) of water to the skillet. Cover and steam for 6 minutes or until all the water is evaporated and dumplings are tender throughout.
3. Repeat with remaining dumplings, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
Meanwhile, whisk the cranberry sauce with the soy sauce in a small saucepan; set over medium heat. Cook, stirring often until the sauce comes to a boil and is smooth and glossy. Cool slightly; stir in the ginger and green onions.Makes 32 wontons.
Soup: Roasted Buttercup Squash with Cinnamon Cumin Cream
(yeah, I know, you've seen that before! but it's so good!)
Salad: Mâche with Balsamic Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese
Pretty self-explanatory - take your favourite greens, your favourite vinaigrette (I like 3:1 oil to vinegar with enough mustard to emulsify) and crumble goat cheese over top. I had grand intentions of adding dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds, but had no luck in finding either.)
Dinner: Turkey, Gravy, REEEEALLLY yummy Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potato Decadence, Stuffing, Green Beans
The one thing I don't really love about a turkey dinner is that it really isn't the prettiest thing you can make....colours are a little blah. It was deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelish though. YUM.
Roasted Turkey with Gravy
1 giant turkey (fresh, preferably, and with giblets)
1/2 bottle dry white wine
2 onions, peeled and halved
3 carrots, cut into large chunks
2-3 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
1 cup chicken broth
1 turkey lifter (if you don't have one, BUY one - you want a rack you can put under your turkey, so when it's all cooked and falling apart, you can lift it out of your pan.....having a centre pin is an added bonus, as it will be easy to get it out from under your cooked bird)
1 meat thermometer (takes the guesswork out!)
oil/melted butter, salt, poultry seasoning and dried sage
1. Wash your turkey, inside and out. Remove any weird looking blobs from inside (aka giblets). Hang onto the giblets.
2. Take a big roasting pan. PUT THE LIFTER IN FIRST. Take your veggies and spread them around the outside of the pan.
3. Put the washed turkey on the roaster. Pour a little white wine into the pan juices, and add enough broth so that the bottom of the pan is covered.
4. If you're stuffing your turkey, fill 'er up. Place the giblets around the outside (along with the veggies). They help flavour the gravy.
5. Mix together your melted butter/oil, along with some of your favourite spices (poultry seasoning is a big hit here).
6. Turn your oven to 350F. Take out the top rack (probably don't have room for it).
7. If you want, you can spread some of the seasoned butter mixture between the skin and the meat. If you're icked out, just brush it on top. Your turkey will still be very good and you won't be up to your elbows in guts.
8. Cover all the exposed bony bits with foil (wings, legs), put the thermometer into the deepest part of the thigh) and then put the turkey in the oven.
9. Every 45 minutes, take the turkey out and baste. Check the temperature every time. Once you see the temperature hit 120F, it won't be long until your turkey is ready. If you still have a lot of time left until dinner, turn the oven as low as 250F (but no lower) to slow down the cooking process.
10. About half an hour before the turkey is to be evicted, take the lid off, brush with oil again, and turn the oven up to 400F so you can get nice, crisp brown skin.
11. When turkey hits the temperature you want (about 170-180F), take it out of the oven and let it rest a few minutes. Stick any potatoes/extra stuffing into the oven at this time....
12. Lift the big bird onto a rimmed platter. Carve as desired.
13. To make gravy, strain your pan juices into a large pot. If you're lacking in juice (probably not), add some wine/broth. In a small bowl, take about 1/4 cup of flour and whisk it together with more wine/broth....slowly whisk it into the gravy mixture and bring to a boil. If you want it darker, add a couple of dashes of soy sauce. Taste and add seasoning if it needs it.
The Best Mashed Potatoes EVER
This recipe is from the best of the best of bridge cookbook and it is awesome. The whole Best of Bridge series is great - things that are simple to make and big on impressing guests. It's not my usual style of recipe, but I'd heard such rave reviews I wanted to make it. I actually had to go out and buy onion salt for it, and it's DELICIOUS. You can make it up the night before and just heat it in the oven while your turkey is resting. The thinner the layer of potatoes in the casserole dish, the better.
5 lbs. potatoes or 9 large 2.5kg
8 oz. low-fat cream cheese 250g
1 cup fat-free sour cream 250ml
2 tsp. onion salt 10ml
1 tsp. salt 5ml
pinch of pepper
2 Tbsp. butter 30ml
Cook and mash potatoes. Add all ingredients, except butter, and combine. Put into large greased casserole. Dot with butter. Bake, covered, at 350F (180C) for 30 minutes.If making ahead, cover and refrigerate or freeze. Thaw before baking. Serves 10-12
Sweet Potato Decadence
This is really, really bad for you.
2-3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into rounds
6-8 ounces cheese (I like to use gruyère)
3 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T butter
2 T flour
1.5 cups whipping cream
1. In a slow cooker (or casserole dish if you are lucky enough to have oven space for this!) sprayed with cooking spray, layer the potatoes with grated cheese.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the shallots and garlic. Cook 3 minutes or so. Add in the flour and whisk together.
3. In a slow stream, add the whipping cream. Bring to a boil.
4. Pour over sweet potato mixture. Cook on low about 4 hours. If you cook longer, the sweet potatoes fall apart (like mine did!). It still tastes great, but presentation is not so nice.
Stuffing - Easy and Old Fashioned
The whole idea that people use boxed stuffing absolutely flabberghasts me. DON'T FREAKING DO IT. EW. I mean....EW.
Stuffing is easy and impossible to mess up. And even if you do somehow mess it up....just drown it in gravy. But please don't use the instant stuff....it's a pretty sad statement on society when people can't even make soggy bread..... hehe
2 loaves bread (1 brown, 1 white), processed into coarse crumbs, or torn into small pieces
3 onions, chopped
3 stalks celery
6-7 cloves garlic
1/2 cup butter (1/4 pound or 1 stick)
1. In a skilled, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft. Add 1 T poultry seasoning and 2 t dried sage.
2. Stir this mixture into the bread (if you like, sprinkle more dried spices over the bread - it's okay to use a lot of spice in this recipe, because it's supposed to be highly aromatic).
3. Add enough broth so the whole mixture is moist. You want it to stick together, but not be sopping wet.
4. You can put it in the bird, or cook it in a casserole dish at about 350F for 20-25 minutes to heat.
This is just plain-jane old fashioned stuffing. It's SUPER easy to make and very yummy.
Dessert: Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake with Whipped Cream and Pecan-Bourbon Caramel Sauce
1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, mix together the crushed gingersnap cookies, pecans, and butter. Press into the bottom, and about 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake crust 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla just until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture. Blend 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg into the remaining mixture.
3. Spread the pumpkin flavored batter into the crust, and drop the plain batter by spoonfuls onto the top. Swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect.
4. Bake 55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until filling is set. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Cool and remove rim. Chill before serving. ***Personally, my cake was WAY overcooked at 55 minutes. I would start checking it at 45 minutes or so. Mine cracked in the worst way. I ended up covering it up with spiced whipped cream (3/4 cup whipping cream, 2-3 T sugar, 1/2 t cinnamon and 1/4 t ginger). Then sprinkling it with more chopped pecans.
Pecan-Bourbon Caramel Sauce
(this stuff is AWESOME). Definite make again.
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 T unsalted butter
1/4 c corn syrup
1/2 t salt
3-4 T bourbon
1 cup pecans, toasted
1. Bring sugar, cream, butter, corn syrup and salt to a boil in a deep medium sauce pan. (Whisk until sugar dissolves).
2. Reduce heat to medium, boil 1 minute without stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon, then pecans.
3. Cool, stirring occasionally.
Thanksgiving dinner kicked ass. I ate so much. Then I ate a lot of turkey in the week that followed - turkey panini (with dijon, chopped shallots and aged cheddar), turkey fried rice, turkey nachos....you name it.
Thank you for reading! Hope all my Canadian readers had a great thanksgiving....and hope this might serve as a bit of inspiration for some of my American friends.....
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