I got a little overzealous for Thanksgiving Day. I got it in my head that I had to make everything from scratch. My mom would have been proud of me, I think….but, then she would have shook her head and wondered why I always make things so hard on myself. Listen, if she were here to eat that Orange-Cranberry-Sherry relish I made, she would have completely understood.
I wanted to write a quick post of all the goodies I made for my Thanksgiving Day feast and link to all the recipes I used. Mostly, I just had to write it all down. I don’t know about you, but in about 3.5 minutes, I will have completely forgotten what I made, how I made it and what 14 different cookbooks I used. So, here I am writing it all down.
ORANGE-CRANBERRY-SHERRY RELISH: I knew that I could make it ahead of time and it would just get better in flavor as it sat in its Mason jar in the fridge. I read several different recipes and then kind of mashed them all together to get to a recipe that I was happy with. The basics came from the Tasty Kitchen’s Sassicook’s Cranberry-Orange Relish Recipe. I changed it up by reducing the amount of water to 1/2 cup and added 1/2 cup of dry sherry. YOU KNOW I DID. I also lengthened the simmering time to about 20-25 minutes. I wanted the whole cranberries to soften and pop and you’ll see that with the additional time, the creamy pink relish turns into a deep red. It was ridiculously delicious and two of my guests that hate cranberry sauce gobbled it up in shock and awe.
CHOCOLATE PUDDING HAND PIES: I’ve made these pudding pies before and they were un-freakin-believable. Ridiculously chocolaty and sinfully buttery. Completely worth the trouble. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of making the dough from scratch, go ahead and buy the pre-made pie crust at the store. It works perfectly fine and gets those pies into your hands (and gullet) a lot faster. I wanted to try my hand at homemade dough, so I went to the library and checked out The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie book. It was really informative, easy to read, and had the most delicious looking pie recipes in it. I found that their All-Butter Crust recipe was super easy to conquer. I made two double batches and currently have the leftover dough in my freezer for another day. I made the dough ahead of time to prep for the big day and because the dough needs time to rest in the fridge for the gluten to work its magic. I made the chocolate pudding for the hand pies the night before, but you know I couldn’t just stop there. I had to go ahead and make a Pumpkin Pie Pudding, as well. Yes, I’m ridiculous. No, I did not put walnuts in it. Because I made two different types of pudding, I needed to distinguish between the two pies so I could tell which flavor was which. I rolled out some additional dough and used a couple of different mini-cookie cutters and egg washed the cut-outs on to the outside. You’ll see in the picture above that the chocolate ones have a hatchet on the outside. The pumpkin ones had a turkey. You read that right. A hatchet and a turkey. Super morbid. Super awesome. They were my Grandma’s and came in a holiday set a million years ago. One of my most favorite things of hers. Once I had the dough rolled out and shaped, I filled the pies, crimped them, laid them out on a cookie sheet and put them back in the fridge for a couple of hours. I wanted to make sure they were as cold as possible, to help out the dough. I decided to bake the pies, instead of fry them, but I have to admit (and encourage you) that frying them in oil is definitely the preferred method. It is quicker and tastier and gives a nice crispiness to the dough, making it much easier to hold in your hand and eat up.
ROASTED TURKEY: I looked at so many recipes, my eyes got crossed. I read about a million different ways to stuff and season the bird, but just ended up doing what I’ve had success with before: Run the bird under water, pat it dry inside and out, rub butter and salt all over it and inside the cavity, stuff it with cut up carrots, onions, garlic, lemon, celery, and fresh parsley AND SAVE THOSE GIBLETS!!! I usually baste the turkey every 30 minutes, but read that the constant escape of heat from the oven prolonged the cooking time and kind of dried out the bird. Plus, much like a giant slow cooker, I just wanted to ‘set it and forget it’. The Food Network directions had me season the bird, tent it with foil and give it the cold shoulder at 325 degrees in the oven for 2 hours. I would then crank up the heat, take the foil off, butter it up once more and let it ride for another hour. It ended up being the juiciest bird yet. These directions were for an 8-10 pound bird. Mine was 11 pounds and I found that the whole 3 hours in the oven was the perfect amount of time to bring it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. As it set on the counter top after being pulled from the heat, it went up about 5 degrees. Perfecto!
THANKSGIVING DRESSING: Earlier in the week I had tried my hand at making Homemade White Bread. I couldn’t get the image of my Grandma’s tiny kitchen with every available surface covered with loaves of cooling bread. It smelled like heaven and I kick myself every day that I don’t have her recipe. I imagine that it was similar to what I found here, but you know she had perfected it in her own special way. This is a shout-out to my Aunts to share that recipe if you’ve got it! I brought a loaf in to work and had one left over. As I contemplated giving it to my neighbor, I realized that I could cube it, dry it out and use it for my Thanksgiving dressing. And that was exactly what I did. In the recipe linked above, there are 3 different types of bread used. I cheated a bit and bought a box of cornbread stuffing that had the cornbread separate from the seasoning. I ended up mixing in the cornbread with my white bread and continued on with the recipe as written. I cannot stress enough how easy and incredibly tasty it was to make my own. I have to admit that I LOVE the over-salty smack of sodium in the flavor packets and was worried that my dressing might be bland…but not true at all. It was freeing to know that I could take liberties with the bread I used, the amount of seasonings I added and liberal amounts of butter that I can’t help but melt into everything. Slap some of that Orange-Cranberry relish on it and tuck right in.
MASHED POTATOES: Listen, I’m an old masher from long ago. No stolen recipe here…just lots of practice. I peeled about 4 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered them, and threw them all into a pot of salted boiling water. I boiled them until I could slide a fork right into them…about 20-25 minutes or so. I drained them, save a smidge of the potato water and mashed them right there in the pot I boiled them in. And then I cut up and ENTIRE STICK OF BUTTER. (Yes, I buy butter 4 pounds at a time at Costco. It freezes beautifully.) At this stage I used a wooden spoon to incorporate the butter. I do NOT whip my potatoes, nor do I mash until they are completely smooth. I need just a bit of lumps and bumps for texture or I forget what the heck it is I am eating. If I didn’t have company, I wouldn’t have even bothered to peel them! Once the butter is melted in, I take milk or cream or 1/2 and 1/2 (whatever I have on hand) and pour some in. This is where the official ‘eye-balling it’ comes in. Maybe I add 1/4 of a cup and see how it goes. Then a bit more, until it is the consistency I like. I sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste. If you like garlic (and I do) I smash up and mince fine a nice fat clove of it and fold it in. It doesn’t give too much garlic flavor, but adds some depth. Then I add more salt, because, you know, salt is life. I ladle it all into a dish, let it cool a bit and stick it in the fridge to be taken out and reheated in the oven while I am baking the dressing as the turkey rests. It’s all about timing, people!!! OH, and don’t forget to lick that spoon. It’s the best part.
GIBLET GRAVY: Above all, this is the one recipe that I stick to and must make every year. It has a lot of steps, but is easy and spends most of its time simmering on the stove while you are doing other things. The taste, richness, flavor and depth cannot be compared to anything you rip open or pull from a can. It is the far superior gravy and if my mom gave me anything,, it was the gift of knowing it exists. I typed out the entire recipe and attached it below. It is from The Joy of Cooking Cookbook and should become a yearly staple in your household, too. Oh! and by the way, any and all leftover gravy should be saved for the Turkey Carcass Soup that I always make after Thanksgiving. It adds all kinds of crazy delicious flavor and if you are anything like me, you go through all the trouble of Thanksgiving solely for the day after turkey sandwich and the Turkey Soup. And, yes, I will be posting that recipe soon.
NO-KNEAD DINNER ROLLS: I don’t know why I did it. I mean, I could have just asked someone to pick up some rolls, BUT NOOOOOOOOOOO, I had to go and make the damn things from scratch. Just one more thing that attests to my crazy gangster lifestyle, I suppose. I followed Ree Drummond’s recipe exactly, except for two things: I cut it in half, because goodness knows we didn’t need any additional food, and I let it rise for just about forever. My rolls didn’t have the cute little triple bump shape on top, but they sure tasted delicious. The only difficulty I had here was how sticky the dough was when I went to roll it into walnut-sized balls and put it in the tin. After several attempts to pick it up with my fingers and pulling it around like taffy, I buttered up my hands, got a silicone spatula, and scooped and rolled from there. Worked like a charm. I set them on top of the buffet and let them rise for a few hours while I was busy in the kitchen. It certainly helped that I was boiling and baking and cooking and stirring away in there, because all of the heat generated made them fluff right up. Take that! rainy and cold day! These went in right after the turkey came out and were good to go for the sopping up of gravy in no time. Worth it!
And that right there is my documentation of taking Turkey Day a bit too far. Truth be told, I’m super glad I made every last bit of it. My fantastic dinner guests brought over stuffed mushroom caps, an unbelievable dish of Mac and Cheese (that I plan on stealing and sharing with all of you), a leafy green garden salad, sweet and savory squash (another recipe I’m going to make my own), and all my appetizer favorites consisting of deviled eggs, nuts, 5 different kinds of cheeses, olives, gherkins and herby crackers. And don’t you go thinking that Cecil Morgan’s Clam Dip didn’t make an appearance, because I almost completely devoured it all myself. We watched holiday favorites of The Holiday, Love Actually, (I had Elf on while prepping the food in the morning) and, of course, Die Hard. We ate, drank and were incredibly merry.
Thanksgiving and Christmas stir up a lot of emotion for me, because they make me think of my mom more than any other time of year. Those holidays gave her so much joy. But even so, I cannot help but be grateful that she ingrained in me such love and passion for making a good meal to nourish and feed the belly and souls of the people at my table. The table, it just so happens, is the very same one that I spent my entire childhood eating one great meal after another off of in my parents’ yellow wallpapered kitchen. And by the way, my mom would have been tickled pink and thankful knowing that I had such good friends seated at that table. So very thankful.
- 1 turkey neck, heart and gizzard
- 1 turkey liver, rinsed
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 to 1 c. chopped onions
- 4 c. chicken or turkey stock or broth
- 1/2 c. dry white or red wine
- 1/4 c. finely chopped carrots
- 1/4 c. finely chopped celery
- 2 small sprigs parsley
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. sherry
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the neck into 2 inch pieces. cut the heart length-wise in half, and divide the gizzard at the lobes.
- Heat oil in a wide heavy saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the turkey parts to the pan, then scatter the onion around them. Do not stir!
- Cook until the turkey parts are richy browned on the first side, 5 to 10 minutes; reduce the heat slightly if the ingredients begin to burn. Turn and brown the second side in the same manner.
- Add: broth, wine, carrots, celery, parsley, bay leaf and thyme.
- Partially cover the pan and simmer very slowly until the meat is tender, about 1 hour.
- Add the liver and simmer until firm, about 5 minutes.
- Strain the stock through a fine sieve and add enough water to measure 4 cups.
- Finely chop the neck meat, cut the giblets into tiny dice, and add to the stock.
- Discard the vegetables.
- Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, until foaming.
- Add and cook, the flour, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
- Slowly whisk the warm stock into the roux, blending thoroughly.
- Whisking constantly, bring the gravy to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 1 minute.
- Remove from the heat and cover. (If you will be finishing and serving the gravy within 30 min. to an hour, let it stand at room temperature; otherwise, refrigerate it.)
- When the turkey is done, transfer it to a platter and keep warm. Remove the rack from the roasting pan. If juices have evaporated, leaving only fat and browned bits on the bottom of the pan, carefully pour out the fat and discard it, retaining all browned bits. If there are juices, tilt the pan and skim off as much fat as possible with a spoon.
- Set the pan over two burners on medium heat and add the sherry.
- Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits.
- Pour the drippings into the gravy.
- Place the gravy over medium heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Pour into a gravy boat.
- From The Joy of Cooking by Rombauer, Becker & Becker