Real Food for Real Life

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving (or, Did I really just spend two days cooking?)

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone, with good company and good food aplenty, although it continues to amaze me that I can spend two days preparing for this meal to see it disappear in a mere hour. Then, between parents and grandfathers and daughters in from school, all taking food home, we have not enough leftovers to get tired of (and alas, no Bubble and Squeak this year). But I can't complain, I love to host this meal and my family loves to eat it (and they are very generous with the praise which makes any cook feel grand).

Most of my family are strict traditionalists when it comes to this meal, but I have been able to change things a little as time goes by- they will eat my mashed potatoes even though I leave on the skins and throw in a whole head of garlic, the gravy is made with white wine, but no (nasty) giblets, and the green beans are sauteed, not boiled into submission. I have done away with that quivering can shaped cranberry sauce of my childhood in favor of a fresh whole berry sauce, this year making a spicy version with jalapenos and crushed red pepper that my grandfather loved (it needed to be spicier still in my opinion). Our Thanksgiving dinners have always been alcohol free events (at least in my family), but this year I had a blackberry wine from the nearby Hanover Winery that I really wanted to serve, and I'll be damned if grandpa didn't have a glass. I about fell off my chair for I have never seem him drink an alcoholic beverage, ever. The pumpkin pie was made with the white pumpkin I put up in the freezer last month, and it was the best one I have made to date (just ask my dad, he'll tell you so 8 or 20 times :).

I was able to get a lot of the work done the day before- the stuffing, baked asparagus, and escalloped pineapple prepared for the oven, the pies made, the trifle ingredients prepared for layering on Thanksgiving morn, the cranberry sauces made, the salad and dressing made, the green beans prepped, and even the potatoes scrubbed. The dining room table was set with the silver, crystal, soft cloth napkins and lots of candles and greenery. The real work is in the juggling done on Thanksgiving day in trying to have all these dishes cooked and hot at the appropriate time. Ben and I have been talking for a while of replacing our electric range with a gas one, placing the electric in the basement for our future kitchenette (that is actually going to be a second full kitchen). The decision was finalized Thanksgiving morning when I couldn't get both the turkey and the ham in the oven at once without a last minute change of roasting ware. I'll have that gas range (and thus the use of two ranges) after Christmas. In all the hustle to get everything done the photography was sporadic, but I did manage to get a few good ones.

The Menu

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
Bourbon and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham

Whole Grain Bread Stuffing
Baked Asparagus
(I tweaked this old family recipe)
Garlic Smashed Potatoes
Pan Gravy with White Wine

Escallopped Pineapple (a recipe from Ben's family)
Garlic Sauteed Green Beans
Triple Green Salad with Sweet and Sour dressing
Dinner Rolls
(I cheated and bought these)
Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce, two ways
Pickled Crabapples (the ones Chris had me make last month)

"White" Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Butter Cream Trifle

Pecan Tartlets
(cheated with these as well)
Fresh Whipped Cream

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
I usually don't roast a whole turkey because any more Chris is the only one who like the dark meat, so I just find the largest turkey breast I can , a 10lb. whopper this year. A breast this large takes a few days to thaw in the fridge, just a a small turkey would, so be sure to allow ample time. Quarter a small peeled onion and place it into the cavity. Place the breast meaty side up in the roasting pan, you may have to wedge the bottom bone at the opening in the bars of the rack to get it to stand straight (I did, see the photo). Pat the breast dry with paper towels and then rub liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle all exposed skin very generously with herbs and seasonings of choice- I used kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, garlic powder, rubbed sage, thyme, and oregano. Don't worry if extra falls into the roasting pan, it will further flavor the dripping that you will use later to make the gravy. Pour a cup of water or stock into the bottom of the pan; roast in a 325 degree oven approximately 20 minutes a pound, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 170 degrees. There is no need to baste during the roasting, nor a need to cover it with foil at any time- the skin will be left crisp and tasty for those who like it. Remove to a platter and cover tightly in foil until serving time. Reserve the pan and drippings. This method also works well with roasting chickens- you may want to add lemon and garlic cloves to the cavity for chicken.

Bourbon and Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
Again, not a recipe so much as just a way of doing things. We have ham as well on Thanksgiving because my dad won't eat turkey (gasp!), and the last few years I have been buying spiral cut hams. They do cost a little more, but they are so much easier to serve that I find them well worth it. Place the ham cut side down in a roasting pan and cover the pan tightly with foil. Roast at 325 degrees (with the turkey) for 10 to 12 minutes per pound. When there is approximately 30 minutes cooking time left, remove the foil and move the ham into serving position. Brush with one half the bourbon sugar mix, making sure some gets in between the slices, roast for 15 minutes, remove and repeat. The glaze consists of about 1/2 packed cup brown sugar (light or dark), a couple tablespoons spicy brown mustard, and a couple tablespoons of bourbon; stir well to combine. Remove to a serving platter and cover with foil until serving time. Reserve the drippings for another use like yummy ham gravy or adding to the stock for bean soup; the same goes for that meaty ham bone you are left with at the end.

To be continued...


  1. Pat C. on Facebook: Likes this.

  2. Tracey C. on Facebook said:
    All that stuff sounded yummy :) I need to get back into cooking!
    November 29, 2009 at 10:23pm


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