Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thanksgiving Recipes

Photo credit Chris Perry. This was a couple of years ago, we think.
So, annoyingly, as you will see from the list of recipe links below, I have posted many of the less crucial Thanksgiving meal bits and pieces over the years, but very few of the absolutely sine qua nons. Like the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes (unless someone else brings them, I make these), and, of course, the turkey itself, which is below, with no pictures, sorry!


This year, we will be hosting A Very GF Thanksgiving with Very Vegetarian Options. This is not a hardship for me, as I, weirdly, appreciate the challenge of restrictions. Also, neither constraining factor affects my excellent mashed potato recipe, which is this: boil 10 pounds of peeled, halved yukon golds in very salty water until very tender. Put them through a ricer or food mill, then stir in 2 cut-up sticks of butter, 2 -3 cups of sour cream, and enough whole milk or 1/2 and 1/2 to keep everyone loose and happy. Salt the potatoes as you go. Scoop them into a buttered casserole dish and dot heavily with butter (like, another stick, sorry), then cover. These can sit on the counter for up to 4 hours or so (don't refrigerate them). Around 30 - 45 minutes before you plan to sit down to eat, pop the covered dish into the oven to heat (whatever the oven is at is fine). Uncover and pop under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the top is browned and sizzling.

I am always embarrassed when a guest seems my neurotic holiday to-do list, but dude! It's a lot of things to remember to do. 
Okay, here are some other potentially useful recipes, and then the turkey below. I dearly hope you know how grateful I am for your company, some of you for many, many years. Have a wonderful holiday. Try to add an act of resistance or two to your to-do list!


I am still using this annoying fake photo of cut-out magazine pictures because I never think to take pictures during the actual holiday. Mostly because I am too busy whisking gravy and drinking and eating, and then whipping cream and cutting pie. And then eating pie. Trust me, the below turkey comes out looking fantastic.
How to Make a Thanksgiving Turkey
First, buy a turkey. Then, ewwww, dig out the bag of things and the neck (make gravy with the nasties!) and brine the turkey, ideally for 2 days, but one is fine. Here is my brine recipe (enough for a 24-pound turkey): Dissolve 2 cups of Diamond kosher salt and 1 cup of sugar in 1/2 gallon of warm water. Then stir in the other half of that gallon of cold water, a second gallon of cold water, a handful of bay leaves (let's say 6-12), the zest of 2 lemons in strips peeled off with a peeler, and a quartered onion or 2. Put the turkey inside a large ziploc bag inside a plastic bucket, and then carefully pour in the brine in and seal the bag. If this contraption will not fit in your fridge, you can definitely do just the bag. I don't only because it makes me nervous and revolted.

An hour or two before it's time to roast it, take the turkey out of the brine and arrange it on a roasting rack inside a roasting pan. Heat the oven to 425. When you're ready to roast the turkey, rub it all over with a softened stick of butter, scatter some chunked carrots, onions, and celery into the bottom of the pan and stuff some into the turkey along with a sliced lemon and a handful of fresh thyme. If you're going to make gravy from the drippings, pour a cup or two of water into the bottom of the pan, so that they don't burn. Roast the turkey for 1/2 hour, then turn the heat down to 350 and roast it until it's done. 4 1/2 or 5 hours total seems to be the necessary time for a 24-pound turkey.; replenish the liquid in the pan as necessary, adding a splash of hard cider or wine towards the end, if you like. Try to have it coming out of the oven an hour before you plan to serve it, so that it has time to cool and firm up a bit. Make gravy with the pan drippings.

30 comments:

  1. Yippie! I see there's Herbed Goat Cheese on your list!!! I've been teaching people how to make chevre, and what you can do with it afterwards (Think lasagne! Think herbed marinated chevre! Think cheesecake!). I actually have a free webinar I'll teach in December, and if you want more info, just shoot me an email!

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    1. Thank you, Corina! I should send my newly goat-milking friends to you. . .

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  2. Thank you for this very helpful post. Herbed Goat Cheese was ALREADY ON my menu, but for the rest I'm kind of lost.

    I don't really want to brine the turkey but I will.
    I'm going to need a bigger bag.

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    1. You are going to need a bigger bag.

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  3. Deirdre5:02 PM

    Love you, Catherine. Happy Thanksgiving.

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  4. Semi idle question- would half as much table salt work in your brine recipe?

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    1. Ha ha ha! Yes. But kosher salt has much better flavor.

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  5. I also find it very satisfying to adapt a meal for the wide variety of food preferences and restrictions in my family. I now make a GF, vegetarian-friendly, diabetic-friendly meal. This year I will get to do two in a row because one of my kids is spending T-day with the eventual in-laws and we get Black Friday, and other kids Must Have Turkey On Thanksgiving Day. I also need to make my own wildly neurotic lists and get shopping sooner rather than later.

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    1. I am glad to know I'm not alone!

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  6. I wish we celebrated Thanksgiving here! Any excuse for a delicious meal and over eating :)

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  7. Catherine, I make my mashed potatoes almost exactly like you make them (the sour cream! so important!), but here’s a nice variation to try — swap out about a third of the potatoes for sweet potatoes, and use Idaho’s instead of Yukon’s (the floury-ness works better with the sweets I think). It’s lovely with garnet or jewel yams, but if you make it with purple sweet potatoes (from Whole Foods, natch), the color will shock and delight any young guests — looks like play-dough, tastes delicious!

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  8. Anonymous11:58 AM

    how many guests do you host?
    I'm thinking a 24 lb bird would be good, but there are 11 of us--half are kids....

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    1. Last year was a lot--like 25, I think, though a handful were vegetarians. For 11 people, I would get something more like a 15 pound bird, if you wanted leftovers.

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  9. If you used powdered sugar in your whipped cream, you can make it way ahead - the cornstarch in the powdered sugar keeps it from separating into a disappointing watery version of whipped cream. no more last minute whipping in our house! :)

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  10. I have probably told you this before, but I LOVE your Mom's cranberry sauce recipe and I have been making it for several years now! It is delicious and also goes well on after thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. Cheers to you and your family<3

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  11. Do you have a successful gf gravy recipe? I try every year and am almost never completely satisfied (and if I ever am, I'm unable to remember what I did so I can replicate it!)

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  12. Kristin7:59 AM

    I am also thankful for your company! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  13. THANK YOU!! I was thinking, today as I bought cranberries for sparkling centerpiece as requested by my 10 yr old DD, that I wanted your recipes again.
    Thankful for your writing- been a follower for almost 15 years.

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  14. Our Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without your crudites and dip recipe! In fact, we are having only a small meal this year, but my son was only concerned about whether or not I would make the crudités. Several of those other recipes are also family favorites. You have given me laughter, tears, and great recipes for 15 years! Thank you!!

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  15. Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours! When I lived in CA (grad school days and early working career years), I used to host a big gathering of friends that were all living far from family. For the last 12 years, I've lived in rural Maine, raising 2 children, where almost all the people I've friended have family to go to for this festive meal. It means that I only cook for the 4 of us now. How I miss the chaos of drunken turkey basting! However, in that time is when you began focusing on recipes for your writing. For that, I am grateful!! My oldest ONLY likes your cranberry sauce recipe. And...I find this hard to believe...no one in my family likes stuffing/dressing like I do. It boggles my mind. I keep trying different recipes, too! Ah well...I still make it for me. Also - my to-do list is fabulously complex with categories for Sun/Mon/Tues/Wed...you know, shopping at 3 different markets...making the brine on Sunday b'c the bird goes in today (Monday). Thank goodness the weather has turned cold again here...b'c that bird is TOO big to fit into my fridge. It sits on the deck for days. Makes the best drippings for gravy! On Thursday, I usually have it detailed as "T-minus (x) hours/minutes" where "T" = when the Turkey will come OUT of the oven to rest...and "T +plus (x) minutes" are all the things that have to get crammed into the final minutes before we sit down to feast. Sigh. Good times. I'll raise a toast to you, and ever be grateful for your writing, your recipes, and your light in this world!

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  16. Anonymous11:16 AM

    Happy Thanksgiving!! I've been laughing, crying and exulting along with you for (shoot me in the face) 15 years, since I was pregnant with my now-tall son. I'll never forget the post you wrote about being on a camping trip with little Ben: a couple were passing by with their dog and Ben so sweetly asked, "Please, what is your dog's name?" but they didn't reply. Oh, my heart! Thank you for the gift you've given to all of us through your writing.

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  17. Happy Thanksgiving, Catherine! Hope your holiday is as wonderful as you are!

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  18. Happy thanksgiving to you and yours; I feel I know you all. Here's how I get out of the cream whipping: pour it into a mixing bowl and plop it on the table, along with sugar and vanilla (or whatever you like in yours) and an old fashioned hand cranked egg beater. The guests take turns whipping while you get the other stuff going, and by the time you get back to the table it's all done--magic! Have a lovely holiday!

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  19. Ben is going to college? Congrats! But now you only have one kid at home to overshare about on the Internet, which means much less cash coming in. No wonder you're worried about paying college expenses. Birdy, you need to step it up! Mama needs tuition $$$.

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  20. There has got to be some way you can make money from being an empty nester. Dorm cam? Screenshots from their social media accounts? Let's brainstorm it.

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    1. OMG! A real-live troll. This really takes me back! It used to be that *nobody* had anything better to do than hang around people they had contempt for! Those were the days.

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