Thanksgiving dinner takes so much time, energy and planning to prepare, and then everyone’s done eating in what feels like five minutes. It’s enough to drive a conscientious cook crazy.
Thank goodness, then, for the meal’s many leftovers, which give those of us who prepare the holiday feast a second (and maybe even a third) chance to show off our culinary mettle — hopefully at a much more relaxed pace, without the insanity of a typical Thanksgiving meal prep, where so many things have to come out of the oven at exactly the right time.
We’re not talking about the boring turkey sandwiches. Ditto on simply reheating the spuds, corn or rolls, which is equally uninspired.
To really keep the celebration going, why not get your creative juices flowing with recipes that reinvent what you just had for dinner instead of simply duplicating it? That way, your leftovers won’t feel like, you know, leftovers but rather like something special.
Blended with oil and vinegar and a little Dijon mustard, surplus cranberry sauce is easily transformed into a tangy-sweet salad dressing. Mashed potatoes mixed with cheddar and chives are reborn as savory, pop-in-your-mouth mini muffins. With a little garlic and chili, rolls destined to chopped into bread crumbs become tender sponges for a spicy egg drop soup. Chilies also can breath new life into leftover bowls of corn, folded into an eggy batter to be fried up into griddle cakes.
As for the main event turkey? This year, why not forgo the traditional leftover turkey casseroles, pot pies, turkey a la kings and turkey-frame soup in favor of a slow cooker chowder made with wild rice, wine and mushrooms?
Enjoy, it’s less than a month until you have to do it all again for Christmas.
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.
Leftover Cranberry Sauce Dressing
Cranberry sauce doesn’t only have to be paired with turkey — It also can brighten up a salad, as this tangy vinaigrette demonstrates.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Process ingredients in blender until smooth. Serve over tossed or chopped greens.
Makes about 1 cup dressing.
— Southern Living
Leftover Bread Egg Drop Soup with Garlic and Chili
A warming soup for cool fall nights.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic paste
2 Thai chilies, sliced
12 bite-sized pieces stale, crusty bread
6 cups chicken broth
4 large eggs, whisked
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons shredded Gruyere cheese
In large stockpot over medium-low heat, warm oil. Add garlic paste and chilies. Stir occasionally for about 8 to 10 minutes until garlic is fragrant but not browned.
Add bread and stir evenly to coat. Pour in chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and stir in eggs. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Serve garnished with oregano and cheese.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
— Chile Pepper magazine
Cheesy Leftover Mashed Potato Muffins
Spin your leftover spuds into something spectacular with this easy recipe. If you like, add diced turkey or ham. Be sure to grease the muffin tin really well so that the potatoes don’t stick to the pan. The end result is like potato chips — impossible to eat just one.
3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1 large egg
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a non-stick mini-muffin pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, stir together the mashed potatoes, egg, ¾ cup cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons chopped chives. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Using an ice cream scoop, divide the potato mixture evenly into the prepared muffin pan, packing the potatoes down into each cup.
Bake muffins for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown and crisp around the edges. Remove the pan from the oven, top the muffins with the remaining ¼ cup cheddar cheese and return them to the oven for 3 more minutes. Remove muffins from the oven and allow them to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
Transfer muffins to a serving dish, top them with the remaining 1 tablespoon of chopped chives and serve immediately.
Makes 24 mini muffins.
Leftover Corn and Jalapeno Griddle Cakes
These griddle cakes can be stored in a zip top bag in the fridge for up to 2 days, or the freezer for up to 1 month. Simply heat them in a toaster when ready to eat.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1¼ cups whole or 2% milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1½ cups cooked corn kernels
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a small bowl or measuring cup, use a fork to lightly beat the milk, melted butter and egg. Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture. Add the corn and jalapeno. Use a fork to stir until just mixed and there are no visible traces of flour.
Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Sprinkle a few drops of water into the skillet — if they “dance” across it, the skillet is ready. Add a pat of butter and swirl to coat. Drop scant ¼ cupfuls of batter into the skillet, leaving 1 to 2 inches between each cake. Cook until set around the edges and air bubbles form on top, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook 1 to 2 more minutes. Serve hot.
— Food Network
Leftover Turkey and Wild Rice Chowder
Hearty and flavorful, not to mention easy to throw together, this chowder is perfect for those lazy nights when all you want to do after work is curl up on the couch with a hot bowl of soup. Don’t forget the crusty bread for sopping.
Several tablespoons of turkey pan drippings or olive oil
3 medium celery stalks, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
8 ounces mushrooms, stems included, chopped
1 large Spanish onion, diced
1 cup dry white wine
1 ounce (1/4 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups wild rice
1 cup white basmati rice
5 cups turkey or chicken stock
Bouquet garni of 3 fresh sage leaves, 6 parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf and 1 small rosemary sprig, tied together
2 cups diced cooked turkey
Preheat slow cooker to low.
Place a large saute pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with turkey drippings/olive oil. Saute celery, carrots, mushrooms and onion in batches until lightly browned. Transfer vegetables to a slow cooker.
Add wine to pan and simmer for several minutes. Transfer wine to slow cooker. Add porcini mushrooms, wild rice, basmati rice, stock and bouquet garni to slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours until wild rice has split open and softened.
Remove 2 cups soup with rice in it. Puree until creamy. Add pureed mixture back to slow cooker and stir to combine. Add turkey, cover and cook for 30 minutes more.
Remove bouquet garni. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parsley and sage.
— “Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes” by Laura Frankel (Surrey Books)
BROWNS MILLS, N.J. — Love ’em or hate ’em, cranberries have long been part of America’s culinary history.
Even before Gen. Ulysses S. Grant gave orders in 1864 for the tart ruby berries to be given to Union soldiers as part of their holiday meal, cranberries were common on the table. Native Americans ate them and the wild perennials also were part of New Englanders’ diet in the mid-1700s, cooked with maple syrup or honey into sauces, preserves and tarts.
Yet it wasn’t until the 1930s, when the Massachusetts Ocean Spray cooperative started selling whole and jellied cranberry sauce, that the berry was really woven into America’s Thanksgiving fabric. It’s a rare holiday celebration that doesn’t include a log of canned sauce or some spiffed up homemade variety; its tart-sweet zing adds a welcome punch of flavor, color and texture to tender slices of turkey.
One of just a handful of native American fruits to be commercially grown, cranberries are most associated with New England, thanks to those kooky “straight from the bog” TV commercials starring faux fruit growers Justin and Henry. Yet Wisconsin actually is the country’s leading grower of the little red berries (it produced some 5.3 million barrels of fruit in 2014, or 530 million pounds). New Jersey also has a thriving cranberry industry, with more than 3,000 acres of cranberry bogs producing 626,000 barrels.
Cranberries thrive in sandy, acidic soil and Jersey’s Pine Barrens region — where the ground fruit has been cultivated since the mid-1800s — is rich in both.
Many of the state’s 20-plus farms are descendants of the original growers. Joseph J. White, a fifth-generation cranberry farm at Whitesbog, Pemberton Township, has been growing cranberries for more than 150 years. Second-largest in New Jersey, it has 76 bogs of different sizes and varieties covering 350 acres in production. During the fall harvest, growers Brenda Conner and Joe Darlington, who market the fruit under the Pine Barrens Native Fruits label, give bus tours ($35; pbnf.co) to the sandy roads and narrow dams surrounding the bogs. It’s fascinating.
Workers start “corralling” the fruit in early October — 500 pounds every 2½ minutes — and are generally finished well before Thanksgiving. Just a tiny portion of the seasonal haul makes it to the market fresh; most berries are shipped north to Ocean Spray (whose cooperative now includes 700 grower families) to be canned, bottled or dried.
Because they’re fragile, fresh berries have to be dry harvested — that is, picked while the vines are completely dry with a lawnmower-like mechanical harvester. What you get to see at the White’s farm from the bus is the more interesting wet harvest, which involves flooding the bogs with water so the cranberries float to the surface.
For generations, cranberries were picked by hand or scooped into baskets in a tedious process. Harvesting machines made things faster but left plenty of wasted fruit on the ground. When growers discovered that cranberries, because of their inner air pockets, float quite easily, things got interesting. In the 1960s growers started flooding the fields after harvest to pick up the leftover “floaters.”
Soon, though, they realized the entire process could be made much easier by flooding the field at harvest time, beating the submerged vines, and letting the berries float to the surface, where they could be skimmed away. The man-made cranberry bog was born, and cranberries were gathered by workers with wooden brooms and then sucked onto trucks by a conveyor belt.
Seeing all the fruit crushed by the rolling harvesters, Ms. Conner told her husband, Joe, that she could increase yield by 20 percent if he would just build her a floating harvester: a one-man barge equipped with spinning beater arms that could be towed back and forth across the water, whacking away at what lies beneath without causing so much damage. He did, and today the farm’s bogs average 280 to 300 100-pound barrels per acre each season. Whether they make it north to Ocean Spray depends on how well they bounce — the sprightlier the specimen, the tastier the berry. Substandard ones go into the compost pile.
Piloting the floating harvester, which is guided by GPS, Ms. Conner says, “is like playing Nintendo.” But it’s far from a game. To be a cranberry farmer is to always be on call with Mother Nature. The vines must be properly irrigated to protect them from frost 24/7; when the temperature dips below about 23 degrees, growers have to “run frost,” or run their irrigation pumps to warm up the bogs, or freeze the water they put out to create a protective ice layer around the plant tissue.
Ms. Conner notes they also have to keep a close eye on bugs that, in some cases, are nocturnal. “So we not only go out and sweep the bogs during the day, but also between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.”
The tour concludes with a cooking demonstration and cranberry tasting. Guests get a packet of family recipes. A versatile fruit, cranberries are good for everything from appetizers, bread and salads to sauces and desserts.
Even if you think you don’t like cranberries you probably should: Because of their disease-fighting antioxidants, they’re considered a super fruit along the lines of blueberries (which the White farm also grows); sailors in the 19th century ate them to ward off scurvy. They’re also high in vitamin C, fiber-rich and a low-cal treat at only 45 calories per cup — although any caloric benefit is easily negated by all the sugar many recipes require to make them more palatable. You also can eat them out of hand, like Ms. Conner, if you have a toothpick and a bowl of caramel.
Fresh cranberries will last for two months in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed plastic bag, and they freeze well for up to a year. So now’s the time to stock up so that you can experiment throughout the winter.
If you go …
Where: J.J. White, which sells under the label Pine Barrens Native Fruits, is located at 1 Pasadena Road, Browns Mills, N.J. It’s about an hour from downtown Philadelphia on New Jersey Route 70E. (Look for mile marker 32.5 on Route 70, then turn right onto a dirt road. Parking lot is a short distance on the left.).
When: Bus tours of the cranberry bogs are expected to start the first weekend in October 2016 and run for about five weeks.
Tickets: Individual tickets cost $35 and are available Fridays and Saturdays. (Weekdays are reserved for group tours.) Tours begin at 9 a.m., rain or shine, and are three hours long.
More info: 1-888-272-6264 or email@example.com.
This easy whole-berry sauce is sweetened with orange juice. Save the leftovers to mix with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard for a salad dressing.
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
4 strips orange zest, plus ½ cup fresh orange juice
Rinse cranberries under cool water, then sort and discard any damaged or bruised cranberries.
Place sugar, orange zest and juice and ½ cup water in medium saucepan; season with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high and stir to dissolve sugar. Add berries.
Reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes; berries will pop. Remove from heat and let sauce cool completely at room temperature; it will thicken as it cools. Transfer to a bowl to chill in the refrigerator.
Makes 2 cups sauce.
— Gretchen McKay
Cranberry Brie Tarts
An easy make-ahead appetizer or snack that is pretty enough for entertaining.
¾ cup cranberry sauce or jam, canned or homemade
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
24 wonton wrappers
8-ounce brie round, cut into cubes
Place cranberry sauce in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until hot, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice and lemon peel.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 24-cup mini-muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Center a wonton wrapper over each muffin form, push down with fingers to make a little bowl, with the corners sticking up, and bake for 10 minutes. Place 1 cube of brie in each wonton bowl.
Bake for 5 minutes, or just until cheese melts and wonton tips are beginning to turn brown. Remove from oven; top each cup with 1 teaspoon of cranberry mixture. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 24 appetizers.
— Adapted from Pine Barrens Native Fruits
These are great for garnishing cakes, pies and other holiday treats or simply popping in your mouth when you need a sugary, lip-puckering snack.
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberries
¾ cup superfine sugar
Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to overnight.
Drain cranberries in a colander then place on rack and allow to dry at least 45 minutes (this allows them to get sticky). Place sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature until dry.
Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.
— Gretchen McKay
New England Cranberry Duff
This New England spin on the traditional upside-down cake is about as easy as it gets when it comes to dessert or, in my case, breakfast.
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries
⅓ cup pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped
⅓ cup plus ½ cup sugar, divided
1 large egg
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and halfway up sides of an 8-inch square glass baking dish using 2 tablespoons butter. Spread cranberries evenly over bottom of dish. Sprinkle pecans on top, then sprinkle with ⅓ cup sugar; set aside.
Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat; set aside. Put egg and the remaining ½ cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low; gradually beat in flour and then salt. Pour in melted butter in a slow, steady stream, beating until smooth.
Slowly pour batter into pan to cover cranberries. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge to loosen, and invert to unmold onto a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Every year on Thanksgiving Day, the same scene plays out on countless American dinner tables.
You score with the holiday bird’s thigh meat (so moist and juicy) but its breast, most unfortunately, is a dry and stringy epic fail. Thank goodness for gravy.
Or maybe it’s the reverse. The breast meat carves into tender, magical slices, but the thighs and drumsticks, which your dark meat-loving family members always fight over, are overly pink and rubbery to the touch. Everyone has to wait while you pop the pieces back into the oven for additional roasting.
For a dish that seems like it should be so easy, a properly cooked Thanksgiving turkey actually requires some fussing over, what with the white meat always cooking faster than the dark meat, no matter how carefully you tent it when the breast hits 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. No wonder so many of us count hassle-free sides like stuffing and candied sweet potatoes among our favorite holiday dishes.
It doesn’t have to be so.
Break the bird down into parts to be cooked individually, or buy your turkey legs and a breast separately from the get-go, and you solve the problem. White and dark cook on their own terms, and as a result, no one gets stuck with over- or under-cooked poultry.
There are other reasons it makes sense to cook a turkey in parts instead of an entire bird during the holidays.
Maybe you’re cooking for just a couple of guests instead of a crowd, or your family likes the delicate breast meat so much more than dark, or you’re tired of having to decide who gets the prized legs. (Sometimes there’s just one to divvy up: in my house, my father always gets first dibs.)
Perhaps you hate the way a 15-pound turkey takes up so much room in the oven, making it difficult to cook more than one or two side dishes at the same time.
Or maybe you simply want to spend more time socializing and less time hunched over a hot oven taking the bird’s temperature. A whole turkey can take upwards of three or more hours to roast (longer if it’s stuffed). Braised drumsticks only take about 90 minutes, while a whole breast only needs about two hours. Plus, turkey parts generally don’t require a whole lot of knife skills to slice the meat off the bone.
While finding turkey legs could be a challenge (I found mine at Wholey’s; frozen turkey legs are sold at Strip District Meats in the Strip District), most larger grocery stores sell frozen turkey breasts year-round. As we get closer to Thanksgiving, you’ll also be able to find fresh turkey at such specialty shops as DJ’s Butcher Block in Bloomfield, and Marty’s Market in the Strip District, as well as from poultry farmers such as Pounds’ Turkey Farm in Leechburg and Serenity Hill Farms in Cheswick.
How to proceed? You can roast the turkey parts in the same pan at 350 degrees, after rubbing them with butter, salt, pepper and herbs (add the turkey legs after the breast has been in the oven for 30 minutes). Or give them more personal attention and a bit more style with recipes such as the Maple Syrup-Mustard Glazed Turkey Breast or Cider-Braised Turkey Legs. Either one would be a tasty and stress-free addition to your Thanksgiving table.
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.
Maple Syrup-Mustard Glazed Turkey Breast
It takes some planning, but brining your turkey makes the meat super-moist and tender. This easy recipe is flavored with apple cider and maple syrup. I used a half breast (about 3 pounds) and it turned out great.
For brine and turkey
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 bunch fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 orange, cut into quarters
1 whole bone-in, skin-on turkey breast (about 5 pounds)
For spice rub and glaze
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
For brine: In pot large enough to hold the turkey breast comfortably, combine 2 quarts water with cider, maple syrup, thyme, bay leaves, salt and orange quarters. Bring just to a simmer. Add 2 quarts ice water (about half ice/half water). Let come to room temperature. Submerge turkey in brine, cover and refrigerate overnight or all day (about 12 hours).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange a rack in large roasting pan (a V-neck roasting rack is ideal, but any rack will work).
Remove turkey from brine, rinse well and pat dry. Loosen skin off turkey breast with fingers and rub butter under the breast skin. In small bowl, stir together paprika, dry mustard, sage, granulated garlic and pepper and rub all over the turkey breast. Set turkey on rack breast side up and roast for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in small bowl, stir together maple syrup and mustard. After 30 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and brush turkey with some of the glaze. Continue to roast, basting twice more, until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast reads 165 degrees, about 1½ hours, depending on the size of breast. Let turkey rest on cutting board for 15 minutes before carving.
Serves 6, with leftovers.
— “Farmhouse Rules: Simple, Seasonal Meals for the Whole Family” by Nancy Fuller (Grand Central Life & Style, October 2015, $30)
Cider-Braised Turkey Legs
Any leg person will love this braised turkey recipe. Note that turkey legs are big. In fact they are so big that I couldn’t fit them in my Dutch oven and had to use a 16-inch cast-iron skillet. The sauce is so tasty; save it to spoon over rice or potatoes.
2 turkey legs (from one 15- to 16-pound turkey)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 leeks, white and light-green parts only, sliced crosswise into ½-inch rounds
2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 fresh bay leaves
2 cups apple cider
1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Rinse and dry turkey legs; season on all sides with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Place bacon in a large Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until bacon begins to crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
Increase heat to high and add olive oil. Add turkey legs, skin side down, working in batches if necessary. Cook, turning, until turkey is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer legs to a plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon of rendered fat from Dutch oven.
Add carrots, celery, and leeks to Dutch oven and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and cook until it begins to bubble. Add thyme, sage, bay leaves, and cider; bring to a boil and stir, breaking up any browned bits at the bottom of pan. Continue boiling until cider is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
Add chicken stock and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a slow simmer and add reserved bacon. Return turkey legs to the Dutch oven, skin side down; cover and transfer to oven. Cook for 40 minutes, turn turkey legs, uncover, and continue cooking until legs are tender and starting to fall off the bone, 45 to 50 minutes more.
Transfer turkey legs to a serving platter. Skim fat from top of braising liquid and discard; season braising liquid with salt and pepper and spoon over turkey legs. Serve immediately.
When you’re the holiday’s designated cook, and your extended family is large, Thanksgiving can be a very long day.
Up early to stuff and throw a 20-pound bird in the oven, there’s barely time to swallow a single cup of coffee before starting the slow and steady work of preparing the expected smorgasbord of Turkey Day pre-dinner munchies, side dishes, starches and desserts. And that’s just the cooking part of the holiday.
Depending on your interests, Thanksgiving might also include an early morning footrace (Pittsburgh’s 22nd annual PNC YMCA Turkey Trot 5K starts at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 22), a neighborhood turkey bowl, volunteering at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter, picking up a college student or adult child at the airport or Megabus drop-off stop, or a car trip across the city or state to visit friends or relatives. And don’t forget about the many football games on TV, and the time-consuming job of developing a plan for post-dinner Black Friday shopping.
By the time the turkey’s ready to be carved — well, who can blame you if you’re almost too tired to eat? Especially if the night before, you spent far too long at your local watering hole catching up with the people you went to high school with.
Maybe it’s time to come up with a different plan.
Instead of the traditional sit-down dinner with all the fancy trimmings, why not embrace one of the year’s hottest trends and prepare a feast of finger-friendly foods your family and invited guests can nosh on throughout the day, whenever the mood strikes?
Imagine: all the wonderful tastes of Thanksgiving served in bite-sized portions, without the need for a knife or fork. Turkey and stuffing. Potatoes and pastry. Green beans and bacon. Pumpkin and maple.
Even better, because all of the dishes offered below can be prepared ahead of time, there’s no need for the marathon cooking session. So instead of fretting over how to stir lumps out of the gravy while also mashing the potatoes while simultaneously carving the turkey and making sure there’s butter and cranberry sauce on the table, you can do the one thing you’ve always wanted to do at Thanksgiving dinner.
Relax and eat!
Turkey Hand Pies
These grab-and-go hand pies are absolutely delicious, and the crust is easier than you might think, even for a cook with pastry issues. Feel free to substitute your favorite frozen mixed veggies. Just as good cold the next morning for breakfast as hot from the oven for lunch or dinner.
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 to 2 cups cooked, shredded turkey breast
1/3 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
1/3 cup chopped, cooked carrot
Salt and pepper
Flaky Butter Crust (recipe follows)
In a large frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter or oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add turkey breast, peas and carrots. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
Lightly flour a clean work surface. Remove half of dough from fridge, unwrap it and place on floured work surface, and flour the top lightly. Roll out dough into a rectangle that is roughly 9 by 12 inches. The dough should be about 1/2-inch thick.
Using a pastry wheel, trim off ragged edges. Then cut the dough into circles, squares or rectangles, as small or large as you like, saving the trimmings. Evenly divide half of the turkey filling on top of pastry circles, fold over and crimp the edges with a fork. (I made 8 rectangles.) Slash or prick each pie to vent steam.
Transfer pies to prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Repeat rolling, cutting, filling and crimping with the rest of the dough. Gather dough scraps from both halves, form into a ball and roll out to make more pastries.
When second baking sheet is ready, place first pan in oven and second in fridge. Place a baking rack over a sheet of parchment on your table or counter to catch sticky drips.
Bake pastries until they are golden brown on top (the sides will brown first), about 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately (and carefully) move the pastries onto the baking rack, then slip the second baking sheet into the oven. Let pastries cool for at least 10 minutes before serving, but be sure to enjoy them warm.
Eat or freeze these pies the day they are made (can be frozen for up to 2 months). Reheat in a 375 degree oven for about 12 minutes.
Makes 10 to 12 hand pies.
— Adapted from “Handheld Pies” by Sarah Billingsley and Rachel Wharton (Chronicle, Jan. 2012, $19.95)
Garlic, Potato and Chive Cutie Pies
These bite-sized mashed potato pies will disappear almost as fast as you can pop them out of the muffin pan. For extra oomph, sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese before serving. Even better reheated the next day!
4 to 5 medium redskin potatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes
All-Butter Pie Crust (recipe follows)
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons fresh chopped chives (I used green onions), plus additional for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
To make filling, fill medium pot halfway with water and bring to a brisk boil. Add potatoes, cover and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place rack in center of oven. Spray cups of muffin pan with nonstick pan spray.
Roll out All-Butter Pie Crust dough. Cut 36 circles (I used a 2 1/2-inch cutter) from the dough. Reroll scraps to make all the circles, and avoid overhandling the dough.
Gently but firmly press each circle into a muffin cup. Fold, tuck and crimp edges.
Drain potatoes. Mash in a food processor, electric mixer or by hand with a potato masher. Gradually add half-and-half and sour cream. Mix well.
Add chives, garlic, salt and pepper, and continue to mash until smooth.
Spoon the filling into the Cutie Pie shells to about the top of muffin cup.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until crust is golden and top starts to brown. If pie top is browning too quickly, cover with foil for final few minutes.
To serve, garnish with fresh chives.
Makes 36 Cutie Pies.
— “Cutie Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory and Adorable Recipes” by Dani Cone (Andrews McMeel, 2011, $16.99)
Green beans in a glass
This sweet and buttery green bean recipe should even please the kids.
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup real bacon pieces
Cook beans in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Drain in a colander and immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. When beans are cool, drain in a colander and pat dry.
Melt butter. Add brown sugar and bacon pieces to butter and mix thoroughly. Toss beans in the brown sugar and butter mixture. Serve in tall shot glasses.
Sweet Potato Latkes
These are a nice alternative to the usual mashed or cinnamon-scented sweet potato casserole served at Thanksgiving.
Place sweet potato between 2 sheets of cheesecloth; grasp ends and twist to extract as much liquid as possible. (I used paper towels.)
In a large mixing bowl, toss drained sweet potatoes with green onions, shallot and garlic. Sprinkle flour over the mixture and fold to combine. Stir in egg until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Warm oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Drop dollops of batter into the hot skillet and fry on each side for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain latkes on paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Top each latke with a small dollop of crème fraiche or serve it on the side as a dipping sauce. Serve warm.
Makes about 30 latkes.
— “Tiny Food Party!” Bite-size Recipes for Miniature Meals” by Teri Lyn Fisher & Jenny Park (Quirk, $18.95)
All-Butter Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup ice water
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar, and mix well.
Add butter to flour mixture and mix gently with pastry blender, a fork or your hands. The goal is to lightly incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. The butter pieces should be well coated with the dry mixture and somewhat flattened.
Gradually add water to the flour mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing dough until it comes together and forms pea-sized or crouton-sized crumbs. The dough should look like coarse individual pieces, not smooth and beaten together like cookie dough.
With your hands, gather dough crumbs together to form 2 patties, gently molding the mixture into a patty shape and being careful not to overhandle the dough. Wrap each patty in plastic wrap.
Chill dough for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. The dough can also be frozen up to 2 weeks.
When ready to use dough, let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes to soften it and make it workable. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each of the 2 dough patties to about 1/4-inch thickness, lightly dusting it with flour, to prevent sticking, and making sure to roll the dough evenly.
Makes 1 double-crust 9-inch pie, 2 single-crust 9-inch pies, 16 cutie pies or 36 mini muffin pies.
Flaky Butter Crust
1 cup cold unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 to 5 tablespoons ice water
Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and freeze them while you measure and mix the dry ingredients.
Combine flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times to mix. Retrieve the butter cubes from freezer, scatter them over the flour mixture and pulse until mixture forms pea-sized clumps. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse to mix, adding just enough water for dough to come together. (You also can make the pastry by hand or by using a pastry blender.)
Turn dough out onto a clean, floured work surface. Gather dough in a mound, then knead it a few times to smooth out. Divide in half, and gently pat and press each half into a rough rectangle, circle or square about 1-inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
By the time my hip pushed open my parents’ back door just after sundown, the 14-pound turkey I’d just finished roasting sliding precariously on the rimmed cookie sheet I held in my hands, their kitchen was standing-room-only.
Bob was bent over the sink, hurriedly cubing apples, pears and persimmons for a colorful fall salad of shredded cabbage, romaine hearts and pomegranate. Michael was circling the room in search of olive oil for sauteeing a pan of roasted Brussels sprouts and chopped shallots. And oh, did anyone have a large spoon he could use or know where Mrs. Trent kept the salt?
Marlene was wondering aloud where the wine glasses might be stashed — surely, someone remembered to bring wine! — while China and Patricia conferred in front of the stove. How best to rearrange the oven racks to accommodate the half-dozen or so dishes piled up on the breakfast room table that needed to be warmed before serving? Especially since there was a second turkey still in the oven — this one brined, for a little variety on our Thanksgiving table — that stubbornly refused to brown?
And me? In my rush to get out the door, I’d forgotten on my kitchen counter a container of turkey stock Patricia had promised to whisk into a delicious gravy. And a bunch of parsley for the turkey platter. Along with non-alcoholic beverages for the starving teenagers cooling their heels in the living room.
Pushing aside a casserole dish of mashed potatoes to make room for the turkey, I shot my husband a look. He fished the car keys out of his pocket with a sigh and headed for the door.
In other words, it was like any and every other Thanksgiving gathering I’ve ever known: the controlled chaos of too many cooks in the kitchen, too much darn-good food to fit on the table and too long a wait for it to get there.
Except that this was a Thanksgiving on Oct. 28 — a month early recipe-testing run by the Food & Flavor folks, their families and some friends. Originally planned for a lovely Laurel Highlands lodge, the event was bravely hosted by my very brave and generous parents at their big Ben Avon home.
To Grandmother’s house we go!
Even though it wasn’t a “real” Thanksgiving, it felt like one from the start, and not because 16-year-old Jack had traded his T-shirt and jeans for dress-up clothes. As my father told Patricia as he watched her take my stock “from grease to gravy,” “I’m glad I came!”
I was luckier than most in that I wouldn’t have to go far to get to Grandma’s: I live around the block from the house on the hill that I grew up in. Yet the rest of my food family — like most people who celebrate the national holiday with a big group of relatives or friends — would have to drive a few (or many) miles with casserole dishes and baking pans perched on their car floors and front seats. We wanted to make sure, then, that the make-ahead recipes that sounded so delicious on paper would travel well. They’d also need to be easy to reheat and serve a crowd, as it’s not Thanksgiving without plenty of leftovers.
Thanksgiving also wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the traditional dishes of roast turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and mashed potatoes. The recipes that ended up on my parents’ dining room table, then, were mostly familiar ones — but with a twist, to keep the meal from being boring.
For an appetizer, for example, I cooked fresh cranberries with strawberry jam and then spread the mixture on top of a shortbread tart studded with gorgonzola. Patricia’s bread stuffing was moistened with . . . chicken wings. Rather than simply mash or roast butternut squash like the Pilgrims, Marlene baked it into a savory bread pudding. For dessert, homemade pear pie was served with a local chef’s recipe for a caramel glaze flavored with miso.
We also enjoyed a fabulous “slab” pie made with quince, a fruit that looks like a cross between a giant, fuzzy apple and a pear. Can you say seconds?
So good was the food and fellowship enjoyed by all, that despite the stress of pulling together a meal for 20-plus with close to 20 dishes, it didn’t feel like work.
“What time are you coming next week?” my dad asked as the last of the guests headed out the door.
He was only half-kidding.
Cranberry-Gorgonzola Tart with Walnut Shortbread Crust
We served this luscious tart as an appetizer, but it would work just as well as a side dish or even dessert. Don’t worry if you don’t have any cherry liqueur — I left it out of the recipe and it still tasted great. I also used a fluted tart pan instead of a springform pan to great success.
— Gretchen McKay
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup walnut halves, finely ground
2/3 cup sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup cherry or strawberry preserves
12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons cherry Heering, kirsch, or other cherry liqueur
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
Heat oven to 300 degrees.
In a food processor, combine flour, walnut meal, 1/3 cup sugar, salt and sage. Pulse to incorporate. Add butter. Pulse to form a coarse meal, 30 seconds.
With your fingers, press meal into an ungreased 10-inch springform pan. Bake until light golden-brown, about 55 minutes. Cool completely and release from springform pan.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook cherry preserves until melted. Add cranberries, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, and cherry liqueur. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have lost their shape, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely, about 1 hour.
Crumble gorgonzola over tart crust in an even layer. Top with a thin layer of cranberry mixture. Divide into 10 even slices and serve.
Makes 10 servings.
— “Yankee’s Best New England Recipes” (Yankee, 2010, $9.99)
MAPLE-WHIPPED SWEET POTATOES
The cook always likes to have one easy dish at Thanksgiving. This is it. Using a hand mixer rather than food processor worked just fine.
— Patricia Lowry
4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 7 medium)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prick potatoes all over with a fork. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until very tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, halve sweet potatoes. With a spoon, scoop out flesh (discard skins) and transfer to a food processor.
Add melted butter and maple syrup; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.
To store, refrigerate in an airtight container up to 2 days. Reheat gently for 10 minutes.
— Everyday Food magazine, November 2010
CHOPPED AUTUMN SALAD
This salad is beautiful and delicious and slightly fancy, thanks to the persimmons (available through November) and the pomegranates. You also could add dried cranberries or sliced grapes.
For traveling, you could cut up the cabbage and romaine ahead of time, and prepare the pomegranate seeds (arils), and make the dressing, but don’t cut the fruit or dress it until just before serving.
— Bob Batz Jr.
12 ounces red cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
2 romaine hearts, coarsely chopped (about 6 cups), rinsed and dried if not prewashed
2 crisp apples, such as Fuji, Gala or Braeburn, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 cups)
2 ripe but firm pears, such as Bosc or Anjou, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 cups)
2 Fuyu persimmons [these are the kind you eat hard, not soft], peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice, seeds discarded, if any
Apple Cider Vinaigrette [recipe follows]
Seeds from 1 medium pomegranate (optional)
20 fresh mint leaves, cut into thin ribbons
Place the cabbage and romaine in a large bowl and toss to combine.
Just before serving, add the apples, pears and persimmons to the cabbage-romaine mixture and toss to combine. Add half of the Apple Cider Vinaigrette and toss again, adding more dressing as desired.
Transfer the salad to a large platter and garnish with the pomegranate seeds, if using, and the mint. Serve immediately.
Serves 6 to 8 as a side.
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
You could make this sweeter with an extra tablespoon of brown sugar, honey or agave syrup.
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt, or more to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a glass jar and seal the lid tightly. Shake vigorously to combine. (The vinaigrette can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 weeks. Let it return to room temperature and shake vigorously before using.)
— The Earthbound Cook: 250 Recipes for Delicious Food and A Healthy Planet” by Myra Goodman with Pamela McKinstry, Sarah LaCasse and Ronni Sweet (Workman, 2010 $20.95)
This sauce is almost as easy as opening a can of the jellied stuff, and so much better!
— Gretchen McKay
1 quart (4 cups) fresh cranberries
1 orange, zest and juice
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 ounces Madeira or other sweet wine (optional)
Put all ingredients together in a sauce pot and cover. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes or until cranberries burst open and all are soft. Pulse in a food processor or blender, being careful not to puree (it should be slightly chunky). Cool.
Makes about 2 cups.
— Chef William Hunt, Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts, Downtown
Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
This recipe — sort of a cross between a Taste of Home recipe and a recipe my grandmother used to use — is about a million calories, but everyone loves it, and it’s good for making ahead: I’ve toted these potatoes from Ohio to Pennsylvania. You can just toss them in the pan, leave them unbaked and refrigerate until you actually want to bake them. If possible, remove from the fridge for awhile to bring them closer to room temp before baking.
Place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until very tender; drain well.
Meanwhile, place onions and butter in a small bowl and microwave until onions are soft and translucent, stopping to stir occasionally to redistribute butter. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, mash drained potatoes. Add cream cheese, cheddar cheese, sour cream, egg, salt, pepper and cooked onions; beat with mixer until fluffy. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until heated through.
Makes 10 servings.
— Rebecca Sodergren
BREAD STUFFING WITH SAUSAGE, DRIED CHERRIES AND PECANS
Topping the stuffing with turkey or chicken wings while baking gives it a meaty flavor most outside-the-bird stuffings lack. To use chicken wings, as I did, separate them into 2 sections and poke each segment 4 or 5 times. Also, increase the amount of broth to 3 cups, reduce the amount of butter to 2 tablespoons, and cook the stuffing for only 60 minutes. You can use the wing meat to make soup. Reheat stuffing in a low oven to keep moist.
— Patricia Lowry
2 pounds (20 to 22 slices) hearty white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 16 cups)
3 pounds turkey wings, divided at joints
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound bulk pork sausage
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus
extra for baking dish
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 celery ribs, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups low-sodium
3 large eggs
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup pecan halves,
toasted and chopped fine
Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 250 degrees. Spread bread cubes in even layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until edges have dried but centers are slightly moist (cubes should yield to pressure), 45 to 60 minutes, stirring several times during baking. (Bread can be toasted up to 1 day in advance.) Transfer to large bowl and increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Use tip of paring knife to poke 10 to 15 holes in each wing segment. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add wings in single layer and cook until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip wings and continue to cook until golden brown on second side, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Transfer wings to medium bowl and set aside.
Return skillet to medium-high heat and add sausage; cook, breaking sausage into 1/2-inch pieces with wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer sausage to paper towel-lined plate, leaving rendered fat in skillet.
Heat butter with rendered fat in skillet over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onion, celery, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened but not browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Add thyme, sage, and pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 cup broth and bring to simmer, using wooden spoon to scrape browned bits from bottom of pan. Add vegetable mixture to bowl with dried bread and toss to combine.
Grease 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter. In medium bowl, whisk eggs, remaining 1 1/2 cups broth, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and any accumulated juices from wings until combined. Add egg/broth mixture, cherries, pecans, and sausage to bread mixture and gently toss to combine; transfer to greased baking dish. Arrange wings on top of stuffing, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and place baking dish on rimmed baking sheet.
Bake on lower-middle rack until thickest part of wings registers 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 60 to 75 minutes. Remove foil and transfer wings to dinner plate to reserve for another use. Using fork, gently fluff stuffing. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Serves 10 to 12.
— Cook’s Illustrated
Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding
Who needs turkey? This savory bread pudding from Bon Appetit is so impressive and delicious it can be the centerpiece of a vegetarian feast or an ideal brunch dish. Recipe developer Molly Wizenberg says: “The custard-soaked bread gets soft and chewy, the sweet squash is balanced by tangy cheese, and the kale tastes wintry and rich.” It’s a great match to cranberry sauce, green beans and other traditional sides.
To simplify the preparation, roast the squash, chop the shallots and grate the cheese a day in advance.
— Marlene Parrish
2 pounds peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse
kosher salt, plus
additional for sprinkling
7 large eggs
2 1/4 cups half and half
6 tablespoons dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 day-old baguette (do not remove crust), torn into rough 1-inch pieces
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4 large)
1 bunch Tuscan kale (about 1 pound), ribs removed, kale coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt; bake until squash is tender, turning with spatula occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes.
Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add half and half, wine, mustard, and 11/2 teaspoons coarse salt. Whisk to blend. Add baguette pieces; fold gently into egg mixture. Let soak 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute until soft, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add kale; cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover and stir until kale is wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes (kale will be a bit crunchy).
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. (I used a Pyrex 3-quart baker.)
Using a slotted spoon, transfer half of bread from egg mixture to prepared baking dish, arranging to cover most of the dish. Spoon half of kale over bread. Spoon half of squash over bread and kale; sprinkle with half of cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, kale, squash and cheese. Pour remaining egg mixture evenly over bread pudding.
Cover bread pudding with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, bake uncovered until custard is set and bread feels springy to the touch, about 20 minutes longer.
Preheat broiler; broil pudding until cheese browns slightly, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes or so, and serve.
Makes 8 or more servings, depending on the amount of other dishes on the menu.
— Bon Appetit
Lidia’s Roast Turkey and Pan Sauce
Nothing says “Thanksgiving” like the smell of roasting turkey. This recipe from Lidia Bastianich looks long but is actually very easy. I opted not to finish the bird with a balsamic glaze as suggested (too busy with side dishes!) and used the pan sauce to flavor a gravy. Leftovers were served the next day a la king over biscuits.
— Gretchen McKay
12- to 14-pound turkey, fresh or thawed, including neck and giblets
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 large onions, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound celery, rinsed and cut in 2-inch chunks
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 cups vegetable broth
Arrange a rack low in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Take out the giblets and neck from the turkey and save. Remove and discard any lumps of fat from the cavities. Rinse the bird inside and out, in cool running water, clearing the cavity of any residue. Rinse the giblets too. Pat everything dry with paper towels.
Set the wire roasting rack in the pan and the turkey on the rack with the neck and giblets in the pan bottom. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt inside the main turkey cavity and the rest of the salt (11/2 tablespoons in all) over the outside of the bird. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil on the turkey, a bit at a time, and spread it with your hands to coat the entire skin, including the back. Twist the tip joint of each wing down and forcefully fold it so it stays in place under the neck (think of placing both your hands behind your neck). Rest the oiled turkey on the rack, flat on its back, wings folded and breast up.
Toss together in a bowl the vegetables and seasonings, except the salt, with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, mixing everything well. If using an unsalted stock, mix 1 teaspoon kosher salt with the vegetables.
Put a handful or 2 of mixed vegetables (and one of the rosemary branches) loosely into the cavity of the turkey. Spread all the rest in one layer in the pan bottom, all around the turkey. Push the vegetable pieces under the rack, if your pan is small, so they will cook in the stock.
Before pouring in the broth, move your pan near the oven, so you won’t have far to carry it. Pour the broth into roasting pan on the side, without wetting the turkey. Depending on pan size, you’ll need 4 to 6 cups of stock to fill the bottom about 1/3-inch deep. Add more stock (or water) if necessary.
Tear two long sheets of aluminum foil. Tent the turkey by covering one side of the pan with the first sheet, arching it well above the turkey. Crimp the foil against the rim of the pan so it stays in place without touching bird. Cover rest of pan and turkey with second sheet of foil (or more if needed), overlapping the sheets several inches. Press bottom of foil tightly against sides of pan, all around, sealing the tent completely.
Carefully place the covered pan on the oven rack and push it well to the back of the oven for maximum heat. Let the turkey roast undisturbed for 2 hours. Open the oven, pull roasting pan to the front and lift off the foil sheets. The pan juices should be bubbling away and the steaming turkey will be mostly pale. With a ladle or bulb baster, baste turkey all over with pan juices and return it to the oven. Save the foil.
Roast the turkey uncovered for 30 minutes to an hour, to brown skin and cook meat to a safe internal temperature. After 30 minutes, baste again and check internal temperature; continue roasting, if necessary, until the meat reaches 160 degrees. If the breast is getting too dark, cover it loosely with a sheet of foil.
Carefully remove the roasting pan and lift the turkey out of the pan and onto the baking sheet. Cover the turkey loosely with the foil and keep it in a warm place while you make the sauce.
Remove turkey neck and giblets (not liver) from roasting pan to the saucepan. With a potato masher, crush the cooked vegetables in the roasting juices, breaking them into little bits. Set the sieve on the saucepan and pour everything out of the roaster into the sieve, scraping up all the juices, vegetables, liver, and flavorful caramelized bits. Press vegetables and other solids against the sieve with a spoon to release their liquid and discard what’s left in sieve.
You should have 1 to 2 quarts of pan juices (depending on how much stock you started with and the roasting time). Set the saucepan over high heat, bring the juices to a boil and let them reduce, uncovered.
To finish the sauce, pour into the boiling sauce any turkey juices that accumulated in the baking sheet. When the sauce has reduced almost by half, taste it for salt and add a bit more if you like. Remove the turkey neck and giblets and bring back to a simmer. Strain again, this time through a fine-meshed sieve into a measuring cup or other narrow container. Let it rest for a minute, then spoon off the fat layer that’s accumulated on top. Thicken the sauce with bread crumbs if too liquid.
To serve, slice meat and arrange all the pieces on a serving platter. Pour any juices left in the pan or on the cutting board over the meat, and then nap all the pieces with a cup or more of the finished sauce. Bring the platter to the table and let people serve themselves. Put the rest of the sauce in a bowl and pass it.
Serves 8 to 10.
— Lidia Bastianich, lidiasitaly.com
When my husband was in high school and college, he spent a number of Christmas Eves at a friend’s home in Oakland, Calif. Every year, Donna Smith-Harrison — the friend’s mother — served a whole roast goose and a crown rib roast with a number of impressive accompaniments, including this sweet and sour onion relish adapted from a Gourmet recipe. A few years ago, she gave us the recipe and he started making it on Thanksgiving, as an addition to the cranberry sauce. I like to eat the leftovers for breakfast over polenta.
— China Millman
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, or as needed
1/3 cup plus 1 to 2
tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds frozen pearl onions, straight from the freezer
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups dry white wine or dry vermouth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup dried currants
1/2 cup chopped ripe tomato
3 small bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped or pinch of dried thyme crumbled
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
6 ounces small fresh mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/4 cup chopped fresh
Heat butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet (I use cast iron) over medium-high heat. When foam subsides, add enough onions to fit in one layer without crowding. Saute shaking pan frequently, until onions are browned on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside. Saute remaining onions till browned, adding more butter and oil as necessary.
In large nonreactive saucepan combine water, wine, vinegar, sugar, currants, tomato, 1/3 cup olive oil, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne. Heat over medium heat until boiling.
Transfer browned onions to boiling liquid. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until mixture has the texture of a slightly runny chutney, 45 to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds in a cast iron pan and toast in oven, shaking pan occasionally until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Add mushrooms to onions and simmer until mushrooms are soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer to a warmed serving dish. Garnish with almonds and parsley and serve immediately. Can be made ahead and reheated.
Serves 12 to 16.
— Donna Smith-Harrison
Roasted Brussels sprouts with Wild Mushrooms and cream
Golden chanterelle mushrooms, white wine and cream transformed these simple sprouts into a dish worthy of the fanciest Thanksgiving table. I’d recommend adding half the cream to start, then adding more to taste.
3/4 pound wild mushrooms, such as chanterelle or hedgehogs, halved if small or cut into 1-inch wedges (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 large shallot, thinly sliced ( 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
Put the Brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil; toss to coat. Spread the sprouts in an even layer and season generously with salt. Roast until tender and browned, but not quite done, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat a 12-inch skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter has melted, add the mushrooms in an even layer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden brown and tender and the mushroom liquid (if any) has evaporated, 5 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and transfer to a plate. (The recipe may be prepared to this point up to 8 hours ahead.)
Set the skillet over medium-high heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When butter has melted, add the shallot, season with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Return mushrooms to the pan and add Brussels sprouts and cream. Stir in a few grinds of pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cream thickens and coats vegetables, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or keep warm, covered, in a 200-degree oven for up to 30 minutes.
— Adapted from Fine Cooking
Pear Crumble Pie with Miso Butterscotch Sauce
This is a delicious dessert, full of juicy chunks of ripe pear topped with a crumble of buttery oatmeal crumbs and almonds. It’s similar to apple pie in flavor and texture, but not so tart. Leave the peel on the pears for best texture and color contrast. Make it now when pears are at their peak of flavor.
— Marlene Parrish
5 cups cored, peeled, and sliced Bartlett pears (about 5 to 7, depending on size and very ripe)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Good pinch salt
9-inch pie shell, unbaked
1 tablespoon butter
For the crumble topping
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine pears, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Set aside to let juices form.
Prepare pastry for a 9-inch pie shell. Transfer filling into pie shell and dot with butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare topping. With a fork, mix oats, flour, melted butter, sugar, and almonds until well combined.
Remove pie from oven, sprinkle topping evenly over pear filling, then return the pie to the oven and continue baking for one hour. Remove to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
— Marlene Parrish
Miso Butterscotch Sauce
This is a classic butterscotch sundae sauce, delectable on cake, pudding or right off the spoon. For a killer combo, stir in miso paste, starting with 2 tablespoons, then adding to taste. The sauce is best served warm, but not hot.
— Marlene Parrish
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons miso paste
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat. Carefully and very slowly stir in cream. Be careful not to let it spatter. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and foaming subsides.
Remove the sauce from the heat. Place the miso in a small dish. Add some sauce to the miso and stir to combine. Add back the miso-sauce to the saucepan and stir to combine.
The sauce will separate upon standing. Just give it good stir or shake before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. Sauce will keep covered and refrigerated for up to one week. But I bet it won’t last that long.
Makes about 2 3/4 cups.
— Shelby Gibson, pastry chef at Eleven Contemporary Kitchen in the Strip District
Pumpkin Custards with Ginger and Cinnamon
These velvety custards taste exactly like pumpkin pie, only without the crust. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, or sprinkle raw sugar on top and torch, brulee-style, until crisp. If you make them in advance, be sure to cover the custards with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
— Gretchen McKay
1/2 cup pure pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 cups evaporated milk
1 large egg plus 2 large yolks
Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Set eight 6-ounce ramekins in a large roasting pan, or two small pans. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Heat pumpkin, ginger and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium heat until puree sputters and flavors intensify. Whisk in brown sugar, then evaporated milk, and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk egg and yolks into a medium bowl. Gradually whisk hot-pumpkin mixture into eggs, then pour into custard cups. Set pans in oven and carefully pour in enough water to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until custards set, about 30 minutes. Remove custard cups from baking dish and cool slightly. Chill until ready to serve.
— “Perfect One-Dish Dinners” by Pam Anderson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, $32)
Citrus Brine for Turkey
My family discovered brining a few years ago and, thrilled with the juicy, tender results, have never looked back. This year, we opted to go a little fruity with a citrus brine my husband, a salt lover if there ever was one, found on a recipe website. I tucked the fruit back into the bird cavity before roasting, but you also could use traditional stuffing.
A brined turkey will release salty pan juices, so if you’re using the liquid to make gravy, be sure to taste before adding any additional seasonings.
– Gretchen McKay
1 cup salt
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 orange, cut into wedges
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 gallons cold water
Rub salt onto your turkey, and place remaining salt, lemond, oranges, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and pepper into a large pot (we use a new 5-gallon plastic bucket from The Home Depot). Place the turkey in the pot, and fill with water. Refrigerate overnight. Discard brine after removing turkey.
Rinse turkey, and pat dry.
Place turkey, breast side up, in a roasting pan, tucking wings under the breast. Roast the turkey in a preheated 325-degree oven for two hours. During this time, baste the legs and back twice with 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter and pan juices. Cover loosely with foil to prevent overcooking, and continue roasting until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees in the deepest part of the thigh. Let turkey rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
– Adapted from allrecipes.com
Cappellacci with Squash Filling
Cappellacci are small stuffed dumplings, similar to ravioli. In Northern Italy, a typical fall filling is roasted zucca, or squash, seasoned with cheese and spices. This recipe from Lidia Bastianich (it’s on the menu at Lidia’s Pittsburgh) includes crushed amaretti, an Italian almond-flavored macaroon. The butter-sage sauce is simple, but oh so delicious.
– Gretchen McKay
1 large butternut squash
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
10 amaretti cookies
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 pounds pasta dough (your favorite recipe), or wonton wrappers
8 tablespoons butter
12 fresh sage leaves
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
Heat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange a rack in the center. Slice the squash lengthwise in half, and then quarters; scoop out and discard seeds. Arrange the wedges, peel side down, on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with 11?2 teaspoons of the salt. Tent the squash with aluminum foil, place the sheet in the oven, and bake 45 minutes, or until the squash flesh is very soft.
Meanwhile, grind the amaretti cookies in a food processor into a fine-textured powder.
Let the squash cool, then scoop all the flesh from the skin and heap it on a towel or cheesecloth. Squeeze to remove liquid. When you’ve pressed out all the moisture you can, turn the wrung-out squash into a large bowl, and stir and mash it up with a large wooden spoon. Add the ground amaretti, the remaining 1?2 teaspoon salt, the grated cheese, nutmeg, and lemon zest, and stir them into the squash. Pour in the beaten eggs, and stir until thoroughly blended and smooth.
To make cappellacci, cut the dough in 6 equal pieces and roll them out on a lightly floured board. With a round cutter, cut as many 21?2-inch circles as you can from each dough strip, pressing firmly and occasionally dipping the sharp edge of the cutter in flour so it doesn’t stick. Separate the circles, pulling away the scraps of dough (which can be kneaded together, rested and rerolled for more pasta). You should get about two dozen circles from the strip.
Place a heaping teaspoon of squash filling in the center of each dough circle. With a pastry brush (or your fingertip) dipped in water, lightly moisten the rim of dough around the filling. To form the cappellacci, pick up a circle and fold it over into a half-round envelope, with the filling inside. Press the moistened edges of dough together to seal, then twist corners inward so the points of dough overlap, and pinch them together. Arrange cappellacci on a lined and floured tray. Freeze cappellacci for future use right on the trays until solid, then transfer them to freezer bags, packed airtight and sealed.
Fill a large pasta pot with well-salted water, and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, put the butter and sage leaves in a large skillet or saute pan (at least 12 inches in diameter), and melt butter over low heat; keep the sauce warm – but not cooking – so the herb infuses the butter. Drop all the cappellacci into the rapidly boiling water, stir, and return to the boil over high heat. Cook for 3 minutes or longer, until the thickest part of the pasta is cooked through. Lift out cappellacci, drain, and lay them in the pan of sage butter. Tumble the cappellacci over and over until all are coated; add a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water to extend the sauce if necessary.
Sprinkle a cup or so of grated cheese over the cappellacci, and spoon them into warm bowls. Drizzle a bit of the sage butter left in the pan over each portion, and serve immediately, with more cheese at the table.
Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish.
– Lidia Bastianich, lidiasitaly.com
I was thrilled to discover a pecan pie recipe that did not call for corn syrup, and even more so when I tasted the flavorful custard made from maple syrup, dates, butter and egg. Be sure to buy a few extra dates for nibbling while you bake.
– China Millman
9-inch single pie shell
1 1/2 cups raw pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
5 large dates
2 teaspoons vanilla or a splash of bourbon
The night before you bake, soak the pecans in salted water to cover (two tablespoons of salt are sufficient). The next morning, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Drain the pecans and spread them evenly on a baking sheet. Toast until dry, not scorched. Alternatively, don’t soak the pecans, just toast them for several minutes. They just won’t be as smooth or buttery.
Prepare a 9-inch single pie shell and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the butter, maple syrup, a pinch of salt and the dates, pinched into pieces or chopped. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking intermittently. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and whisk in the eggs and either the vanilla or bourbon.
Crumble the nuts into the pie shell. Pour in the filling. Bake until slightly risen and set, but not too firm, about 30 minutes. Let cool for a while before eating.
– Adapted from “The Lost Art of Real Cooking: Rediscovering the Pleasures of Traditional Food One Recipe at a Time” by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger (Perigee, $18.95)
QUINCE SLAB PIE
“Quince, a vibrant cousin of the apple, mingles well with spiced and sweet ingredients. The fruit is poached in a wine-spiked syrup, which coats it as it bakes.”
So reads a recipe from Martha Stewart Living’s Thanksgiving issue, which captivated me, especially this and another pie recipe for quince, a relatively rare and old-fashioned fruit that also captivates me. I buy local ones from Paul’s Orchard, which sells them at the Original Night Farmers Market in South Fayette. A fuzzy pale greenish yellow and still rock-hard when ripe, quince need to be cooked, but when they are, they turn a beautiful reddish orange, with a spicy sweet taste.
The “slab” refers to this pie’s rectangular shape. I usually don’t bake with puff pastry, but the brand Martha recommends was easy to work with and delicious (my friend Patricia Lowry picked it up for me at Whole Foods). I’ll try this again and with other fillings.
Make the filling: Bring wine, water, granulated sugar, butter, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, ginger and vanilla seeds and pod to a simmer in a large pot. Meanwhile, peel, core and quarter quinces, adding them to pot as you work. Cover with parchment, and cook until quinces are soft and rosy pink, about 2 hours. Discard vanilla pod.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make the crust: Roll out puff pastry to a 12-by-15-inch rectangle on a floured piece of parchment; transfer to a baking sheet. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. [I didn’t bother with this, because my just-thawed dough was still firm.]
Cut dough in half lengthwise to form 2 6-by-15-inch rectangles. [I made my top piece slightly wider to accommodate the filling.] Using a slotted spoon, transfer quince onto puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border. (There will be a small pool of liquid.) Brush border with egg wash. Top with remaining puff pastry, pressing edges to seal. Brush top with egg wash, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
Cut 6 2-inch slits every 2 inches along the top for steam vents. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Cut slab pie into triangular pieces. Serve immediately.
– Martha Stewart Living, Nov. 2010, and marthastewart.com