(6 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Whether you are going out to a family gathering, having the clan over or just a quiet dinner for two, Thanksgiving can be a daunting affair and for some more stressful than enjoyable. For the last 20 or more years I haven’t cooked Thanksgiving dinner. My daughter took over that task because I was usually working the night before and that night. Emergencies usually don’t take a holiday break, in fact they usually break out. This year is no different except that I only work per diem in a very small ER 5 minutes from my house. I still do some of the shopping, pre-prep and desserts. Anyway, I digress.
I am going to post a few of the healthy easy to make recipes for side dishes that are tasty (tested a few of them on my fussy food critics) and can be prepared ahead, easing some of that stress on the big day. I’m also going to give you the best instruction for a roast turkey that will be cooked through and NOT dry compliments of Alton Brown who makes cooking entertaining and educational. There are several web sites that I use and I found them well worth the free subscription. Epicurious is indispensable. The site also helps with wine selections.
I do not stuff the turkey either. It takes less time and the turkey cooks more evenly.
There one piece of equipment that is worth the investment and, if you’re a cook, will wonder how you ever lived without it, an oven thermometer with a probe and an alarm that tells you when the correct temperature has been reached. The one I have also gives the oven temperature. It’s not absolutely necessary but takes out the guessing if the meat is done.
For those who are vegetarians, The NYT has quite a few recipes for Thanksgiving
Epicurious also has suggestions for Thanksgiving Dinner under $80, in 60 minutes and on a diet
Besides the usual cheese, nuts and fresh fruit, we usually serve a seafood appetizer, this Crab Cake with Herb Salad Recipe from Epicurious has become a standard. It can also be made as a main dish. It sounds ambitious but the crab cakes can be made the day before. I’ve substitutes extra virgin olive oil and/or canola oil for grapeseed oil in the vinaigrette and for cooking. It is a matter of taste and expense.
* 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
* 1 tablespoon minced green onion
* 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
* 1/4 cup minced green onions
* 2 large egg yolks
* 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 4 teaspoons minced fresh dill
* 4 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
* 4 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
* 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
* 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
* 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 pound blue crabmeat or Dungeness crabmeat
* 2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs),* divided
* 2 tablespoons (or more) butter
* 2 tablespoons (or more) olive or canola oil
* 2 5-ounce containers herb salad mix
* Fresh dill sprigs
* Fresh tarragon sprigs
* Fresh cilantro sprigs
* *Available in the Asian foods section of supermarkets and at Asian markets.
Whisk oil, lemon juice, dill, tarragon, cilantro, green onion, and mustard in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
For crab cakes:
Line baking sheet with waxed paper. Whisk first 10 ingredients in large bowl. Mix in crabmeat and 1 cup panko, breaking up crabmeat slightly. Let stand 10 minutes. Place remaining panko on rimmed baking sheet, spreading slightly. Form crab mixture into sixteen 2-inch-diameter patties, using about scant 1/4 cup for each. Press both sides of patties into panko. Transfer patties to waxed-paper-lined baking sheet. Cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in each of 2 heavy large skillets over medium-high heat. Add crab cakes to skillets and cook until golden on both sides, adding more butter and oil as needed, about 5 minutes total.
Place salad mix in very large bowl. Add 1/2 cup vinaigrette; toss. Arrange crab cakes on platter. Garnish with herb sprigs, drizzle with some of remaining vinaigrette, and serve with salad and extra lemon wedges.
I have posted some of these already but they are worth reprinting. They are all from the NYT Health section. All of these recipes can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. The Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Apple Puree is best made a day or two ahead. You’ll never do “candied” sweet potatoes after this recipe, it is really good.
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock, turkey stock, or vegetable stock
2 cups wild rice
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion or 4 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 pound mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup dry sherry
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (to taste)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan or stock pot, and add the wild rice and salt to taste. When the liquid returns to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer 40 minutes, until the rice is tender and has begun to splay. Drain through a strainer, and set aside.
2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet, and add the onion or shallots. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about five minutes for onions or three minutes for shallots. Add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add the mushrooms and the celery. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and the remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring, until the sherry has evaporated. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool before stuffing your turkey, or place in an oiled baking dish and cover. Warm for 20 to 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
Yield: Enough for a 14- to 18-pound turkey.
Advance preparation: You can make this pilaf a day or two ahead and keep it in the refrigerator.
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably organic stone ground
1/2 cup all purpose flour or whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt or buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon mild honey
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (to taste)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 9-inch cast iron skillet, a heavy 2-quart baking dish or a heavy 9-inch square baking pan in the oven while you prepare the batter.
2. Place the cornmeal in a bowl, and sift in the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir the mixture with a spoon or whisk to amalgamate. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, yogurt (or buttermilk), milk and honey. Whisk the cornmeal mixture into the liquid mixture. Do not overwork the batter.
3. Remove the pan from the oven, and add the butter to the pan. Swirl the pan so that the butter melts quickly before it gets too brown, then quickly whisk the butter into the batter. Brush the sides of the pan with any butter remaining in the pan.
4. Quickly scrape all of the batter into the hot pan, and place in the oven. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It will be quite brown on the edges. Allow the bread to cool in the pan, or serve warm.
Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings. This is easily doubled for a larger quantity of stuffing. Bake it in a 3-quart baking dish (it will take about 45 to 50 minutes) or in two 9-inch pans.
Variation: Sage Cornbread
Stir 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon rubbed dried sage into the batter before turning into the pan.
Cornbread and Sage Stuffing
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or 1 tablespoon each olive oil and unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste
4 stalks celery, cut in small dice
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons rubbed sage, or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper
A double batch of cornbread (see above), crumbled (you can do this in a food processor fitted with the steel blade)
1/2 cup milk, or as necessary, for moistening
4 tablespoons unsalted butter if baking separately
1. Heat the olive oil (or oil and butter) over medium heat in a large, heavy, nonstick skillet, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about three minutes, and add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the celery. Cook together for another few minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the garlic, and stir together for 30 seconds to a minute, until fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl, and add the remaining ingredients. Combine well. Taste and adjust salt. Moisten as desired with milk.
2. Stuff the cavity of the turkey, or transfer to a buttered or oiled 2-quart baking dish. Dot with butter. Cover with aluminum foil, and heat through in a 325-degree oven for 30 minutes.
Yield: Makes enough stuffing to fill an 18-pound turkey.
Advance preparation: You can make the cornbread several days ahead and the stuffing a day ahead.
ounce (about 1 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion or 2 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 pound wild mushrooms or oyster mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced thick or torn into pieces
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 cup fruity red wine, such as a Côtes du Rhone
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage or fresh thyme leaves
1 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
Freshly ground pepper
1. Place the dried mushrooms in a Pyrex measuring cup, and pour on 2 cups boiling water. Let soak 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Place a strainer over a bowl, line it with cheesecloth or paper towels, and drain the mushrooms. Squeeze the mushrooms over the strainer to extract all the flavorful juices, and set aside the liquid in the bowl. Then rinse the mushrooms, away from the bowl with the soaking liquid, until they are free of sand. Squeeze dry and set aside. If very large, chop coarsely.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet or saucepan over medium heat, and add the onion or shallots. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about five minutes. Add half the garlic, stir together for about 30 seconds, and then add the fresh mushrooms and salt to taste. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms begin to soften and to sweat, about five minutes. Add the flour and continue to cook the mushrooms, stirring, until they have softened a little more and you can no longer see the flour, about two minutes. Add the reconstituted dried mushrooms and the wine, and turn the heat to high. Cook, stirring, until the liquid boils down and glazes the mushrooms, five to 10 minutes. Add the rosemary and sage or thyme, stir together, and stir in the mushroom soaking liquid and the stock. Bring to a simmer, add salt to taste, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mushrooms are thoroughly tender and fragrant and the surrounding broth is thick and gravy-like, about 20 minutes. If you want a thicker “gravy,” remove a cup and blend until smooth in a blender or a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Stir back into the ragout. Remove from the heat, stir in some freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt. Set aside, preferably in the refrigerator, overnight.
Yield: Serves six to eight as one of several side dishes, more as a gravy.
Advance preparation: The ragoût can be made up to three or four days before you wish to serve it. Reheat gently on top of the stove.
1 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 pound pumpkin, canned
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Braeburn
2 tablespoons lime juice
5 tablespoons plain Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub sweet potatoes, and pierce in several places with a sharp knife. Pierce the apples in a few places. Line a baking sheet with foil, lightly oil the foil, and place the potatoes, pumpkin (cut side down) and apples on top. Bake the pumpkin and apples for 30 to 40 minutes, until a knife can easily be inserted right to the core of the apples (it’s fine if the skin pops off the apples, or if they collapse) and the pumpkin is soft. Remove the pumpkin and apples from the oven. Continue to bake the sweet potatoes until thoroughly soft and beginning to ooze, 15 minutes or longer, depending on the size. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool until you can handle them easily.
2. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Remove the skins from the potatoes and pumpkin. Peel and core the apples, and scrape off any apple flesh that adheres to the skin. Chop everything coarsely, and place in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Puree until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, and blend well. Transfer to a lightly buttered 2-quart baking dish.
3. Heat the puree in the 350-degree oven for 20 minutes, or until steaming. Serve hot.
Yield: Makes six to eight servings.
Advance preparation: This can be made up to three days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheating will take 30 to 40 minutes.
1 bag fresh cranberries
1 whole navel orange, preferably organic, skin included, washed and cut into chunks
1/2 cup shelled pecans
1/3 cup mild honey, such as clover
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse, then blend until you have a uniform, very finely chopped mixture with a crunchy texture. Chill until ready to serve.
Yield: Serves eight.
Advance preparation: This is best made on Thanksgiving Day, but if really pressed for time, you could make it a day ahead.
I have been cooking turkeys for 40 years and these is THE best directions I have ever found. The best part, there is NO BASTING. NONE. Now, I have brined and not brined, your option. Either way if you follow the cooking directions, the turkey will be done thoroughly and moist.
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place thawedturkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.
A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.
Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and coat wholebird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.
Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 poundbird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.
Go to the grocery story. Buy a frozen pie crust or two, Buy a can of Libby’s Pumpkin. Follow the direction on the can. There is no better recipe for Pumpkin Pie. ANd make some REAL whippped cream, not cool whip or that stuff in a can that thinks it’s whipped cream. Yeah, I know not really healthy but, hey, you have to fall off the healthy wagon just a little, after all it’s Thanksgiving. Gobble Gobble