Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thanksgiving Madness

After a trial run Thanksgiving and a Thanksgiving potluck, I was ready for the big show...November 26th, Thaksgiving Day.  We had a tentative headcount of twenty-two people, so there was much preparation to be done.

The menu as I had assembled in my head was turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole, cranberry sauce.  For appetizers, I made watermelon "meat" and bratwursts with a mustard sauce.  Finally, for dessert, I made flourless chocolate cakes and a berry crisp.  My grandmother made the broccoli casserole and the stuffing that went inside of the turkey (not the sous vide one).

Yes, it does take a long time to make all of these things, but I found that if you make a written list (times you need to put things in the oven, etc.) of the things you need to do (thank you hundreds of episodes of Top Chef), you can get it done much more efficiently and you will use fewer pots and pans, so there should be less cleaning.  Also, I like making one dish or element of a dish at a time.  It keeps me better organized and you can measure every ingredient you will need so that you do not mess up halfway through looking for the correct ingredient or measuring something out.  I posted my recipes for mashed potatoes, sous vide stuffing, and berry crisp in my post about Trial Run Thanksgiving, but here are the rest of the recipes that I rocked out.

As a final note, I made sure that we got a turkey from Howard Kaufman Farms.  This farm is in Waterman, IL and raises the turkeys free range until the last few weeks before Thanksgiving.  They feed the turkeys on a diet of soybeans and corn instead of the normal pellets.  The Kaufman's mission is raising the best tasting turkey possible, and they truly seem to care about what they do.  Though these turkeys are a bit more expensive than turkeys from the supermarket, they are worth the extra price for the incredible taste that they deliever.  Plus they are never frozen, so you don't have to worry about thawing the turkey for 6 days in your fridge.  No thawing means that the turkey will taste better too...and I'm done gushing.

22 lb turkey (one pound for each person)
1/4 stick butter, softened

1.  Preheat oven to 325.  Don't listen to anyone who says to start it in a very hot oven then turn it down, it will just dry out the meat.  As most people know, turkey is often very dry already, so you must take every precaution to guard against this.
2.  Take all the stuff out of the turkey.  Dry the outside and inside very throroughly with paper towels.
3.  Rub the turkey all over with butter (I might omit this step, but everyone insisted on it, so I went along with it).
4.  Salt and pepper the turkey.
5.  Cram as much stuffing as you can int the cavity without turnig the stuffing into mush.  Also put a little in the neck cavity so the turkey looks whole.
6.  Put the turkey in the oven breast side up.  Put a thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, making sure that it does not touch the bone; however, make sure the thermometer goes into the stuffing.
7.  Cook until the thermometer says 153 (probably about 4.5 - 5 hours).
8.  During the last couple hours make sure to baste it with the rendered turkey fat.  This will keep the meat moist and ensure a more even cooking.
9.  When the turkey comes to the proper temperature take it out of the oven and immediately tent with foil for at least 30 minutes.  The turkey will continue cooking and rise up to about 160 degrees while it is tented with foil.
10.  After 30 minutes, slice the turkey thinly and against the grain.
11.  Make sure to reserve the turkey fat for making gravy.

Sweet Potatoes
I made this one last year after watching the Food Network.  Traditionally people mash these and serve them in a casserole, but I feel like there is enough mushy stuff already on the table (mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole, cranberry sauce, etc.) that there needs to be some different textures. 

10 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into bite size pieces
2 sticks of butter
2 cups pecans, chopped
12 tbsp maple syrup (preferably type B)
vegetable oil
1 tspn cayenne pepper
kosher salt

1.  Preheat oven to 450.  Put pecans on a baking sheet.  Once oven hits 450, put pecans in the oven for approximately 5 minutes until lightly toasted.  Remove from oven and reserve on side.  Do not turn off oven.
2.  Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a single layer on 1 or 2 baking sheets (depending on how many you end up making).  Drizzle some vegetable oil over the potatoes and toss together to lightly coat them in olive oil.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the potatoes.  Put in the oven for about 45 minutes or until easily pierced by a fork.
3.  Meanwhile, put the butter in a sauce pan and melt over medium heat until it gets foamy (this will happen quickly, so pay attention).  Once it becomes foamy, stir in maple syrup and cook for a minute or two.  Sprinkle in cayenne pepper and remove from heat.  Stir to incorporate.  Keep warm until ready to use.
4.  Toss the potatoes and nuts together, and pour the sauce over the top.

Cranberry Sauce
Even from the time I was little, I always hated the canned cranberry sauce.  There is something kind of repulsive about pouring something out of a can and having it retain its shape.  People seem to like cranberry sauce though, so I decided to make one on my own.  I think I got the basic concept from some youtube video, but had to switch it up since it kind of didn't make sense.

6 cups cranberries, rinsed
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup orange juice
1 1/3 cup of port
1/2 lemon

1.  Put the cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice, and port in a medium saucepan and stir together.
2.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.
3.  Once mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to low to simmer and begin stirring frequently.
4.  Continue simmering until mixture thickens and you can see a trail when you drag a spoon through it.
5.  Tranfer to a bowl and squeeze the lemon over it.
6.  Refrigerate.

Bratwursts with Mustard Sauce
I've made this small dish as an element of a "Tribute to Baseball" dish.  I thought it would go well as an appetizer.  The mustard sauce is from the French Laundry cookbook and it is used with fish.  I liked it so much that I tossed it on some bratwurst, I could probably even drink it straight from a glass.  Make this sauce immediately before you will use it and keep it warm, whisking frequently so that it does not separate.

6 bratwursts
1 loaf of italian bread, cut into 1/4" thick slices, lightly toasted
canola oil
1/4 cup chopped leaks (white and light green part only, throroughly washed...leeks are very dirty)
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup veal stock (most butchers will sell it frozen)
1 chopped carrot
1 tbsp heavy cream
10 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1 1/2 tspn dijon mustard
1 1/2 tspn grain mustard
kosher salt

1.  Film the bottom of a medium saucepan with canola oil.  Heat over medium heat until very hot.  Add leaks, mushrooms, and carrots.  Saute for 2-3 minutes until vegetables are lightly carmelized.
2.  Add veal stock and simmer for 5-7 minutes until the liquid has reduced to a glaze.
3.  Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
4.  Stir the cream into the veal liquid.  Whisk in the butter piece by piece, adding another piece only when the previous piece has melted.  If the butter stops melting, you were probably too slow.  However, just put it over the heat for a few more seconds to get it warm again and continue whisking.
5.  Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a small saucepan or bowl.  Whisk in both mustards.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6.  Grill bratwursts over low heat for 10 minutes per side.  Slice each sausage into 3/4" slices diagonally.  Put one slice of sausage on each piece of toast.  Put a small amount of mustard sauce on the sausage.  Serve immediately.

Flourless Chocolate Cake (makes about 10 cupcake sized cakes)
This cake is for the truly intrepid chocolate lover.  It's so dark that rays of light cannot escape it.  Proceed at your own peril.  This cake calls for a sweet-tart sauce to offset the extreme nature of the chocolate.  I've served it with a pineapple-champagne sauce and a raspberry sauce.  For some unknown reason, I did not make a sauce for Thanksgiving.  Anyway, these could not be easier to make, but they do require a little attention.  Finally, you can make this without the parchment paper trick, but it makes the removal from the pan much much easier after they are cooked, so I'd highly recommend doing it.

8oz. bittersweet chocolate chips (I like the 60% Ghirardelli chocolate chips if you just want to go to the supermarket)
1 stick of unsalted butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tspn sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

1.  Heat a double boiler until the water is hot, but not boiling.  If you do not have a double boiler, put 2 same-sized pots ontop of each other.  Fill the bottom pot with 1.5" of water (not enough to touch the bottom of the top pot), and heat the water until hot.  Leave the bottom pot on the heat.
2.  Put the butter and chocolate in the top part of the double boiler and melt together, stirring until smooth.  Take the top pot off the water and set aside so it cools slightly.
3.  Combine the eggs and sugar in a metal mixing bowl.
4.  Set the mixing bowl over the hot water and whisk vigorously until the eggs are warm and the sugar is dissolved.  This should take about 3 or 4 minutes.
5.  Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer or a hand mixer, whisk the eggs on medium or medium-high speed until the eggs are cooled and tripled in volume.
6.  Preheat oven to 350.  While it is preheating, put a baking baking sheet with a high lipped edge (jelly roll pan) in the oven and fill it about halfway with water.
7.  Gently fold the cooled chocolate and whipped cream into the eggs until the mixture is very chocolate-y looking and well combined.  The key word is gently.
8.  Spray the cups of a cupcake pan with non-stick spray or rub generously with butter.  Cut 10 strips of parchment paper each about 3/4" wide and about 5" long.  Press the parchment strips into the buttered cups to that about 1" of the parchment comes out from above each cup.
9.  Take a ladle and fill each cup up about 3/4 full.
10.  Put the cupcake pan in the water-filled baking sheet in the oven.  Cook for 10 minutes.
11.  After 10 minutes, cover the pan with a sheet of foil and cook for 15-20 more minutes (probably closer to 15).  The tops should look shiny, but set.  Insert a toothpick into one.  If it comes out clean, you are ready to go.
12.  Take the cupcake pan out of the water and let it cool.  Once cool, pull out using the parchment paper ends.
13.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Do not refrigerate.

Here are some more pictures.

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