I think Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday of the year. It's one of the few major ones that my family celebrated regularly growing up, and I have many happy memories of Thanksgiving with my mother's side of the family. It's a more laid-back holiday than Christmas, and happens at my favorite time of the year. I love the lighting in the fall, and the turning leaves. The chill nights warmed by fires and cinnamon-filled hot drinks.
For a while now I've set aside time around Thanksgiving to cook a turkey, regardless if I'm going to T-day celebrations elsewhere and will have leftovers. There's something special, to me, about a day set aside to celebrate abundance, and particularly the daily abundance of food I have. Preparing a turkey takes a lot of time and effort, and I use it as a dedicated time to ponder the cycle of life. A whole turkey, a package of meat that was clearly once a living creature, I find is a wonderful symbol -- a reminder that every day, in order for me to live something else gives its life. (Yes, even vegetables. Tell me the carrot does not give its all for you.)
And so we once again have the holiday where we celebrate abundance, timed right as the seasons turn and we fall into a time of scarcity. It seems almost a form of hubris -- gloating about how much one has, when outside there is less and less. And yet, it's more a reminder that things turn and seasons change, and the warmth and harvest will come again.
I love this holiday.
That said, I got experimental this year and tried a bunch of new recipes. I think they turned out fairly well, and want to use them again, so here they are:
I love a well-done stuffing, and have always felt that mine come up short. This year I tried a cranberry-apricot recipe that I think worked fairly well. It came out a bit drier than I would normally like, but otherwise I declare it a success. This has a light, fruity taste that almost seems tropical:
APRICOT CRANBERRY STUFFING
1 loaf whole-meal bread
1 large onion finely chopped
½ cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped peeled apple
¾ cup dried apricots (chopped)
½ cup dried cranberries
1 large grated zucchini
½ cup olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste (good when peppery)
Crumble or cube bread. Add all ingredients and mix well. It should be moist and sticking together. Can be baked in pan or stuffed in bird
Stuffing directions: Stuff bird, place ½ orange at opening to prevent stuffing from falling out. Keep together with skewers.
Pan directions: put it into a foil loaf pan, cover with silver foil (may refrigerate for up to 8 hours). Bake covered in 325 degree oven for 1hr. If drier stuffing is desired: uncover and bake another 10-15 min.
Submitted by: Michelle
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
I love sweet potatoes, now that I get ones that don't have orange or marshmallows in them. The addition of a banana adds an intriguing flavor to this -- though, as always, be a little cautious with the nutmeg lest it overwhelm everything. (I skated a tetch too much on the wrong side of that nutmeggy line, alas.)
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray
Show: 30 Minute Meals
Episode: 30-Minute Southern Hospitality Party
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 stick butter
1 banana, sliced
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Boil potatoes until tender, drain and reserve. Return the pot to the stove top over medium heat. Add butter and bananas to the pot. Cook bananas 5 minutes and add the juice of 1 orange to the pot, reserve the zest. Allow the juice to cook out, 1 minute. Add potatoes to the pot and the stock and sugar. Mash potatoes, banana, stock and sugar together until well combined. Season with nutmeg, salt, pepper and orange zest, to your taste. Mash to combine spices and serve.
A lovely Good Eats recipe, this was my first adventure in brining a turkey. It worked out well, though there were a few scares along the way. I was too nervous to go with not basting the turkey, so I kept a reservoir of the brining liquid in the pan, just to keep things moist in the oven. Probably overkill, but it made me feel better
Good Eats Roast Turkey
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Show: Good Eats
Episode: Romancing the Bird (A Good Eats Thanksgiving)
Good Eats Roast Turkey
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 thawed turkey 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 whole bird 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 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.
I also tried a cinnamon ice cream, which was remarkably simple. Use Ben and Jerry's sweet cream base #1 and add a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon. Yum! Though I forgot (as always) that Ben and Jerry's always make their ice cream too sweet for my tastes. Next time I need to use less sugar than the recipe calls for. Also, I made it fat free, and I think in the future I need to add just a wee bit of fat in. Otherwise, the ice cream ends up more like an ice milk, with a fair amount of ice crystals in it that spoil the smoothness. But all in all, not a bad experiment. (As B&J say, there's no such thing as an irredeemably bad batch of homemade ice cream.)