These Thanksgiving recipes will make your mouth water.
Thanksgiving is among the most decadent holidays of the year. It’s a no-holds-barred, fill the gut, starchy and sweet feast. Of all national holidays, Thanksgiving is defined by abundance and gratitude for all we have and are. Unlike the Pilgrims, however, many of us have more than enough food to eat. What a blessing.
If there is one food that makes people nervous during meal prep, it’s turkey. An extra half-hour of cooking turns juicy into dry. Or worse, undercooked meat (usually in the darker meat of the bird, thighs and drumsticks), is just plain scary. Of course, you could have the turkey cut into pieces (like chicken) and cook the parts separately (not a bad idea) and simply remove the breast first (makes for easy carving).
Some like to grill or deep-fry turkey. Fine! Have at it. However, a home filled with the aromas of roasting bird is intoxicating. It’s like aromatherapy for the house.
If you roast the turkey my way, it’s foolproof! It’s simple (not a lot of herbs or spices) and no brining or marinating. Here’s another little extra I do — I buy an extra breast (my family likes white meat almost exclusively). I cut it into slices during the afternoon, top with gravy or chicken broth and warm it that way for utmost moistness. So, I have a whole cooked turkey to carve (I call it the “stunt turkey”), and all the extra white meat my guests can devour.
Of course, no meal is complete without side dishes, so I make some that I serve hot and others to eat cold or at room temperature. That way my dinner buffet is groaning (full, full), the way I like it.
SIMPLE AND PERFECT ROAST TURKEY
- 1 turkey (any size from 10-25 pounds), thawed if frozen
- Olive oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 orange, cut into quarters
- 1 lemon for every 10 pounds of turkey, cut into quarters
- 1 ounce of white wine for every pound of turkey
- Chicken broth or stock, apple cider or water
- 1 garlic clove for every pound of turkey
- 1 medium onion (a bit larger than the size of a tennis ball) for every 10 pounds of turkey
- 1 bay leaf for every 10 pounds of turkey
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place a rack (if you have one) in a roasting pan (can be a disposable aluminum roasting pan — I suggest doubling the disposable pan if your turkey is large). Place the turkey, breast-side up, on the rack or in the bottom of the pan. (A rack raises the turkey from the bottom of the pan and allows the turkey to “brown” on the underside — if I don’t use a rack, often I will put on dishwashing gloves and literally turn the turkey over during cooking for about 30 minutes to brown the bottom and allow the juices to drift into the breast. Then I turn it over again to finish cooking. You can “perch” the turkey over root vegetables.)
Remove any giblets (liver, heart, gizzard) and neck from the cavity (they are usually under the tail end of the turkey in a small “bag”) and chill to reserve for gravy. Put the neck in the roasting pan.
Dry turkey with paper towel. Rub turkey all over with olive oil and rub liberally with salt and pepper. Place the oranges and lemons in the breast cavity of the turkey.
To the roasting pan add wine and enough broth fill the pan to a ¼ -inch depth (this will add moisture to the turkey). Sprinkle the onions, garlic and bay leaves in the liquid.
Roast the turkey for 30 minutes at 350°.F Cover breast loosely with aluminum foil. Continue roasting, spooning or basting with a baster every 30 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh reaches a temperature of 160°, about 14-15 minutes for every pound of turkey.
Transfer turkey to a cutting board to rest for at least 30 minutes (or more. I’ve let it rest for an hour and the meat is still very warm) before carving. The turkey does not have to be hot (it can be warm), but the gravy should be piping hot.
Cut the turkey into slices and serve.
Note: There are lots of videos online that will show just how to carve a turkey.
- All turkey drippings, strained (fat and juices from roasted turkey)
- Enough chicken or turkey broth, wine or water to equal 2-3 cups total of liquid
- 1 Tbsp. flour for every cup of liquid (more if you like “thick” gravy; flour makes the gravy less greasy)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place the drippings in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When bubbles start forming around the edge of the pan, sift in flour a little at a time, whisking after each addition. When the mixture is thickened and smooth, drizzle in liquid (broth or wine) and whisk again constantly, until mixture is smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Note: If gravy is not flavorful enough, add chicken or turkey bouillon to the gravy for a great “cheat.” Bouillon tends to be salty, so be careful with seasoning.
ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES WITH BALSAMIC DRIZZLE
Peel — or don’t! No need to peel the veggies, just wash them well. The peel gives the vegetables a rustic look.
- 1 pound parsnips peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 pound carrots
- 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 pound sweet potatoes or rutabagas
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Balsamic glaze — available at many supermarkets and gourmet groceries
Preheat oven to 450°F. (convection if possible — this makes all the oven racks cook at the same heat).
Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment or foil. Spread vegetables in one layer and roast the vegetables in oven (if you don’t have a convection or you have two ovens, make one pan of vegetables per oven. If you have one oven, switch pan positions halfway through roasting) 20-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Combine the vegetables and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. After arranging in a serving platter (better than a bowl) drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Makes 8 or more servings. (May be made earlier in the day.)
MAPLE, CINNAMON AND BROWN SUGAR-GLAZED ACORN SQUASH WEDGES
A fine sprinkling of brown sugar makes these irresistible. The recipe is easy, but cutting the squash takes a little extra effort. Serve these hot or at room temperature.
- 3 medium acorn squash
- Olive oil for brushing on squash
- Ground cinnamon to taste
- ¼ cup brown sugar (light or dark)
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- Real maple syrup to drizzle, to taste
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment or foil. Set aside.
Cut the squash in half (though the stem). This is not always so easy to do since the squash can be very hard — go slowly and carefully or ask a strong person to help. Use a spoon to lightly scrape the strings and seeds out of the squash. Place the halves cut-side down and cut each half into 4 wedges. Arrange the squash skin-side down on the baking sheet. Brush the wedges with olive oil. Sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar evenly over and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Roast the squash for 30-40 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Serve with maple syrup drizzled over. (Thicker rings require longer cooking at a lower heat.) Makes 8 or more servings.
HOT AND SWEET ROAST BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH ALMONDS AND HONEY
- 3 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise (don’t trim outer leaves)
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2-3 tsp. sriracha sauce (to taste)
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 3 Tbsp. toasted almonds or pine nuts
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro, optional
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment.
Trim the bottoms off and slice sprouts lengthwise.
In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients (except garnish).
Transfer to baking sheet and roast until tender and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Transfer back to the bowl and add honey, almonds and cilantro (if using). Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.
MY FAVORITE CRANBERRY-RASPBERRY SAUCE
- 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- 1 tsp. grated orange zest or peel
- 12 ounces (1 pint) fresh or frozen raspberries
Combine cranberries, sugar, juice and zest in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and cook over medium heat until liquid is reduced and berries burst, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Cool. Stir in the raspberries. Transfer sauce to bowl; chill until cold.
Cranberry sauce can be prepared up to 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled until ready to serve. Makes 8 or more servings.
BROWN SUGAR PUMPKIN FLAN
My family is Brazilian, so we make and eat a lot of flan, with its sugary golden-caramel layer. This harvest version is made with pumpkin puree (from a can!) To make this non-dairy, I’ve used coconut cream with fabulous results.
- 1½ cups sugar
- 2½ cups half-and-half
- 6 whole large eggs
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 (15-ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin (not pie filling)
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh gingerroot (optional)
- ½ tsp. ground cloves
- ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, dissolved in 2 Tbsp. water
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a souffle dish, tube pan, large loaf pan or a deep pie pan into a larger pan. Add enough hot water to come ½-inch up the side of the pan. Place in the oven to heat while you continue the recipe.
Make caramel: Cook sugar in a small saucepan over moderate heat and, without stirring, let it begin to melt (it will melt around the edges first). Continue to cook, stirring with a tablespoon, until sugar melts into golden caramel. Remove the baking dish (leave the water) from the oven. Pour the caramel into the baking dish. Tilt the dish to allow the caramel to coat the bottom.
Make flan: Bring half-and-half to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Whisk together eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in pumpkin, spices, and dissolved cornstarch until combined well. Add hot half-and-half slowly, whisking all the while (pouring the hot liquid in all at once will partially cook the eggs — not good).
Pour the mixture over caramel in dish. Place the baking dish back in the water (bain-marie) and cook until flan is golden and a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 1¼ hours (or more if the baking dish is deep). Remove dish from water bath and cool completely. Chill flan, covered, until cold or overnight.
To serve, run a thin knife around the baking pan or dish to loosen. Invert quickly over a large rimmed platter (so the caramel will not drip over the edge). The flan will fall onto the serving platter (move the dish around until you hear the flan fall onto the platter). Makes 12 or more servings.
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