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Thursday, October 30, 2014         

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Keeping it classic

Truth be told, most like their Thanksgiving flavors to remain traditional

By Michele Kayal

Associated Press

POSTED:


Every year, the glossy food magazines scream to tart up your turkey and pimp out your pumpkin pie. But the truth is, when it comes to Thanksgiving, most of us want classic.

"All that malarkey gets in the way of making a good Thanksgiving," says Sam Sifton, author of "Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well" (Random House, 2012). "How about we start with excellence on the basics?"

As with any good meal, start with excellent ingredients and treat them well. Vary flavors, textures and colors. Most important, know your limits.

"I suggest to people that they need to be honest with themselves about what they can really accomplish," says Jack Bishop, editorial director of America's Test Kitchen, publisher of Cook's Illustrated magazine.

If you've only got a day to shop and prepare, Bishop offers, don't make pies. Buy them or have a guest bring them. If you've got one oven, do your mashed sweet potatoes in the slow cooker, and maybe grill or deep fry the turkey. Do as much as you can beforehand.

Use your time — and your money — wisely by investing in the best possible ingredients. Remember that the last place to cut back is the turkey.

"The turkey has to be the star of the show," says Rick Rodgers, author of "Thanksgiving 101" (William Morrow, 2007).

And remember that little things can make the meal special.

"Fresh-out-of-the-oven rolls. Really good local butter," Rodgers says. "Homemade cranberry sauce. … It's so easy to make and it's delicious."

Also, anticipate how all the dishes go together.

"You need to think about how the flavors and colors and textures are going to work on the plate," says Bishop.

Thanksgiving is a day of indulgence, so use real cream and real butter. Use salt. Use sugar.

"It's Thanksgiving," Sifton says. "You can have a salad tomorrow."

TURKEY

If you are going to go to the (admittedly little) trouble of brining your Thanksgiving turkey, be sure to set the bar higher than simply adding moisture. Granted, this is the primary goal of a brine. Soaking the bird in a salty solution before roasting does help plump the meat and keep it moist during cooking.

But this also is a great opportunity to add plenty of flavor. To make the most of that opportunity, we decided to brine our turkey in apple cider, brown sugar, sage and black pepper. The flavor ends up being at once subtly sweet and boldly savory. And that is a combination that makes the meat a perfect partner for all the classic Thanksgiving sides.

CIDER-BRINED TURKEY WITH SAGE GRAVY

12- to 14-pound turkey
1/2 gallon apple cider
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns

>> Gravy:
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth
3 tablespoons instant flour, such as Wondra
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
Salt and ground black pepper

To brine turkey, place 2-1/2-gallon zip-close plastic bag upright in large bowl. Place turkey in bag, then pour in cider, salt, brown sugar, sage and peppercorns. Seal bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Massage bag to mix ingredients in liquid. Refrigerate and let turkey brine for a minimum of 8 hours, turning it now and again.

When ready to roast, heat oven to 350 degrees. Fit roasting pan with rack.

Remove turkey from brine and discard brine. Pat turkey dry with paper towels, then set it onto roasting rack. Roast for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, or until the temperature of the breast reaches 160 degrees and the thighs reach 170 degrees. If turkey begins to darken too much, cover loosely with foil.

Transfer to serving platter, wrap with foil, then drape a couple of layers of bath towels over it to keep warm.

Remove rack from the roasting pan. Place pan over medium heat on the stovetop (you may need two burners) and bring juices to a simmer. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pan. Pour broth into pan, whisking continuously.

Add flour and whisk to combine. Simmer 5 minutes, continuing to stir. Season with sage, salt and pepper. 

Nutritional information unavailable.

STUFFING

When it comes to Thanksgiving stuffing, it's hard to get a more classic flavor combination than sausage and pecans. The result is a salty, nutty, sweet, crunchy and tender combination of flavors and textures. For simplicity we bake our stuffing in a side dish, but you could stuff the bird, too. Just be sure to adjust your cooking time and that the interior temperature reaches a safe 165 degrees.

SAUSAGE PECAN STUFFING

12 ounces loose Italian sausage meat
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
12-ounce bag seasoned stuffing cubes
2 eggs
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. With cooking spray, coat large casserole dish or 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

In large skillet on medium-high heat, sauté sausage meat, breaking it up as it browns, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add onion, carrots, celery, salt and black pepper.

Cook for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until onions are soft and translucent.

In large bowl, combine sausage mixture with pecans and stuffing cubes.

In medium bowl, beat eggs until foamy, then whisk in broth. Pour egg and broth mixture over stuffing mixture and gently stir to thoroughly mix.

Spoon into prepared dish or pan and bake 30 minutes, or until browned and cooked through. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 340 calories, 14 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 38 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 16 g protein, 870 mg sodium

SALAD

To stand out in a Thanksgiving spread, a salad must be bold and flavorful. Yet it should not compete with other flavors on the table. To strike this delicate balance, we created this easy arugula salad that is topped with spiced and sautéed pears and goat cheese, then drizzled with a pomegranate-Dijon vinaigrette.

ARUGULA AND PEAR SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE VINAIGRETTE AND GOAT CHEESE

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large pears, cored and sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sliced dried apricots

>> Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch ground allspice
1/4 cup olive oil
10-ounce container baby arugula
4 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled

In large skillet over medium-high heat, combine butter and cinnamon. When butter has melted, add pears and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cranberries and apricots, then cook another minute. Set aside.

In blender, combine pomegranate juice, red wine vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, allspice and olive oil. Blend until well combined.

In large bowl, arrange arugula. Top greens with sautéed pears, then cheese. Serve vinaigrette on side. Serves 10.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 190 calories, 10 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 25 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 18 g sugar, 3 g protein, 180 mg sodium

SIDES

The turkey may be the centerpiece, but Thanksgiving dinner isn’t complete without sides. To accompany our cider-brined bird, we went with a gently sweet cranberry sauce cooked with peaches. The mashed potatoes are basic — sour cream, butter and chives. And because you can never have enough carbs at Thanksgiving, we added another potato dish, herb-crusted sweet potatoes.

PEACH CRANBERRY SAUCE

12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
10-ounce bag frozen peaches, chopped
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt

In medium saucepan over medium, combine all ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop and mixture has reduced to a thick sauce, about 10 minutes. Cool. Serves 6.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 130 calories, no fat or cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 30 g sugar, 1 g protein, 25 mg sodium

SOUR CREAM AND CHIVE MASHED POTATOES

4 pounds red potatoes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
Salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives

Peel half of potatoes. Place in large pot and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Cover and set over medium-high. Bring to simmer and cook until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain thoroughly, then return to pot.

Set pot over low and cook 1 to 2 minutes, shaking or stirring potatoes to dry them. Using masher, roughly mash. Add butter and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Add chives. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 310 calories, 17 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 37 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 5 g protein, 290 mg sodium

HERB-CRUSTED SWEET POTATOES

4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Salt and ground black pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Using cooking spray, coat large casserole dish or 9-by-13-inch baking pan. 

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to boil. Cook until firm-tender, 12 to 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes, then spread them in even layer in dish or pan.

In bowl, combine 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, panko and herbs. Sprinkle over potatoes.

Drizzle melted butter over crumbs and bake 30 minutes, or until golden brown and tender. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 260 calories, 6 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 47 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 4 g protein, 380 mg sodium






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