Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Eating Omily: Thanksgiving Dinner-Don't Panic!

Ok guys, I know: Thanksgiving Dinner!  It's a big deal!  The whole point of this holiday, celebration-wise, is to eat food so delicious you can't stop yourself from getting more thouroughly stuffed than the turkey.  But Thanksgiving dinner is not some mythical beast.  In fact, it's easier than your average dinner party, because the menu writes itself!

Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce.  I was once just like you: scouring foodnetwork and epicurious for the best, most show-stopping recipes, only to knock myself out with stress and worry on Turkey Day, and end up serving dinner at like, 8:00.  Not anymore!

Remember our mantra: if you start with delicious, local, seasonal ingredients, they'll speak for themselves.  No fussy recipes required!

So, other than with a box of croutons that says, 'stuffing mix', how does one make stuffing?  Did you get the list I suggested on Friday?  You'll need:

-celery or fennel
-onions
-garlic
-an apple or carrots
-sage
-rosemary
-a loaf of bread
-stock or broth

Put a big skillet on your stove, add olive oil or butter (or both), and when it's heated, add onions, fennel or celery, and carrots if you using.  Once they've had a headstart, add the garlic and fresh or dried herbs.  When the veggies are very tender and sweet, turn off the heat, and add the loaf of bread, cut or torn into small pieces, and the chopped apple, if using, and toss thouroughly.  If your skillet isn't big enough for everybody, do this step in a mixing bowl.  Add enough broth or stock to moisten all the stuffing.  Add enough that it looks like stuffing, but go slowly, and mix as you go so you don't end up with a sopping mess.  You can eat your stuffing right now, but most people like to turn it into a caserole dish and bake it till it's crisp on top.  375-425 will do you.  Maybe twenty minutes, maybe forty, depending on temperature.  Keepy an eye on it.

How about mashed potatoes?  You'll need:

-Potatotoes (the purple varieties taste the best and are beautiful on the table!)
-milk
-butter
-salt

I like to steam my potatoes, since it leave more nutrients in, but no one's going to call the police if you boil yours.  The smaller you cut them, the faster they'll cook through.  Just watch them closely; they're so starchy, they have a strong tendency to boil over.  When they fall apart when a fork is stabbed through them, drain them, and put them in a bowl.  Add a lump of butter, and a generous splash of milk, and plenty of salt.  I like to use an electric mixer to get mine fluffy and light, but you can mash them with a fork or masher for a more rustic texture.  LEAVE THE SKINS ON.  They are full of nutrition, and why would you want that extra work for yourself??  Don't overmix them though, or you'll have a gluey mess.  My husband likes them that way though, so maybe your family will, too.

Sweet Potatoes?  Just bake them!  You'll need:

-as many sweet potatoes as people your feeding
-foil

Not kidding.  Wash the potatoes and leave them damp.  Poke them all over with a fork, wrap each in foil, and put in a 350-400 degree oven.  When they start to hiss and steam, and leak a little, they're done.  Should take around half an hour.  Let them cool, cut an 'X' in the top, then squeeze the sides so they open up wide for butter, marshamallows, brown sugar, maple syrup, whatever.  Done and done!

Cranberry sauce is best attacked with a recipe, to make sure you get the texture right, but truly, it's not hard.  It's a great thing to make ahead, since it's best served cold anyway.

The key to a great turkey is to NOT stuff it (it takes too long to cook through without the hollow cavity to allow more heat to circulate.  Serve the stuffing on the side.)  Roast it breast-down, so the white meat stays moist.  Don't bother basting.  All you're doing is letting heat out of your oven and extending the cooking time by possibly hours. Slip pieces of butter and herbs under the skin before it goes in, and let it go to work.  If it's a big guy, take the time to brine it.

You CAN do gravy!  It's not hard!  It's just a thickened sauce!  I think flour is easiest: sprinkle it over your drippings, enough to visibly soak up most of them, let it cook for a minute, add a splash of liquor, wine, or stock to deglaze, them whisk in stock till you have roughly the quantity you want.  Bring it to a boil, and when it's close to as thick as you want it, turn the heat off.  Done.  If you have such a thing as a gravy seperator, pour the drippings in there first, so you can pour the juices out from the bottom, and throw out some of the fat, or else you'll have fat floating on top of your gravy within a few minutes.

Cook a green veggie any old which way you like best, buy your rolls from the same guy you get your bread from, and there you have it!  Thanksgiving!  Oh, I know, you still need pie, and for that you will need a recipe.  Alton Brown has an amazing one for sweet potatoe pie that will rival any out-of-a-can pumpkin pie you can find!

See?  Easy-peasy!  Good luck, guys, and let me know how it goes!

And it goes without saying you're sourcing your ingredients locally from a Farmer's market, right?  Right??  Don't make me come over there!!!

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