Thursday, November 26, 2009

Birding on Thanksgiving

Only one bird is on my list today: Turkey.

When I asked K to write down what she wanted on today’s menu, here’s what she gave me:

Cranberry sauce
Mashed potatoes
Squash purée
Sparkling cider

This translates to “Make all our favorites the way you always do.” (How nice!)

Here's the detail:

Slow-Roasted Turkey with Herb Butter Baste Brush the prepared bird (17lb. this year) with melted butter, salt and pepper liberally, sear at 500˚F for 10 minutes, then cover the roasting pan, reduce heat to 275˚F and roast covered for four hours. Baste every 45 minutes or so, but the covered roasting pan ensures a moist bird and lots of pan juices. Uncovered roasting evaporates the moisture and vents it away! Why lose all that goodness? During the last hour or so, uncover the bird to brown it if you like.
Herbed Bread Dressing D and I agreed that this year we want some dressing cooked in the bird and some cooked as a side dish; usually I bake the dressing separately. I make the dressing from my own homemade oatmeal bread. A large bowl of cubed bread has been drying on the kitchen counter since Tuesday night. This morning I’ll add chopped onions, celery, crispy red Macoun apples (skin on!), almonds, herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme), and perhaps a minced shallot or leek. Season with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper. Moisten with a combination of chicken stock, wine, brandy, cider – depending on my mood and what I’m drinking this afternoon. Bakes beautifully as a side dish.
Yeasted Dinner Rolls I have a wonderful recipe for a soft white yeast bread that makes the best dinner rolls. This year’s are square rolls (leftover from last weekend’s anniversary party for CONCORA); usually I make them into crescent rolls. They are so good.Here's the recipe:

Silken Giblet Gravy I’ll brown the giblets in olive oil and butter, then simmer them in broth with aromatics like carrot, onion, celery tops, and herbs. I’ll use the resulting stock to supplement the pan juices for gravy-making. We like it highly seasoned, not too thick, smooth and silky except for the finely-chopped giblets. I bought extra giblets so I can make plenty of gravy for our leftovers. Add a dash of brandy at the end.

Zesty Cranberry Sauce I made the cranberry sauce on Tuesday. I cooked whole fresh berries with cloves, a cinnamon stick, sugar, and a dash of salt, then stirred in the grated zest of an orange at the end. It gelled beautifully and will look lovely in a white dish.
Golden Potato Mash I like Yukon Gold potatoes for mashing. I’ll scrub the spuds and quarter them, leaving the skin on, then boil them with a chopped onion and sprig of fresh thyme. After draining the cooked potatoes, I’ll add plenty of butter, salt, and fresh pepper, then whip them with a hand-held mixer. I might add a little milk if needed, though I prefer a dry sort of fluffiness in anticipation of the gravy.
Green Peas Plain frozen petit peas, steamed. A requirement with mashed potatoes. ‘Nuf said.
Maple-Ginger Butternut Squash Purée This has become a family favorite. On Tuesday I cut up and roasted two butternut squashes, cooking them long enough so that they caramelized a bit. Yum. While the turkey is cooking, I’ll puree the squash with butter, salt, pepper, a bit of ground ginger, and a generous portion of my sister’s best-in-the-world maple syrup. This will go into the special oval casserole dish and bake for a while ‘til it’s hot and a bit browned around the edges. Sometimes I dust the top with finely-chopped pecans before serving. I’ve got some hazelnuts in the pantry, so I might use these instead.
Bacon-Braised Brussels Sprouts Not on K's list, but a new favorite that will complement the other flavors. At Tom and Lee’s house last spring, we enjoyed some delectable Brussels sprouts cooked gently and with some lovely seasonings. We thought we didn’t like Brussels sprouts. I think we didn’t like poorly-cooked Brussels sprouts. A few weeks ago, I tried cooking some and we affirmed that we like properly-prepared and seasoned Brussels sprouts. I’ll repeat that recipe today; it’s a simple braise seasoned with browned bacon and onion, chicken (turkey?) stock and fresh herbs. The trick, as with cabbage and broccoli, is not to overcook. Yum.
Sparkling Cider And fresh cider, a nice cabernet-merlot for D and me, coffee, tea.
Homemade Pies Last night, while K and E and S and N were here (fun!), I baked three pies: pecan (D’s mother’s famous recipe), pumpkin (fresh pumpkin), and cherry. Each of the pies was sampled and approved late last night. Add ice cream.

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