Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Let’s Talk Turkey

November 25, 2014

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Let’s talk turkey. It’s time to dispel the myth that turkey is dry. Oh it can be. Buy a cheap frozen bird, stick it in a hot oven and cook it to buggery. That’s how you get a dry turkey.

But we all prefer a moist, juicy and flavorful bird at our house, so I’m here to tell you how to get it.
I’ve mentioned before that the quality of the actual turkey itself is important to the outcome. I get my free range turkey from DiPaola Turkey Farm, which I pick up at the Union Square Greenmarket the day before Thanksgiving. If you have an opportunity to get a fresh, free range turkey, it is well worth the extra money. If you have already started thawing a frozen bird, there is still hope.

On Thanksgiving day, take the turkey from the refrigerator, rinse it inside and out, and pat it dry. There is usually a little bag of giblets, liver etc. inside the turkey. Make sure you take that out!!( Not to be vulgar, but check both ends for goodie bags.) You don’t want to cook a turkey that is still icy, so allow a good 20 minutes or so for the turkey to sit before cooking.

Rub the turkey with garlic and herb butter, making sure to slide a good amount between the skin and the meat. * Reserve some herb butter for the gravy. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you are stuffing the bird, do it now, making sure that the stuffing mixture is moist enough, so that it doesn’t try to draw all juices from the turkey while it cooks. Tuck the wings under and tie the legs with cooking twine if necessary. I usually make a ball of aluminum foil and tuck it at the outside of the cavity to keep the stuffing in, and prevent it from overcooking where it is exposed.

Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and place a couple of stalks of celery, carrots and an onion, peeled and cut into large chunks. Add a little chicken or turkey stock to the pan, to get things started. Keeping the bottom of the pan moist throughout the cooking process not only gives you liquid for basting, but also creates delicious pan juices to make gravy with. ( We will talk about gravy tomorrow, so stay tuned!) We start the process with 1 cup of white wine, and 1 cup of broth in the pan.

Place the turkey in the oven and roast at 350 degrees. Roast for 1 hour, and then cover it  loosely with foil. Every hour or so, pour a little more broth and white wine over the turkey and continue to roast covered. Cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165 degrees. If it is not golden brown, remove the foil for the last 30-60 minutes of cooking.

Once the turkey’s internal temperature is reached, take it out of the oven, remove the stuffing, cover it with foil and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
Do not throw away the pan juices or vegetables yet…we will use them for the gravy!Spoiler alert: Buy 2 pounds of mushrooms.

Place the stuffing in an oven proof dish and pop it back into the oven to keep warm.

A free range turkey is leaner and will cook faster than a conventional, previously frozen turkey. Don’t wait for the red timer to pop up before starting to check the temperature. By then, it could be over cooked! Start taking the turkey’s temperature at the earlier side of the estimated cook time, and judge from there. A good indicator of doneness is that the legs and wings should start to move freely and easily when jiggled, and the juices should run clear when the bird is pricked. A fresh, unstuffed turkey will take about 12 minutes per pound to cook, and a defrosted turkey could take closer to 20 minutes per pound. Allow a little extra cook time if the turkey is stuffed.

A guideline for roasting times:

10-18 pound turkey will cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours unstuffed, and about 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours stuffed.

18-22 pounds will take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours unstuffed and 4 1/2 to 5 hours stuffed.

22- 24 pounds will take about 4 to 4 1/2 hours unstuffed and about 5 to  5 1/2 hours stuffed.

Click here for our garlic and herb butter recipe, which can be make ahead. If you waited until the last minute to read this, you can use several cloves of finely minced raw garlic instead. It will mellow a bit as the turkey cooks.

Stay tuned for our gravy recipe. It’s worth waiting for!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Thanksgiving Game Plan

November 10, 2014

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Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, and to make it as stress free as possible, it’s time to start making a game plan.

If you are hosting, it’s important to be a well-oiled machine, with all parts coming together to create a massive feast in a relatively short period of time.

Here are a few tips to create a game plan that will guide you to a successful dinner:

Make a guest list. Encourage your guests to commit, and let you know if they are planning to bring someone along. Every year, without fail, someone calls at the very last minute asking if they can bring a friend or two. We always figure out how to squeeze in a few more, but frankly, it’s best and most polite for all involved to give a little notice. (Yeah, I went there.)

Plan a menu. If you are like me, you will be making lots of dishes over a 24 hour period, and need to juggle time and precious oven space to make that happen. If you are like most people who aren’t control freaks, you may be sharing the cooking with others, and want to make sure every item is covered, and no duplications show up. It’s not fun to have 5 store bought pies and no potatoes or cranberries. I like to print out all of my recipes and place them in a folder, along with my menu and grocery lists. I keep it from year to year, and add or subtract recipes as necessary. Since we have just done some home renovation, I had better start looking for my beloved folder, which I am sure is in a bin somewhere.

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Ask about food issues: Notice that I called them issues and not allergies. These days, everyone has them. This one is gluten free, that one is vegetarian. Someone avoids nuts, another avoids dairy. I have had dinners where there was not one single item that everyone at the table was willing to eat. With all of the side dishes on Thanksgiving, it’s very possible to have enough items for everyone to find a few things to feast on without having to make anything special. One year, I knew I had a vegan guest coming, and scooped out portions of every non-meat dish as I was making them and substituted margarine for butter, or made sure to use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. It wasn’t a big deal to do this as I went along, and she was very, very grateful. Make sure that if you don’t do that, you are completely transparent about it. Don’t tell someone it’s ok if it really isn’t. As a guest, if you have a lot of food issues, offer to bring a dish that you can eat and enjoy. Be gracious and make enough to share with everyone.

Inventory your cookware, dishes and serving pieces. Do you have everything you need?Are the linens stained?  If not, now is the time to shop for those extras, or borrow them. Make sure you have a chair for every guest, if you are planning a sit down dinner. It’s rarely the worry of having enough food for those last minute guests that throws me into panic mode: it’s more about having enough dishes and a seat for them.

Make a grocery list. I like to divide mine into perishables, and non-perishables which can be bought in advance. Now is a great time to stock up on those non-perishable items and leave them in the pantry. Think about everything you need, even salt and pepper, so you don’t run out. The stores are a virtual zoo in the days leading up to the holiday, so the less time I spend in them the better.

Prepare: I am not much of a make ahead kind of cook. The idea of preparing a meal and freezing it, to me is akin to serving fancy TV dinners. Ok, I am exaggerating, but I prefer to get my cooking zen on and make everything with a day or so of the meal. Having said that, there are many things that freeze well, if you want to get a jump start. Homemade breads,rolls and pie crusts can be made ahead, and baked on Thanksgiving day, making them freshly baked, without the last minute fuss.  If you make cornbread for stuffing, that is also freezable. Non creamy soups also fare well in the freezer.

Now sit back, relax and repeat after me: “I go this!” You do, you really do!

photos: Glasshouse Images

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The Morning After

November 29, 2013

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Whew, it’s over! Whether you spent the last day ( or two ) cooking or just hanging with family and eating like there is no tomorrow, lo and behold, that tomorrow is here. What to do now?
Take that turkey carcass, toss it in a big pot with carrots, celery, onion, and water, and cook it into submission, until you have a rich, flavorful stock.

Eat a light, but healthy breakfast, like some fresh fruit, or a smoothie. Tempting as it may be, pumpkin pie is not the breakfast of champions. (Yes, I am talking to you!)

Get active! Go to the gym, go for a run, play football with the fam, or at the very least, shop the Black Friday sales until you go anaerobic from the sheer frenzy of it all. Turn all those excess carbs into fuel, and burn them off, any way you can. You will feel much better afterwards.

If you hosted the dinner, put your house back into some semblance of order. You will be able to relax and enjoy it, if it is neat and all signs of chaos are eliminated.

Assess the leftovers. Do you want to eat them as is, make sandwiches, or turn them into something else? Leftover turkey can be used to create a variety of dishes from turkey salad, to turkey crepes and turkey tacos, just to name a few. Get creative, and turn those leftovers into something new that everyone will want to eat.

Monday is the absolute last day to eat those leftovers safely. Stretching that turkey and dressing through next week could result in your stomach rebelling. Eat them, freeze them or donate them, but do it within the first 3 days or so.

As the week progresses, and the stress of work and school set in, don’t forget to reflect on all of the things you are thankful for. Stretch those positive thoughts out to keep you grounded and grateful for weeks to come.

photo: Glasshouse Images

We would be very thankful if you would:

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Giving Thanks, Eating Well

November 28, 2013

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Today is the big day. It’s like the Superbowl of Eating. If you are health conscious, t’s not a bad idea to have a strategy in place. Here are a few tips and facts to guide you through the feast:

Don’t starve yourself all day in anticipation of the extra calories. Chances are, you will be miserable, and then over binge later.Have small, light meals during the day to keep your strength up, and calories down.

Load up your plate with the healthiest stuff: turkey, salad, vegetables, etc. Pre-game nibbles, like shrimp, hummus and vegetables with dip are better choices than starchy, cheesy appetizers.

We are having a non- creamy soup to begin, followed by a seasonal salad with a dried cranberry vinaigrette. Those types of foods should take the edge off, leaving you less ravenous for the main meal.

Decide what your very favorite dishes are, and take a portion of those first. Skip the others, or just take a little taste of them. Fill the rest of your plate with turkey and clean vegetable side dishes if possible. Creamy casseroles are not healthy diet choices regardless of what the main component of them is, but if you love gratineed squash, go ahead and indulge. It’ s Thanksgiving for goodness sake!

Sweet potatoes, are better choices than white potatoes.

Pumpkin pie is higher in vitamins and lower in calories than pecan pie. I can’t imagine how many calories are in the chocolate pecan tart with salted caramel and whipped cream, but I hope my guests will enjoy it regardless! If that’s your thing, have a small slice and enjoy it.

Move a little after your meal. Go for a walk, help with the dishes, or dance if the mood strikes. Moving around will aid in digestion, leaving you less bloated and sluggish the next day.

Remember that it takes 3500 extra calories to make a pound. Chances are, one meal, however outrageous it may be,  will not make a significant difference in your weight. To relieve the bloat, workout the next day, eat healthfully, and drink lots of water.

Thanksgiving is a time to be reflective about all of the blessings in your life. Don’t beat yourself up over indulging. Instead be grateful for the wonderful food, and the friends and family you shared it with. Tomorrow is a new day!

Happy Thanksgiving to all our supportive readers!

photo: Glasshouse Images

Take a moment to:

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Thanksgiving Menu

November 25, 2013

We are on the home stretch of Thanksgiving planning, and after a whirlwind month of working, I finally got around to taking my own advice and made my Thanksgiving game plan. Using mostly tried and true recipes, which are contemporary twists on traditional fare, here is my menu:Many of these recipes have been posted before, so just click on the link to take you there!

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Thanksgiving Dinner 2013:

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Creme Fraiche

Cheddar Corn Muffins with Jalapeno Butter

Arugula, Radicchio and Fennel Salad with Toasted Pecans and Cranberry Vinaigrette

Garlic and Herb Roasted Turkey with Mushroom Gravy

Bread and Vegetable Stuffing, Cooked 2 Ways

Hot Cranberry and Apple Compote ( we call it Cranberry Jones!)

Roasted Sweet Potato and Banana Puree with Pecan Crumble

Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic

Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

Chocolate Marscapone Cheesecake

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

For a tutorial on making the perfect pie crust, click here.

Stay tuned this week, as we countdown the days until Thanksgiving, with cooking tips and recipes for the big day.

Photo: Glasshouse Images ( that’s actually our turkey made last Thanksgiving!)

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Thanksgiving Game Plan

November 14, 2013

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and if you are hosting dinner, it’s time to get cooking; in a figurative sense. Unless you prepare a massive feast for a crowd on a regular basis, planning ahead is everything.

Here are a few of our favorite tips to ensure a successful meal:

Nail down the guest list:

Our Thanksgiving guest list ebbs and flows each year, with regulars often asking to bring friends at the last minute.  While there is always room for one more, a few more, or a few less can wreck havoc. Try to get a head count so you can plan more efficiently.

Order the turkey:

If you have ever had a fresh, free range or organic turkey, vs. a frozen conventional turkey, you will know this step is critical. I order mine from Dipaola Turkeys at the Union Square Greenmarket, and you really can taste the difference.

Create a menu:

With the wide variety of traditional dishes served for Thanksgiving, a plan is necessary. Everyone seems to have a favorite side dish that they look forward to, and with all of the food issues floating around, it is important to serve items that fit into your guests’ dietary restrictions. Check to see if you have any vegetarians, vegans or gluten free diners. You can work around those issues in some dishes to make sure that everyone has an enjoyable meal. Copy your recipes, and place them in a folder so that they are all in one place when you need them. 

Make shopping lists:

The grocery stores get crazy the day before Thanksgiving. Other than the impeding nervous breakdown one might experience when food shopping the evening before the holiday, the most popular items are often sold out. You can’t make pumpkin pie without pumpkin, or cranberry sauce without cranberries. Dividing the list into non- perishables, which can be purchased far in advance, semi-perishables, which can be purchased a few days in advance, last minute items, and specialty store items, will allow you to be a stealth shopper, with a minimum amount of stress. 

Have a game plan:

Take that menu you just created, and figure out the best way to execute it. Several dishes can be made the day before and finished off right before dinner, and others can be prepped to minimize the muss and fuss. Cleaning and chopping vegetables, and making piecrusts are good items to get out of the way in advance.

Setting the table:

If you have room, go ahead and set the table the day before and cover it with a sheet.At the very least, inventory dishes, tableware, linens and serving pieces a week in advance. Polish the silver, wipe the dishes, iron the linens and make sure you have everything you need. When you discover you don’t have a serving piece, or a place setting on Thanksgiving Day, there is little to nothing you can do about it.

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Taking the time to plan ahead will be one of the many things to be thankful for, come Thanksgiving Day.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Happy Thanksgiving

November 22, 2012

I was up early preparing for the main event tonight. Here is a sneak peak of a chocolate pecan tart in process.

Wishing all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!  I am grateful to have close friends and family joining us this year, and to welcome little Landon, 6 weeks old to his first Thanksgiving celebration. In the last few weeks, I have been through a hurricane and power outage, a Nor’easter, a fractured knee and a work marathon, but I am thankful that each of those incidents were not worse than they were.

I have also experienced the birth of a beautiful baby boy, the gracious support and concern of others, and the gift of an opportunity to do something I have only dared to dream of doing.

I hope that you all have much to be thankful for as well. I will share photos of our celebration soon.

Enjoy!

 

CSA Tuesday + Unrecipe Round-Up

November 21, 2012

Our weekly CSA provided lots of Thanksgiving ingredients. We got sweet potatoes, carrots, red potatoes, onions, a giant pumpkin and cilantro.

I have already started preparing our Thanksgiving meal!

Our weekly list from fresh from the farm:

Pumpkin pie,anyone?

The baskets of produce ready to be distributed:

Here are a  few of our previously published favorite Thanksgiving “unrecipes:” Search the site for even more ideas!

Pumpkin Pie:

https://indigo-jones.com/2011/11/23/unrecipe-of-the-week-thanksgiving-edition-5/

Roasted Garlic and Herb Paste for the Turkey:

https://indigo-jones.com/2010/11/22/unrecipe-of-the-week-thanksgiving-edition-2/

Honey Banana Sweet Potatoes: no marshmallows for me!!

https://indigo-jones.com/2009/11/24/unrecipe-of-the-weekthanksgiving-edition/

Happy Thanksgiving!!! Enjoy!

Hot Cranberry Jones:

https://indigo-jones.com/2009/11/05/unrecipe-of-the-week-14/

 

Unrecipe of the Week: Countdown to Thanksgiving

November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving dinner always ends with pies and tarts at our house, and every great pie starts with the crust.
Many people find making piecrusts intimidating, but with a few tips and a little skill, they can be executed flawlessly every time.

Start with a simple recipe, and use good quality ingredients. Look for pure unsalted sweet cream butter, and consider splurging on French or Irish butters, like Kerrygold or President.

While many recipes call for mixing the dough by hand, it is quicker, easier and more consistent to use the food processor. It will literally mix the ingredients and roll it into a ball for you. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Most recipes also call for the dough to be chilled for at least an hour or two before rolling. While the dough should be cold, I find if it gets too cold it is more difficult to roll it out.  Use cold butter and ice water, to keep it as cold as possible while mixing it.

Roll the dough on a large clean dishcloth, or a piece of parchment or wax paper, instead of directly on the countertop. That way, once it is rolled to the desired size and thickness, the towel or paper can be lightly folded with the dough on it, gently laid into the pan (cloth side up) and the cloth can be easily removed. If you are using paper, wipe the surface down with a damp cloth first, so the paper doesn’t shift. Be sure to flour the cloth and the surface.

Handle the dough as little as possible. The more it is worked, the tougher it will become. For delicate dough, try to roll it out only once, if possible. If you need to roll it a second time, it will still be delicious…don’t worry!

If the dough tears, or there are areas that didn’t quite get filled, use the scraps to repair it. Just brush a little water onto the part of the dough being mended so it forms a bit of “glue” to help the added piece stick.

Here is a recipe for Pate Brisee (basic pie crust) that can be used with any filling:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) of cold butter cut into pieces

About 4 tablespoons of ice water

Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Add the pieces of butter and process with an on/off motion until the texture resembles a coarse meal. Do not overwork the dough!

If you do not have a food processor, use 2 knives or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the other ingredients.

With the machine running, add the ice water a little at a time until the dough comes together. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it seems dry or crumbly, add a little more water. The trick is to have the dough reach the desired consistency, using the recipe as a guideline.

Gather the dough into a ball and flatten it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, but not hard. As little as 15 minutes might do it.

If you need to do this in advance and roll it later, let it sit outside of the refrigerator for a few minutes until it is still cold, but pliable.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface (with a cloth or paper on it that is also lightly floured) until it is about 1/8” thick. Place it into the pie pan or tart pan.

If you are making a tart, roll your rolling pin across the top of the pan to trim off the excess. If you are making a pie, use a paring knife to trim the excess and crimp the sides or score with the tines of a fork.

Use a fork to prick the bottom of the dough, to allow the steam to escape during baking.

Chill the crust until ready to use, fill it with your favorite filling, bake and enjoy!

photos: Glasshouse Images

Ready or Not, Here it Comes!!

November 12, 2012

With all that has been going on, I almost forgot that Thanksgiving is coming in just 10 days!  With all that is on my plate between now and then, it is going to take some serious planning to pull it off without a hitch.

Are you too hosting Thanksgiving dinner and wondering how it could possibly be coming so soon?  Here is a breakdown of how to get to Thanksgiving without, well, having a breakdown!

Ready, set, GO!

Make a guest list and confirm how many to expect. I find my guest list often grows and recedes as I discover and include people who have not made other plans, or find out about frequent guests who will not make it this year. Try to nail down the amount of people as soon as possible, so you can start to plan ahead. Also, figure out if anyone has any dietary restrictions. Gluten free, vegetarian and other food issues are easy to work around this time of year, as long as you know in advance.

Create your menu. I printed out my menu from last year, and I am pulling all of the recipes together in a file. If I want to try something new, that goes into the file and the menu gets updated.
Make lists! Guest lists, shopping lists, to do lists. If you write it down, it is more likely to actually happen.

Create a shopping list and break it down by non-perishables, which can be purchased in advance, and the fresh foods, which need to be bought at the last minute. Also break the perishable foods list down by where you will purchase the items. If you are like me, it’s not one stop shopping!

Order anything that requires advance booking, like a fresh turkey. I get mine at Di Paola Turkey Farms, and pick it up at the Union Square Greenmarket the day before Thanksgiving.  If you think turkey is dry and unappetizing, try to find a fresh turkey from a reputable farm. The quality of the bird is as critical to the outcome as how you cook it.

Get organized. If you can, clean out the kitchen cupboards and assess your pantry. Do you really have enough of all of those staple items you think you have? If not, put them on the shopping list!

Think about serving pieces and table settings. Do you have enough seating and dishes to accommodate the guests? If not, it is better to know now, than the day of the event. You still have time to borrow or buy whatever you need, if you plan ahead.

While I am not a big proponent of freezing things, think about what you might be able to make in advance and pop into the freezer. Unbaked biscuits, for example, work well when frozen.

Start at least the day before. You cannot cook a great meal of this magnitude from scratch in one day, no matter how organized you are. Solicit kitchen help that takes direction well, and is up to the challenge of doing things to your standards and not making you nuts in the process. Yes, I admit to becoming a bit of a Chefzilla, so I have found that keeping everyone away the first day, and assigning tasks the second day keeps it in check (sort of).

Prep work is essential. Clean and chop all of the vegetables the day before, and assemble as many parts of the meal you can before the big day. This includes salad dressing, the ingredients for the stuffing, the roasted garlic herb butter I spread on the turkey, and many of the side dishes. I made some desserts in advance, and may make the dough for the piecrusts but hold off baking the pies until the morning. The more you do in advance, the more relaxed you will be on Thanksgiving Day.

 

Think about how much will fit into your oven at one time. Be creative about how to make it all work, and be realistic about pulling it off. Plan your menu accordingly.

During the time leading up to the big day, I will post recipes and other tips to make the preparation as enjoyable as the meal itself.
If there is a particular dish or topic you would like addressed, leave a comment and I will try to tackle it!


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