Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, everyone! I hope you are all having a delicious holiday with friends and family. I have a big dog show this weekend in West Springfield, Massachusetts, and I leave tomorrow at the crack of dawn (I hope we do as well as Fairchild did today in the "National Dog Show"--group one, yahoo!). So I am not going to my friend Lee Ann's in Saranac Lake like I normally do, but making dinner at home just for me, my roommate, Cyd, her friend from school, Rachel, and probably our next-door neighbor, Ken, too. Since we are a small group, we are going to keep it pretty simple and traditional.

Here's the menu:

Emeril's Relish Tray (Lee Ann makes this for me every year, as I love it so!)
Brined and Roasted Turkey
Cranberry-Orange Relish (and the ridged jelly stuff in a can for Rachel--eww!)
Sausage, Onion and Sage Dressing
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Roasted Maple and Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes
Vegetable Melange (julienned green and yellow beans with orange and yellow carrots)
Chocolate Chocolate Cream Pie
Apple Pie

And here are some of the recipes. Why not all? Well, I'm sure you can make mashed potatoes on your own, I just steamed the veggies in the microwave, I've already posted the chocolate cream pie recipe, and we bought the beautiful apple pie at an orchard in Quebec when we visited L'Ile-Perrot awhile back--isn't it pretty, though? But here are the rest:

Relish Tray
(Source: Emeril Lagasse's Every Day's a Party)

1/2 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1 pound baby carrots
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 pound celery, cut into 3-inch pieces
1-pound jar Kalamata olives packed in vinegar brine and olive oil
11.5-ounce jar pickled peperoncini
16-ounce jar pickled hot cherry peppers
10-ounce jar pickled imported Spanish Queen olives stuffed with pimientos
8-ounce jar pickled Holland cocktail onions
20 fresh basil leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
6 sprigs fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup olive oil

Blanch the green beans and carrots separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain, and shock in ice water to cool. Put all of the ingredients in a large glass bowl. Toss to coat the vegetables evenly with the olive oil. Refrigerate for 8 hours before serving in shallow glass dishes.

Yield: about 12 servings

Roasted and Brined Turkey

1 10-12 pound turkey, thawed
8 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 lemons, quartered
1 bunch fresh thyme (at least 6-8 sprigs)
2 sprigs rosemary
6 garlic cloves
2 onions, quartered
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Combine all brining ingredients in a large cooler or bucket. Submerge turkey (weighting down with a plate if necessary) and refrigerate overnight (12 hours is optimal but 8 will do).

Remove turkey from the brine and rinse and dry thoroughly. Place in a roasting pan with a rack and fill the cavity with an onion (quartered), a lemon (halved), and about four cloves of garlic and a handful of fresh herbs (of your choice). Coat the turkey all over with one stick of softened butter and season well with salt and pepper. Roast for about 2 1/2 hours at 350 degrees until joints feel loosened and the bird is well-browned. Let rest for about 20 minutes before carving and serving.

Cranberry-Orange Relish
Kerr's Home Canning and Freezing Book)

2 lbs. fresh cranberries (about 8 cups)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 orange with peel, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup orange juice or orange liqueur

Combine sugar and water over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil until cranberries pop and mixture thickens, about 7-10 minutes. Save out a pint for your Thanksgiving dinner, and can the other 2-3 pints for Christmas (10 minutes in a water bath).

Sausage, Onion and Sage Stuffing

4 tablespoons butter
1 pound pork sausage
1 cup celery, finely chopped
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (I love Watkins')
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage (or up to one teaspoon if you really love sage!)
salt and pepper to taste
14-ounce bag stuffing cubes (or your own dried bread cubes, if you prefer)
2 1/2-3 cups turkey stock (homemade is best, but canned with do (low-sodium, though!)

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the sausage (crumbled), celery, onions, and spices and cook until the sausage is browned and the vegetables are soft. In a large bowl, add the stuffing cubes and the sausage and veggie mix. Stir together. Add enough turkey stock to reach your desired level of moisture (I like it medium--not too dry but not mushy either, which took a little less than three cups).

Place dressing in a buttered casserole dish, and bake for about 30 minutes at 30 degrees or until it's browned on the top and bottom.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Make mashed potatoes the way you like them. I peel and chunk them up and then cook them until tender in chicken broth for added flavor. Then I mash them by hand (I like lumps!), and add butter and evaporated milk until I reach the desired consistency. Finally, I season with salt and pepper.

For the gravy, place the roasting pan with the turkey drippings on the front and back burners of your stove on medium. Heat up the drippings and add at least a half cup of a good red wine (I used a cab merlot this year as there was some sitting out unused on the counter). Add about a half cup of flour and whisk and cook for a minute or two get rid of that raw flour taste. Add turkey stock (maybe eight ladles or so--until you reach the right consisency) that you have made from the browned giblets, onions, garlic cloves, bay leaves, the herbs or seasonings of your choice, and of course, water (about 2 quarts, I'd say). You could throw in some celery and carrots if you like, as well (I didn't this time). I also added a couple of teaspoons of chicken bouillion to kick up the flavor a bit, so I did not add salt, but definitely lots of pepper. After you've simmered the stock for an hour or so (or until you need it), strain the bits out. Whisk constantly as you add the stock to the gravy to avoid lumps. Keep gravy on the lowest simmer until you're ready to serve.

Roasted Maple and Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes

Peel and cut four sweet potatoes into chunks. Dress with a few tablespoons of olive oil, a sprinkling of both cinnamon and cayenne pepper, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Fill an unlined, ungreased half sheet pan with the sweet potato chunks, scatter bits of butter on top (4 tablespoons), and roast along with your turkey for about a half an hour. Toss them around with a spatula, sprinkle with about a quarter cup of brown sugar and drizzle with a quarter cup of maple syrup, and toss again. Return the pan to the oven and roast for another 15-30 minutes until tender and caramelized. Correct seasoning and serve.

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