Christmas: December 2008 Archives

Brining a turkey before cooking is an excellent way to increase the bird's ability to retain moisture throughout the roasting process. It results in an extremely moist turkey with excellent flavor. At the most basic level, you can brine your turkey simply by combining the salt, sugar, and peppercorns listed in the ingredients below. Using the additional seasons helps enhance the flavor of the bird. You may want to err on the side of a shorter brining time if you're concerned with having your turkey be too salty.

How to cook a Thankgiving Turkey

Brine Ingredients:
2 c kosher salt
1 c raw sugar
1 c honey
2-3 bay leaves
2 Tbl peppercorns
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp celery seeds
3 cloves garlic
1 lemon
2-3 sprigs thyme
2-3 sprigs sage
10-14 lb turkey
1 brining bag

Roasting Pan Ingredients:

2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 lemon, sliced
4 cloves garlic
3-4 sprigs thyme
3-4 sprigs sage
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Turkey Gravy Recipe

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Not having gravy for the mashed potatoes and stuffing at your Thanksgiving and Christmas feast is like having your uncle show up with his nudist girlfriend - incredibly awkward to explain to the kids. Gravy is one of those holiday treats meant to be enjoyed. I've had many variations I enjoy tremendously, this one is best prepared while drinking as much wine as you add to the pan (or maybe a little more).

Turkey Gravy Recipe

Roasting pan of turkey drippings
4 Tbl butter
3 Tbl flour
1 c white wine
1 qt chicken stock, homemade or low sodium store bought
2 Tbl chopped parsley, thyme, and sage
Salt and pepper

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

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Mashed potatoes are my personal holiday kryptonite. It could be because my grandma started me on mashing potatoes before I could see over the stove, or maybe it's just because they are nearly perfect. I could miss most of the rest of the meal and simply fill up on a heaping plate of smashed Yukon gold with turkey gravy pouring over the sides of a mashed potato wall. This is an excellent variation on that theme, taking true sweet potatoes, combining them with some Yukon gold spuds, and adding a little parsnip for flavor. I wouldn't trade plain old mashed potatoes for anything, but these are a worthy rival.

Sweet Potato Mashed potato recipe


3 medium sweet potatoes, yellow
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
2 parsnips
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl parsley, chopped
1/4 c chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Stuffing is one of those things no holiday feast should be without. It's a perfect savory accompaniment for turkey and cranberry sauce. I call this Robin's foolproof stuffing because it's easy to make and I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't like it. And of course, it's Robin's because she's the brains of the food operation at our house. Drying the bread can be done ahead of time so that you're not trying to do everything at the last minute. If you don't eat pork, you can round out the turkey theme with a turkey breakfast sausage instead of pork.

Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

Ingredients

1 loaf sliced bread of choice, buttermilk white is good
1/2 lb turkey or pork breakfast sausage, bulk
Giblets reserved from turkey
4 Tbl butter
1 onion, small diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 core of celery, with leaves, small slice
1/4 c white wine
3 c chicken stock, maybe more to moisten
3-4 sprigs sage, leaves chopped
2-3 sprigs thyme
1/2 tsp celery seed
Salt and pepper

Cranberry Compote

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It's hard to compete with the simplicity of canned cranberries during a busy holiday meal preparation, but you won't impress any of your guests with can shaped slices (they are certainly a guilty pleasure). This recipe provides a subtly Indian spin on the required cranberries at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. It keeps well so you could make it up several days ahead of any feast, which also allows the habenero flavor to sink in just enough to tingle the tongue.

Cranberry Compote

2 pints fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup red wine
1 cup water
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
½ c sugar
1 habenero pepper, split
2 whole pods star anise
2 cinnamon stick
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbl allspice, whole
½ tsp black pepper

Growing up, green bean casserole consisted entirely of canned goods. Canned green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, and canned Durkee French fried onions were the primary ingredients. I still have a fondness for that version of this holiday favorite, but rich flavors of making it yourself from fresh ingredients give a whole new dimension to this old favorite. Since I don't eat dairy, we left the heavy cream out of the version we made at our house, but it's admittedly better tasting if you leave it in.

Green Bean Casserole recipe

Green Bean Casserole Ingredients

1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed
1/3 lb porcini mushrooms, or favorite variety, sliced
4 shallots, 1 minced, 3 sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 sprigs thyme
2 Tbl butter
1 Tbl flour
2 c veal stock, or beef stock (low sodium if not homemade)
1/4 c port, ruby or tawny
1/4 c heavy cream
Salt and pepper
1 Tbl parsley, chopped

Crispy Shallots for Topping

1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp onion powder
2 c canola or high heat oil

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