It’s November, so you know what that means! Christmas is just around the c…NO!!!!! Christmas is still a month and a half away! You will not keep pushing this holiday to the curb, I demand it! 😉 Also, I don’t have any food pictures for this blog, as I haven’t cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a while…but that’s changing soon. 🙂
I have some great memories of Thanksgiving growing up. My grandmother’s oldest sister, my great aunt Inez, had a ranch about 60 or 70 miles away from the small town where we lived in MT (Baker). Every Thanksgiving during my childhood was spent driving down to their place and enjoying a delicious, cooked from scratch Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t appreciate this as much as I should have as a kid, but I look back on them a lot now. This was an amazing experience to have; sharing a meal, lovingly prepared, and eaten with people who care about each other. Part of my mission as a chef is to help people enjoy experiences like this.
With this in mind, I’m going to be cooking some Thanksgiving dinners for families around the Denver metro area. The last time I cooked a Thanksgiving meal was back in 2011, while I was still in school, and my roommate and I hosted the meal for her sister’s family, and my mom, brother, sister and her kids came down for the holiday. During that time, my cooking skills have grown by leaps and bounds, so I needed to find some better things to prepare for the holidays.
First, the turkey. Back in 2011, I cooked the turkey in a bag inside a roasting pan, which turned out really well. When building the recipes for 2017, I found a recipe for the turkey in a bag that I modified for my purposes, which will be at the bottom of this post, along with all the other recipes. For me, the taste of Thanksgiving is best exemplified by sage. For some reason, Sage just tastes like Thanksgiving to me. The other herbs that go great with poultry are rosemary and oregano, which I already use in a lot of chicken recipes on my personal chef menu. With that in mind, I wanted to use these herbs in the turkey, but with a heavier use of the sage that is so important to Thanksgiving.
Next, the side dishes. I don’t do a ton of side dishes in my chef service, but I had a couple of recipes in my arsenal. I’ve been doing a spicy sausage stuffing for a few years now, and this stuffing is extremely indicative of the flavors of autumn for me. I use the same herbs in the stuffing that I use in the turkey, as well as some fruits that add an exceptional sweetness to this dish, that I think really rounds out the flavors. On a side note, one of the best things you can pair with spiciness is sweetness; the flavors go extremely well together. The fruit adds this sweetness, and really makes the dish IMHO.
I also have a sweet potato recipe that I used to do for a family, which has some spices that pair extremely well with sweet potatoes. Another side note (if this were a book, these would be footnotes, but alas…) what I refer to as a sweet potato is the orange colored tuber that some people call yams. The grocery stores aren’t exactly sure what is what, so let’s just say that the long, red-skinned, orange-fleshed tuber is a sweet potato, grin. I needed to another side dish, so I did a search for Thanksgiving recipes, and found a fantastic green bean casserole recipe. I didn’t really make any modifications to this recipe, so I’ll have the source for it down below.
Finally, desserts. Here, I unfortunately have nothing to help you. My grandmother was a grand master of pies…but I didn’t pick that up from her. I got her love of baking bread, which I do as often as I can, but her pie skills didn’t make it to me. I remember back in maybe 2010 or 2011, I spent Christmas with her in the house I grew up in with some relatives. My grandmother baked some pies, and one of them really stood out to me. She baked this banana cream pie that was absolutely perfect. When you cut the pie, your knife came out clean. When you lifted a slice up, the custard didn’t move in the least…my aunt Cindy and I both looked at each other with this look that said, “WOW, that’s perfect”. I learned in culinary school that pies are not my thing at all…so I suggest outsourcing this to a professional…unless, of course, you have the dessert skills that I lack. J
In summation, November should truly be a time to give thanks. No matter how much the stores try to push the holiday season forward as much as they can. Black Friday is after Thanksgiving! That’s where it belongs! 😉 With this in mind, I implore you to enjoy Thanksgiving, especially with people that you love. If you need some help doing that, let me know…however, if you want to do it yourself, here are some recipes to help you out. J
Thanksgiving turkey in a bag recipe
Large roasting pan
One large turkey, neck and giblets removed
1 turkey roasting bag
1 head of garlic, halved on the horizontal axis
1 onion, cut into wedges
5 stalks of celery, cut into large pieces
2 T fresh Oregano or thyme leaves, minced
2 T fresh rosemary, minced
4 T fresh Sage leaves, minced
1 stick of butter, melted
Salt and fresh ground black pepper TT
- Set up a rack in the lower 1/3rd of the oven, and preheat to 350F
- Put the onion, celery and garlic into the roasting bag
- Pat turkey dry with paper towels, and stuff the herbs under the skin of the turkey, attempting to distribute as evenly as possible.
- Brush butter over the turkey, and season generously with salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Close the bag tightly and secure, making sure it’s closed.
- Put turkey into a large roasting pan, and make 6 slits a half-inch across in the top of the bag, tucking corners of the bag into the pan.
- Use a probe thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey set to 160F
- When temperature reaches 160F, remove from oven, turn off, and let stand in bag for at least 15 minutes after removing. Cut bag open with cooking shears or paring knife, being careful of escaping steam.
- Remove turkey , carve, and use juices in the roasting pan to make a gravy if desired
Spicy Sausage Stuffing
1 loaf sourdough bread
1 stick unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 granny smith apples, core removed and diced
½ Tablespoon each:
Minced oregano or thyme
As needed: salt and pepper
1 lb loose spicy Italian sausage
1 C chicken stock
½ C dried cranberries
½ C dried apricots, diced
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 5-7 minutes. Move the bread cubes to a large bowl
- In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, apples, herbs, salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bread cubes
- In the same pan, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until cooked through, 7-10 minutes, stirring constantly and breaking up the sausage into smaller pieces. Once cooked, add to the bread cubes and vegetables
- Add the chicken stock, cranberries and apricots to the bowl, and mix very well. Pour into a 9 x 12-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm.
Mashed sweet potatoes
3 lbs mashed sweet potatoes
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- Peel all of the sweet potatoes and cut into 1.5 inch pieces
- Boil in salted water for 17 minutes
- Drain well, and mash with the olive oil, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and S+P
Green Bean Casserole
3 lb green beans, trimmed
½ C sliced almonds
3 T unsalted butter
5 T EVOO
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 T chopped fresh thyme
- Fill a large pot with salted water. Bring to a boil and add green beans. Cook for about 10 minutes, check tenderness, and when done run them under cold water to stop the cooking process; set aside.
- In the same pot, add the almonds and toast until golden, about 3-5 minutes, set aside
- Return pot to stove and turn heat to medium-medium high. Add the butter and olive oil, until butter has melted.
- Add the onions, season with S+P and cook, stirring frequently, 20-25 minutes, or until onions are caramelized.
- Add the reserved green beans and almonds to the pan, stir well to combine and season with S+P to taste.