Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Countdown: Menu

I've been cooking Thanksgiving for my family for almost ten years now. It all started in college when I discovered Emeril and The Food Network. I watched him make a Boudin Stuffed Cajun Turkey and it looked so good, I overcame my fear of handling turkey and all it's "bits". The first year I made it, it was AMAZING. The turkey was so moist it was falling off of the bone, and the spicy skin and rice-based boudin stuffing were perfect for my asian family. I stuck with that menu for 3 or 4 years until my husband requested a more traditional menu. So I've been experimenting with different recipes and I think I've finally got my favorites that I'd like to share.

The Turkey:
If you're doing frozen turkey, hopefully by now you've already bought it and it's defrosting in the fridge! If you're doing 11 lbs or less, you should be okay if you go pick it up NOW! I like leftovers, so for 7 adults and one child, I've gone with a 15-16 lb turkey. Here are some cool turkey calculator to figure out your defrosting/cooking times:

We've done deep fried, injected, basted, name it. The easiest thing for me is to go back to the Emeril's Boudin Stuffed Turkey, minus the Boudin Stuffing. I like the way that it's prepared. You stuff slices of butter in between the skin and the meat by cutting in little pockets. You don't even really need to baste your turkey with this method, but it doesn't hurt. ;) I don't stuff the turkey anymore. I could never get enough inside, the turkey cooks more evenly without it, and it's safer as far as making sure everything is cooked properly.

The boudin stuffing is my personal favorite, but not very traditional and a little scary to house guests when they're watching you prepare it. (It calls for pork liver, which also calls for an extra trip to the asian or specialty market to find it.) The hubby requested something plain and simple - no fancy apples or cranberries or "weird stuff" as he calls it. Paula Deen's Good Old Country Stuffing fits the bill and is super easy to make. This year I plan to switch out the breakfast sausage for maybe a gourmet sausage for added flavor.

Mashed potatoes. Have to have mashed potatoes to go with that gravy! I don't use a recipe for this, I just throw in  tons of butter, roasted garlic, sour cream, milk, and cheese! I love the smell of garlic roasting in the oven.

Glazed carrots. This is also simple, but adds a lot of color and looks really beautiful if you buy those skinnier, smaller carrot bunches that still have their tops. Just blanch ahead of time and then finish by sauteing in butter, sugar, salt, and pepper.

Fancy Green Beans, by Paula Deen. Again, lots of color on the table and I prefer this to a casserole so the meal is not so heavy and there's one less thing to go in the oven. But this is by no means "light", it includes bacon! Who doesn't love bacon!?

Sweet Potato Casserole topped with Pecan and Marshmallow Streusel. This is two recipes combined. The pecan and marshmallow streusel topping make it over-the-top amazing! I also love this recipe for Candied Sweet Potatoes, but the casserole has the family vote. You slice the potatoes and lay them out as you would when making au gratin, creating a different texture from mashed potatoes. It also and smells and looks amazing with it's peach schnapps and orange and lemon zests.

Gravy has always been a scary thing for me. I don't know why. I started out using *gasp* canned gravy, moved to half of my gravy mixed with canned, and finally I think the last few years have gotten it down. My problem was that I didn't have a proper roasting pan and rack. Now that I have the right tools, it makes it so much easier! I'll be using this recipe here. (scroll to the bottom to find the gravy.)

Fresh Cranberry Compote. This is so easy, I can't ever imagine pouring out that can shaped sauce into a dish again.

This is one area I haven't touched yet in all these years. I usually leave this as something for my family to bring, and it's usually store bought. I'm hoping to attempt a pie next year!


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