We made Thanksgiving dinner again this year. I guess I’ve been doing this for about 20 years or so. In the past, I’ve made some good dinners. But usually something goes wrong, sometimes badly wrong. Or I budgeted my prep time so badly that I was rushing around the kitchen like a madman to be ready by the time the guests arrived.
This year, thanks to some prodding from my wife in which she reminded me of how wrong I’ve been in the past in terms of alloting sufficient time for preparation, everything went swimmingly (except for the parts of that 13 lb. turkey which decided that no amount of roasting would cook them properly). Every dish we prepared turned out delicious. So I thought I’d share the recipes and cookbooks I used to prepare the meal in case you have to do this yourself sometime and need some new ideas for what to prepare.
We started with a simple green salad of baby greens, avocado and olive oil-balsamic vinegar dressing. For the turkey, we used the Cook’s Illustrated Magazine recipe from the November-December, 2001 (page 9) issue. It calls for butterflying the turkey and shows you how to do it. Unless, you’re a proficient meat carver, I wouldn’t recommend doing this yourself–it was hellish when I first tried it 2 years ago). Let you butcher do it. I think the brining that the recipe calls for makes a big difference in the finished product. It’s tender and moist. I do use less salt than the Cook’s recipe calls for. I think their specs make for an overly salty bird. Our free range turkey came from Don & Joe’s Meats in Pike Place Market.
Janis prepares a wonderful cranberry sauce recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. She uses the Orange-Cranberry variation. The berries are succulent and wonderfully tart. While the sauce is sweet, it isn’t cloyingly so. And the key ingredients as far as I’m concerned are the orange zest and Grand Marnier, which add an extra kick to the whole ensemble.
Our Sausage, Apple, Pine Nut stuffing comes from Waldy Malouf’s Hudson River Valley Cookbook (I hail from the Hudson River valley) on page 156. The combination of sausage and apple nicely balances sweet, tart and savory. But there is an error of some kind in the recipe. He calls for 3 cups of chicken stock. In the recipe, he states “Break in the eggs and add the cream and the remaining stock.” The word “remaining” indicates he meant to include an earlier reference to adding stock at a different point in the recipe. I thought that 3 cups of stock was excessive & made for a somewhat soupy stuffing. But an important point to add here is that I roasted my stuffing underneath the bird where it picked up the drippings. That may’ve made it more liquidy than I would’ve liked. Still, I’d cut the liquid down by a cup. If anyone can figure out what Maloof meant here, please let me know.
Another drop dead wonderful side dish was the Whipped Satsuma yams with cream. If you’ve never eaten these yams, go down to your nearest Asian market and pick them up NOW! We first partook of them at Flying Fish and they were a wonder. They have a pale yellow flesh, delicate taste and are a bit drier or starchier than regular yams. I used 2 big yams and 2 cups of cream mixing it all in a food processor. That may sound like a lot of cream, but the recipe provided about 10 servings so it isn’t as bad (cholesterol-wise) as it sounds.
60th Street Desserts, chocolate silk tart
The only thing I didn’t prepare this year was dessert. Here in Seattle, we have 60th Street Desserts, whose mastermind is Joan Williams. With a bakery like 60th Street, why take 2 or more hours to duplicate in the kitchen what Joan does so well (and sometimes even better than what I could prepare)? Our guests ordered the pumpkin cheesecake for our dessert and it was incredibly rich. The pumpkin was delicate and made for a nicely balanced set of tastes. Joan doesn’t over sugar her desserts which is a blessing compared to what you find in most bakeries. Other desserts I recommend (she doesn’t always make them every year) are Mandarin Orange Chocolate, Raspberry White Chocolate, Chocolate Pecan, and Chocolate Silk tarts. As you can tell, I like Joan’s tarts more than her fruit pies. Her Ranger cookies (all her cookies, really) and brownies are delicious too.
Unlike past years, by the time our guests arrived for dinner I’d been out of the kitchen for almost an hour. What a relief! Everything went swell (except for little Simon pulling our Jonah’s hair, but that’s another story).