The clock is ticking and it's time to gather your recipes for this year's Thanksgiving dinner. With all the food television shows and magazine articles, you may have already chosen your menu.
Or you may be like our family and plan to rely on the old standbys you use every year.
Or you may not have had time to think about it at all.
To make things a bit lighter and easier this year, I suggest looking for ways to streamline the whole things.
Instead of the usual recipes, I am trying a few new twists—I am roasting carrots and tiny potatoes alongside the bird. But you can try just a few twists like deconstructing the traditional green bean casserole and turning the pumpkin pie into cheesecake. Instead of a sweet potato casserole I plan to roast them and serve them in their jackets—with no-fat cinnamon sour cream on the side.
And to make things really easy, my peas and pearl onions will go naked this year—I am baking them with no sauce, just a bit of butter and mint to dress them up.
If you want to join me in an easy holiday, you might try a few of my recipes. Here they are:
Simple but Perfect Turkey
One 20 Pound Turkey, thawed
2 sticks of butter or margarine, softened
2 cups fresh sage
4 long stalks of fresh rosemary
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered
2 carrots, quartered
2 oranges, quartered
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
salt and pepper
6 cups chicken or turkey broth
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Remove the giblets and other innards from the turkey. Put the broth in a saucepan and add the giblets to the broth in the saucepan, along with the celery, half an onion and the carrots. Put the saucepan over a very low heat to simmer, covered for about two hours. Rinse the turkey inside and out. Pat it dry with paper towels. Season the inside and outside of the bird with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Lift the turkey's breast skin and slide the rosemary and a few sage leaves under the skin. Loosely fill the turkey cavity with the rest of the onions, oranges and sage. (If you want to liven up the flavor, you could add a cheesecloth soaked in Jack Daniel's to the cavity. Just be sure to remove it before carving starts.) Sew or skewer the breast skin closed—if you don't the skin will shrink back on you and not look as pretty in the end. Place the turkey, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Rub the turkey's back with butter. Roast the turkey, breast side down for 1 ½ hours. Remove the turkey from the oven and quickly flip it over so the breast side is up (use a bunch of paper towels or silicone oven mitts to do this.) Rub butter over the breast and put it back into the oven. Roast, basting with pan juices or the stock and butter, every hour or so, until the turkey thigh reaches 175oF or the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced deeply. Remove the turkey from the oven to a serving platter and let it rest while you make the gravy and get everything else ready. It will continue to cook a bit more, and the juices will settle into the meat as it sits—making for juicier turkey when carved.
Turkey Pan Gravy
Pan juices from one roasted turkey—still in roasting pan
3 Tbs. butter (optional)
3-4 Tbs. Flour
1 Tbs. worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup strong black coffee
4 cups hot chicken/turkey stock, strained (made with giblets, chicken stock and vegetables as in the turkey recipe above.)
Salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste
Place the roasting pan directly on one stove burner. Turn the burner to medium or low(you don't want to burn the brown bits in the bottom of the pan.) Add flour to the pan juices and butter, using a wire whisk to thoroughly mix the fat and flour together. If there doesn't appear to be enough fat to form a smooth roux, melt a little butter into the pan and mix it in. As soon as you have a roux formed, slowly add the stock, scraping up any roasting bits from the bottom of the pan. Whisk the gravy until it thickens slightly, then add the rest of the ingredients, whisking to incorporate them thoroughly. Taste and season the gravy as you like it and serve in a gravy boat.
Sausage Pecan Dressing
1 lb. Bulk pork sausage
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
5 cups crumbled Martha White Cornbread
5 cups crumbled Martha White biscuits (or leftover bread)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 teaspoons sage
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup chopped parsley
4 cups chicken broth
Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease a 13x9-inch baking dish or casserole. In a large skillet, cook sausage, onion and celery over medium high heat until sausage is browned and vegetables are tender. In a large bowl, combine sausage and vegetable mixture with remaining ingredients. Stir gently. Spoon into greased baking dish. Hold, refrigerated, until one hour before dinner. bake at 350ºF for 50 minutes or until golden brown and heated through. Yield: 10 to 12 servings.
Skinny Green Bean Casserole
2 bags frozen skinny green beans
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cups Durkee's French Fried onions
1 tsp. hot sauce
3 Tbs. butter
Place the green beans in a casserole dish with 1/2 cup of water in the bottom. Microwave the beans for 5 minutes, covered. While the beans are cooking, saute the mushrooms in the butter. Drain the beans, then add the mushrooms and other ingredients, reserving half a cup of the onions. Toss to combine. Chill the casserole until 35 minutes before serving. Bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes, covered. Add the reserved onions on top and bake uncovered for five minutes or until the onions are crisp and browned. Serve immediately.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
12 small fresh sweet potatoes
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 cups fat free sour cream
3 Tbs. honey
Mix together the cinnamon, sour cream and honey. Refrigerate until serving time. Scrub and dry the sweet potatoes, cutting out any eyes as you go. Brush the sweet potatoes with olive oil, pierce their skins with a fork and sprinkle them with salt. Assemble them on a baking sheet and roast at 350ºF for 45 minutes to an hour—until they are cooked through and soft. Serve them hot with the sour cream mixture on the side.
Ginger Pumpkin Cheesecake The key to making this a week ahead is to let it cool gently—first on the counter just out of the oven, then in the refrigerator until it is chilled. Finally, wrap it in two layers—plastic wrap and then foil—and freeze it. Let it thaw in the refrigerator for eight hours before serving.
For the crust:
1 1 /2 cups gingersnap crumbs
4 Tbs. melted butter
2 Tbs. ground pecans
3 Tbs. sugar
For the center:
1 lb. cream cheese
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
16 oz. pureed pumpkin
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 /2 tsp. each ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves
dash of salt
For the crust, combine ingredients well and press into the bottom and sides of a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. For the center, mix the cream cheese and sugar thoroughly. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined. Pour into the crust and bake for 50 minutes at 350ºF. Cool and then chill completely.