blue marble adventure

Thanksgiving Dinner Like a Boss

Time to step up and and crush it this Thanksgiving.  Although this year may not quite remind us of Thanksgiving day’s of yore, it’s still a great opportunity to spend time with those closes to us, watch some football, eat some food, and celebrate the things we (even in 2020) have to be thankful.  Also relax knowing that dinner doesn’t have to be some crazy nightmare this year.  Follow Chef Billy Woods’ simple step-by step recipes to create the ultimate and impressive thanksgiving feast, with everything from the perfectly moist turkey to a luscious pumpkin cheesecake.  You can pick one or two, or go for it and do the damn thing!  As always, it makes things easier and more enjoyable to have a friend to cook with, some good music, and a great bottle of wine.  Step into Chef’s Kitchen!  All recipes serve 8 with great leftovers (the best part of Thanksgiving)

Appetizer:

Caramelized Apple and Brie Potstickers — Why not bring a little non-traditional into your tradition?  Classic American Thanksgiving flavors with a little eastern flair….

4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and cored

1/2 C. Brown Sugar

4 tbsp butter

1 Round of Classic Brie Cheese, rind removed and roughly chopped

1/2 C. Chopped Walnuts

1 Package circle-shaped Wonton Wrappers

Small amount of neutral-flavored oil

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over high heat.  Add in the apples, sautéing over high heat until just beginning to brown.  Add the sugar, toss to coat, and turn down to medium heat.  Continue to cook the apples until they are deeply brown, about one hour.  Remove from heat, combine in bowl with the brie, and set aside to slowly cool.  When cool, add in walnuts and stir until well combined.  Take a spoonful of the mixture and place in the middle of a wonton wrapper.  Fold the top down and pinch shut, making a half-moon shape.  Press down on your work surface, making a flat bottom to the potsticker.  Repeat this process until the mixture is gone.  Heat small amount of oil in a large saute pan, and place the potstickers flat bottom-side down, cooking over medium heat.  Once the bottom is browned, remove the pan from heat and add a small amount of water to create a steambath.  Once steamed, serve immediately.

glamping

What’s for Dinner?:

Anise, Honey, Apple Cider, and Ginger Brined Turkey

— Worried about your turkey being dry?  Brine to the rescue.  This delicious brine ensures every bite of your turkey (even the hard-to-deal-with breast), is most and memorable.  Another secret?  Chef’s Honey and Herb Butter deeply massage into the turkey!

1 18lb, free-range young turkey

For the Brine:

3 gallons water

1/2 gallon apple cider

1c. brown sugar

1c honey

1c. kosher salt

2 tbsp each of star anise, fresh ginger, black peppercorns

2 large bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Bring to boil and let cool.  When FULLY cooled, add turkey.  Store in a 5-gallon bucket with lid firmly attached.  Brine for no less than 24, but no more than 48 hours.  When ready to roast, remove from brine, pat dry, and remove any spice fragments that may be stuck on.

For the Butter:

1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 honey

1/2 cup herb mixture of fresh, chopped parsley, thyme, rosemary, and sage

Whip vigorously until combined.  Just before roasting the turkey, insert fingers under flap of skin on breast and massage deeply into breast flesh.

Cooking the turkey

Preheat oven to 375

You will definitely want to truss you turkey for most even roasting results.  Watch this short tutorial video to familiarize yourself with the process:

Chop 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 4tbsp unsalted butter and toss into a large roasting pan with a rack.  Place the trussed turkey on the rack.  For every pound of stuffed turkey cook 18 minutes, or until internal temperature is 165 according to your kitchen thermometer.

Chef’s Clutch Pan Drippings Gravy

— Trust us, this is worth the wait.  The key is to make it a priority at the start of the day instead of a mad scramble at the end.  Frankly, you’ll want this as a condiment for everything!

1 package of liver and giblets from your turkey

1 each onion, large carrot (peeled and chopped), and celery stalk

2c. good-quality chicken stock

1c. good quality sauvignon blanc or other crisp, dry, white wine

Drippings from turkey roasting pan

4 tbsp corn starch, 1tbsp water, combined (this is a slurry)

Kosher Salt

In a large sauce pot, place a small amount of butter in pan heated on high.  Melt the butter, and add in the giblets making sure that a single layer is achieved (do not overload the pot).  Brown each side, remove from pan, and deglaze with stock (pour in a small amount and stir until the bits from the bottom of the pan “unstick”).  Continue this process until all giblets and such are browned and set aside.  When this process is finished, add in the chopped mirepoix vegetables with a small amount of butter and season lightly with salt.  Sauté the vegetables on high until beginning to brown, reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until vegetables become deeply brown.  Add back in the browned giblets, stir, and add stock and wine.  Bring to slow simmer, and continue to simmer until turkey is done roasting and liquid is reduced by half.  Add drippings from roasting pan (ALL of them, everything), and continue to simmer until ready to serve.  When ready, strain and thicken with corn starch slurry (add slurry, bring to boil).  When desired consistency is reached, serve.

Chef’s Disappearing Stuffing

— Seasonal fruits and crunchy nuts are the star of this stock and pan dripping-soaked stuffing

4c. Bread scraps or cubes (French, sourdough, rye, cornbread or some combination are all acceptable)

2 pears, chopped

2 apples, chopped

1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, chopped

1c pecans, chopped

2 c. Good-quality chicken stock

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and thoroughly combine.  While wearing gloves, stuff into body cavity of turkey.  Don’t be shy, get in there!

Classic Homestyle Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes — Easy and delicious, a great combination!

5lb bag of Red Potatoes

2c. Buttermilk

1/2c. (1 stick) unsalted butter

Kosher salt to taste

Put all the potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with cold water.  Salt water liberally.  Bring to a boil, reduce to medium simmer, and cook potatoes until a knife slides into them with little to no resistance.

Sweet Potato au Gratin with Chipotle and Gruyere

— Your guests will beg for more of this, and it’s waaaaaaaay better than that marshmallow freak show you’re subjected to every year!

3lb bag of Sweet Potatoes, peeled

1+1/2 c heavy cream

8oz smoked gruyere, shredded

4oz parmigiano-reggiano

5tsp Dijon mustard

1 can chipotle peppers in adobo

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  With a mandoline (slicer) slice all of the potatoes into very thin slices, as thin as you can.  In a 9×9 baking dish covered with parchment paper (pro-tip: using cooking spray makes it easier to mold the paper into the baking dish), layer the potatoes in this order: potatoes covering the bottom , pinch of salt, small handfuls of cheese, mustard 1tsp at time, cream to cover, press down and repeat until all potatoes are used.  Dispense the chipotles into a small bowl.  Remove 1 chili and mince, sprinkle on top of the potatoes along with 1-2 spoonfuls of adobo sauce.  Finish the top with cheese.  Cover the dish with foil, place on baking dish and put in oven.  Bake covered for 1 hour.  Remove foil and bake for additional 30 minutes.  Cool completely, remove from dish and cut into squares.

Chef’s You’ve-hated-them-now-love-them Brussels Sprouts w/ Caramelized Onions, Pancetta, Beets, and Walnuts

— I always hear people tell me that they *hate* beets and brussels sprouts.  That’s because that canned nonsense is hot garbage.  Prepare to eat some real, delicious food

2lb Brussels sprouts, root cut off, halved

2 purple beets, stems chopped off

4 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon, halved

1 yellow onion, julienned

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2lb pancetta, chopped

1c walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  Place beets in baking dish, squeeze lemon and add to beets.  Salt liberally, add 2tbsp of the olive oil and add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish half a finger in height.  Cover with foil and bake 1.5 hours.  Remove from oven and cool.  Skins will peel off easily.  Dice the beets into 1/2in x 1/2in cubes

Begin the Brussels as the beets are being done.  Place halved sprouts in a large mixing bowl, add 2 tbsp of olive oil, and salt liberally.  Place “Face down” on sheet pan, put in oven, and roast until faces are golden brown.

Heat a small saucepan and add pancetta.  Cook until meat is golden brown and fat has separated from the meat.  Strain the meat and add the onions and garlic.  Sauté until golden brown, add back the pancetta and turn down the heat to medium-low.   Cook slowly, stirring often until onions are deeply brown and sweet.

To finish, combine everything (brussels, beets, onion/garlic/pancetta) and heat.  Serve immediately

Dessert:

Velvet Pumpkin Cheesecake w/ Gingersnap crumble

— take a break from the standard pie and slide into this luscious, unforgettable cheesecake made with fresh pumpkin, which makes all the difference.

1 pie pumpkin, stemmed, halved, and seeded

1 tsp canola oil

2 two kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Coat pumpkin with oil, salt, and roast until soft, about 45 mins.  Remove flesh from skin and puree.

For the custard

2 8oz packages of good-quality cream cheese, room temperature

3/4c white sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

1+1/2c sour cream, at room temperature

All of roasted pumpkin purée

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

10 gingersnap cookies, crushed

Preheat oven to 350.  In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, whip cream cheese with sugar and salt until creamy and well-whipped.  Add eggs and yolks one at a time until combined, scraping down the bowl each time.  Add the remaining ingredients, running your mixer on high until well combined.  Scrape down the bowl for good measure.  Grease a springform pan and pour batter into it.  Wrap the outside of the springform with foil, covering the sides.  Place pan in a large container, and fill container  about halfway up the side of the springform pan with warm (not hot) water.  Bake for 1-1.5 hours, or until custard jiggles very slightly when shaken.  Cool completely.  Remove custard from pan, sprinkle with gingersnap dust, and serve.

The Plan

Now you’ve got all the necessary recipes, time to make a plan and get it done.  Here is a basic outline of how your week should progress.  Try to do a few small tasks each day do you don’t get overwhelmed.  For any overwhelmed times, there’s wine for that!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday:

Shopping

Wednesday:

Brine Turkey

Cheesecake

Sweet Potatoes

Potstickers

Brussels

Thanksgiving Day Plan:

Make Stuffing

Stuff and roast Turkey

Gravy

Mashed Potatoes

Conclusion

Even though Thanksgiving might feel a bit different this year, it actually presents a great opportunity.  Many years, we have massive gatherings that might overwhelm a home cook saddled with gigantic responsibility, chaos, and stress.   This year, our smaller gatherings might lend us a chance to try something we haven’t before without worrying about the scope of the crowd.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!