Well Dined


Thanksgiving 2014

Well Dined | Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

You know, I tried to be good and blog about Thanksgiving stuff before the holiday so that it might actually be useful to somebody.  I even made a few dishes in advance, but I didn't post about them in time.  Oh well!  Prepare for a lot of Thanksgiving type posts!

Anyway, we don't have any family where we live so we normally travel for Thanksgiving.  But this year we decided to switch it up and travel for Christmas, so we were on our own for Turkey Day.  We had originally planned to stay at the Inn at Little Washington (!!!), but Jasper got sick and we had to cancel.  So then I had to figure out what to make at the last minute for 2 people - initiate panic mode.  But I got my menu together on Monday, went to the grocery store on Tuesday (which was surprisingly not that crazy), and prepped on Wednesday.

Well Dined | Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

I tried to cut it down to just the basics - turkey (breast only), stuffing (half recipe), mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce (bought), and rolls (bought).  It was still way too much food for 2 people so there are lots of leftover sandwiches in my future.

Well Dined | Thanksgiving Dinner 2014 Turkey Breast

First up, the star - turkey.  There was no way I was going to roast a whole turkey for 2 people, so I bought a whole breast on the bone.  I definitely could have gone with a half breast, but now we have lots of sandwich meat!  And guys, I don't want to brag or anything, but I am SO GOOD at turkey.  Brined, air dried, stuffed with sage butter, rubbed with avocado oil, and started at a high temp - this baby was PERFECT.  It was juicy and tender with crispy skin and super crazy flavorful.  Love it.  It's also really easy to carve - you just cut along the breast bone until the meat is released, then turn it on its side and slice.

Well Dined | Thanksgiving Dinner 2014 Sage Stuffing with Sausage and Apple

Next up - Sage Stuffing with Sausage and Apples.  Since I was operating last minute I definitely didn't want to bake cornbread to use here, and I was fortunate to find an 8oz bag of herbed stuffing cubes (versus the usual pound).  I like the savory-sweet combo of sausage and apples in my stuffing, and I found some sage turkey sausage that was perfect.  I also never bake stuffing inside the bird, because it increases the cooking time and can harbor bacteria (plus I like the top to get crispy).  If you do stuff your turkey, make sure that the stuffing reaches a temperature of 165 deg F in order for it to be safe.

Well Dined | Thanksgiving Dinner 2014 Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

My favorite part - mashed potatoes and gravy.  There are a few tricks to fluffy mashed potatoes.  Choose the right potatoes - russets are the starchiest, Yukon gold have a good balance of starch and flavor.  You could use a combo of both, I prefer to use all Yukon golds.  Do not use waxy potatoes.  Use the right equipment - a food mill or ricer works the best, followed by hand mashing.  Do not use a mixer or food processor - these cut through the molecules, breaking down the starches and resulting in gummy potatoes.  Don't add cold fat - warm your butter, cream, or whatever else before adding it.  Lastly, don't over-mix them - have all your seasonings and fat mixed together and ready to add so that you can mix it all together once and be done.

As for gravy - I used hard cider to deglaze the roasting pan, separated the fat, added turkey stock, and thickened with a roux - yum.

Well Dined | Thanksgiving Dinner 2014 Apple Cheddar Handpies

For dessert, I wanted to make something that would store and reheat well, because there was no way we were finishing a whole pie.  So I made some apple handpies with cheddar crust.

Well Dined | Thanksgiving Brunch 2014 Ham and Cheese Crescent Roll Casserole

I planned to eat dinner at actual dinner time instead of the middle of the day, because we don't care about football.  So I needed o make something for brunch that was special but not super complicated, because I had enough to deal with.  So I made this really easy and yummy ham and cheese casserole with a crescent roll crust.

Perfect Roast Turkey
Well Dined with help from Alton Brown

Whole turkey or whole/half breast, on the bone, with skin
brine (I still swear by this mix)
1/2 stick butter
2 tbsp fresh sage
neutral flavor high heat oil, such as canola or avocado

2 days before roasting (or minimum 13 hours before) - make sure that the turkey is completely thawed (if it was frozen).  Make your brine according to directions; the one I use has salt, dried apples, juniper berries, lemon peel, star anise, garlic, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, onion, bay leaf, and apple cider.  Once the brine is completely chilled, pour over turkey in container of choice.  If it is cold enough outside where you live, you can use a pot or ice chest.  If you are keeping the turkey in the refrigerator, I recommend a brining bag in the crisper drawer.  Either way, make sure the turkey is completely covered in brine or you will have to rotate it a few times.  This step is for flavor and juiciness.

Night before roasting (or minimum 5 hrs before)- take the turkey out of the brine, rinse thoroughly in cold water (make sure you get into all the crevices), pat dry with paper towels, set on a plate and air dry either in the fridge or in the garage if it is very cold.  Make sure that nothing else is touching it and that the platter is big enough to catch drips.  This step ensures crispy skin.

1 hour before roasting - put the turkey on the counter to bring to room temperature and ensure even cooking (now is a good time to prep your stuffing).  Truss your turkey, if you are roasting a whole one - tuck the wings underneath and tie the legs together (if they didn't come that way already) and set into a roasting pan with a rack.  Set the butter out so that it will soften.

Ready to roast - Heat the oven to 500 degrees F; combine the sage and the softened butter.  Gently separate the skin from the flesh of the turkey and spread the butter under the skin, pushing it back as far as you can.  Coat the skin with oil.

Place the turkey in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350 degrees for breast only, for a whole turkey turn down after 15-30 minutes.  Do not baste (the butter makes it self-basting) and try not to open the oven at all.  Cook until the breast meat reads 160 degrees F on a meat thermometer (it's best if you have the kind you can leave in so you aren't opening the oven a bunch to check), 1-1.5 hours for breast only, 2-2.5 hours for whole turkey.

Remove the turkey to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest 15-30 minutes before carving.

Sage Stuffing with Sausage and Apple
adapted from Food Network
Serves 8-16 (I made a half recipe)

16oz bag stuffing cubes (I bought herb flavored ones)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan and topping
1 lb fresh sage sausage (turkey is perfect here), casing removed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cooking apples (such as Golden Delicious), peeled, cored, and chopped
1 to 2 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 cups chicken or turkey broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 deg F (or plan to cook during last hour of turkey cooking time).

Put the stuffing cubes in a large bowl and set aside.  Butter a 9x13 baking dish.

Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and break up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until it loses most of its pink color, but not so much that it's dry, about 5 minutes.  Add the sausage and pan drippings to the stuffing cubes.  Melt the remaining butter in the pan.  Add the onion, apple, celery, and salt.  Cook until the vegetables get soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the broth and parsley and bring to a boil.

Pour the vegetable mixture over the stuffing cubes and toss until evenly moistened.  Mix in the walnuts and eggs.  Loosely pack the dressing in the prepared pan and cook uncovered until the top forms a crust, about 40 minutes (I put mine in with the turkey breast, on the rack below, 15 minutes into the cooking time).  Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of turkey pan drippings or melted butter over the top (I did this after I took the turkey breast out of the oven, so the oven was only opened once while the turkey was cooking).  Cook until the top is crisp and golden, about 20 minutes more (while the turkey rests).

Mashed Potatoes
recipe from Alton Brown
serves 4-6

2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Peel the potatoes and cut into uniform 1/2-inch pieces.  Place into a 4-quart saucepan and cover with cold water by at least 1-inch.  Cover, set over high heat and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, remove the lid, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the potatoes can easily be crushed with a pair of tongs, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.  Drain in a colander.

Put the cream, butter, salt and pepper into the now empty 4-quart saucepan and place back over the heat until the butter has melted.  Remove from the heat and set a food mill fitted with the smallest die, on top of the pot.  Add 1 cup of potatoes at a time to the mill.  Once all of the potatoes have passed through the mill, stir to combine.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.  Serve immediately.

Hard Cider Gravy
recipe from Real Simple
serves 8 (I made a half recipe)

1 cup hard cider or dry white wine
2 to 3 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
kosher salt and black pepper

Strain the drippings into a large measuring cup or bowl.  Let stand for 5 minutes, then skim off and discard the fat.  (Alternatively, use a fat separator.)

Place the empty roasting pan over 2 burners over medium-high heat.  Add the cider and cook for 1 minute, scraping up the bits stuck to the pan.  Pour into the skimmed drippings and add enough broth to make a total of 4 cups.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Cook the flour, whisking, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes.  Whisk in the broth mixture and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Strain.

Apple Hand Pies with Cheddar Crust
adapted from Alexandra Cooks
I made 9 mini pies and had some filling left over.  You may get more or less depending on the size of your pies.  To make a traditional pie, use the same crust recipe and double the filling recipe.  Dot the filling with 2 tbsp of butter, and bake for 1 1/2 - 2 hrs, tenting with foil halfway through.

Cheddar Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
14 tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 oz white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup ice water, to start, plus 1/4 - 1/2 cup (I used whey)

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter until the size of peas.  Cut in cheese.  Add 1/2 ice water and mix with hands, adding more 1 tbsp at a time, until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out; gather into 2 balls.  Roll each ball out on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out your shapes of choice, re-rolling scraps to get as much as you can.  Stack the cutouts between sheets of parchment and refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes while you make the filling.

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes
2 Fuji, gala, or other type sweet apple, peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp apple pie spice mix
1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
turbinado, sanding, or regular granulated sugar for dusting

vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together apples, sugar, flour, lemon juice, apple pie spice, and salt.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator.  Spoon about 1 to 2 tbsp of filling onto one half of each circle of dough.  Using your finger, brush a little cold water around the circumference of the dough.  Fold the circle in half so the unfilled side comes over the filling, creating a semicircle.  (You might need to let the circles stand at room temperature for a couple of minutes so they become pliable.)  Seal the hand pie, and make a decorative edge by pressing the edges of the dough together with the back of a fork.  Repeat process with remaining dough.  Place the hand pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and return to the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes.

Remove the chilled hand pies from the refrigerator, cut a small slit in each and lightly brush with the egg yolk wash.  Sprinkle a pinch of the sugar lightly over the pies, and place pies in the oven to bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Remove the pies from the oven, and let stand to cool slightly before serving.  Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole
Well Dined
serves 4-8

crescent rolls
7oz ham, chopped
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
4 eggs (I used 4 egg whites plus 1 egg)
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp dried herbs (mostly sage)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 400 deg F.  Butter a pie plate.

Unroll the crescent rolls and press into the pie plate, pinching together any seams.  Sprinkle with the ham, then the cheese.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, herbs, salt, and pepper.  Pour over the ham and cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 30-45 minutes, until set.

One Year Ago - Thanksgiving 2013
Two Years Ago - Food n Flix Announcement - Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Three Years Ago - Thanksgiving 2011

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