Saturday, November 12, 2011

12 Days and Counting: Thanksgiving Menu Ready to Go!

Photo Courtesy of Fine Cooking
In less than two weeks, we'll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my parents, Bernie's parents, my sister-in-law, and teenaged nieces.  We haven't all been together for the holidays in a long time, and we're really looking forward to it.

So far, I've finalized my menu, ordered my 20-22 pound fresh, organic turkey from Dean & DeLuca for Tuesday pickup, and plotted out a timetable for what needs to be done when over the next two weeks in order for the meal to come together smoothly.  I ordered my spices from Penzey's yesterday and placed a wine order at that will be delivered this Thursday.  I went with four bottles of Oregon's Domaine Drouhain pinot noir for red, and two bottles of Adelsheim's Pinot Cris, also from Oregon, for the white.  Six bottles of wine for 5 adults -- do you think that will be enough?  ;-)  It's better to have too much wine than too little; any unopened bottles can be saved for another occasion.

Most of my Thanksgiving recipes come from a menu published in Fine Cooking magazine in October 1998.  What's great about this menu is that it uses all fresh ingredients, and although it's challenging (and impressive!), a lot can be done ahead of time, and the flavors of each dish complement the others so nicely.  I really can't imagine ever making anything else for Thanksgiving dinner, so the most I change is to experiment with a new green vegetable side dish or pie recipe each year.  In case you are in charge of cooking this year and haven't yet finalized your menu, might I suggest:

Spiced Pecans, recipe HERE
Spiced Pecans.  The spiced pecans recipe is used in the stuffing, but makes enough to set some out for pre-feast nibbling as well.  Lars loves these.  The spiced pecans can be made and frozen up to two weeks ahead of time, and that's one of the things I'm planning to do this weekend.  You can find that recipe at Fine Cooking here

Buttercup Squash & Leek Soup with Herb Butter, recipe HERE
Buttercup Squash & Leek Soup with Herb Butter.  Bernie really likes this soup, and sending him to five or six grocery stores to track down the right squash variety has become something of a Thanksgiving tradition in itself.  Buttercup squash is not the same thing as Butternut squash, although you can substitute Butternut if you can't find the Buttercup.  As for our family, we enjoy the Quest for Obscure Ingredients and the look of puzzlement on the faces of the produce boys who don't know their squash varieties as well as they ought to.  To me, the best thing about this soup is that it can be made and frozen up to two weeks ahead of time, and then you just dump it in a pot on the stove to reheat it on Turkey Day.  Easy peasy!  This soup is on the agenda for me this weekend as well, and you can find the recipe at Fine Cooking here.  What's more, I'll be making an herb butter this weekend that will be used to garnish the soup as well as to smear under the skin of my turkey to keep it all moist and delicious.  Mmmm...

Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Thyme Gravy.  The recipe calls for a 12-14 pound fresh turkey, but I ordered a 20+ pound bird because of past experience.  This turkey is so good, there aren't enough leftovers if I don't get a bigger bird!  I'm allowing for an additional hour and a half of roasting time for my bigger bird.  By the way, if you've never cooked a fresh bird for Thanksgiving before, there's nothing to fear.  In fact, I think frozen birds are much harder.  I've heard so many horror stories about frozen turkeys not thawing in time, or not cooking as quickly as expected because they weren't completely thawed, resulting in sub-par Thanksgiving dinners served at 11 PM to grouchy, starving guests.  You don't have to worry about that with a fresh bird, and you can order one ahead of time from most butchers or specialty grocers.  The recipe for this delicious, knock-your-socks-off Thanksgiving turkey is right here

Wild Rice, Spiced Pecan & Apple Stuffing.  Mmmm...  This recipe is fabulous with the Apple Cider Thyme gravy, and it's really easy, too.  It uses some of the spiced pecans, and you prep most of the ingredients the night before so you're just folding in the wet ingredients on Turkey Day.  Michael Brisson, the chef who came up with these recipes, suggests sticking a fork into the middle of the stuffing to draw the heat into the bird and ensure the stuffing cooks completely.  I've done that every time I stuffed a turkey and have never had a problem.  The recipe also makes enough stuffing to fill a separate baking dish.  You can find that recipe here

Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes with Horseradish
Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes with Horseradish.  Yes, horseradish -- the zing of horseradish is the perfect counterpoint to the apple sweetness of the apple cider gravy and the apples in the stuffing.  Trust me.  You'll find this recipe at Fine Cooking here. 

Cranberry Citrus Compote, photo courtesy of Fine Cooking
Cranberry Citrus Compote.  This is another one of Michael Brisson's recipes from Fine Cooking.  Again, the recipe is fairly easy, the lemon and orange juice elevates these cranberries way above what some people (gasp!) dump out of a can, and this dish can be made up to a week ahead of time and refrigerated.  You just stir in the sliced scallions on Turkey Day and dump it into a serving bowl.  Try it!  You can find this recipe at Fine Cooking here

Green Beans with Pancetta, Mushrooms & Shallots
Now, Michael Brisson's original menu in the October '98 Fine Cooking included a warm greens salad and a fruit crisp for dessert.  We're pie people when it comes to Thanksgiving, so I've never bothered to try out the fruit crisp.  I made the warm greens salad with homemade plum vinaigrette dressing the first year, and it didn't go over well enough for our family to justify all the fuss.  A salad that gets sauteed immediately before serving doesn't make for good leftovers, either.  My mother always made that green bean casserole from the Campbell's soup recipe for Thanksgiving, and last year I discovered this fancy pants gourmet version that scratches the green bean itch but fits in better with the rest of my Thanksgiving Day Feast.  This year I'll be making my Green Beans with Crispy Pancetta, Mushrooms & Shallots again using Susie Middleton's recipe from the November 2010 issue of Fine Cooking, recipe here.  My mother will think the green beans are not cooked enough (I'm not a fan of mushy vegetables), but she can pop hers in the microwave.  Love you, Mom!  :-)

For dessert, I'll be making the Cinnamon-Molasses Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust that I've served every year since the recipe was published in Bon Appetit in 1999.  The original recipe calls for a bourbon whipped cream that I tried once and loathed, so I skip that and serve my pie with vanilla ice cream instead.  The pecan crust and molasses elevate this pumpkin pie so far beyond anything I could buy in a store.  Every year I work myself up about the pie crust and consider buying an ordinary pastry crust from the grocery store, but it's really not all that hard to make pie crust from scratch and the results are so worth it.  I find that a glass of wine for the pastry chef goes a long way towards calming the pie jitters!  I couldn't find my pie recipe online at the Bon Appetit web site, but I did locate the exact same recipe (with no credit given to the source!) here in the archives of a Colorado newspaper.  Since Bon Appetit published the recipe in 1999 and the Greeley and Weld County, Colorado Tribune published it in 2007, I'm guessing some unscrupulous Colorado baker tried to pass it off as his or her own creation.  Tsk, tsk, tsk...  I always bake two pumpkin pies: one for me, and one for everyone else to share.  And no, I'm not kidding.  Momma eats pumpkin pie for breakfast every year on Black Friday.

Since I'll have eleven mouths to feed this Thanksgiving, and since I'm only willing to share one of my pumpkin pies, I'm going to be testing out a new-to-me fruit pie recipe this year.  With apples playing a prominent role in the main courses, an apple pie was the obvious choice, but I have never like the super sweet versions.  I found a recipe for Crimson Appleberry Pie in Carole Walter's Great Pies & Tarts cookbook, available here from Amazon.  I figure the cranberry/apple combo works great for juice, so why not for pie?  The cranberries should add just enough bite to the apple pie to keep it from being too cloyingly, annoyingly sweet.  What's more, I found instructions on the Baking Banter blog at King Arthur Flour for making any kind of fruit pie ahead of time and freezing it just prior to baking.  I would be skeptical if this was coming from just any source, but the folks at King Arthur Flour are fanatical when it comes to baking, so I'm going to give this a try.  I'm going to be making and freezing my Crimson Appleberry Pie this weekend, defrosting it the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and then popping it in the oven to bake the day before the Big Feast.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Meanwhile, it's almost lunch time on Saturday and I need to get out from behind the computer if I'm really going to get anything done today.  I need to do my non-perishable grocery shopping for Thanksgiving and make Spiced Pecans, Buttercup Squash Soup, Herb Butter, and Appleberry Pie.  I also have my parents coming over for dinner tonight for a belated birthday dinner (Bernie's birthday fell on Wednesday this year) and I'll be baking ziti and serving cupcakes for dinner.  Is it too optimistic to think the laundry might get washed as well?

Have a great weekend!


Beadboard UpCountry said...

You go "Julia"!!!! WE love Penzey's too, great source. The menu is perfect..... I love to do soup as an offering in mugs and avoid all that nibbling before dinner.........Sounds fantastic!!!!!Maryanne xo

Anonymous said...

OMG that looks good! Almost identical to what my parents do each year. I'm sending this link to my mom so she can fill in the blanks and maybe add a couple new dishes like the butternut squash soup!

SewCalGal said...

Sounds yummy. What time can we show up for dinner?

Hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving.