THANKSGIVING DINNER (Nov. 26, 2009)

The Menu:

Shrimp with remoulade sauce (Eaton Street Fish Market)
Smoken salmon tidbits (Eaton Street Fish Market)

Butternut squash soup

Roast brined turkey
Stuffing, with fruit and nuts
Gravy
Cranberry sauce
Mashed potatoes (Laurent)
Sweet potato casserole (Judy)
String bean casserole
Creamed spinach (Annie)

Bread (Bill)

Pecan pie
Apple brown betty
Pumpkin bundt cake (Ann)


Butternut Squash Soup


for 24 people

8 lbs. butternut squash
3 large sweet onions, chopped
3 bunches scallions, white parts coarsely chopped
about 15 cups of low-salt chicken broth (3 45 oz. cans = 18 cups)
2 cups heavy cream or half and half
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the onions, scallions, and squash (with salt and pepper to taste) in the broth until squash is soft, about 30 minutes. Let it cool enough to be handled.
In a food processor, puree the mixture by batches. This is the most tedious part of the whole process. You have to do many batches. When each batch is pureed, pour it into a Rubbermaid-type pitcher for storage in refrigerator until you're ready to serve. If you're ready immediately, transfer into another large pot.

When ready to serve, heat the  soup up again, gently, and add 2 cups of cream. Taste for seasoning and correct.



Roast Brined TURKEY

 

Ingredients: 1 turkey, about 20 pounds

Brine time: 12-24 hours

Brine:

1 cup sugar

1 1/2-1 3/4 cups kosher salt

2 1/2 gallons cold water

2 bay leaves, torn into pieces

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

5 whole allspice berries, crushed (opt.)


Roasting:

2 tablespoons softened butter + butter for basting

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chicken stock, or more as needed



Brining:

Remove giblet bag from turkey, along with any extra internal fat and pin feathers.
Rinse well under cold tap water.
Combine sugar, salt and 3-4 quarts of water in a large bowl. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve. Add remaining brine ingredients except for 1 1/2 gallons water. Double-bag two heavy-duty, unscented trash bags (not made of recycled materials), then put them in an ice chest that is large enough to hold the turkey.
Place turkey in bags, pour in brine and remaining 1 1/2 gallons water -- there should be enough liquid to completely cover the bird.
Press out air in bags; tightly close each bag separately. Keep turkey cold with bags of ice, which will also help keep it submerged.
Brine for 12-24 hours.

Roasting: Preheat oven to 350. (Turkeys 16 lb. and smaller should be roasted at a higher heat, 400.) Remove turkey from brine, rinse and dry well. Spread 2 tablespoons softened butter over skin. Sprinkle pepper over skin and in cavity. Tuck wing tips under, loosely truss legs and place turkey on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan.  Cover the bird tightly with foil for the first half of the cooking time, then remove the foil and baste with stock and pan drippings every 30 or 40 minutes for the remainder of the time. A 22-pound bird should be done in about 5 hours. Some people say you shouldn't stuff a large bird, but you can, and in fact I think it keeps it from cooking too fast.

To assure that the bird cooks evenly, rotate roasting pan 180 every 30 minutes while turkey is roasting, if possible. With a big bird, rotating may be a lot of trouble and not worth the effort and possible burns. Let bird rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving.

Serves 23, with leftovers

Adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle (Nov. 16, 2005)


Gravy

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick)

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pan drippings to taste

1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)

8 cups low-salt canned chicken broth or homemade turkey broth/stock

Pepper to taste


The roux (this is what thickens the gravy): Melt the butter in a skillet. Add flour all at once, whisking until incorporated. Cook, whisking occasionally, for 4 or 5 minutes, until it begins to look grainy.  The flour has to be cooked enough for the roux to work, and yet it shouldn't be cooked so much it liquifies. This is, in my opinion, the trickiest part of gravy making.

The broth and drippings: When turkey is done, pour pan drippings into a bowl. Deglaze roasting pan with the wine by boiling and scraping pan with a wooden spoon, adding a little water as needed to incorporate browned bits. Add to drippings in bowl. Let sit and cool until fat separates and floats on top. Skim off fat with a spoon.


The amount of pan drippings will vary, depending on the size of the turkey, how much water or stock you use to baste it, and how much liquid evaporates during cooking. However, because the bird has been brined, you won't need to season the gravy as much.

You can streamline the gravy-making process: make the roux ahead of time, transfer it to a bowl, cool, then cover and refrigerate.

When the bird is cooked and you're ready to put the gravy together, bring broth to a simmer in a covered saucepan. Put cold roux in a saucepan, over medium heat. Bring back to un-cold consistency.  Slowly add 6 cups of the simmering broth to the roux, whisking constantly. Add more or less depending on desired consistency of gravy. This takes judgment and nerve. It's hard to change once you've done it. Finally, add reserved drippings slowly, starting with a few tablespoons; taste, then whisk in more, a little at a time, until gravy tastes right to you. But you may add cupsful. It all depends on how concentrated it is. Season with pepper and additional salt if needed.

To adjust consistency, add more broth or simmer for a few minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Leftover gravy freezes well in plastic containers or bags. Thaw in refrigerator or over low heat. Whisk in a little water if it appears curdled or too thick.

To vary quantities, the rule is 1 tablespoon fat and 1 tablespoon flour in the roux  for each cup of stock.

Some people have a knack for making gravy. Rely on their help!



Stuffing



Pepperidge Farm corn meal stuffing (one package)
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 onions (about 1 pound) coarsely chopped
1 head of celery, coarsely chopped
4 large apples, coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup walnuts
raisins
dried apricots
2 cups chicken stock
1 bunch scallions, white parts chopped
chopped fresh parsleyt
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper



Heat butter in a large skillet or sauce pan. Saute onion about 5 minutes, then add nuts and cook another 3 minutes. Add package of bread crumbs (stuffing) and mix well. Take off heat. Add the other ingredients.
 
Season with salt and pepper, then put into turkey or into large Pyrex dish for cooking seperately (before) the turkey. Stuffing may be made ahead and frozen for a week or two. Or it may be refrigerated for two days. When the bird is cooked, you can add drippings or gravy or another that was inside the bird (onions?) and the stuffing will taste better and better. Make sure it is moist enough as you go. You can always add broth or even some olive oil or more butter to taste.

Cranberry Sauce

One package Ocean Spray fresh cranberries

One cup water

One cup sugar

Bring the sugar and water to a boil and stir til the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries, washed. Return to a boil and lower the heat. Stir occasionally. Simmer ten minutes, then cool. Store and serve in Mason jars if you have them for an old-timey touch.

What's fun is watching the berries burst and ooze.

String Bean Casserole

3 large bags of frozen French-cut string beans, defrosted

2 cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup or Cream of Mushroom Soup with Roasted Garlic

1 1/2 cups milk

Durkee's or French's canned French-fried onions, 2 large (6 oz.) cans

Mix the soup with the milk. Puyt string beans into large Pyrex casserole and cover with the cream of mushroom soup mix. Add and mix in most of the French-fried onion rings, leaving some to put on top, as a crust.

Heat in 350 degree oven for half an hour.

An American classic, disgusting but irresistible.



Pecan Pie


for 2 9" pies. Might as well make 2 as one. It's no harder and everyone loves pecan pie. Anyway, it keeps. Each pie serves 8. You can't really cut it into smaller pieces because the pieces of pecan are too big. But each pie will actually serve more than 8 because it's so rich, and many people just want a taste.

INGREDIENTS

Pastry for 2 9-inch pie shells. I use a Betty-Crocker-style mix, which requires you just to add water and stir. Follow package directions for No Roll crust. Or roll it, if you happen to have a rolling pin, a disappearing object for me.
6 large eggs
2 cups light corn syrup (one whole small Karo jar)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Pinch of salt
4 cups pecan halves

PREPARATION

Line a pie pan with the pastry and crimp the edges. I would investr in a glass pie plate or 2. You can get them at sypermarkets for under $5, and they last forever and make serving the pie much more pleasureable. Refrigerate the pastry shell while preparing the filling. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl beat the eggs until blended but not frothy. Stir in the corn syrup and the vanilla.

Mix the brown and granulated sugars together in a small bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Stir the sugars, the melted butter and the salt into the egg mixture.

Spread the pecans over the bottom of the pastry shell. Pour the filling mixture over the pecans.

Bake the pie 55 to 60 minutes, until the filling is slightly puffed and a knife inserted in the filling off-center, about 2 1/2 inches from the edge, comes out clean.

Allow the pie to cool to room temperature.

From The New York Times, originally by FLORENCE FABRICANT, November 25, 1992.


Apple Brown Betty

Serves 24, with other desserts

12 tart (Granny Smith) apples

1 cup sugar

4 teaspoons lemon juice

2 tsp cinnamon

Peel and cut apples into quarters or eights. Place in bowl with sugar, cinnamon, lemon, and mix to cover apples.
Place in buttered smallish baking dish. Sprinkle on 1/4 cup walmuts, chopped, and some raisins.

To make topping, cream 12 TB butter (1 1/2 sticks) with 1 cup sugar and 1 1/2 cup flour. At the end, use fingers to bring to a crumbly consistency. Cover the apples with this mixture.

Bake in 350 oven until browned on top. About 45 minutes to an hour.


The Schedule


Monday: Shop.

Tuesday: Make cranberry sauce and soup (without the cream).

Wednesday: Make pecan pies and apple brown betty. They don't have to be refrigerated.
               Brine the turkey. Perhaps make the stuffing. Make the roux for the gravy and put it in the fridge.

Thursday: Start the turkey 6-7 hours before serving. It takes 5 hours to cook. Keep it covered with foil while you make the gravy and do everything else.