Thanksgiving for Novices

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and some of you out there might have decided to host this year and now are starting to feel the panic of putting this dinner on the table. The key to any party is to keep it as simple as you can, while not trying to do too much or anything above your skill level. I mean we all think we are Martha Stewart when we start planning a party, but the reality is a party is only fun if you are not stressing and can enjoy every minute. I took a dry run on the Thanksgiving meal and have some great ideas and a way for you to get around having to deal with a whole turkey, which, if you have not made one before, requires some icky steps. I found a great alternative that also cooks up much quicker. Quick tip: tools you might need for this or any Thanksgiving feast are a quick time meat thermometer, kitchen twine and lots of wine. 

I started the dinner with this great salad. A great way to make a salad in advance is to make the dressing in the bottom of your serving bowl and add the ingreidents first that will not wilt in the dressing. In this case the pears will turn brown if left cut up, so soaking them in the dressing allows them to stay white. Pile the lettuce on top of the other ingredients and refrigerate until ready to toss and serve. 

Pear & Walnut Salad
Forks & Amusement 2010
serves 4 

Dressing: heaping tablespoon of dijon, minced shallot, juice of one lemon, a couple good chugs of white wine vinegar, drizzle olive oil in while you whisk until it is double in size. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Ingredients: 2 chopped pears, handful of chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese, 2 heads torn butter lettuce

Combine ingredients in salad bowl and toss to coat in the dressing. Serve with a little extra parmesan on top. 

This was the main course, which was Roasted Turkey Roulade with Roasted Green Beans and Asparagus. 

Roasted Green Beans & Asparagus
Forks & Amusement 2010
make as much as you need! 

Cut and trim green beans and place in roasting pan or baking sheet. Trim asparagus and cut in thirds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic. Roast in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until crisp and just cooked. Serve immediately. 

Roasted Turkey Roulade
Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics
serves 6 to 7

3/4 cups large diced dried figs, stems removed
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Calvados or Brandy
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups diced onions (2 onions)
1 cup (1/2 inch dice) celery (3 stalks)
3/4 pound pork sausage, casings removed (sweet and hot mixed)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (place in a pan over high heat, shake and toast until fragrant, cool)
3 cups Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned stuffing mix
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 extra large egg, beaten
salt and pepper
1 whole (2 halves) turkey breast, boned and butterflied (ask your butcher to do this for you) and skin on (5 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place the dried figs and cranberries in a small saucepan and pour in the Calvados or brandy and 1/2 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, crumbling it into small bits with a fork, and saute, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until cooked and browned. Add the figs and cranberries with the liquid, the chopped rosemary, and pine nuts, and cook for 2 more minutes. Scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. 

Place the stuffing mix in a large bowl. Add the sausage mixture, chicken stock, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir well. (The stuffing may be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. place a baking rack on a sheet pan. 

Lay the butterflied turkey breast skin down on a cutting board. Sprinkle the meat with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Spread the stuffing in a 1/2 inch thick layer over the meat, leaving a 1/2 inch border on all sides. Don't mound the stuffing or the turkey will be difficult to roll. (Place leftover stuffing in a buttered gratin dish and bake for the last 45 minutes of roasting alongside the turkey) Starting at one end, roll the turkey like a jelly roll and tuck in any stuffing that tries to escape on the sides. Tie the roast firmly with kitchen twine every 2 inches to make a compact cylinder. 

place the stuffed turkey breast seam side down on the rack on the sheet pan. Brush with the melted butter, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until thermometer reads 150 degrees in the center. (I test in a few places) Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Carve 1/2 inch thick slices and serve warm with the extra stuffing. 


I also made a quick sauce on the stock to act as a gravy. You can make any gravy you would like and this may be the great opportunity to use your grandmother's recipe. Here is what I did: 

In a small saucepan, cook minced onions in a little oil and butter until soft. Sprinkle the onions with a good amount of flour to coat and cook for 2 minutes, until flour is cooked. Whisk in some white wine and reduce by half. Whisk in a couple of cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to reduce until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Strain and skim any fat off the top. Serve warm in a gravy boat with the meal. 


I kept it simple and served good quality vanilla ice cream with fresh berries. It was enjoyed by all and a snap! 

This gives you some examples of how you can make your Thanksgiving a time for family and fun, and not a time for stress and headaches. Some other time saving tips are to set your table and bar up the day before. Ask guests to bring appetizers, side dish or dessert, everyone always asks to bring something so let them! And write down your timeline for the day up until you sit down for dinner, it helps organize your time and your thoughts. 


1 comment:

Tom McBrearty said...

This is it. Very good.

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