Sunday, November 22, 2009

Around the Thanksgiving Table

With the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, you may be feeling down to the wire. If you have waited until the 11th hour, the likelihood is great that even as you read this you have assorted relatives hovering around you in the kitchen wondering out loud what they can do to help; and perhaps, wondering to themselves, just what they are going to eat at your big family feast.

But don’t worry, you are not alone and to help ease the tension about the food part of it all – sorry I can offer no help with the hovering relatives – I share with you some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes and turkey tips.

I'll begin by answering a couple of those last minute pressing questions:

How big a bird should I buy?

Most turkeys you’ll find in the Charlotte market, either fresh of frozen, will weigh in between 10-14 pounds. For turkeys under 12 pounds, allow three-quarters of a pound to one pound of uncooked turkey per person; for a turkey over 12 pounds, allow a half pound to three-quarters of a pound uncooked weight per person.

Safest way to defrost a turkey?

The experts recommend refrigerator thawing. Thaw the bird still in its original wrapper, breast side up on a tray in the refrigerator. Allow at least one day of thawing for every four pounds of turkey. Thawing turkeys or any other poultry, for that matter, at room temperature allows bacterial growth and is not recommended.

If you are short on time and need a quicker defrosting method, submerge the frozen bird in a big bucket or large cooler of cold water – if you can spare the space, your kitchen sink will also work well. Thaw the bird breast side down in its unopened wrapper in enough cold water to cover. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep the surface of the bird cold. Estimate minimum thawing time to be 30 minutes per pound.

To eliminate the messing defrosting process altogether, In Charlotte, order a fresh conventional or organic free-range Thanksgiving turkey or an already prepared one from the meat department at Reid’s Fine Foods by calling 704.377.1312.

How to carve a turkey like a real pilgrim:

Allow the hot roasted, fried or smoked bird to rest 15-20 minutes before carving. Then, begin by cutting the band of skin holding the drumsticks. Grasp the end of each drumstick, one a time, Place the knife between the leg quarter (drumstick and thigh) and the body of the bird and cut through the skin to the joint. Remove the entire leg by pulling out and back, using the point of the knife to cut through the joint cartilage. Separate the drumstick and thigh joint in the same way, remembering that a carving knife cannot cut through bones but will easily cut through the cartilage which connects the bones. Slice the dark meat off of the thigh and drumstick bones.

To slice the breast meat, insert a fork in the upper wind to steady the turkey. Make long horizontal cut above the wing joint through to the body frame. The wing may be removed from the body if it makes it easier for you to slice.

Slice straight down with an even stroke, beginning halfway up the breast, When the knife reaches the cut above the wing joint, the slice will fall free.

Continue to slice breast meat starting the cut at a higher point each time. To help make carving easier, use a straight and sharpened knife.

And now, on to recipes for a fabulous Thanksgiving feast with your family and friends...

Perfect Holiday Roast Turkey

Once the turkey is defrosted, remove the giblets and neck from inside the neck and body cavities of the bird. Rinse the turkey well with cold water and pat dry inside and out. If you are not baking your stuffing inside of your bird, you can add one to two quartered oranges, apples or onions to the inside of the bird along with several sprigs of fresh thyme and/or sage or rosemary leaves to add more flavor.

Season the bird inside and out with sea salt and black pepper or to spice things up a bit, use McCormick's brand Hot Shot Pepper Blend, available in Reid's spice section, in place of standard cracked black pepper. You may also rub the outside of the bird with ground thyme or sage leaves or a bit of Bell's brand turkey seasoning.

Instead of using a roasting rack, slice 4-5 whole onions into thick slices and line the bottom of your roasting pan. Place your bird, breast side up on the "rack" of thick sliced onions. Cover the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and roast in a preheated 325 degree oven according to the following time table, which is also available at the meat department at Reid's.

Please note that times are for an unstuffed turkey, for stuffed turkeys of the same weight, add to the total cooking time by 15 to 30 minutes.

8-12 lbs 2 3/4 to 3 hours of roasting time

12-14 lbs. 3 to 3 1/2 hours of roasting time

18-20 lbs. 4 to 4 1/4 hours of roasting time

20 and up 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours of roasting time

During the last 15 minutes or so of roasting time, uncover the turkey and allow to brown nicely on the top. To insure that the meat is done, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone. The thermometer should register 160 degrees for a fully cooked bird.

We’ll start the recipes for holiday sides with the stuffing, which can be baked in or out of the turkey. If you are baking the stuffing inside of your turkey, know that the roasting time will be slightly longer - see the turkey timetable above. Baking the stuffing, or dressing, inside the turkey yields a soft moist stuffing, while baking it in a pan apart from the turkey gives you a drier stuffing with a crisper crust.

No matter which type of stuffing you decide to make for this year’s holiday, remember not to stuff hot, just cooked dressing into a cold turkey. First, let the stuffing cool. The temperature difference between the hot stuffing and the cold bird makes a breeding ground for bacteria and it’s always good rule of thumb not to give your family salmonella poisoning for the holidays.

Also, don’t keep cooked stuffing in the cavity of a cooked turkey. As soon as the meal is over, remove the stuffing from the turkey and refrigerate it in a separate container from the carcass and the rest of the uncarved bird.

4 1/2 Tbsp. butter

5 ribs of celery, chopped

3 onions, chopped

1 1/2 pounds of hot or mild Italian pork or chicken sausage, squeezed out of the casings

10 cups crumbled french bread

10 oz. dried apricots, diced

5 Bosc pears (or Granny Smith or McIntosh apples), peeled, cored and chopped

2 Tbsp. dried sage leaves (or an equivalent amount of Bell’s Turkey Seasoning)

salt and pepper to taste

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups chicken or turkey broth

Saute the chopped celery and onions in the melted butter. When the vegetables are limp, add the sausage and continue to cook until the sausage has browned. Blend the cooked sausage mixture in a large bowl with the other stuffing ingredients. Blend well. Bake in the turkey or in two 13- by 9-inch buttered baking pans. Cover the pans with foil and bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 20 minutes, uncover and bake 10 minutes more to brown.

This next recipe takes the same taste of the sausage stuffing and recreates it in a fun holiday season slider - a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving leftover spread or as an hors d'oeuvre at this year's holiday party

Holiday Sausage Sliders
Makes 25 bite-sized sliders

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 Tbsp. dried sage leaves
1 lb. Grateful Growers’ breakfast sausage
25 small potato rolls ( recipe follows) or fresh baked biscuits

Heat olive oil in a small saucepan until aromatic. Add celery onions and sage. Sauté until onions are slightly browned. Remove from pan and place in a bowl. Add uncooked Grateful Growers Breakfast Sausage and blend well to mix. Divide the pork into 20-25 small patties, pan fry in a nonstick saucepan or grill in a grillpan until nicely browned on both sides. Transfer to a bun or biscuit and serve hot.

Potato Rolls

1 cup mashed potatoes
¾ cup Crisco
½ cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. yeast, dissolved in ½ cup water
1 cup sifted bread flour

5 ½ cups sifted bread flour

Mix first 8 ingredients together, blend well and allow to rise. When raised slightly, add the remaining bread flour. Knead lightly but mix thoroughly; dough should be light and airy. Allow to rise again until doubled in size. Rollout to about ¾ inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place in a baking pan and let rise until double again. Brush lightly with melted butter, Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until golden brown.


2 cups rolled oats

4 cups boiling water

2 Tbsp. yeast

1 cup warm water

1 cup blackstrap molasses

1 tsp. salt

6 Tbsp. butter

11-12 cups flour

Combine oats and boiling water in a large bowl. Let stand 20 minutes. Proof yeast in warm water. Add to oat mixture.

Add molasses, salt, butter and flour. Knead until smooth. Let rise until doubled,1 to 1 1/2 hours. Pat dough down, roll out 1 1/2-2 inches thick. Cut into rounds. Place side by side in a 9x13-inch baking pan. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake 20 minutes in a preheated 400-degree oven. For loaves of bread, bake 50 minutes at 350 degrees.


4 cups chicken or turkey broth

1 carrot, diced

1 onion, quartered

1 turkey neck bone (found inside the cavity of the raw bird)

3 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. flour

pan drippings from roasted turkey

optional – turkey heart and giblets (also found inside the cavity of the raw bird), sautéed till brown in butter or extra virgin olive oil with salt, pepper and garlic salt, then chopped

Combine the chicken or turkey broth in a saucepan with the carrot, onion and turkey neck bone. Bring the mix to

a boil and then simmer for an hour or so. Strain the vegetables from the broth. Discard the vegetables. Remove

the turkey neck from the broth and pick the meat off the neck bone. Add the meat to the broth. In another saucepan,

heat the butter until melted, add the flour and stir a minute or two to cook the flour into the melted butter and

form a roux. Pour the cooked chicken or turkey broth into the pan with the roux and stir until slightly thickened.

Add pan drippings and cooked giblets and neck meat, if desired. Adjust the seasonings to suit your taste.


3 cups mashed sweet potatoes

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 Tbsp. vanilla

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup melted butter

1 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup flour

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows (optional)

Mix the sweet potatoes, sugar, milk, vanilla, eggs and one half cup of melted butter together in a mixing bowl.

Spoon this mix into a casserole dish. Combine the remaining butter with the brown sugar, flour and chopped nuts.

Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potato mixture. Scatter the marshmallows on top. Bake in a preheated 350-degree

oven for 25 minutes. If the marshmallows brown too quickly, lightly cover the casserole with foil.

Cranberry Chutney

1 (12 ounces) bag fresh cranberries

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. ground cumin

Combine cranberries, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, and cumin

Simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until mixture is very thick, stirring frequently. Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes adding a bit of salt and pepper or more nutmeg, cinnamon or cumin. Serve along side sliced turkey and all the trimmings.

For a great holiday season appetizer, fill phyllo dough shells ( with cream cheese then top with the chutney and tiny sprig of fresh mint.


1 (12 oz.) package couscous
1 ¾ cup water

1 package More than Gourmet vegetable demi-glace, available in Charlotte at the meat counter at Reid's Fine Foods
Sea salt and McCormicks Hot Shot pepper blend to taste
3 Tbsp. walnut, almond or hazelnut-infused oil
1 tsp. lemon juice

zest of one lemon
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/3-1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

Dissolve the demi-glace in water and bring to a boil. Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Season with salt and pepper. While the couscous is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a small dry frying pan over medium heat just until they begin to brown slightly. Immediately take them off the heat and out of the pan or they will burn. Hold until the couscous has finished cooking. Meanwhile, rinse and finely chop the mint leaves. When the couscous has finished cooking, fluff the grains with a fork as you transfer it to a serving bowl. Add the oil and the lemon juice. Stir well to coat all the grains. Add the cranberries, pine nuts and mint leaves. Stir to combine all the ingredients and serve.

Another great little pick up or you can serve these as an unusual dessert-either way this next recipe is a wonderful way to enjoy cranberries....

Cranberries with Black Pepper, Balsamic Vinegar and Mascarpone Cream

1 (12 oz) bag cranberries, picked and then coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sugar
2-3 Tbsp. Orange juice concentrate, defrosted but not diluted
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

For Mascarpone cream:
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (or whipped cream cheese)
1/4 cup sugar

Toss the chopped cranberries with the sugar, oj concentrate, black pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Put the berries and all of their juices into a saucepan and cook over medium high heat for 8 to 10 minutes,stirring occasionally, until the juices are bubbling and the cranberries are hot but not mushy. Meanwhile prepare marcapone cream by combining all ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve: Divide cranberries among individual dishes or tart shells, top with mascarpone cream and serve warm.


TURKEY AND CRANBERRY PANINI – a great sandwich for day-after Thanksgiving leftovers!
For two sandwiches

2 ciabatta or foccacia rolls or 4 thick slices Italian bread
4 Tbsp. homemade or canned whole berry cranberry sauce
4 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 tsp. Urban Accents Spanish smoked seasoned salt (available in the spice section at Reid's)
1 packed cup fresh baby spinach leaves
2 slices red onion
8 ounces sliced turkey
2 slices Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese
3 Tbsp. butter or extra virgin olive oil

Cut rolls in half lengthwise. Stir cranberry sauce and mayonnaise in small bowl until well mixed.
For each sandwich, spread cut surfaces of roll or one side of each slice of bread with cranberry mayonnaise mixture. Place half of the spinach, an onion slice, 4 ounces of turkey and a slice of cheese on bottom half of roll. Place top of roll on sandwich and flatten. Brush both sides of sandwiches with olive oil or butter.
Heat sandwiches in Panini press according to manufacturer's directions. Or heat sandwiches in a large nonstick Berndes skillet or grill pan over medium high heat just as you would cook a grilled cheese sandwich. To simulate the Panini press, place a heavy pan skillet or bacon press (available in the gadget section at Reid’s) on top of the sandwich as it browns in the pan and cook for a total 10 minutes, turning once or until sandwich is toasted and hot throughout.



1 and one half cups diced, peeled pumpkin or butternut squash, roasted then cubed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced OR 3 tsp. garlic paste
1 shallot, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry OR 1 lb. fresh spinach, chopped
2 diced Granny Smith or Macintosh apples
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. fresh minced or dried sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add garlic and shallot, sauté until soft. Add the rice and stir to coat thoroughly. Add the wine and simmer until it is almost evaporated. Stir in one quarter of the stock and cook, stirring constantly, until almost all of that stock is absorbed. Repeat with the remaining stock, adding it about 1 ½ cups or so at a time.
The risotto should have a creamy consistency and the rice grains should be tender after about 20 minutes,
Add the spinach, pumpkin or butternut squash and apples to the risotto. Blend well. Stir in the Parmesan and minced sage leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

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