A Thanksgiving feast

After all the lead up to Thanksgiving, and all the fun holiday drinks and dishes we’d been experimenting with, T-day finally arrived. David’s brother Spencer arrived in town for the holiday and spear-headed the menu-making process by providing a list of fabulously tasty-sounding dishes that we’d be making. A few of Spencer’s friends and a friend from our department joining us for dinner, making it a real party of seven (plus the dogs). A bit of pre-cooking the night before and a steady regimen of cooking the day of made for a remarkably well-timed and relaxing meal. We all concluded that if nothing else, we are thankful for friends and family with whom to share all this wonderful food.

Recipes

adapted from Bonappetit.com

The dinner menu for the evening included:

  • Herb and mustard turkey
  • Italian sausage, fennel and roasted butternut squash stuffing
  • Potato gratin with porcini mushrooms and mascarpone cheese
  • Cranberry relish with apple cider
  • Green beans in balsamic vinegar and butter

Herb and mustard turkey

Turkey
1 14-16 lb turkey, rinsed, patted dry inside and out
10 fresh parsley sprigs
6 fresh sage sprigs
6 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups of chicken stock

Butter

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup finely chopped green onion tops
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

Brine
2 quarts chicken stock
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp salt
Water, enough to cover the turkey

To prepare the turkey, submerge the turkey in a large pot filled with the brine. Let stand overnight. For the butter, whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Can be made the day before.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Remove the turkey from the pot and sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper and generously spread with herb-mustard butter. Starting at neck end of turkey, carefully slide hand between skin and meat of breast, thighs, and upper drumsticks to loosen skin. Spread herb butter over thigh and drumsticks, then over breast meat under skin. Make two incisions in the breasts with a knife and stuff butter into the incisions. Fill main cavity with parsley, sage, and thyme sprigs. Tie legs together loosely. Tuck wing tips under.

Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Rub outside of turkey all over with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour stock into pan. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°F–170°F, about 3 hours. Tilt turkey so juices from main cavity run into pan. Transfer turkey to platter. Tent very loosely with foil; let rest at least 30 minutes (internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees). Reserve pan.

For the gravy, scrape juices and browned bits from reserved roasting pan into a saucepan. Whisk in 2 tbsp of flour and 2 tbsp of Dijon mustard. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in 1 cup of whipping cream. Season with salt and pepper. Let simmer until reduced to the desired consistency.

Italian sausage, fennel and roasted butternut squash stuffing

4 cups 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes peeled, seeded butternut squash (from one 1 3/4-pound squash)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery (4 to 5 stalks)
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh fennel bulb (about 1 medium)
1 lb pork sausage log
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
12 cups 1-inch cubes ciabatta bread with crust
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350°. Scatter squash on sheet in single layer on a baking sheet; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast squash until tender, stirring occasionally, about 55 minutes. Transfer to large bowl; cool. Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and fennel. Sauté 8 minutes. Add sausage. Sauté until vegetables are tender and sausage is cooked through, breaking up sausage with fork, about 10 minutes. Add all herbs; sauté 1 minute longer. Add to bowl with squash. Can be made a day ahead (cool, cover and chill).

Preheat oven to 350°. Divide bread between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until bread is crusty but not hard, reversing sheets after 5 minutes, 10–12 minutes total. Transfer to very large bowl and cool. Butter 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Stir vegetable mixture into bread. Whisk eggs, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend well; whisk in 1 cup broth. Add egg mixture to stuffing, tossing to combine evenly and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Transfer stuffing to prepared dish. Bake stuffing uncovered until cooked through and brown and crusty on top, 50–60 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes.

Potato gratin with porcini mushrooms and mascarpone cheese

4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1-1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 cup whipping cream
3 garlic cloves, chopped
pinch of nutmeg
2-1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8″ thick slices

Place porcini mushrooms in a cup of boiling water and soak for 20 minutes. Drain and coarsely chop mushrooms. Melt butter with oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Whisk 1/4 cup Parmesan and next 4 ingredients in small bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter wide shallow 2-quart baking dish. Arrange 1/4 of potato slices in bottom of dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Scatter 1/4 of mushrooms over. Repeat. Spread half of cheese mixture over, shaking dish to settle. Repeat with remaining potatoes and mushrooms in 2 layers each; spread remaining cheese mixture over. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons Parmesan over. Place gratin dish on rimmed baking sheet. Bake gratin until top is brown and sauce is bubbling at edges, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let gratin rest 15 minutes before serving.

Cranberry relish with apple cider
Makes about 3 cups

3 cups apple cider
1/2 cup sugar
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
1 medium Red Delicious apple, peeled, cored, diced
1 tbsp lemon juice

Boil down apple cider in a saucepan until reduced to one cup. Add cranberries and sugar to the cider. Boil for 10 minutes and then remove from heat and refrigerate until firm. In a food processor, add cranberries, apple and lemon juice and process until smooth.

Musings

The Thanksgiving feast was a hit with our guests. There were numerous professions of love at first bite and the appropriate lull in conversation ensued as everyone scarfed down multiple helpings, stuffing themselves to nearly the bursting point. The turkey breast was just a touch overdone unfortunately, but that likely stemmed from a mis-estimation of the amount of time it would take. David’s internet search had concluded it should take 5 or so hours; however, it ended up taking approximately 3-1/2 to 4 hours. However, a little dryness was nothing that a good dollop of gravy couldn’t remedy. The stuffing was delicious–the sausage and squash made a delightful combination. The potato gratin was particularly enjoyed by our guests. Though David and I noted that the strength in flavour of the porcini mushrooms was e a touch strong, so perhaps reducing the amount of porcini and maybe even increasing the amount of cheese next time  might make it even better. Finally, the cranberry-apple cider relish was super tasty. A good use of apple cider that we already had on hand. It added a layer of sweetness against the tartness of the cranberry. David particularly enjoyed it, though he noted that he tends to prefer a more ‘sauce-like’ rather than ‘jelly-like’ consistency, in that he might just make cranberry sauce in apple cider and stir in chopped apples (as opposed to processing everything together).

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