What We’re Cooking Now: Turkey Day

As the big day approaches and menus are being contemplated, cookbooks are being dusted off and shopping approaches here are a few ideas for spicing up your turkey dinner.  Some of these options and ideas have been sent for editorial consideration, others are tried and true holiday favorites.

First off, for your turkey preparation, consider changing up your traditional recipe and adding some bourbon to your bird.  See recipe below from Wild Turkey Bourbon:

Wild Turkey Bourbon-Glazed Bird
The Turkey:
A turkey (12-14 lbs)
Your favorite stuffing
The Rub:
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon fresh cracked pepper
¼ cup fresh garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh onion, minced

The Glaze:
1 cup butter
1 ½ cups pecans, finely crushed.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup Wild Turkey Bourbon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Rinse and dry turkey and place on a roasting pan with the wings tucked under the body.  Apply the rub evenly but generously all over the turkey.  The turkey should cook for about 18 minutes to the pound (stuffed weight).
While the turkey is cooking, prepare the glaze by melting butter over medium heat.  When the butter is simmering, add the pecans, brown sugar and honey and stir over medium heat until a syrup is formed.  Then add cider and Wild Turkey Bourbon, briefly raise to a boil and then let cool.
About 15 minutes before the turkey is ready, apply half of the glaze to the turkey with a baster.
The turkey is done when a meat thermometer in the stuffing and thigh read 165 degrees and the juices run clear.  Remove the turkey from the oven and apply the rest of the glaze.  Let cool 15-25 minutes before carving.

If you are going rouge and not turning out a turkey for Thanksgiving try Bourbon-Maple Scallops…I made these the other night and they were amazing.  I used Knob Creek Bourbon, about 1/2 cup with 1/2 cup maple syrup, scallions, 1 tablespoon Dijon and a little soy sauce.  Marinate for at least an hour and broil until done (about 8 minutes)…so tasty.

Spike up your cranberry sauce with port.  My aunt and I made this recipe many Thanksgivings ago and it became a go to. You can use red wine also, but the port adds an additional layer of sweetness.  In a medium size sauce pan add 12 ounces whole cranberries, the zest and juice of 1 orange, zest of 1 lemon and half of the juice, 3/4 cup, sugar and 1 cup port, I use a ruby port, like Graham’s 6 Grape, a dash of salt and a teaspoon of pepper.  Mix through and turn the heat on. The cranberries will start to pop.  Continue cooking and stirring until all the cranberries have popped.  Remove from heat and fold into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

I have never been a fan of traditional sweet potatoes…though I know they are a Thanksgiving table requirement, but consider lightening them up a bit.  Make sweet potato fries with a garlic and herb aioli. You can fry your sweet potatoes, but I like to roast them until tender. Better for you and the potatoes get a sweet, caramelized flavor.  Just slice the sweet potatoes into think strips, coat with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes until the outside is browned and crunchy and the inside is tender and sweet.  Serve with a garlic, herb aioli of parsley, basil, chives and mint blended into 1/2 cup light mayo with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 mashed roasted garlic cloves.  These are great as appetizers too.

If you want to jazz up a traditional green bean casserole try this.  Blanched Green Beans with a Sherry Shiitake cream sauce.  It is super easy too. Just blanch your green beans in salted water for about 4-5 minutes until they are tender and just cooked, but still bright green. Then dunk them in an ice bath to stop the cooking and seal in the color.  For the sauce, I use 1 package (about 3 ounces) of dried Shiitake mushrooms (in slices) rehydrated in about 1 cup of hot water.  In a pan lightly brown 1/2 yellow onion and 1 tablespoon garlic in about 1 tablespoon of butter (you are adding cream…might as well go all out with butter too.) When they are golden brown add the mushrooms and 1/2 of the liquid from the mushrooms (be careful not to add any grit that might have been released from the rehydration.)  Cook until heated through.  Add 1/3 cup Sherry (not a super dry fino Sherry, an aged Sherry like amontillado) and cook slightly to release the alcohol.  Add in 1/2 cup cream, salt and pepper to taste and cook until all flavors are blended.  When ready to serve pop the green beans in a saute pan with just dab of butter to warm them through.  Serve the sauce over the green beans.

My grandma made amazing Cornbread Dressing.  I remember many Thanksgiving mornings sitting in the kitchen of her restaurant in Fayetteville, Arkansas making mounds and mounds of dressing.  White bread, corn bread, lots of onions, celery and sage.  I know everyone has a dressing or stuffing recipe that they love, but this one always takes me home.  My grandma was never a measuring spoon type of girl, she just threw it together and knew that it would work.  Saute 1 large or two small diced yellow onions and 2 cloves of minced garlic (I added the garlic…everything I do has garlic, feel free to omit if you aren’t a garlic fan)with about 6 stalks of chopped celery and 2 diced green peppers (Note, I don’t add the green peppers…I just don’t like the taste of green peppers and think they overpower anything they are in, however that is how she used to do it) in about 4 tablespoons melted butter with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  While this is sauteing take half a loaf of white bread and toast it, once toasted soak the bread in just enough good chicken stock to cover.  As your bread is toasting make 2 boxes of Jiffy corn bread mix (you need Jiffy…it has just a touch of sugar and the added sweetness stands out in this one) according to the package directions.  Once your cornbread is made and cooled slightly and your bread is soaked through crumble them both into the onion and celery mixture and add about 2-3 tablespoons of dried sage…my grandma loved sage and though Thanksgiving was the only time to use it…so she used a lot…blend thoroughly.  Once blended fold into your baking dish and add about 3 cups of chicken stock over the dressing.  Your seasoning should be good because there is sodium in the stock.  Bake at about 350 degrees for about 20-25  minutes.  Everything is cooked, it just needs to warm through and get toasty on top.

She also made creamy mashed potatoes with lots of butter.  I lighten up mashed pots with chicken stock and garlic now instead of butter. Great flavor without all the fat.

My dad always loves an apple pie, or maybe he loves me so he loves my apple pie.  Over the years I have tweaked the recipe and think it is now pretty close to perfect.

Apple Pie

4 granny smith apples – peeled and chopped into cubes
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup sugar (1 tablespoon set aside)
4 tablespoons butter – divided
2 deep dish pie crusts – I don’t make mine, they are just as good pre-made and so much easier to deal with
1 egg white

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees; in a large heavy bottom pan over medium heat add 1 tablespoon butter.  When slightly browned add the apples, zest and lemon juice, vanilla extract, spices (reserving the 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon) and sugar (reserving 1 tablespoon) and cook until apples are tender and a thick sauce is made.  In the mean time place one pie crust in the oven and bake until just browned.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  Once the mix has thickened remove from heat and let cool slightly.  When cool fold into the baked pie crust and dot the top with the remaining butter.  Place the uncooked pie crust on top of the mixture and seal.  Brush the top with the egg white wash (1 egg white whisked with a bit of water) with a pastry brush until well covered.  Mix the remaining cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle over the top of the pie.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the top of the pie is golden brown and bubbly.

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