My friends have noticed by now that I disappear before what I consider the major food holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Naturally, I am in the kitchen. I relish this time by myself cooking and drinking wine, and I have to admit that I’m always curious how other people prepare for their holidays. Does anyone else have cooking rituals? I like to stock up on good “stand alone” wines (things that will be consumed while picking on stuffing, pie filling, and cookie dough, horrifying, I know), put on some music (this can be anything from Jay-Z to Bach) and turn on the answering machine (yes, I still use one). Then I get down to business. Here’s a snapshot of how I spent Wednesday and Thursday this week.
I cider brined two fifteen pound turkeys–not for the faint of heart! I like to think I’m in shape, but these puppies are always a little awkward. Hint: I have tried different containers, but a five gallon paint bucket really does the trick, I line it with a garbage bag. The basic recipe is here, though I tweak a little each time. I usually use some rosemary and sage, and even without the glaze it is excellent. The whole allspice is key, so don’t skip it.
I also peeled, chopped, and baked butternut squash and parsnips. I like to do these ahead of time, and reheat then reheat when the turkey comes out of the oven. I have used both parsley and maple butter with success, and I prefer to season the melted butter and brush it on evenly rather than dot on the vegetables, as this recipe reads. I also save a little on the side to brush on before reheating. For a recipe suggestion, read on.
I also made my favorite Bourbon cranberry sauce. I have made this for the past few years, and I think it’s the secret to a good turkey sandwich. I use one-third less or even half of the sugar called for in the recipe, I taste as I go, and of course, extra Bourbon–I can’t lie. The recipe is good with the cinnamon, but really doesn’t need it in my opinion. While I cannot seem to wean everyone in my family off of the canned variety (short or prying the can from my sister’s hands) I have developed a small following. I’ve been told that Bourbon is an acquired taste, but I hate to see others miss out on the many holiday dishes (in my house anyway) that include it. I like to suggest the rule of thumb that my mother used me when I was a little girl. When I told her that I didn’t like brocolli, for instance, she informed me that you have to taste a new flavor 20 times before you grow accustomed to it. So get going!
By the way, I have done a highly successful Bourbon-themed Thanksgiving menu. Epicurious has a number of excellent recipes, but I think that the beauty of Bourbon lies in its versatility. Not only can you use it in place of other flavors to switch things up, but it can “smooth things out” when you run into trouble with a dish. I consider it the WD40 of cooking.
Next, I baked my apple pie. I get a lot of questions about pie making from my friends, so I have included recipe suggestions and some tips under the heading, “A Pie is Born.”
And last but not least, I drank my latest Malbec, a 2009 Achaval-Ferrer ( the review is posted on the site).
Thursday morning I stuffed and roasted the turkeys, one at a time. The theory behind this was two roast two smaller turkeys (I had requested 10-12 pounds each), avoid the problem of dry turkey, which I can’t stand, and have one turkey for leftovers, and one right out of the oven for dinner. The brine helps to prevent dryness and impart some extra flavor, and I also use some rosemary and sage butter underneath and on the skin if I have time, just to add a little extra flavor. I want to point out what others who brine their turkeys probably already know–they brown much more quickly when brined. I cover the turkey with foil if it browns too quickly, paying extra attention to the wings and legs. Trussing is also helpful, of course kitchen twine never made it into my kitchen this year.
Because they are a staple in my family, I dutifully prepped and cooked string beans as well. I usually season with salt, pepper, lemon zest and olive oil to keep it simple, or roast them, which is a nice change. I also baked buttermilk biscuits this year, which I didn’t taste until after the holiday, but I was happy with them given how quickly they came together. I like the idea of biscuits, but often find them too heavy. I think they should be fluffy, include butter of course, and be somewhat dry as they are in the south.
And finally, last but not least, opened the 2006 Chateau De Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Copyright © 2010 Sara Daly