Thursday, November 24, 2011

One Day to Thanksgiving! My Get-It-Done-Early Thanksgiving Timeline

Today's to-do list:

*  Make the No-Knead Onion Rolls; store at room temperature.

I have a confession to make.  Besides not baking the pie yesterday, I also did not prepare the scalloped potatoes -- I just ran out of time!  So today as soon as I got back from my volunteer time at our food co-op I grabbed some lunch and starting cooking.  I finished the pie (it looks great), and the scalloped potatoes are chilling in the fridge, but once again the time monster is messing with my plans!  I needed three hours to prepare the rolls (including the rising time) but I only had an hour before I picked up my husband, and then dinner to make, and I just ran out of energy.  So tomorrow with all the wonderful made-from-scratch food I will serve store bought dinner rolls.  I think the family with be just fine with that!

Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Nut Cream
Serves 8

1 pound sweet potatoes (2 medium)
12 graham crackers
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped candied nuts or peanut brittle

Heat oven to 400.  Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until very tender, 50 to 6o minutes.  Let cool, then halve and scoop out the flesh (discard the skins).
     Reduce oven to 350.  In a food processor, process the graham crackers until fine crumbs form.  Add the butter, sugar, and 1/4 tsp of the salt and pulse until moistened.  Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie plate, using a straight-sided dry measuring cup to help.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry and set, 10 to 12 minutes.  If the crust puffs while baking, press it down gently.  Let cool.
     Wipe out the food processor and add the nutmeg, cloves, and the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt and process until smooth (do not over process).  Pour the mixture into the crust and bake until set in the center, 45 to 55 minutes.  Let cool completely.
     Before serving, using an electric mixer, beat the cream on medium-high until soft peaks form.  Gently fold in the nuts and serve with the pie.

TO MAKE AHEAD:  The pie can be made up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, loosely covered.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  The cream can be whipped in advance; refrigerate, covered.  Fold in the nuts just before serving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two Days to T-Day! My Get-It-Done-Early Thanksgiving Timeline

Today's job list:

* Prep the vegetables for the turkey; refrigerate.
* Prep the Sausage and Apple Stuffing but do not bake; refrigerate
* Make the Scalloped Potatoes, but do not bake; refrigerate
* Prep the Brussels sprouts for the Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds; refrigerate
* Prep the carrots for the Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots with Rosemary and Pecans; refrigerate
* Toast the pecans for the Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots with Rosemary and Pecans; store at room temperature
* Make the Sweet Potato Pie; refrigerate

I ran out of time, and wasn't able to bake the pie today -- I'll bake (and post the recipe) tomorrow.  My house smells so good right now!  I can't wait to try all of these dishes!

Sausage and Apple Stuffing
Serves 8

1 tbsp olive oil plus more for the baking dish
4 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (about 1 pound)
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 medium onions, chopped
2 tart apples (such as Granny Smith or Pink Lady, cored and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
Kosher Salt and black pepper
1 large baguette (about 3/4 pound), cut into 3/4 inch pieces (about 7 cups
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs, beaten

     Heat oven to 375.  Lightly oil a 9x13 inch or some other shallow 3 quart baking dish.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a large bowl.
     To the drippings in the skillet, add the celery, onions, apples, sage, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Cook, tossing often, until the vegetables are tender, 7 to 9 minutes.
     Add the vegetable mixture, baguette, broth, and eggs to the sausage and toss to combine.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish and cover with foil.
     Bake the stuffing for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake until browned, 20 to 30 minutes more.

TO PREP AHEAD:  Prepare the stuffing up tot he point of baking (but do not bake) up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered.  On Thanksgiving Day bring the stuffing to room temperature and bake as directed.

Scalloped Potatoes
Serves 8

2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 pounds russet potatoes (8 medium), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch think
6 ounces Gruyere or Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

     Heat oven to 375.  Butter a 9 x 13 or some other shallow 3 quart baking dish.  In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the cream, milk, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, 2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and bring to a simmer.
     Add the potatoes to the saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
     Discard the bay leaf and transfer the potato mixture to the prepared baking dish; sprinkle with the Gruyere.
     Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

TO PREP AHEAD:  Prepare the potatoes up to the point of baking (but do not bake) and refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days in advance.  (Alternatively, prepare up to 1 month in advance; free, tightly wrapped.)  On Thanksgiving Day thaw the potatoes (if necessary) and bring to room temperature.  Bake at 375, covered with buttered foil, until bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.  Uncover and bake until the top is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots with Rosemary and Pecans
Serves 8

1/2 cup pecan halves
3 pounds carrots-peeled, cut into 2 inch lengths, and halved lengthwise if large
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

     Heat oven to 375.  Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven, tossing once, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes.  Let cool, then roughly chop.
     Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the carrots, brown sugar, butter, rosemary, cayenne, 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the carrots begin to soften, 8 to 10 minutes.
     Uncover the saucepan and cook, stirring often, until the carrots are tender and the liquid has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes more.
     Discard the rosemary and toss the carrots with the lemon juice and pecans.

TO PREP AHEAD:  Toast the pecans up to 2 days in advance; keep at room temperature, covered.  Peel and cut the carrots and combine with the butter, rosemary, cayenne, salt  and pepper up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered.  On Thanksgiving Day transfer the carrot mixture to a large saucepan, add the water and sugar, and proceed with the recipe.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds
Serves 8

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp poppy seeds

     In a food processor fitted with the slicing disk, slice the Brussels sprouts.
     In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
     Add the Brussels sprouts, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper to the skillet and cook, tossing often until the Brussels sprouts are tender, 4 to 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar and poppy seeds.

Slice the Brussels sprouts up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered.  On Thanksgiving Day proceed with the recipe.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Get-It-Done-Early Thanksgiving Timeline: 3 Days till T-Day!

I am a little embarrassed that I never thought to prep some of the dishes before the actual Turkey-Day.  I mean I consider myself to be of at least average intelligence but it just never occurred to me not to try and do everything all in one day!

So here we are three days before Thanksgiving, and these are my jobs today according to my timeline:

* Make the cider glaze for the Cider-Glazed Turkey; refrigerate.
* Make the gravy base for the Bourbon Gravy; refrigerate (Alternatively, make and freeze up to one month in advance.)
* Make the Jellied Cranberry-Ginger Sauce; refrigerate. 

The cider glaze was a snap to prepare, but making the gravy base for the Bourbon Gravy?  I think I'll wait until Thursday.  I mean how long does it take to make gravy?  Five, 10 minutes tops?  I'll take my chances and make the gravy all at once on Thursday. 

Now the Cranberry-Ginger Sauce should have been easy-peasy (look at that beautiful color!) but I noticed when I was typing the recipe that I only used one packet of gelatin instead of two so I jumped up, dissolved another packet of gelatin in a tiny bit of water and whisked it into the sauce.  I guess I'll find out on Thursday if it worked!

Cider Glaze 
Yield:  Approximately 1 cup

4 cups apple cider
2 tbsp cider vinegar
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a large skillet, boil the cider until reduced to about 3/4 cup, 25 to 30 minutes.  Add the vinegar, butter, salt and pepper, and stir until butter has melted.  Refrigerate.

Jellied Cranberry-Ginger Sauce 
Serves 8 (makes 2 cups)

2 0.25ounce packages unflavored gelatin
1 12 ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp peeled, grated fresh ginger

Place 1/2 cup water in a small bowl; sprinkle with the gelatin and let sit for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, ginger, and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, until the cranberries begin to burst, 3 to 5 minutes. 

Transfer the cranberry mixture to a blender and puree until smooth.  Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl.  Discard the solids.  You should have about 1 1/2 cups of liquid.  Whisk in the gelatin mixture and transfer to a 2 cup mold.  Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. 

To unmold, dip the mold in a bowl of hot water for 10 to 15 seconds, then turn out onto a plate. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Ultimate Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Plan!

I have been eating the same dinner for Thanksgiving and Christmas my whole life:  Roast Turkey with sage dressing, whipped potatoes with giblet gravy, sauteed green beans, mashed sweet potatoes with mini-marshmallows sprinkled on top, and the inevitable canned cranberry circle of mush artfully arranged on top of a leaf of ice burg lettuce.  Now don't get me wrong -- I love a nice roasted turkey dinner and the holidays are the only time I seem to eat it but it's the SAME MEAL EVERY TIME!  Okay, every once in a while there's a ham with scalloped potatoes so let's say up to now I've 81 turkey dinners, 15 ham dinners, and then there was the one Thanksgiving I baked trout.  Oh, yeah, and one time at Christmas I made Teriyaki chicken with sweet potato and black bean casserole.

So a couple weeks ago I was skimming through my Real Simple magazine when I stumbled upon  "The Ultimate Make-Ahead Thanksgiving with these crowd pleasing recipes that you can prep in advance - plus an easy-to-follow timeline - your table will be deliciously composed come November 24.  As will you." and I thought, well who could pass that up?  Not me!  I'm gonna make the whole turkey dinner featured in this magazine!  Well everything except for two of the cranberry dishes because really -- do you need cranberry jelly, cranberry relish, AND cranberry compote?  They supply a list of ingredients that they assume I may already have (which was amazingly accurate) and a list of things I'll need to buy, but the most exciting list for me is the "Get-It-Done-Early Thanksgiving Timeline".  Wait -- did you hear that?  Every time I say "Get-It-Done-Early Thanksgiving Timeline" I swear a hear a choir of angels sing.

What's the menu?  Thought you'd never ask!

Cider-Glazed Turkey
Bourbon Gravy
Sausage and Apple Stuffing
Scalloped Potatoes
Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots with Rosemary and Pecans
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds
Jellied Cranberry-Ginger Sauce
No-Knead Onion Rolls
Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Nut Cream

So today I shop for ingredients.  Tomorrow I pick up my turkey (an organic free-range turkey bought at the Tacoma Food Co-Op!), and I have three things to prepare.  Tuesday will be a busy day:  six sides to prep, a pie to bake, and I have my piano lesson at 5:30!  Luckily for me I only have one thing to make on Wednesday since that's the day I volunteer at the Food Co-Op.

I have to admit I'm pretty excited about this dinner.