Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner – Homestyle

I prepared my very first Thanksgiving dinner ever. Since I was married in 2005, we have spent Thanksgiving with DH’s parents. This year, they took off to visit some of their children who live in another state, so DH and I had my sister and her DH over for Thanksgiving dinner. I thought I needed to chronicle the event for posterity’s sake (and so that I can remember what I did the next time I do my own Thanksgiving – which might be a while).

I was freaked out about cooking a turkey (DH always complains about dry white meat). So I looked up online “How to cook a thanksgiving turkey.” Well, then I came across this site. Pretty straightforward, that one. So I checked out the website, and decided I would cook my turkey that way.

It’s been snowing here lately, and we’re a one car family (DH rides his motorcycle when the weather is good). So I hadn’t been able to do regular grocery shopping, not to mention Thanksgiving shopping.

The morning of Thanksgiving, I had to run out to the store to pick up pumpkin, pie crusts, a roasting pan, and a digital thermometer, among a few other things. Even getting the turkey in late (around 10am), we still started eating Thanksgiving dinner around 6:30pm – not too bad for a first Thanksgiving dinner, if you ask me!

A word about pies – if you don’t have pie tins, round cake pans work okay. But get some pie tins. Oh, and remember to put the pies on cookie sheets if you don’t want pie filling all over the bottom of your oven.

Note to self – do Thanksgiving shopping well in advance, and prepare the turkey the night before. The end.
Oh yeah, and buy some pie tins. You’ll need those next year...

On our Thanksgiving menu:

-Roast Turkey
-Gravy from the turkey drippings
-candied sweet potatoes
-mashed potatoes
-green bean casserole
-blueberry pie
-apple pie
-pumpkin pie (which turned into pumpkin bake due to my lack of pie tins)

Roast Turkey
Above, I linked to the site I visited to learn about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. Next time I think I will try cooking the turkey upside down (breast side down). Word on the street is that it makes for more moist white meat since all the juices drip down into the white meat.

Probably my best tip for you? Invest in a digital food thermometer. I’ve mentioned a food thermometer previously on this blog, but I think it is absolutely critical for getting a moist turkey. The #1 reason I’ve read about for dry turkey is over cooking the turkey. You should remove the turkey from the oven as soon as the turkey reaches a safe internal temperature (from the USDA’s website, that temperature is 165 deg F). So keep your thermometer on hand and make sure to check that turkey.

Another thing I did was wrap the turkey in tin foil. This was per my MIL’s instructions when I called to ask her about roasting a turkey. She lines her roasting pan with one long strip of tinfoil down the long end of the pan, with a foot or so of tinfoil hanging over the sides. Then she lines the pan across the short way with two overlapping pieces. Then she plops the turkey in there and folds it up. It worked well for me.

The last tip is to let the turkey rest after you take it out of the oven. That way the juices all soak back into the meat.

Even our leftover meat has been good.

I think because I seasoned the turkey really well (see the turkey website) I didn’t have to add much to the gravy. I started with a little butter and cornstarch (you can also use flour), let that get all bubbly, then added the turkey drippings. I did add a little salt and pepper at the end. Just stir it while it boils for a while until it thickens up.

Candied Sweet Potatoes
4 medium sweet potatoes or yams
4 TB butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. water
Boil the potatoes until tender; drain. Peel and cut into fourths lengthwise. Put the butter and sugar in a heavy skillet and heat, stirring occaisionally, until melted. Add the potatoes and turn until lightly browned. Add the water, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

These were the best candied yams I had ever had. And I love simplicity in food – no pineapple or marshmallows for me.

I made the bread cubes myself by putting pieces of bread in the oven on super low heat (like, 175 or something) for about an hour. Then I cut them into small cubes and used them as the cubes in this recipe.

1/4 lb butter                               4 c dry bread crumbs
4 TB finely chopped celery           1/4 tsp ground pepper
4 TB finely chopped onion            salt to taste
sage, rosemary and thyme (or poultry seasoning) to taste
1/2 c. chicken broth (optional)

Melt the butter in a skillet and stir in the onion and celery. Cook over low heat until the onion is soft. Add bread crumbs and toss to coat. Add the salt and pepper and seasonings. If you want a more moist stuffing, add the chicken broth.

DH and I had gotten in a little argument about the stuffing the evening before Thanksgiving. I like to make things homemade from scratch (then I have more control over what my family is eating). But DH couldn’t seem to describe to me how he wanted me to make the stuffing, so I was almost prepared to go buy some Stove Top. I’m glad I made it from scratch, though, because I loved it, and he loved it (so did my sister and her DH). I think next time I may leave it in the pan a little longer.

Mashed Potatoes
These were pretty easy. DH doesn’t like the peels in his mashed potatoes, so he peeled them. Then we boiled the potatoes for about 10-15 minutes. The most important step in mashed potatoes is to put them back in the hot pot on the burner after you drain them. That helps all the extra water to evaporate do you don’t have soggy mashed ‘taters. I actually turn the burner off and then just put them on top of the still-hot burner. If you have a gas stove, you’ll just turn the heat down way low. Now mash the potatoes with a little warm milk and some butter. Decide how lumpy you like them. If you like them really lumpy, just use a fork or a hand masher to mash the potatoes. If you like them smooth (like DH does) I put mine in the KitchenAid and beat them that way. You could also use a hand mixer to get them more smooth. If you like whipped potatoes, you’ll want to use more milk and butter and beat them on a high speed.

Green Bean Casserole
This was my sister’s dish and it was absolutely amazing. None of that Cambell’s and French Fried onions – completely from scratch, this casserole was to die for. She’ll be guest posting soon with more details, and then I’ll link up here.

Blueberry Pie
pie crust (both top and bottom)               1 c sugar
4 c fresh or frozen blueberries                 1/4 tsp salt
3 TB flour                                               1 TB lemon juice
1 TB butter
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line the pan with pie crust dough. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the blue berries and lemon juice and mix well. Dump the blueberry mixture into the pie, dot with the butter, and cover it with the other pie crust. You can do a lattice top, a regular top, whatever, just make sure you cut vents in the top. I cut a heart shape out of the middle of my pie and placed it overlapping the heart shaped hole. It turned out really cute. (My son called it the “heart pie”). Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 F and bake 30-40 min until the top is browned.

Apple Pie
pie crust (both top and bottom)              1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c sugar                                               1 1/2 TB flour
1/2 tsp salt                                           6-8 large, firm, tart apples
1 tsp cinnamon                                              (Braeburn are best)
2 TB butter
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a pan with the pie crust dough. MIx the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour in a large bowl. Peel, core, and slice the apples (I peel the apples, then use a corer/slicer, then slice the slices so they are a little thinner). Toss the apples in the sugar mixture, then dump them in the pie crust. Dot the apple mixture with the butter, then cover with the other pie crust. Again, cut vents in the top. I just did four little teardrop shaped vents in the center of the pie like a flower. Bake the pie for 10 minutes and then lower the heat to 350 F and bake 30-40 minutes longer until the top is brown. (You can cook this pie with the blueberry pie in the same oven – just don’t forget the cookie sheet under the pies!)

Pumpkin Pie
pie crust (just for the bottom)                1 1/2 c. cooked or canned
1 c sugar                                                        pumpkin
1/2 tsp salt                                           1 1/2 c evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon                                1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp ground ginger                            2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp cloves
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a pan with the pie crust. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. Pour into the pie crust. Bake for 10 min, then lower the temp to 300 F and bake for about 45 minutes or until the filling is firm.

There you have it. Our Thanksgiving dinner. Sorry I don’t have pictures. Next time I’ll be sure to take pictures and post them. I hope this helps someone trying to cook their very first Thanksgiving dinner (or... your first good one!)

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"To be sent greeting... by... the word of wisdom...

Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints...

All wholesome herbs [or plants] God hath ordained for the consitution, nature, and use of man-

Every herb [or plant] in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving...

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings... shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones...

And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."