Home cooking: Your no stress, go skiing in the morning, 3-hour Thanksgiving dinner (column)
This week my Facebook newsfeed brought me a post from New York Times Food: The Eight-Hour Thanksgiving Dinner. The website included classic recipes, glossy, well-produced videos and the promise that you would even have time to sit down and have lunch during the eight hours of cooking. All of which sounded promising until I did the math.
If I assumed sitting down for dinner at 4 o’clock and worked backward from there, I’d have to start cooking at 8 a.m. and then spend the next eight hours mostly on my feet chopping and stirring and using every pan in the kitchen. Which might be OK, given my TV lineup for Thanksgiving mornings: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, followed by the Purina National Dog Show, which always sends me to the digital archives to watch one of my favorite movies: Best in Show, and then football. Since I know nothing about football this is mostly for background noise.
Even with this entertaining lineup viewed from behind my kitchen island, even with friends popping in to offer support, even fortified with a glass or two of wine, by the end of eight hours of intense cooking, the only thing I’d be ready for is a nap, not a holiday meal with friends.
And yet! I am not suggesting restaurant reservations or purchasing a pre-made Thanksgiving dinner. Never! Instead, I encourage you to relax and enjoy cooking for friends and family. To prove this is possible, I gave myself the challenge of creating a delicious Thanksgiving dinner in three hours.
I started cooking at 3 and sat down to dinner with friends at 6 o’clock. There’s a caveat, I cooked a 5-pound turkey breast, instead of a whole turkey, which is perfect if you are planning Thanksgiving for four to six guests. The other secret is to have all your ingredients assembled when you begin so time is not wasted searching for them.
For appetizers, I suggest my favorites: shrimp cocktail or a simple platter of three cheeses, grapes and crackers, or fresh vegetables and a cold dip of your choice, all of which can be store-bought.
I’m listing the recipes in the order that you’ll want to make them, based on their cooking time. All the recipes were made in one 350F oven. The turkey went in first and remained for the entire three hours. The other dishes were rotated in and out, just as you would open the oven door to baste the turkey. Now, let’s get cooking.
Roasted Turkey Breast
1 thawed or fresh turkey breast
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
4 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350F
If you buy your turkey a day or two before, I strongly suggest brining it in buttermilk for 24 to 48 hours. When you’re ready to cook the bird, wipe the buttermilk off, pat dry and place in a roasting pan.
Tuck slabs of butter under the skin of the turkey and rub the remaining butter over the skin of the bird. Season the skin with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning, also season the cavity of the bird. Place the bird in the preheated oven.
Chocolate Pecan Pie
1 deep dish frozen pie crust
6 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup dark brown corn syrup
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups pecans (1 cup roughly chopped, 1 cup whole)
Combine all the ingredients (other than the pie crust, of course), mix well together and pour into the pie crust. Bake the pie for 50-60 minutes, until the filling is slightly firm. Let cool for two hours.
3 lbs. russet potatoes cut into chunks (I leave the skin on but you can peel the potatoes)
5 cloves of garlic, skins removed
1 stick of butter
1 cup of half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste
These mashed potatoes are rustic because they are mashed with a simple hand masher which leaves them lumpy, and because I leave the skins on the potatoes. Both choices give the potatoes a homey, not gluey, texture.
I boil the cloves of garlic with the potatoes giving the garlic a wonderfully mild taste. The potatoes and garlic are boiled in a pot of salted water until the chunks of potato are easily pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes and garlic, return them to their cooking pot and stovetop to allow any remaining water to evaporate.
Add the butter, half-and-half, and roughly mash the potatoes and garlic, then add salt and pepper to taste. You can finish the mashed potatoes with a scraping of your favorite hard cheese.
Dried Fruit and Bacon Thanksgiving Dressing
12-ounce bag of dried bread cubes
6-ounce bag of dried cranberries
1 apple diced
1 pear diced
8 ounces bacon cut into 1-inch pieces
3-5 stalks of celery
1 medium/large sweet onion diced
1 Tablespoon fresh sage leaves finely chopped
2 teaspoons thyme leaves finely chopped
2 teaspoons rosemary finely chopped
salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
4 cups chicken stock
Sauté celery, onion and bacon pieces together until the bacon is cooked but not too crisp, and the onions and celery are softened.
Toss these ingredients with the bread cubes, chopped fruit and fresh herbs. Place ingredients in a large baking dish, add chicken stock, use your clean hands to mix the dressing together.
Season to taste. Bake for 20 minutes covered with foil. Remove foil and cook for an additional 10 minutes uncovered.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze
1-1/2 lbs of Brussels sprouts, trim stems and cut in half length-wise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
salt and pepper to taste
Toss halved Brussels sprouts with EVOO and balsamic glaze, season to taste with salt and pepper, roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until the sprouts are tender.
¼ cup flour
water or chicken stock 1 cup or more as needed
Remove the turkey breast from the pan, but leave the drippings in the pan and move the pan to the stove top. Sprinkle the flour into the pan, and using a whisk, allow the flour to cook and disintegrate into the pan drippings.
Add water or stock in a stream, continuing to whisk the gravy until it reaches the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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