Ah, Thanksgiving. It’s that time of year again; a time of family, friends, and lots of food. In honor of this most food-friendly holiday (especially local food when you live in Minnesota), here are some last minute recipes to spice up your Thanksgiving table. Whether you’re hosting or visiting, these simple recipes will make you look like a genius in the kitchen.
First, of course, the bird:
Thanksgiving maple turkey
The secret to any moist white meat poultry is to brine it. This recipe is particularly great with smoked or slow grilled turkey. The sweat earthy maple syrup creates a skin that is to die for while keeping the flesh moist and succulent, even the boring white meat.
3 yellow onions, chopped
1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally
8 sprigs fresh thyme
5 sprigs fresh rosemary
1gal maple brine
1 5gal bucket, clean as a whistle
Place the turkey in the brine for at least 12 hours and up to 36 hours. The sweet spot is probably around 28 hours.
Remove turkey from the brine and let it sit at room temperature and air dry for 2 hours.
Stuff the bird with onions, garlic and fresh herbs (or my wild rice stuffing, see below).
Roast or grill at 350f until the internal temperature reaches 150f. A slow roast in a green egg is the money shot here.
Let the bird rest in an off oven or on the counter wrapped in foil for 20-30 minutes before carving and serving. This should bring the internal temperature up to 160f and keep it as moist as the bunny ranch.
Maple brine, yield: 1 Gallon
1 gal water
6c maple syrup, grade b
1 head garlic cut in half, horizontally
5 yellow onions, chopped
1 head celery, chopped
½c Fresh ginger, 1/8 slices
5 sprigs Fresh rosemary
10 sprigs Fresh thyme
10 leaves Fresh sage
10ea Black peppercorns
1T Crushed red pepper
1t ground nutmeg
Combine all the brine ingredients, except for fresh herbs, into a large non-reactive pot and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and add fresh herbs. When you add the herbs and boil them, you lose a lot of that fresh aroma that makes them special.
Let the brine fully cool for at least 12 hours before using. The chilly Minnesota autumn provides a great atmosphere for this. Simple place it on the deck or in the garage overnight.
Now on to the side dishes:
The BEST mashed potatoes, yield: 8 servings
1ea onion, roughly chopped
4ea garlic cloves, smashed
5-8 sprigs fresh thyme
2c heavy cream
1lb butter, unsalted and room temp
TT sea salt
In a small pot, place cream, onions, garlic, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and let slowly steep on the stove for 30mins.
In a large pot, cover potatoes with cold water and add 1/4c of salt. Boil until potatoes just begin to fall apart. Strain off potatoes into a colander and let them sit in colander to cool and steam out. This allows the water to leave the potatoes so you can add more cream and butter.
Once potatoes are not so steamy anymore, run them through a potato ricer or a food mill and return them back to the large pot. Strain out the ingredients from the cream, saving the flavorful cream*. Pour half of the strained cream into the potatoes.
Slowly fold in the soft butter*, a small chunk at a time until the potatoes are shiny. And as needed, add the rest of the cream to get the potatoes silky smooth. Taste and season with salt if needed.
Serve hot and enjoy.
Note: You might have extra cream and butter left over, don’t add too much so the potatoes are runny, but just enough so you don’t want to tell your guests how much butter is in them. It is Thanksgiving, after all.
Spicy cauliflower gratin, yield: 6 servings
1/2c Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large head cauliflower (about 2.5 pounds), cut into small florets
1c Gruyere cheese, grated
1T crushed red pepper flakes
1/4c fresh parsley and oregano, chopped fine (sub half the amount of dried herbs if you’re lazy)
TT sea salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl or plastic baggy combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and chopped herbs. Mix until evenly incorporated. Set aside.
In a large saucepan with a lid, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour. Cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute. Whisk in milk.
Add cauliflower, crushed red pepper flakes, and season with salt. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover, and cook until starting to soften, about 5min. Remove from heat and gradually stir in Gruyere.
Pour mixture into a 4-quart baking dish, and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Bake until cauliflower is easily pierced with a knife, about 20min, and breadcrumbs are golden brown.
Wild rice stuffing with apples and cranberries, yield: 8 servings
1½c celery, chopped
1c onion, chopped
3/4c wild rice, uncooked
4c croutons or old crusty bread cut into medium dice
2ea garlic cloves, minced
1/2lb bacon, small diced
4c low-sodium chicken stock
1c white wine
3T fresh sage, chopped
3T fresh rosemary, chopped
3T fresh thyme, chopped
3T fresh parsley, chopped
3ea sweet apples, medium diced
1c dried unsweetened cranberries
1c roasted sunflower seeds
TT sea salt and black pepper
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and add the bacon, onions, garlic, celery, salt and pepper.
Sauté the vegetables over medium heat for 5min or until they are lightly caramelized. Add the white wine, chicken stock and wild rice. Bring to a boil and simmer until wild rice is tender, this may take 30-45min. The stock will reduce so feel free to add more stock and/or water so the rice doesn’t dry out.
Once the wild rice is tender, strain off and reserve liquid.
Add the croutons, sunflower seeds, cranberries, apples and herbs to the wild rice mixture, mix well, and pour into a 9 by 12-inch baking dish. Pour in some of the cooking liquid over the mixture, just enough to come to the top of the mixture. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top, hot in the middle, and liquid has been soaked up by the croutons.
Brussels sprouts w/ bacon and apple cider vinegar, yield: 4 servings
1/4lb bacon, rendered crisp and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3T apple cider vinegar
TT black tellicherry pepper/sea salt
2T grapeseed oil
Place non-reactive stainless steel sauté pan or cast iron pan on medium high heat. Once pan is hot, add Brussels sprouts and grapeseed oil. Toss them a few times to fully coat with oil, salt and pepper. Once they are seasoned, use a tongs and make sure the Brussels are cut side down to get maximum caramelization. You also need to make sure there is enough space in the pan for all the Brussels to be cut side down; make sure you have a big enough pan or do them in batches otherwise your pan will not retain the heat needed and the Brussels won’t be delicious and roasted.
Once the Brussels are in the pan, let them sit and sizzle for 4-8 minutes without fussing with them. If the pan is too dry the Brussels will dry out and not be crispy, so if the Brussels soak up all the oil, then add more! Once you have a nice and crispy Brussels sprout situation, add the garlic for 2min, remove from heat, add cider vinegar to deglaze, and toss in bacon. Taste the Brussels. Are they a bit salty tangy and crunchy? Good. No one likes mushy bland Brussels sprouts.
Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.
Broccoli salad, yield: 4 servings
1ea shallot, fine dice and macerated in salt and RWV (red wine vinegar) for 20min
2ea garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2c tart cherries
1/2c sunflower seeds
1/4c sour cream
1ea lemon, juiced
1/3c chives, chopped
TT salt/black pepper
Whisk the lemon juice, garlic, shallot in vinegar, mayonnaise, and sour cream together in a non-reactive mixing bowl.
Fold in broccoli and season with salt and black pepper, then fold in cherries and sunflower seeds.
Season with salt, or lemon juice as needed.
Store refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 3 days.
Potato salad with apples, yield: 2qt
2ea sweet apples, medium diced
1ea medium shallot, small dice
2ea garlic cloves, smashed or chopped fine
1T Dijon mustard
1T stone ground mustard
1/4c Champagne vinegar
1/4c chives, chopped
1/8c tarragon, chopped
1/8c Italian parsley, chopped
3ea eggs, hardboiled and chopped
1/4lb bacon, rendered crispy (optional)
TT salt/black pepper
1/2c grapeseed oil
Boil potatoes in salted water until tender, pull out and set aside.
While potatoes are going, place shallot, garlic, vinegar, both mustards, and a pinch of salt in a non-reactive mixing bowl. Whisk until the mixture is emulsified. Once mustard base is emulsified, slowly whisk in the grapeseed oil (This is a mustard vinaigrette, great for all types of salads).
In a large mixing bowl combine, the warm potatoes, apples, vinaigrette and herbs. Fold together until it looks evenly mixed. Put into serving dish and top with the chopped egg, bacon and fresh cracked black pepper.