For quite a few years I’ve been visiting relatives in Tennessee for Thanksgiving and I cook the main meal. And while it’s a bit of a challenge to make a meal in someone else’s kitchen, I still enjoy this ritual every year. We arrive on Wednesday and immediately proceed to the grocery store (The Fresh Market, no less) to purchase everything required for the feast. There is no make-ahead strategy. Everything is prepared on the day itself. Here is the menu and comments:
One Fresh Bell & Evans Turkey
The Fresh Market began carrying Bell & Evans last year and I was impressed. The bird just seemed to taste better. I also appreciated the dark meat which was actually dark and packed with scrumptious flavor. Preparation is fairly simple: salt and pepper between the breast and skin and the leg and skin. Add pats of real butter (I go all out and use Plugra) between breast and skin and leg and skin. Insert herbs between breast and skin and leg and skin. This year I placed thyme on the breast and rosemary on the legs. I roast the bird in an electric roaster. The roaster keeps the turkey moist and frees up the oven for dressing.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Yukon golds, Plugra butter, a few garlic cloves, a tiny amount of cream, salt, and pepper. I make sure we have enough potatoes left over to make potato cakes for breakfast the next morning.
Sautéed Green Beans and Shallots
Sauté the shallots in butter until just caramelized, add fresh beans that have been soaked and then boiled in salted water. I cooked the beans until they were soft because I had diners who preferred them that way.
I make a roux of butter and flour and then pour in juices from the cooked turkey. This year I had enough turkey drippings to forego the addition of canned chicken broth.
A bunch of fresh cranberries, the juice of a lemon and orange, a couple of cinnamon sticks. Add water and a ton of sugar. Boil to jam-like consistency. I did not add enough sugar for eating at the Thanksgiving table, but I reheated and added more of the sweet stuff. This made a great alternative spread for the inevitable turkey sandwiches. I also liked it on toast. I wished we had had some biscuits.
While most of the menu is fairly standard, I always try to make a different type of dressing every year. This year I wanted to make something with fennel. Alas, the store was out of fennel, so, I used my imagination and made it up as I went along. It turned out to be quite popular. And, of course, I’ll never be able to quite repeat it, but here is the list of ingredients: a loaf of sesame bread and a loaf of challah torn into bite-sized chunks and toasted; toasted pine nuts; crushed fennel seeds; sautéed onions and leeks; a couple of Irish banger sausage links fried and sliced thin; minced garlic; turkey broth from boiling the turkey neck supplemented with some chicken broth. Combine everything and bake for an hour. It was yummy!
We washed it down with a sparkling rose.