Tag spinach gratin

Thanksgiving Dinner Test Drive

Contributed by Guest Blogger Julie Reitz

thanksgiving stuffing

I was the lucky gal picked to recipe test Parties That Cook’s Thanksgiving themed menu items.

I’m the (unexpected) perfect candidate for this assignment because: a) I love cooking and can follow a recipe, but b) I have no culinary training and have never cooked a Thanksgiving turkey, let alone an entire Thanksgiving feast in my life! Which means… if I can’t make these recipes work, they’re clearly not idiot-proof and should be re-written. And, with those disclaimers recognized, I said: Bring on the bird!

I shopped the day before our faux thanksgiving feast, prepared a game plan and began cooking at 9am on the big day. Everything was unfolding beautifully – no major snafus to note – just a couple of pandering kitties (“what about us?”). My goal was to avoid any accusations like “What have you done?!” from Executive Chef Bibby, who was keeping a curious eye on my cooking.

I started by baking the yams for the Smashed Yams with Maple Syrup and the garlic for the Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes. I then prepped ingredients for the simple Gratin of Spinach. I popped the gratin into the oven straight away and began to prep the Easy Breezy Cranberry Sauce. The kitties were getting restless and I too was starting to hear my stomach growl….

About 6 hours later, we had a table full of beautiful dishes and I called the master chef in to taste the goods. The menu included Brined and Roasted Turkey with Pan Gravy with Bourbon; Apple, Cornbread, Sausage Stuffing and Pumpkin-Gingersnap Tiramisu.

I held my breath, as Bibby pondered each taste test: “let’s put those yams under the broiler for a couple more minutes…”, “less alcohol in the cranberries, and a little more salt….” Several suggestions later, the recipes had been completely tweaked, and it made all the difference. Times like these make me wish there was such a thing as a “pocket chef!”

As a final test, Bibby suggested I prepare the giblets for her hungry kitties. “Giblets?” Even though I’m from Texas and love meat, its preparation and overall handling is not my cup of tea. In fact, the first time I roasted a chicken, I left the bag of goodies in the bird and the house filled with smoke!

Meanwhile, this turkey and I weren’t exactly on good terms- he simply would not listen to me physically urging him to tuck his wings under – after a brief wrestling match, Bibby came to the rescue. With a trepid look of fear on my face, I presented the kitties with boiled turkey innards, and endured suggestions from Bibby for the next day or two along the lines of: “How about giving the cats some heart today?”

In the end, my first Thanksgiving feast turned out fine and the test menu a success. My boyfriend and I got to celebrate an early Thanksgiving, Bibby and I enjoyed subsequent days of turkey soup, and I simply had the best time cooking those yummy recipes and snapping photos of the finished product.

But those giblets…

10 Steps to Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

After today’s election, there will be nothing left for America to argue about, other than what to serve for Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps a spinach gratin and butternut squash and cider soup to spice up the usual fare of stuffing, yams and green beans… garlic mashed potatoes are a must and pumpkin bread pudding with caramel, too!

Of course, the unequivocal star of our annual harvest holiday is the turkey. In recent years, we’ve noticed all sorts of culinary treatments and trends for cooking the bird: deep fried, smoked, bbqed, glazed, basted, curried, brined or stuffed beyond stuffing – by this we mean the infamous turducken (a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken).

turkeyWe’re all for adventurous cooking, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, I choose not to mess with a good thing. Here are my 10 Simple Steps to a Perfectly Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey:

1. Order your turkey from a reputable meat purveyor at least one week prior to Thanksgiving, and pick it up the day before. A fresh turkey is more flavorful than a frozen turkey.

2. Ask your butcher to remove the wishbone. This way, you can slice the full-length of the breast.

3. Buy one pound of turkey per person or 1½ pounds if you want leftovers. Smaller turkeys are more tender, so order two small turkeys versus one large.

4. Once home, remove the bag of giblets from inside the cavity, rinse the turkey inside and out, and pat it dry with paper towels. This helps prevent bacterial growth. Refrigerate immediately. Bring to room temperature one hour before cooking.

5. Stuff the turkey just before roasting to prevent bacterial growth. Don’t overstuff. The stuffing expands while cooking and may cause the bird to explode!

6. While trussing the bird makes a prettier presentation, it is isn’t necessary and the bird will actually cook faster if untrussed. If you do truss the bird however, use kitchen twine not dental floss!

7. Rub the skin of the bird with butter or oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sweet paprika. The paprika makes the bird a turn a beautiful golden brown. Put the turkey, in a roasting pan, on a rack, so the heat can circulate. Fill the pan with 1/2 inch of water for basting and pan gravy.

8. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Then cover the breast meat with aluminum foil to keep the bird moist, and cook at 350 degrees until done. Baste every 30 minutes.

9. The turkey is done when a thermometer inserted into the thigh reaches 160 degrees. The breast may be a higher temperature since it cooks faster.

10. Before carving, let the bird rest for 30 minutes on a warmed platter covered with foil.

Brining the turkey before cooking will produce an even juicier roasted turkey. You’ll find my recipe for brining and roasting a turkey here. Oh, and let’s not forget the gravy. Try this favorite: Pan Gravy with Bourbon Recipe.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more great cooking tips and tricks for Thanksgiving Day. Parties That Cook’s Thanksgiving recipes can be found here.