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Thanksgiving Menus 2002–2011: The Topic


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I'm doing turkey consomme with ricotta and swiss chard gnocchi...I already have the stock made and frozen. I'm going to make the consomme the day before.

I already cooked the legs and thighs confit in the sous vide, they're in the freezer too.

I have the breasts vacuum sealed as well with butter, shallots, garlic salt, thyme, pepper, rosemary, and frozen, all I have to do is thaw and pop in the Sous vide day of...

For the sides, I'm doing a pretty traditional cranberry sauce, herb onion and celery stuffing, chive and onion mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, the "pumpkin stuffed with everything good" from Around My French Table, homemade green bean and mushroom casserole, brussel sprout hash with caramelized shallots, and corn with brown butter and thyme.

For desserts, I'm doing a bourbon chocolate pecan pie, a pumpkin bread pudding, and poached pears with vanilla creme anglaise.

We're actually having people at our house for the first time ever, so I'm excited to see what they think of everything.

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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Last year we did a heritage breed turkey for the first time (Bourbon Red I believe). It was excellent but gamey and somewhat tough (not dry - but tough like rare partridge at Rule's!).

We dry-brined it. This year I'm going to do that with a standard Bell & Evans turkey. I don't like the texture wet-brining imparts to white meat.

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I have had good success using Cooks' Illustrated's suggestion of brining and then butterflying the turkey, and placing it on the top (flat) part of a broiler pan than then sits over a disposable tin pan full of dressing. The turkey cooks quicker this way, the dark meat stays moist, the skin is crisp, and the dressing is flavored with turkey drippings. The backbone is removed when butterflying the turkey, so this, plus the neck and giblets, are used to make the gravy.

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Does anyone serve their TG meal as separate courses, as opposed to the 'mountain of food on the table smorgasbord'?

I do! I never liked the "everything on the table at once" paradigm. I have at various times, mostly as a challenge to myself, expanded and ramified Thanksgiving to 9 or 10 courses -- including a famous (infamous?) course of "brussels sprouts four ways" that included brussels sprout creme brulee. Nowadays I'm likely to do around three courses plus dessert.

This year I'm going to start with the carrot soup from Modernist Cuisine. Then the second course will be medallions of turkey breast cooked sous vide, truffled potato puree and sauteed mushrooms. The third course will be a kind of "napolean" I make by alternating thin slices of dark meat terrine (bound together with Activa and cooked sous vide) with cornbread dressing and with some shredded braised leg meat on top, green pea puree and turkey glace.

--

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I'm cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time this year (although my mom is making the dressing and rolls). I'm using Alton Brown's roast turkey recipe. I did a dry run yesterday and the breast meat turned out great, but the dark meat was a little dry and tough. The recipe was a little confusing since he says to cook the turkey on a half sheet pan, but then the accompanying recipe for gravy requires you to add 32 ounces of liquid to the pan and whisk the hell out of it over the stove. That is not viable with a half sheet pan. I ended up using a normal roasting pan and it worked fine. The video that accompanies the recipe on the Food Network website is also confusing. In the video, he tells you to put aluminum foil over the breasts 30 minutes into the cooking process. The aluminum foil cover is not part of the written recipe. I used the foil cover, but it resulted in the breast meat not being crispy and it did not darken as much as I would have liked. When I make the turkey on Thanksgiving, I will use the foil cover, but I won't put it into place until the breasts are darkened to my liking.

I'm also making mashed potatoes and thinking about another side dish. I have always wanted to try the creamy walnut soup from the French Laundry Cookbook, so I may throw that in as a starter for people to enjoy while I am finishing the gravy. My instinct is to go crazy and make tons of food, but the reality is there will only be 4 of us and there's no point in making enough food to feed 10.

Edited by Derek J (log)
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Does anyone serve their TG meal as separate courses, as opposed to the 'mountain of food on the table smorgasbord'?

I do; in fact, in my family we have taken to stretching the meal out over about 6 hrs so that we can have several courses without becoming totally catatonic by eating them all in a row. We are fond of finger food in our family. So we start with a variety of small things: soup in a pitcher that can be poured into little cups and sipped; something deep-fried, like a fritter made with a fine American cheddar and Virginia ham or mini crab cake balls;spiced hand-cracked nuts; any other little morsels, five or six total, varying year to year. Then a break of a few hours, during which people might go out for a walk, play games, whatever. Then some sort of lovely salad, served from a buffet style while people talk. Then the turkey and fixings. Then another break. Then pie, pie, pie and coffee in the living room. Everything strictly American. Including the tons of champagne (methode champanoise) and wine.

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I'm cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time this year (although my mom is making the dressing and rolls). I'm using Alton Brown's roast turkey recipe. I did a dry run yesterday and the breast meat turned out great, but the dark meat was a little dry and tough. The recipe was a little confusing since he says to cook the turkey on a half sheet pan, but then the accompanying recipe for gravy requires you to add 32 ounces of liquid to the pan and whisk the hell out of it over the stove. That is not viable with a half sheet pan. I ended up using a normal roasting pan and it worked fine. The video that accompanies the recipe on the Food Network website is also confusing. In the video, he tells you to put aluminum foil over the breasts 30 minutes into the cooking process. The aluminum foil cover is not part of the written recipe. I used the foil cover, but it resulted in the breast meat not being crispy and it did not darken as much as I would have liked. When I make the turkey on Thanksgiving, I will use the foil cover, but I won't put it into place until the breasts are darkened to my liking.

This video is the first part of the Good Eats special where he explains his foil method among other turkey beliefs. I made this recipe last year, only used Bacon instead of the foil. (Something I think I read here.)

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We did a heritage turkey this year and the flavor was good but I don't know if it was worth triple the price of the kosher turkey I normally get (plus, this was the first year we ever ran out of turkey since it was only 12lbs). Sadly, we didn't have time to pre-salt it which would have added a little bit more oomph but it still came out excellent.

The method I always do to great success is to whip a stick of butter with some finely chopped sage, garlic, rendered turkey fat, S&P and stick it under the skin and then whip another stick of butter with just S&P&turkey fat at rub it all over the outside + cavity. Loosely stuff the cavity with more sage, whole garlic cloves and lemons and then roast, leg side up for an hour before flipping to breast side up. I took the bird out when the breast hit 125 and let it coast up to 142, took off the legs, put them back in the oven until they hit 150 and they coasted till 160.

I find every year, I'm cooking turkey lower and lower. 142 for breasts was fantastic but I could even see it going a hair lower. This was the first year I did the double cook method for legs and it made it so much easier for everything to be on temp.

PS: I am a guy.

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I'll be feeding 10 this year. We'll start with football, bloody marys, nuts, olives, probably a cheese tray, maybe hummus and veggies. For the main event, which happens later in the afternoon, I roast a Trader Joe's kosher turkey and will serve it with my mom's southern cornbread stuffing (we call it "dressing, cooked separate from the bird,) my friend Tonia's fabulous turkey gravy (have wings roasting in the oven for stock as we speak,) Mother's corn pudding, wild rice salad with oranges and dried cranberries, potato-carrot mousseline, haricots verts with balsamic-glazed shallots, cranberry-tangerine relish, rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and pumpkin cheesecake (made last weekend and now in the freezer.) Oh--and a Swiss chard and fontina tarte for my vegetarian niece. All served with adult beverages of choice, of course. I'm not sure I've decided yet on this year's red wine--anyone want to weigh in on that?

I may be in Nashville but my heart's in Cornwall

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Hi SFG, I am curious how you are going to bathe your turkey :) The dark meat and white meat need to be cooked to different temps. How are you going to manage that? And what are you going to do to crisp up the skin afterwards?

I normally practice turkey cooking methods on chicken first :) A turkey is a showpiece ... I can't afford to stuff it up in front of so many guests!

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Here are a few links for our Thanksgiving recommendations:

Thanksgiving Stew

Chris Young's Peking Duck-style turkey (on StarChefs.com)

Last year's Modernist Thanksgiving blog post

Last year's Christmas blog post (no turkey, but deep-fried brussels sprouts, yams, and pumpkin pie!)

Keith_W, make sure to look at the Thanksgiving Stew recipe and last year's blog post, which detail cooking turkey sous vide.

Judy Wilson

Editorial Assistant

Modernist Cuisine

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If you want to have a good idea of the options to cook a whole turkey sous vide there is an excellent serie of articles by Dave Arnold on that subject:

http://www.cookingissues.com/2009/11/18/daves-effort-to-stop-ruining-thanksgiving/

http://www.cookingissues.com/2009/11/25/turkey-time-part-2-buying-the-turkey/

http://www.cookingissues.com/2009/11/25/turkey-time-part-3-how-to-cook-it/

http://www.cookingissues.com/2009/11/27/turkey-time-4-thanksgiving-day/

Even if you don't go whole hog with a bionic turkey and two recirculator there is a lot of interesting informations.

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Hi Keith_W,

My plan is to run two circulator baths - one for white meat and one for dark. I also plan to seal the SV bags with an herby brine (rosemary, juniper berries, sage, sugar), which I'll freeze into ice cubes ahead of time so my FoodSaver doesn't choke on it.

After the bath, my plan is to briefly deep fry the individual pieces of bird to crisp the skin. Instead of making gravy, I'm planning to make a pressure-cooked carrot, soy sauce and turkey-part demiglace.

This will be my first attempt at this approach, but how bad could it be, really? :-)

-Scott

Scott Heimendinger

Director of Applied Research for Modernist Cuisine

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Judy and LFMichaud ... thanks for the links. They look amazing. I have never thought of serving anything but the whole bird, but looking at those recipes has me thinking ... why not?

SFG now that you mention it, your method seems pretty obvious!

Me, I was planning to smoke a whole turkey for the holiday season. I cool down the breast with ice before it goes into the BBQ, so that it cooks the same time as the legs. But I might do something different this year and make one of the above recipes.

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I'm not sure I've decided yet on this year's red wine--anyone want to weigh in on that?

Since there's so much food being assumed we've always found that Nouveau Beaujolais is a good red to use. It's a nice light flavor that most people like and it's certainly not expensive. If you have some the wine lovers you could certainly add something else for them, a nice Pinot always seems to work quite well.

I've learned that artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

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This doesnt pertain so much to cooking as it does serving.. but im adding 4 more people to my table this year making a total of 12. In the past i have put everything on the table for family style passing but know i wont have room now. I have a sideboard, and can put things there.. but it just seems awkward. Would you stand up and pass the bowls and put them aside? Let people get up and fill their plate? Im pushing it spacewise for 12.

Im trying for a less crowded table this year, but dont want everyone or one person jumping up and down the whole time. Plating everyone seems difficult and time consuming but i am space limited. So im curious how the rest of you do it

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Ideally if your table could handle it you would have duplicates on each end. It sounds like space is an issue. Are you opposed to a buffet style? They may need two initial pass throughs to do the salad and then the main/sides. We usually do this and it seems to work out well. The gravy, cranberry sauce, butter and the like can then be placed on the dining table. I would never consider plating the meal if it is traditional T-day fare as people can have pretty strong feelings about how they like things placed and the proportions.

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Just made a few tweaks on a meal I can't change much:

Thanksgiving 2011

ras al hanout root chips

Carpene Malvolti Extra Dry Proseco Superiore NV

* * * * *

smoked roasted turkey breast with red onions & oranges

kalkun frikadeller (Danish turkey meatballs)

gravy

pecan stuffing with sage and pancetta

mashed potatoes

roasted carrots & parsnips

loubieh wa hommus bi-ziet (Lebanese green beans with chickpeas)

brussel sprouts with bacon and sherry

cranberry sauce with ginger & orange

cucumber & vidalia pickles

Teruzzi & Puthod Terre di Tufi 2008

Sean Minor 2009 Red Wine

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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This doesnt pertain so much to cooking as it does serving.. but im adding 4 more people to my table this year making a total of 12. In the past i have put everything on the table for family style passing but know i wont have room now. I have a sideboard, and can put things there.. but it just seems awkward. Would you stand up and pass the bowls and put them aside? Let people get up and fill their plate? Im pushing it spacewise for 12.

Im trying for a less crowded table this year, but dont want everyone or one person jumping up and down the whole time. Plating everyone seems difficult and time consuming but i am space limited. So im curious how the rest of you do it

Buffet. Let people serve themselves. This makes it easier for those who want less to personalize their choices without notice or comment. Our family has done this for several decades now.

Also, it prevents the problem of "passing". I remember my adult brother, who was sitting at the middle point of the table years ago, commenting, "I've been sitting at this table for 15 minutes and haven't done anything but pass food."

eGullet member #80.

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Chris those root chips sound great. And im going to have to try and get your danish turkey meatball recipe from you. I have been planning a special meal for my danish mother.

Full buffet wont work for me unfortunately. I just dont have the room when the leaf is in the table. Passing is completely awkward, but seems my only choice. Well semi buffet

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