I love Thanksgiving. The holidays in general, but Thanksgiving in particular. I love that it is a holiday that is only about spending time with loved ones and being thankful for whatever it is that means the most to each of us. And I love all the cooking! This was my third or fourth time hosting the holiday for some of my family and I kept it pretty traditional.
Where to begin? With the turkey, of course. For the past few years I have been using a recipe I found in Bon Appétit®. Once I tried the Cider-Brined Turkey with Star Anise and Cinnamon, I’ve never turned back. This year I had a 20lb bird and this brine did the trick once again. As in years past, my mom and I argued over how long to cook the turkey so, of course, it was done a little earlier that I would have liked. It’s funny…I always remember her waking up in the wee morning hours get the turkey in the oven so it would be ready to eat at a reasonable time. If I did that, it would have been done for breakfast!
Beyond the turkey we had all the usual suspects…
Mashed potatoes, mashed with a little roasted garlic and lots of butter and sour cream,
Roasted root veggies tossed with a sherry-vinaigrette,
Jeff’s Grandpa’s green beans …you know the kind… simmered all day with bacon,
Homemade cranberry sauce, and
The best stuffing EVER… if I do say so myself.
Let’s talk about stuffing for a minute. I have never been a fan of actually stuffing the bird so I won’t even get into that debate. I found this recipe more than a decade ago and have been making it ever since. It is an Art Smith recipe that was published in O, The Oprah Magazine in 2002. I can’t get enough of this stuff and it is always a hit. Wild Rice and Cornbread Dressing The cornbread is pretty traditional, but the wild rice adds a great twist. I usually add about a pound of sage sausage as well. This could be a meal on its own and is always a hit.
Cranberry sauce is a must and it must be homemade. I have nothing against the can, but for me it’s got to be the real deal. I always make extra because one of my favorite things to do with leftover cranberries is mix them into my oatmeal for breakfast. I stumbled across this treat a few years ago when I was trying to get creative with the massive amount of food in my fridge in the days following the holiday.
As we sat down to dinner, I asked that everyone to go around the table and say what they were thankful for this year. In a nutshell, we are thankful for the food, our friends and family, and that we are together this holiday season…. Oh, and we are also thankful for backup gravy!
To finish out the weekend I made some turkey soup with the leftovers that is perfect for this chilly weather.
Jen’s Turkey Soup
1 turkey carcass
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp dried herbs, I use Herbs de Provence
salt and pepper
Place all ingredients above in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. Skim off any foam.
Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve, saving the liquid. Pick out turkey meat and return to the pot along with the liquid. Discard all other solids (vegetables, bones, etc).
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 large carrots, sliced
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag frozen peas
1 bag wide egg noodles
Any additional leftover turkey
Salt and pepper
Sauté fresh celery, carrots, onion, and garlic until soft. Add to pot with liquid and turkey. Add noodles (uncooked) to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.