|Image from Public Domain Pictures|
Gourmet Cranberry Sauce
This is one of the hallmarks of Thanksgiving dinner. So, why do so many families get their cranberry sauce from a can? Canned sauce has no texture, it has precious little flavor. C'mon people, making homemade cranberry sauce isn't hard to do. All you need are a couple of bags of berries, a cup of sugar, a 1/2 cup of orange juice, a dash of vanilla and a half cup of your favorite sweet wine or Grand Marnier. Cook the berries in a saucepan over a medium heat until the berries pop and the mixture comes to a boil. Refrigerate overnight and you have a delectable side dish that will make your Turkey Day dinner a winner. (see video at left)
Anyone for Soup?
Butternut Squash soup is quick to make and is the perfect foil for turkey. Take a butternut squash and chop off the top and bottom, then peel the squash and cut it into 10 rounds, making sure to discard the seeds. Quarter the rounds and drop them into a pot of boiling water. Boil for 20 minutes to soften the squash, then ladle the squash along with a bit of the broth into a blender. Add a 1/2 cup of milk, a dash of grated ginger and puree. Pour the broth into a separate pot and add a 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Stir until smooth. Refrigerate and reheat on Thanksgiving day. Serves 8
Aunt Fanny's Baked Squash
Why Trifle with Dessert?
By the time you finish wolfing down a ton of food, you aren't going to feel like having a rich dessert. More importantly, while Pumpkin Pie is the traditional Thanksgiving dessert, I've found that not everyone likes it. That's why I switched to serving trifle years ago. This dessert is easy to make, it doesn't go over like a lead balloon after a big meal and to date I have yet to find anyone who didn't love it. Kind of a fusion of pie and cake, this dessert starts out by baking a cake. Then you crumble the cake and make a parfait by adding whipped topping and pie filling. In the video below, I chose to use chocolate cake and cherry pie filling. But feel free to use any combination you prefer. Other favorites are lemon cake and blueberry pie filling or pineapple cake with either pineapple chunks or apple pie filling. (Serves 10)
For years, I used to serve mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. Then one year I decided to combine the two together in one big mashup. Fusion mashed potatoes are not only more nutritious than plain white mashed potatoes, they are tastier too. I usually get these babies going during the final stages of meal recuperation (with the football game on in the background), about an hour before the turkey comes out of the oven. Sitting my stockpot on the counter with a gallon of cold water inside it, I start peeling and chopping potatoes, dropping the chunks of white and sweet potatoes into the pot. 6-8 white potatoes and 3 yams will feed 10 people) Once the taters are in the pot, I sit it on the stove and bring it to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes, until you can stick a fork easily through the potatoes. Then drain and mash, adding 4 tablespoons of butter, a 1/2 cup of milk and a teaspoon of horseradish. You heard me right. What horseradish does is make your mashed potatoes much more flavorful. (They won't make them spicy hot either.) Once they're mashed, I put the pot on a cold burner and let them sit atop the stove until the turkey is ready to slice.
Doing the Turkey Trot
Why anyone would deep fry a turkey is beyond me. That being said, many people complain about having their bird wind up dry. If that's what's bothering you, I have the answer to this dilemma. It's called brining, which is marinating the turkey overnight in a salt water bath. The reason to do this is to tenderize and moisturize the bird so it will come out juicy and succulent as opposed to bone dry. All you need to brine your turkey is a stockpot big enough to submerge the bird, 2 gallons of cold water, 2 cups of salt, a cup of brown sugar and some herbs. I recommend rosemary and thyme. Also feel free to add a couple cloves of garlic to the pot. Put the turkey in the pot, pour in the water until the turkey is completely covered, then add the salt, sugar and spices. Pop the pot in the fridge and let it sit there overnight. When it comes time to cook the turkey, pour out the water and pluck the bird from the pot. Rinse the turkey with cold water both inside and out to remove the salt. Pat dry with paper towels and it's ready to cook. You'll be amazed at the difference brining can make. Plus, with brining as opposed to deep frying, you won't risk setting the place on fire or getting scalded by hot oil.
The rest of the meal is up to you. The most important thing to remember when preparing Thanksgiving dinner is to only let people who like to cook and know how to cook do the cooking. To do otherwise is a recipe for disaster. So, don't be a turkey.
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