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Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving’ Category

Thanksgiving is less than 48 hours away and it’s time to make your final lists, fight the lines at the grocery stores one more time and start cooking. We’ve already talked about how to handle the bird and the gravy — the two main attractions on most holiday tables. Now it’s time to discuss the dressing…or is it stuffing?? More on that later. While many of you have a “mom’s-classic-version” of dressing that shows up every year in your feast but maybe you’re looking for a way to mix things up this year. My suggestion: make mom’s classic AND a new version — you can never have too much dressing on the table. Here’s a hit-list of things you need to know to make amazing dressing:

1. It’s “stuffing” if it’s baked inside the bird and “dressing” if it’s baked in a casserole dish. We are not a fan of stuffing — yes, it benefits from the turkey flavor BUT in order for it to cook to a safe temperature (where all that raw turkey juice is cooked properly), there’s a good chance you’ve over-cooked your turkey breasts and that’s just sad. So stuff the turkey with aromatics (apples, onions, sage) and stuff the “dressing”in a casserole dish. If you really want to boost the dressing with turkey flavor, make your own turkey stock and use it in the stuffing.

1a. A side note: to make turkey stock, combine 2 turkey legs (buy them at the butcher counter in your store), 1 onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 2 bay leaves and a tbl of peppercorns in your largest pot. Fill with cold water. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 3-4 hours. Let cool. Strain and discard solids. Use the stock for your dressing, gravy and/or freeze it for later.

2. First, choose the bread. For a basic stuffing, a good white loaf is fine. But try using brioche for some sweetness or a good whole grain for some nuttiness. Whatever you choose, DON’T toast the bread!!! Just cut it into large (1-inch at least) squares and leave it in a bowl on your counter overnight to dry out. You want stale bread but NOT toasted bread. It seems counter-intuitive, but the drier your bread is, the mushier the dressing will be in the end. The goal is soft dressing but not a mushy mess.

3. Use any mix of aromatics: onions, leeks, carrots, fennel, celery, celery root, parnips. Sautee these in plenty of butter and you’ve got a great flavor base.

4. Use a little meat. I like a little bacon or pancetta sauteed up with the aromatics. A good sausage is always nice, too…..

5. Use poultry seasoning. No it’s not the same thing as the “flavor pack” in a Stovetop box. It’s a just-right mix of dried herbs and it’s essential for that “thanksgiving” flavor.

6. When in doubt, finish with browned butter. A rule we can live by for so many dishes! Once you’ve got your dressing mixed together and tucked in the casserole dish, drizzle with some browned butter and it will take the dish over the top! In the recipe below, we brown butter, toss in some sage leaves and then use them both to top the dressing — pretty and delicious!!

Here’s our favorite dressing recipe this year — a little sweet, a little nutty and really moist. Whatever version you make this year, enjoy!!

Brioche Dressing with Caramelized Fennel, Fuji Apples & Pancetta
Serves 8-10 people
olive oil
8-10 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup diced pancetta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups thinly sliced fennel
2 Fuji apples, diced small, skin-on
1 cup diced white onion
salt and pepper
12 cups brioche, cut into 1-inch cubes, left on the counter overnight to dry out
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
2-3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
Preparation
Butter a 9×11-inch casserole or baking dish.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When hot, add the sage leaves and cook until they begin to shrivel and become crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the leaves and set aside.

Add the pancetta to the same pan and cook until golden and crisp.

Add the 4 tablespoons of butter; when melted add the fennel, apples and onions. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions and fennel are tender. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the brioche cubes and the cooked vegetables (be sure to scrape the pan and add all the flavored butter and oil from the bottom). Sprinkle in the poultry seasoning and toss to combine evenly. Add 1 cup of stock and toss to combine. Add more of the remaining stock until the mixture is moist but not soggy.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish, topping with the crispy sage leaves and dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter.

Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes – remove foil and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until golden.

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It’s 80 degrees out and Thanksgiving is next week. No matter how many years I live in Los Angeles (13 so far), I will never get used to a warm weather turkey-day. It just doesn’t make sense to eat things like mashed potatoes, gravy, creamy vegetable gratins and pumpkin pie while wearing a tank top and flip-flops. But the holiday stops for no (wo)man so like it or not, it’s time to talk turkey.

Every year around this time the panicked emails start. Is it necessary to brine the bird? What do you do if your turkey is still frozen Thanksgiving morning? How big of a turkey do I need to buy? How can you tell when the turkey is done? Never has a humble bird caused so much culinary stress. But no need to worry! If you’re not among the lucky few coming to our Thanksgiving 101 class, we have decided to share our list of important turkey facts here. Most importantly, remember that this is a holiday about sharing food with the people you love and being taking a moment to be grateful — no one will really care if the turkey is a little dry. The real secret? Always make lots of extra gravy — it can cover up any Thanksgiving meal mistake.

 

TURKEY 101
• Get fresh! Frozen birds tend to dry out quicker during cooking. Organic, Free-Range and Kosher
turkeys are all great – but the most important thing is that it’s fresh.
• If you do get frozen, defrost for 4 days in the refrigerator OR submerge in a sink of cold water
(never warm or hot!) and let soak for about 12 hours, changing the water every hour.
• When buying a turkey, plan for 1 pound per person – this leaves ample leftovers.
• Don’t cook a bird over 18 pounds – it takes too long! If you need more turkey for a larger crowd,
buy an additional turkey breast (or two) and a couple turkey legs. These will roast in about 1-2
hours and can be done the day before – roast them and let rest and cool; then refrigerate until the
next day. Let them come back to room temperature and then carve the breast and place in a pan
with a little bit of turkey stock and cover with foil. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
• The ONLY way to tell for sure if your turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer – don’t trust the
red “pop-up” buttons! Remove your turkey from the oven when the white meat is at 165 degrees
and the dark meat is at 170 degrees.
• Approximate roasting times for un-stuffed turkeys at 325 degrees:
o 10 – 12 lbs – 3 hours
o 12 – 14 lbs – 3 – 3 ½ hours
o 14 – 18 lbs – 3 ½ – 4 ½ hours
o 18 – 20 lbs – 4 ½ – 4 ¾ hours
• ALWAYS let your turkey rest, tented with foil, for at least 20 minutes before carving – this will
help the juices stay inside the meat and make for easier carving.
• Carving 101 – step by step, here’s how it’s done:
o First remove the twine and ties and stuffing (if you used).
o Bend the leg back at the joint and cut to remove. Repeat for the other leg.
o Make a large cut at the base of the breast, parallel to the table.
o Make thin slices down the breast, working from the outside towards the bone. Repeat for
the other breast.
o Bend the thigh back, revealing the joint and cut to remove. Repeat for the other thigh.
Then cut off dark meat and add to the platter.
o Cut off wings.
o Save the carcass for the best turkey soup!
Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Thanksgiving is around the corner and one of the most important parts of the meal is the gravy. If you’re like me, it ends up covering everything on the plate! But how many times have you been standing over the stove 10 minutes before dinner is meant to be served, whisking like mad over a hot pan trying to get your gravy lump-free and perfect? No more! Here’s everything you need to know about to make the perfect gravy. This is a step-by-step tutorial followed by our Life Changing Cooking Tip video — it’s meant to be a base point recipe that you can adapt and modify with your favorite flavors. Enjoy!

 

The Master Recipe –

This makes 1 cup so for Thanksgiving you’ll want to make this at least 4x. But once you know this master ratio, you can make a small batch or a huge batch of gravy and it will be perfect every time.

1 tablespoon butter (or fat from your roasting pan)

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup liquid (any mixture of wine, stock, juices from your roasting pan, heavy cream, fruit juices)

chopped herbs (like tarragon, thyme, rosemary) or sauteed vegetables (like onions, mushrooms) or meat (crumbled sausage or bacon or pancetta)- optional

 

The Rules –

1. Use a skillet, not a saucepan. This will make whisking easier and will allow the gravy to cook and thicken faster.

2. Start with the butter and flour in the pan and cook, whisking constantly for 1-2 minutes — this helps begin to cook out the flour flavor.

3. Make sure any liquid you’re using is room temperature — if it’s cold it will be more likely to make the gravy lumpy. Add the liquid slowly, whisking as you go. Once you’ve gotten enough liquid in the pan to thin out the flour mixture, add the rest.

4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. This is step most often missed. By cooking for 10-15 minutes, the flour flavor will cook out, the flavors will meld and the gravy will reduce and thicken a bit more.

5. If you’re adding herbs or veggies, add them once the liquid is added.

6. Be sure to taste and season with salt and pepper at the end. Depending on what liquid you use, it may already have salt from the stock or pan juices.

7. A note on thickness: Gravy should be glossy and the thickness of maple syrup — not gloppy and thickness of pudding. Gravy will thicken as it cools. Once it’s cooked for 10-15 minutes, remove from the heat and just allow to sit in the pan for another 10 minuets to cool slightly, whisking often so a skin doesn’t appear. Then your gravy should be the perfect thickness. IF you need your gravy to be thicker at the end of cooking, you have two options: (1) whisk together 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 1 tbl cold water and whisk into boiling gravy – cook for 1 minute OR (2) mash together 1 tablespoon flour with 1 tablespoon butter and whisk it into the bubbling gravy a little at a time – cook for 5 minutes once it’s all been added.

I hope this roadmap leads to a lump-free gravy on your Thanksgiving table this year. We encourage you to get creative with this basic recipe! Our favorite version from our Thanksgiving cooking class this year is flavored with some sauteed pancetta, shallots, marsala wine and a splash of heavy cream. Delicious! Check out our video tutorial and share with us your gravy tips, disasters and flavoring ideas.

 

 

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