Produced and written by Stephen Exel
However it happened, Thanksgiving ended up at your place this year. Good. This is your chance to make it smaller, cozier and a whole lot more fun. And guess what? It’s going to be less time-consuming and three times as tasty. Plus, even if you're a first-time host, you can do the whole thing without calling Mom once. Unless you just want to hear her voice.
Traditionalists, worry not. You'll find your favorite
fare—turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberries and green beans with onion ring topping. It's all here, but
with a fresh makeover. Best of all, your Thanksgiving
dinner won't require a lot of fuss to pull off. Turkey in
two hours? Got it. Simple and super side dishes? They’re
in here. A good game plan? See our Turkey Timeline, below, on for our make-ahead strategy.
The most important thing to remember is this: When
you combine good food, good drinks and good company,
you can’t miss. We've given you the first two. You've got
the third one covered.
Purchase good small-batch bourbon (such as Knob Creek) to prepare the brine and gravy. You’ll want a sip or two while cooking.
Prep: 45 min. + chilling Bake: 2 hours + standing Yield: 6 servings plus leftovers
In a very large bowl or Dutch oven, combine
all brine ingredients (give the lemon
halves a slight squeeze as you add them to
release juice); stir until salt and brown sugar
Rinse turkey breast and drumsticks under
cold water. Place in a large oven roasting bag;
place bag in a stockpot or large roasting pan.
Carefully pour brine into bag; squeeze out as
much air as possible. Seal bag and turn to
coat. Refrigerate 10-12 hours or overnight,
In a medium bowl, whisk the bourbon,
mustard, honey, syrup, sage, salt and pepper.
Reserve 1/2 cup glaze in a small bowl for the
turkey; cover and refrigerate. Set remaining
mixture aside for gravy.
In a medium saucepan, saute shallot in 1
Tbsp. butter until tender. Stir in flour. Whisk in
broth and remaining bourbon mixture. Whisk in remaining butter. Bring to a boil; reduce
heat. Simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened,
about 20 minutes. Strain gravy through
a fine-mesh sieve; cool. Transfer to a storage
container; cover and refrigerate overnight.
Drain and discard brine. Rinse turkey
breast and drumsticks under cold water; pat
dry. Spray a large shallow roasting pan and
rack with cooking spray. Place turkey breast,
bone side down, on rack, leaving room for
drumsticks. Brush with 2 Tbsp. of the reserved
glaze. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Add
drumsticks to rack; brush with 1 Tbsp. glaze.
Brush turkey breast with another 2 Tbsp. glaze.
Bake 1 1/2 hours longer, brushing twice with
remaining glaze, or until a meat thermometer
reads 170° (cover loosely with foil if necessary
to prevent overbrowning). Turn drumsticks
over for the last 30 minutes of baking. Cover
and let stand for 10 minutes before carving.
Meanwhile, transfer gravy to a saucepan to
reheat, stirring occasionally. Add additional
bourbon if gravy becomes too thick. Serve
Make Ahead: Brine the turkey overnight and
make the gravy the day before, and on the day
of serving all you need to do is bake the turkey
and reheat the gravy. The brine can be prepared
the day before using it; cover and chill
until ready to add to the bag with the turkey.
Don't be scared: Brining is
simply marinating using a salt
solution. It keeps your turkey
extra juicy. For easy cleanup,
use our plastic-bag-in-a-pot
method. We like using a 6 1/2-qt.
stock pot because it keeps
everything compact, is easy
to fill and transport, and, best
of all, fits neatly in the fridge.
After everything is in the pot,
just secure the bag and its
contents with a loose knot.
The very tart vinaigrette avoids the sweet
overtones of traditional cranberry sauce.
Prep: 20 min. + chilling Yield: 6 servings
Thinly slice green onion tops; set aside.
Thinly slice white portion of onions. In a small
saucepan, saute white portion of onions in 1
Tbsp. oil until soft. Stir in cranberries, orange
juice, brown sugar and mustard. Bring to a boil;
reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, until berries
pop and mixture begins to thicken, about 7
minutes. Cool slightly.
Transfer cranberry mixture to a small food
processor. Add the water, remaining oil and
reserved green onion tops; cover and process
until blended. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid; refrigerate
at least 1 hour.
In a large bowl, toss greens with apple slices,
walnuts and enough vinaigrette to coat. Serve
salad with remaining vinaigrette.
Make Ahead: The cranberry vinaigrette can
be made 2 days ahead and stored in a covered
container in the refrigerator.
A 1/2-teaspoon measuring
spoon or melon baller is a
handy tool for scooping out
the pulp of the baked potatoes.
Prep: 1 1/4 hours Bake: 20 minutes Yield: 6 servings (2 stuffed potato halves each)
Scrub and pierce sweet potatoes. Bake at 400° for
about 45 minutes or until tender. When potatoes are
cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise; scoop
out pulp, leaving a thin shell. Reduce oven temperature
Place the pulp in a food processor. Add the goat
cheese, buttermilk and butter; cover and process
until smooth. Add the orange juice, orange peel
and chipotle powder if desired; cover and process
Place potato shells on a baking sheet. Sprinkle
with salt and pepper; spoon potato mixture into
shells. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until heated
through. Sprinkle with bacon.
Make Ahead: Prepare the recipe through the second
step, processing the pulp of the baked potatoes. Place
shells (in a single layer) and potato mixture in separate
containers; cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.
Bring to room temperature. Stir potato mixture to
fluff before stuffing shells; bake as directed.
Pears, dates, sourdough and honey make
for a flavorful dressing that complements
the caramel, fruit and grain flavors of the
bourbon in the Brined Wild Turkey.
Prep: 30 min. Bake: 50 min. Yield: 6 servings
Spread bread cubes in two 15-in. x 10-in. baking
pans. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes or until
dried, stirring once or twice.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, saute
onion in butter until tender. Add garlic; cook 1
minute longer. Remove from the heat. Add the
pears, dates, nectar, thyme, pepper and salt;
stir to combine.
Transfer bread cubes to a large bowl.
Increase oven temperature to 350°. Add pear
mixture to bread cubes; toss gently. Drizzle
with broth; toss gently just until moistened.
Transfer to a greased 3-qt. baking dish.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover;
bake 20 minutes longer or until browned and
heated through. Drizzle honey over top.
Make Ahead: Bread cubes may be baked a
day ahead and stored in an airtight container
at room temperature. Dressing may be
prepared up to 4 hours before baking. Keep
covered and refrigerated until ready to bake.
Panko, or Japanese bread crumbs, are coarser and
crispier than traditional bread crumbs.
Prep: 15 min. Cook: 40 min.
Yield: 6 servings
In a large ovenproof skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. butter. Add
onion. Sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and
pepper; toss to coat. Cook over medium heat,
stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and slightly
golden, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Add panko; toss to coat.
Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 15 minutes or
until crumbs are crisp and golden brown, stirring
Meanwhile, in another large skillet, saute mushrooms
in 1 Tbsp. butter until tender. Add garlic; cook
1 minute longer. Add the soy sauce, green beans and
remaining butter; toss. Cook over medium heat for
10-12 minutes or just until beans are crisp-tender.
Season the beans with additional sea salt and
freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir in cream; heat
through. Transfer bean mixture to a serving platter;
top with onion mixture. Sprinkle with parsley if
Make Ahead: Slice the onion and mushrooms and
trim the green beans in the morning. Store separately
in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook.
Prep: 45 min. Bake: 50 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
Cut off tops of acorn squash and set aside.
Scoop out and discard seeds. Trim flesh if
necessary to make cavity bigger. (If necessary,
cut small slice from bottom of squash
so they sit flat, taking care not to slice into
cavity.) Rub inside cavity of squash with
garlic; discard garlic.
In a large bowl, combine the shredded
cheeses. In a small bowl, whisk the
cornstarch, wine and cream; stir in pumpkin
pie spice, salt and pepper. Pour over cheese
mixture and toss to combine. Fill each
squash two-thirds full with cheese mixture;
Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Bake at 400° for 50 minutes or until flesh
is tender. Place bread cubes on another foillined
baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or
until dried; set aside.
Remove squash from oven. Remove
tops; stir fondue. Serve with bread cubes
Make Ahead: Bread cubes can be baked
ahead and stored in an airtight container.
Squash can be scooped in the morning; tuck
plastic wrap into interior, replace tops and
refrigerate until ready to fill.
Prep/Total Time: 5 min. Yield: 1 serving
Place ice cubes in a shaker. Add the bourbon, nectar, vermouths
and bitters; shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass;
garnish with orange peel.
Small commitments of time
prior to Thanksgiving will ease
the stress of getting everything
right on the day. Many of these
tasks can be done after you
clock out of work. Plan
on keeping Wednesday
night free for prep.
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© 2012 Reiman Media Group, LLC.