Thanksgiving Dinner: The Results

I have to apologize to the 5 of you who were patiently waiting for the results of my thanksgiving planning, but I am pleased to report it was a complete success! The turkey came out right on time (although I had to put the legs back in for another 10 minutes), and the salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and green bean casserole was all ready for our target of 2pm.

 

I ended up reducing the salt in the brine by half and starting it at about 11pm the night before. I didn’t really want to get up at 5am… Don’t worry, I used a brand new bucket from Home Depot, although there were originally concerns about whether or not my bucket had previously contained mortar or drywall mud. I promise, it didn’t.

The Turkey turned out really well, just about perfect. The final preparation included smothering the breast in butter, cooking it for an hour breast side down and then flipping it. I’ll have a blog up on it separately sometime soon.

 

The Dane

One of my biggest concerns during meal prep was my dog, Angus.  Angus is a 5’11” Great Dane whom can easily reach the counter top. With all the delicious food around, I was a bit nervous he’d knock me over to get to the Turkey resting on the counter, or the stuffing as for some reason he seems to be a huge fan of bread. I spend extra for a grain free diet, but maybe I’m wasting my money.

Turns out the perfect remedy for a Great Dane are my nephews. Ryan and Jack both love Angus, and Ryan was kind enough to keep him entertained in the basement when he wasn’t helping me in the kitchen.

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 The Nephews

While not entertaining the dog, I was a bit concerned about my 2 nephews and how we would keep them entertained for the 2 hours it would take to finish the meal. Mindy came up with a brilliant idea while we were making our final grocery shopping trip on Friday for the last minute details (I promise I was going to remember the Fried Onions eventually!). The grocery store had Gingerbread House kits, which worked out well for Jack & Ryan and the grandparents! It quickly turned into a competition to see who could build the best house.

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I highly recommend covering the table with the spare cardboard boxes laying around from your Ikea binge purchasing habits, if you’re anything like me. Mom and Dad each picked a partner and built some awesome gingerbread houses. I was definitely impressed with their ability to not only wrangle the kids, but make sure the candy actually ended up on the house and no one’s dinner was spoiled.

 

The Meal

Everything turned out great, and for my first Thanksgiving I’m definitely quite relieved. I was a bit nervous going into it, but with proper planning and strategy, even the most complex meal, like any web project, becomes a series of small, easy to accomplish tasks. Everything was done within 5 minutes of each other, and we were plating right at 2pm. I don’t think I could have planned it any better.

20131130_140118Look for follow up blogs to my specific recipes for Turkey, Green Bean Casserole, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, and the 100% made from scratch stuffing. While I was afraid I may have been biting off more than I could chew (ha!), everything turned out great. The leftovers made a great Turkey Pot-Pie that I’ll share as well.

Thanksgiving Dinner: The Prep

I meant to post this yesterday, but I decided not to.  Per my calendar and planning, I was able to prepare my stuffing and the first portion of my gravy ahead of time, hopefully in an effort to save time today.

The Stuffing

STuffingDone
Stuffing is pretty easy, just a lot of time to put everything together. First you’ll need to make sure you have 3lbs of bread already cubed into about 1in cubes, and dried. I set mine on a cookie sheet earlier in the week after I cut up a loaf I made last week.

As a reminder, for this recipe we’ll need the following:

1 1/2 pounds bacon, chopped fine
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), plus extra for baking dish
4 medium ribs celery, chopped fine
2 medium onions, minced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 2 teapoons dried
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
3 pounds high-quality sandwich bread (white), cut into 1/2-inch cubes and dried (see note)
5 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
2 teaspoons table salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper

bread2

If you forgot to slice your bread and dry it out, you aren’t screwed yet. Cube it and put it on a cookie sheet, then throw it in a 300deg oven until the bread has fully dried.

Chop your bacon into 1/4″ slices and cook it over a large skillet on medium-high heat. When finished, remove the bacon from the skillet with a slotted spoon, and place on a papertowel. Drain the grease and reserve about 3-4 tablespoons worth.

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Add 8 tablespoons of butter to your 3-4 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan.

Melt the butter then add your celery, onions and apples. Saute on medium heat until softened, took me about 12 minutes. Add your parsley, sage, thyme and marjoram and cook for another 2 minutes, then transfer everything to a large mixing bowl.

To the mixing bowl, add your bacon, the dried bread cubes, chicken stock (or broth, but what’s the difference?), eggs, salt and pepper. Mix very gently to ensure the bread doesn’t fall apart, only until everything is evenly distributed. Place the ingredients in a 15x10in baking pan.

Normally, you would then place the pan directly in the oven, but fortunately for me you can also refrigerate the stuffing for up to 24 hours. I wrapped the top securely with plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how it turned out!

 
 

The Gravy

The first portion of the gravy can be made ahead of time as well, and is very easy (so far). You’ll just need your turkey neck and giblets, 1T of vegetable oil, a roughly chopped onion (don’t peel it), 2 twigs of thyme and parsley, and 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the neck/giblets. Cook for about 5 minutes and add the onion. Cook for another 3 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and cook covered for 20 minutes.

Next, add the chicken broth and water, scrape the bottom of the pan well with a spatula, and bring the pan to a boil. Add the herbs and reduce the pan to a simmer. Scrape any foam that forms from the surface (supposedly, but mine never foamed. Should I be concerned?) and simmer for 30 minutes.

After the simmer has completed, poor the broth through a strainer to filter out the herbs and onions. Reserve the heart and gizzard (if you’re into that kind of thing) and the neck for the dogs. Refrigerate the broth and heart/gizzard until ready for use.

 

Today’s the day we find out how this all turned out. So stay tuned, and we’ll see what the final verdict was.

Thanksgiving Dinner: The Planning

The Planning. AKA, how a Geek plans his first Thanksgiving meal. Hopefully you’re with me on this one, because I’m just a bit nervous going into it. I work in IT and Project Management, so I feel like I have a leg up here. I’m great at running projects as a business owner, and immediately I’m thinking my meal will be planned using an Agile methodology, because why the hell not, amirite?

I wanted to find a good tool to help me plan my multi-course meal. I thought I’d check out Pivotal or something similar (maybe create a project in JIRA?) but ultimately decided that simpler would be better. I’m just going to use Google Calendar to set up the appropriate reminders and plan the meal.

I’m a bit nervous, considering how amazing of a cook my mother is and she’s the one I have to impress, but at the same time I know she’ll be there to help me out as needed. Here goes nothing!

The Main Course

I should probably start with the center of the meal, so let’s plan out my Roasted-Brine Turkey. Even saying that I realize I still haven’t picked up my roasting pan. Fuck.

According to my recipe, the turkey should take about 45 minutes for the first side, I’m then going to flip it, and allow it to continue to cook for another 60 minutes. Seems a bit daunting, but whatever. Let’s call it 2 hours for cooking, and 30 minutes to rest. I guess I’ll have dinner ready at 2pm? Seems like a normal time for Thanksgiving.

So the Turkey will need to go into the oven at 11:30am, and it will need to start it’s brine soak at either 5am (gross) or 11pm the previous night depending on the formula I use. I guess I’m getting up at 5.

Turkey

 

The Stuffing

The recipe for the stuffing allows me to prepare it 24hrs in advance, then it just needs to be cooked for an hour. Should work out well, as the stuffing will be going in the oven the last 30minutes the turkey is in the oven. Hurrah for planning!

I’ll start the stuffing around 12:45pm, and it should finish about 1:50pm.

 

Mashed Potatoes

One of my favorites ever since I was a kid, these are pretty easy. The potatoes will get cooked for about 30 minutes, then mashed with butter and cream. Should take under an hour, so we’ll start them at about 1pm as well.

The Gravy

Also allowing for some preparation a head of time, the gravy will get a bit of work on Friday, then be finished while the turkey and stuffing is in the oven on Saturday.

 

Apps and the Salad

I’ll have Mindy help out with the Salad, because she’s awesome at them. My appetizer will just be cheese, so odds are it will come out on a plate first thing, as we start to prepare the meal. Should be pretty fun.

 

Schedule – the Fine Tuning

Final

Looking at what I’ve got so far, there are a lot of overlapping items. I’m going to go through and tweak them just a bit, offsetting each by about 5-10 minutes depending on the task.

 

ScheduleFinal

 

Okay, we’ve officially got a schedule! Now all I can do is be nervous and feel like I’ve forgotten something.

Speaking of, I better go grab that roasting pan!

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Thanksgiving Dinner: The Shopping List

I’ll admit, this will be my first, solo thanksgiving dinner where I’m in charge of the kitchen. It’s a bit intimidating, and requires a lot of planning. Fortunately in my real line of work, I’m a manager of a technical workforce which requires a lot of the same skills that I think will (hopefully) make me successful here.

For dinner, I’m planning a multi-course experience (yes, I said experience) which will start with a basic cheese and meat plate with wine. (My family is a bunch of winos, but nothing wrong with that!)

For Salad, I’m hoping to do a pomegranate Arugula salad. Should be pretty tasty, and easy to whip up.

For the main course, it’s going to be a roasted brine Turkey with a recipe I picked up from Cooks Illustrated. We’ll see how it turns out, but I shouldn’t need anything to big. Probably just a 12(ish) pound Turkey. I’ll add that to the shopping list now.

For sides, I’m thinking mashed potatoes and turkey gravy (duh!), stuffing, and a green bean casserole (or as my fellow Minnesotans would call it, hot-dish?).

I won’t need rolls or a dessert, as I’m fortunate enough to have a mother who volunteered (well, volun-told as we would say in the Army) to bring those in. Lucky me!

So tomorrow, I’ll be planning to ensure I have the following items, and being the planning phases!

Various cheese and sausages
Crackers (undecided on type)
Turkey (12-15lb)
Salt
Butter
Salad:
Lemon Jucie
Pomegranate molasses
red wine vinegar
olive oil
Pomegranate
toasted walnuts
arugula
salt/pepper
Gravy:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Reserved turkey giblets and neck
1 onion, unpeeled and chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 parsley stems
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
Potatoes:
2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 cup half-and-half, warmed
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
Ground black pepper
GreenBeans:
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2c milk
Soy sauce
pepper
4 cups green beans
1 1/3 cup french's friend onions
Stuffing:
1 1/2 pounds bacon, chopped fine
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), plus extra for baking dish
4 medium ribs celery, chopped fine
2 medium onions, minced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 2 teapoons dried
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
3 pounds high-quality sandwich bread (white), cut into 1/2-inch cubes and dried (see note)
5 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
2 teaspoons table salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
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Super Simple Scones

So this is a scone recipe I picked up a while back at AllRecipes.com, and it’s great! Super simple, not a lot of ingredients, and it tastes awesome.

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To start, you’ll need the following:

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp Baking Power
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 stick unsalted butter (frozen or chilled)
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 Large Egg
1/2 cup dried or frozen fruit (Raspberries, Currants, Raisins, etc)
1 tsp. sugar
Oven details:
 400 Degrees
Bake Time:
 15-20 minutes (or until golden brown)

 

 

First, evenly mix together dry ingredients in a good size bowl (Flour, Sugar, BP, BS, Salt). Next, using a large cheese grater, grate in the frozen butter. Then, use your fingers to work the butter into a course meal and stir in the fruit you’ve selected.

In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the Sour Cream and egg until smooth. Pour this mixture into your dry ingredients and mix in with a fork until large dough clumps being to form. Then, continue to work with your hands pressing the dough against the side of the bowl until a ball forms.

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Once the ball has formed, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and form into a 7 to 8in circle about 3/4 inches thick. Sprinkle surface with final tsp of sugar.
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Finally, cut diagonally with knife into 6 or 8 triangles. Place the triangles on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a SilPat baking mat.

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Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Scones are best served warm or at room temperature.

 

Additionally, you can melt white chocolate chips and sprinkle once they’ve cooled for an added sweetness on the top, or serve as is with your morning tea or coffee. Guaranteed to be a hit!

I’m pretty bad at this…

Okay, so maybe a *bit* more than just pretty bad. I downright suck at blogging. I always start off with the best intentions, but my follow up is terrible. So I can promise to be better at this, but you and I both know this really isn’t going to change anything with my current habits. All I can do is say I’ll try.

What’s going on? Not a whole lot. I’ve done some cooking, I’m getting better at baking, and my woodshop is coming along nicely! I made a great little stool last weekend which works like a champ. I have a few tweaks but I may build another one so I can properly practice my mortise and tenon work. It needs a lot. The weather is getting colder, so I’m sure there will be more stews in my future, but I’ve also made some great pasta from scratch, an awesome sauce, and some great italian bread. If nothing else, I should use this as a repository for my recipes.

So look for more awesome stuff in the future I guess, but for now it’s the same old ‘nothing new to report’.

Beef Stew

On tonight’s menu, it’s beef stew.

For some reason, this is my go-to recipe when the weather is being absolutely ridiculous out, and we live in Minnesota so that occurs on a fairly regular basis.

 

Minnesota. Nice.
Like today, for instance.

 

For my absolutely terrible, yet super hardy and delicious stew, you’ll need the following:

 

Scotch
1lb beef, cut into strips. (Stew or Stir-Fry works pretty well)
Salt, to taste really
Black Pepper
2 Cans – Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 Onions
5 red potatos
3-4 Stalks of Celery
3-4 Carrots

First and foremost, grab a glass and pour yourself some of that scotch. The weather outside sucks, so you deserve it.

Next, grab a stew pot and add the cream of mushroom soup. Campbell’s condensed works great, but only use half the water. Put it on the stove on low or simmer and mix it up just a bit.
Now’s a good time to grab some more scotch

 

While the soup warms up, quarter the onions and potatoes, and chop the celery and carrots. Add them to the pot.

Let the pot simmer for 3-4 hours, or until the beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring occasionally. The last 30-40 minutes give it a taste and add salt/pepper as needed.

 

Seems complicated, right? The best part about this stew is you can use the veggies that have probably been sitting in the fridge just a bit too long, and the kitchen will smell great as it cooks.

Once the beef is thoroughly cooked and the potatoes are soft, serve the stew in a homemade rosemary bread bowl, let it thicken up and serve with rice, or just eat it right out of the pot. The leftovers work great for lunch over the next few days as well.


I went with the rosemary bread bowl.

Mindy seems to enjoy it, hopefully you will too!