My Thanksgiving Menu

turkeyWith the Thanksgiving holiday just a few short days away now, I would like to share with you what I’ll be eating on Thursday. These great recipes are simple (How hard can they be if I can make them?) and will make for a really terrific meal. Trust me, I love food, and I wouldn’t have anything on the menu for the biggest food day of the year unless it is the absolute best so if you haven’t bought your groceries yet, I would highly advise adding the ingredients that make up these dishes to your list as you brave the crowds to do your shopping, and if you’ve been responsible and are already done with your shopping, think again. It is worth making the second trip to make sure these dishes are on your menu this year, so get back out to the grocery store for the sake of family, friends, and most importantly, your taste buds.

The Big Bird
Cooking a turkey on Thanksgiving is like staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve; it’s just something that you do, even though it may not be all that exciting anymore. You can’t not have turkey on Thanksgiving but it’s not all that delicious of an entree and more often than not is too dry. Well folks you are in luck, because the recipe my wife uses to make the big bird has given me the best tasting, juiciest turkey I’ve ever had, that had me wishing it was part of our week to week menu. My wife is a fantastic cook, but the recipe is not her own, but rather that of the Food Network’s Alton Brown. When he had his show, “Good Eats”, Brown dedicated an entire episode to cooking the perfect turkey, titled “Romancing the Bird”, and can be found various places on the internet including youtube. I’ll give you the recipe below but it’s also a good idea to check out the video prior to Turkey Day to get a visual on some of the steps. If you follow these instructions, and you have to do so precisely, you will end up with possibly the most delicious turkey that you’ve ever had.

For the Brine- 1 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1 gallon vegetable stock, 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, 1 & 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries, 1 & 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger, 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics: 1 red apple sliced, 1/2 onion sliced, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 cup water, 4 sprigs rosemary, 6 leaves sage, canola oil

14-16 pound frozen young turkey

2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown, also featured in Food Network Magazine

Side Dishes
Almost as important as the bird of honor are the side dishes that go along with it. A perfectly cooked turkey is great, but it’s the delicious sides that transform your meal into the Thanksgiving feast that you and your family deserve. I’m going to start with potatoes and while there are people over which kind of potatoes to serve, I’m of the belief that more is merrier and shouldn’t be limited to just one variety. That’s right, at my house we make several potato dishes, all of which compliment the meal nicely have become an integral part of my Thanksgiving day meal.

Hash Brown Casserole
I’ll start with my favorite of the three potato dishes that we make, a hash brown casserole that my grandmother has been serving up on the last Thursday in November for as long as I can remember. It combines the immaculate flavors of potatoes and cheese, topped with a favorite snack of mine, cheez-its.

1 package of 32 oz. frozen hash browns, 1/2 cup of melted butter, 1 can cream of chicken soup, 12 oz. of grated cheddar cheese, 8 oz. of sour cream, 1 teaspoon of salt, another 1/2 cup of melted butter, and 2 cups of crushed cheez-its.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add the hash browns, 1/2 cup of butter, cream of chicken soup, cheese, sour cream, and salt to a large mixing bowl and stir together until everything is mixed well.
Pour the mixture into a 13X9 casserole dish
Sprinkle the crushed cheez-its on top of the casserole
Pour the other 1/2 cup of butter over the top
Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes

This is a very simple and straightforward dish to make that is sure to please everyone at the table and satisfy the cravings of all cheese lovers.

Sweet Potato Casserole
I’m not exactly sure why sweet potatoes became such a staple on Thanksgiving menus or how it happened but I’m certainly glad that it did. The first time I ever had delicious sweet potatoes was on this holiday, so without Thanksgiving who knows how long I would have lived without experiencing their great flavors. Different people have different takes on how they serve sweet potatoes; some prefer a pie, while others serve them mashed, but in my family we eat them in a casserole. From my Mimi’s recipe book, here is the sweet potato casserole I’ll be enjoying in a few days.

3 cans of yams, 2 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Combine and mix all ingredients together then bake on 350 degrees for an hour
Take casserole out and drizzle over top mixture of 1 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup butter
Add 1 cup chopped pecans
Cover top of casserole with marshmallows and bake for 5-10 minutes or until marshmallows become a golden brown
Remove from oven and enjoy

Green Bean Casserole
Possibly my favorite of all the Thanksgiving side dishes, green bean casserole is extremely delicious and very simple to make. The crunchy layer atop the creamy green bean mixture provides contrasting textures that come together to make one of the best things at the table. From the back of a can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, I give to you this fantastic recipe.

1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1/2 cup milk, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 dash black pepper, 4 cups cooked cut green beans, 1 & 1/3 cups french fried onions

Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 & 1/2-quart casserole dish.
Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling.  Stir the bean mixture.  Sprinkle with the remaining onions.
Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Pumpkin Pie Cake
One of my favorite things about the Thanksgiving meal is the desert that comes after the main course. My preferred desert is one that combines the traditional aspect of pumpkin pie with a lighter twist so it can still be enjoyed after a huge holiday meal. We haven’t always had this desert, but once my mom’s friend told her about it, pumpkin pie cake has become as traditional in our house as the turkey.

4 eggs beaten, 16 oz. canned pumpkin, 1 & 1/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, 18 oz. can of evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix all the above ingredients together
Spray 9×13 in. casserole dish with non-stick pam and pour mixture into it
Mix together 1 box of yellow cake mix, 2 sticks of melted margarine, and 1/2 cup of pecans and sprinkle over the top layer of the cake
Bake for one hour then enjoy.

I hope this has shown you how simple it is to make Thanksgiving dinner and will inspire your inner chef to show your friends and family how talented you can be in the kitchen. Whether you use these recipes or not, I hope your meal is wildly successful and hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving.


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