This year Thanksgiving had of a bit of a sour note leading up to the big day! We’d received news from my grandmothers doctor’s and hospice workers two weeks ago that they didn’t think my grandma was going to make it to Thanksgiving day. Well I am happy to report she did, so it’s really given Thanksgiving a special meaning in my home this year! And funny enough my grandma’s crotchety side came out yesterday and she just wanted to sleep most of the day and “couldn’t be bothered with all that food” but we managed to get her up & dressed for a few pictures.
Thanksgiving holds a long and storied history in my family, as sometimes it was just my immediate family (mom’s side of the family) celebrating and at other times it was the entire family (which was craziness), but you really never knew which it was going to be up until a few days before. I think this is part of why my mom never really learned to cook for just a few people, but on Thanksgiving, leftovers are most welcome the day after! With German, Greek and Jewish heritage, food was always the focus of our family gatherings.
So with all that has been going on with my grandma, as well as my aunt has been at my house for two weeks and would be spending Thanksgiving away from her immediate family, I really wanted to go over the top and make a truly delicious meal with all of the traditional accoutrements, as well as some specialty items for my aunt (She’s on Medifast) so she had some healthy options.
Here is the menu I’d mapped out for the big day:
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Southern Style Stuffing
- Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts in a Balsamic, Brown Sugar & Shallot Reduction
- Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
- Roasted Butternut Squash, Golden Beets and Fennel
- Cranberry Orange Relish
- Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
I am a big fan of duck and have been having a hankering for it lately, so I thought “perfect I will kill two birds with one stone” and order a turducken (which is actually three birds). Turkey, duck and chicken all wrapped up in one beautiful package and stuffed was what was on the menu for Thanksgiving at my house! So late week I ordered the turducken from Whole Foods Market, complete with gluten-free stuffing.
I did the rest of my shopping Tuesday night, as I didn’t want to get caught in the pre-Thanksgiving rush that ensues within any grocery store! So with my younger brother in tow, we split the grocery list and divided and conquered, acquiring all of the necessary items from Whole Foods Market within one hour! Now getting it into the refrigerator when we got home would be another story, but my brother assured me he could make it all fit (I seriously had my doubts so I purchased 10 lbs of ice just in case we need to use the cooler).
Thursday morning I arose at 10am to start baking pies and take the bird(s) out of the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature before placing them in the roaster and popping it into the oven. I usually like brining my turkeys, but with having a turducken that was already stuffed that option was out this year! Sooooo . . . .I took a tip from Tom Colicchio and I applied butter to the outside of the turducken, but kicked it up a notch! I whipped the butter with white truffle and garlic oil. Placing the bird on the rack inside the roasting pan, I began to slather the mixture onto the bird while it was still relatively cool (I know it’s not the healthiest of recipes, but that butter mixture was to die for) and added fresh sprigs of rosemary!
Pies Pies Pies. Now that I had the bird out of the way, pies where the 1st thing to be baked off. I made it easy on myself this year. I purchased pureed pumpkin from Whole Foods, added in condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and poured into a gluten-free pie crust from Whole Foods Bake House – Simple as 1-2-3! Set the over at 425° for 15 minutes and then rotated pies and reduced oven heat to 325° for 30 minutes. I would recommend par baking the crusts for 10-15 minutes to ensure a light, flaky and golden crust.
Turkey Time! Setting the over at 325° and sliding the roasting pan into the over at 12noon, the bird would be ready to come out by 4pm. Goal was to have dinner ready at 5pm, as my brother had to work on Thanksgiving, and it’s all about the timing. I basted the bird every 30 minutes ensuring the bird didn’t dry out. Birds in, and next began working on preparing all the side dishes.
First up was the Southern style stuffing. I had no recipe in hand, this was just me shooting from the hip knowing what flavors I wanted. Here is the recipe/directions:
- One (1) container of gluten-free stuffing from Whole Foods (prepared in their gluten-free bakehouse)
- One (1) load of Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free 4 Grain Bread (darker bread)
- 1 lbs of Italian bulk sausage
- 1/2 lb of Turkey or chicken livers
- 1-2 8-10oz Containers of Oysters (or whatever is available & shucked in your local grocery store)
- 5 Cloves of garlic
- 1 Shallot
- 1/2 Leek (large)
- 1 Egg
- 5-8 Mushrooms (I used Cremini for this recipe)
- 1/2 Cup of butter
- 1/2 Cup of chicken stock
- White Truffle Oil
Begin by cutting up the bread into cubs (Whole Foods comes prepared in cubes) and place into a large bowl (You will be adding all the ingredients in so make sure it’s a large bowl). Chop up the mushroom, shallots, garlic, leek, livers and oysters. SautÃƒÂ©ing each separately in about a teaspoon of white truffle oil and add into the mixing bowl. In a large pan on medium heat cook the Italian Sausage. Once completely cooked, pour into the large bowl. Allow to ingredients to cool off for about 10-15 minutes and mix with your hands. This will allow you to get a better mix of the ingredients and won’t cook egg when you add it in.
Next add a lightly beaten egg with a 1/2 cup of chicken stock. You can however, if you prefer, use a large spoon to mix all the ingredients together. Take a large glass baking dish and a medium size souffle dish and spoon in stuffing mixture into each. Melt 1/2 cup of butter and drizzle across the top of each dish. Bake at 325° for 30-45 minutes or until golden brown on the top. I always prepare two containers of stuffing as the stuffing in the large baking pan tends to be dry and the stuffing in the souffle dish more moist. We’ve always had a need for both over the years and it’s just become habit!
Veggie Brigade – With my aunt being on her Medifast diet, I wanted to ensure she had some options, but I was also looking to add more veggies to a traditional Thanksgiving meal that is so typically a carb fest! While I was watching the Food Network one random afternoon weekend, I caught an episode of Trisha’s Southern Kitchen where she was making “asparagus bundles” and knowing asparagus is one of my mom’s favorites and who doesn’t love bacon, I knew this would be a winner for Thanksgiving day. Key is to get thin asparagus for this recipe. Here is the recipe/directions:
- One bunch of asparagus (thin)
- 1 lbs bacon (I prefer smoked apple wood or smoked maple bacon thin cut)
Wash the asparagus, laying out on town to absorb any excess water. Group asparagus into bundles of 5 pieces. Next take a slice of bacon and tightly wrap around the asparagus bundle. If done properly you won’t need to secure with a toothpick. Place on a foil wrapped cookie sheet and cook at 325° for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes to ensure bacon cooks fully. Turn broiler on and cook for no more than 5 minutes watching carefully and rotate so as to not burn bacon.
Next up is roasted butternut squash, golden beets and fennel. I had no recipe for this, it was just a dish I’d been wanting to try, as I don’t really care for beets. I’ve had them prepared in restaurants and just loved them, but wanted to strike out on my own and create a dish I loved just as much. Here is the recipe/directions:
- 1 Butternut squash (medium size)
- 3-4 Golden beets
- 1 Fennel bulb
- Garlic olive oil
Begin by cutting the butternut squash in half and removing the seeds. Next remove the skin from the outside of the squash (this can be done by either using a peeler or a knife). Once skin is fully removed, cut squash into medium sized cubes. Taking the golden beets, cutting off the beet stalk/greens. Next peel the beets and cut into medium size cubes. Last but not least, take the fennel bulb and remove the stalk, setting aside the foliage as you will use some of this when mixing the ingredients together before roasting. Slice the fennel bulb into 1″ pieces. Put all the ingredients together on a foil wrapped cookie sheet. Drizzle with garlic olive oil, lightly salt, pepper and add in fennel foliage. Roast at 325° for 40-50 minutes or until tender.
Brussels Sprouts – I’ve had a love hate relationship with brussels sprouts since I was about 7 years old. When I was growing up I refused to eat my dinner one night and yes you guessed it brussels sprouts were part of the meal. My father told me I had to sit at the dinner table until I finished my dinner. I was still sitting there the next morning with said brussels sprouts on my plate and a very sore toosh (wood chairs don’t fare well for long term seating solution). So since then until about 2004 when I spent a few months in Spain and Portugal, I wouldn’t touch brussels sprouts. Then moving here to Austin, Chef Paul Qui (of Uchi, Uchiko, East Side Kings & winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Texas) changed my mind, along with Chef Shawn Cirkiel of Parkside. Both created dishes that were flavorful and kept me coming back for more! So it’s on the list and here is how I prepared:
- 15-2o Brussels sprouts
- 1 Shallot
- 1/4 Cup of Balsamic Vinegar
- 1/2 Cup of palm sugar
- 1 Tbsp of butter
Wash off brussels sprouts and drain excess water by placing in strainer. Remove exterior leaves and cut off bottom of stalk, cutting brussels sprout in half. Set brussels sprouts aside and dice up shallot. Next in a cast iron skillet melt 1 tbsp of butter and saute shallots until translucent, adding in balsamic vinegar and palm sugar, stirring until sugar and butter have fully incorporated into balsamic vinegar. Allow to come to a light boil and add in brussels sprouts. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes and then transfer to a foil lined cookie sheet. Roast at 325° for 30-45 minutes or until tender.Mashed Potatoes – No recipe needed here as these are pretty straight forward. I did set aside the truffle butter to add into the potatoes, along with heavy cream. Perfection!
Cranberry Orange relish is the only dish I can’t take credit for making, as this is a dish my mom has made year in and year out during the holidays. It’s so simple but yet so delicious! Here is how to make this fantastic side dish:
- 1 Bag of Cranberries
- 1 Orange
- Palm Sugar
Zest orange into a small bowl and set aside. Peel orange and cut up into slices. Place half the bag of cranberries and orange into a food processor and pulse until you get a fine chop on the cranberries. Remove from food processor into a bowl. Repeat this step by putting the remaining cranberries/oranges into food processor. Adding mixture to bowl add sugar to taste. I used approximately 1/4 cup of palm sugar. The dish should have a tart but sweet taste.
Gravy – I cheated here or did I? With cooking the turducken, I was concerned about the amount of drippings I’d get to make gravy. So thankfully Whole Foods makes this really delicious gluten-free mushroom gravy – Done & Done!
While things were roasting and cooking, I had time to style the dining room table. I kept it simple but incorporated some fun items into the Thanksgiving table decor. Using a piece of found wood that I had previously stained, I placed a table runner on the table and set the wood on top of the runner. Next I placed a flower arrangement I purchased from Whole Foods in the center and then worked my way out on each side adding candles, gourds, and other decorative fall decor.
Overall it was a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. My family and I were honored to be able to spend another day with my grandma who has been the cornerstone of our family and what has held us all together over the years. She will be truly missed, but for today and the days ahead of me that I get to enjoy her company I will be forever grateful!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the visual feast as much as we enjoyed our Thanksgiving feast!