Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner, 2008

This year was a small Thanksgiving for us, only about 8 people. But, we didn't use that as an excuse to make less food...



Ingredients:

  • Turkey and derivatives:
    • Brine
      • Apple Cider
      • Cranberry juice
      • Water
      • Rosemary
      • Thyme
      • Sage
      • Sea salt (~10tbs)
      • Black pepper
      • White pepper
      • Red pepper
      • Paprika
    • Stuffing
      • Whole Foods Gluten Free Sandwich Bread (toasted and cubed)
      • Onion
      • Celery
      • Green pepper
      • Dad's spice mix (found on Chicken, The Phantom Menace post)
      • White wine
      • Pecan halves
      • Craisins (raisins made from cranberries)
    • Gravy
      • Gluten Free Flour (we used Bob's Red Mill all purpose mix)
      • Vegetable oil (just a little to brown the flour in)
      • Turkey drippings, strained and separated
      • Milk
      • Salt & Pepper (lots, just keep adding until it tastes right to you)
  • Side of Fruit
    • Pineapple
    • Grapes
    • Cantaloupe 
  • Side Salad
    • Lettuce 
    • Carrot shavings
    • Red Peppers
    • Artichoke Hearts
    • Tomatoes
    • Various dressings
  • Green beans
    • Green beans
    • Chicken Broth
    • Salt
    • Pepper
  • Steamed Vegetables
    • Cauliflower
    • Carrots
    • Broccoli
    • Butter
    • Garlic Salt
  • Mashed Potatoes
    • Potatoes
    • Milk
    • Butter
    • Salt
    • Pepper
  • Cranberry Sauce
    • Cranberries
    • Sugar
    • Water


Procedure:
Turkey:
    This year, I brined the turkey overnight.  The brine consisted of about a gallon or so of liquid, split roughly between apple cider, cranberry juice, and water.  To that I added lots of sea salt, spices, and fresh herbs.  The brine simmered for about an hour and a half, long enough to infuse the herb flavors into the liquid, caramelize the sugars in the juices, and boil off some of the water.  I removed the giblets and rinsed the turkey well (I also had to cut off some fat and some of the giblets that were left in the cavity - the bird had been butchered in haste).  I placed the turkey in a huge ziplok bag made for brining turkeys and added the cooled brine.  This went in the fridge for about 15 hours, roughly an hour per pound.
    The morning of Thanksgiving, we took the turkey out of the brine, rinsed it briefly, and rubbed it with oil.  Then, we stuffed and trussed it and baked it at 325 until the internal temperature was 185 (about an hour for every 3 pounds).  Because we forgot to move the rack to the very bottom, the turkey started blackening early.  We covered it lightly with foil.  It looks pretty black in these pictures, but was not actually burned.  I'm not sure if the brining makes the skin blacken faster than normal, it may.  

Stuffing:
    My dad has gotten gluten free stuffing down pat.  We just use Whole Foods Gluten Free Sandwich bread, toasted and cut into cubes.  Another GF bread would be fine, but I would stay away from anything with oily or hard seeds (flax, poppy, etc), or large amounts of bean flour (too much flavor that doesn't really go with stuffing) - the closer to white bread you can get, the better - you want to soak up flavor with the bread, not add too much.  To start the stuffing, caramelize onions, celery, and green pepper with a little oil or butter and seasonings to your taste (we used my dad's general spice mix, found here).  Use a little white wine or other liquid to de-glaze the pan when it's almost ready.  Mix the vegetables with the bread cubes, pecan halves, and lots of melted butter.  It should be a moist, butter mix.  This goes into the turkey to become extremely delicious.  Some people prefer to make stuffing on the stove top.  I don't buy into that, but you could probably get good results that way, just using turkey drippings to add flavor instead of baking in the turkey.  I can see doing that so you can make more than you can fit in a turkey.  

Gravy:
    We usually make a white gravy.  You start by browning some GF flour with a little oil, making an unappetizing brown goo.  Add some turkey drippings, strained and separated.  Just keep mixing slowly and all the clumps of flour will go away.  Add some milk slowly, while stirring.  Add salt and pepper, until it tastes the way you like it.  You can add more drippings or milk as needed to get the balance right.

Mashed Potatoes:
    You should know how to make these.  Boil lots of peeled potatoes.  Drain.  Mash with milk, butter, salt and pepper.

Steamed Vegetables:
    My mom makes this all the time, easy and delicious.  Cover a large plate with a head of cauliflower, surround it with some cut up broccoli and carrots, pour some melted butter over it, sprinkle on some garlic salt, cover with saran wrap, and microwave for about 10-15 minutes, until everything is nice and soft.

Cranberry Sauce:
    Cranberry sauce is very easy to make, and much better than the canned stuff.  Just boil cranberries in sugar water until it tastes like cranberry sauce.  I don't remember the ratio of sugar and water, but I think its about equal amounts - bags of cranberries have the recipe on them.

Other sides:
    The other sides were just a tossed salad, some cut up fresh fruit, and green beans simmered in chicken broth.


Resulting Deliciousness:
    This Thanksgiving turned out very well.  The turkey was extremely flavorful, the brine worked just how I wanted it to.  The dark meat took on the flavor especially well, maybe because it has a larger skin surface area - to - meat ratio than white meat, or maybe because it is a little fattier and more flavorful to start with.  The stuffing turned out as good as it always does.  I think the GF bread, being higher in fat than normal bread, actually makes a better stuffing than any wheat-based bread stuffing I've ever had.  All of the sides turned out great, as always.  Next year (and at Christmas), I think I want to venture out to some new sides.

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