Monday, November 24, 2008

The easiest Thanksgiving dinner you'll ever make!

Call it getting by with a little help from my friends: nobody needs to know their names are Uncle Ben and Betty Crocker.

Tackle these recipes the traditional way and it’s an all day affair or sneak in a few simple fakes and presto: you have extra time to play with your children, go for a walk, visit a friend or just relax. Print out the shopping list and get ready to save time and eat well.

Wondering why a girl in Toronto would be fussing with Thanksgiving in November? We're celebrating American Thanksgiving this year because our son is going to school in Lake Placid and is home for the holiday. So we are thankful and eating turkey together with family and friends this week just like millions of other across the border. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!

Game Plan: Since most people have only one oven, big holiday meals can prove problematic. The key to success is balance stove top cooking with oven required items.

Oven Roasted Turkey Breast with Maple Thyme Glaze
If a big turkey is overwhelming, cook the breast only. It cooks in about an hour and there's no tricky carving. The simple glaze elevates it to something special. Time saved = 4 hours

2 1.5 to 2 lb split bone-in turkey breasts (the whole breast but cut into two parts)
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 ½ tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
1 tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Combine butter and maple syrup in a microwavable bowl and micro for 90 seconds or until butter has melted and syrup has boiled and thickened. Add thyme.
3. Place turkey on a roasting pan. Brush turkey with oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook in preheated oven.
4. Baste turkey with maple mixture after 50 minutes. Continue to cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until an internal thermometer reads 165F. The timing can vary due to the amount of time the oven door is opened and close so a thermometer is highly recommended. Remove turkey from oven then baste once more. Tent turkey with foil to rest for at least 10 minutes. Use roasting pan to make gravy.

Stove-top Cider Gravy
Traditional gravy takes at least 20 minutes, ours 3. Time saved = 17 minutes

3 cups apple cider
2 packages poultry gravy mix

1. Add cider to roasting pan to loosen any baked on bits.
2. Whisk in mix and move roasting pan to stove element set to medium high. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to low. Add additional cider if gravy is too thick.

Sausage, Apple & Cranberry Stuffing (stove-top & oven baked)
This stuffing may come from a box, but it sure doesn’t taste like it. Sausages, tart apples and cranberries make it an instant favourite. Spend your time prepping the embellishments, not mountains of dried bread. Traditional stuffing takes up to 45 minutes to prepare, ours: 10 minutes. Time saved = 35 minutes

3/4 lb sausages (Italian or garlic and herb)
2 Granny smith apples, cored and diced but not peeled
1/4 cup butter
2 cups water
1 cup dried cranberries
2 boxes stuffing mix (120 g Uncle Ben’s Stuffing Mix)

1. Squeeze sausage from casing and cook in a large pot over medium heat. Break up sausage into small pieces while it cooks. Add apples during last few minutes of cooking.
2. Add butter and seasoning packages, if separated, and water to pot. Increase temperature to high and stir to combine. Add cranberries and dried stuffing mix. Combine then transfer to large greased baking pan or casserole container. Can be prepared in advance up to this point and refrigerated until ready to bake. Cover and bake in a preheated oven for 60 minutes.

Garlic Mashed Potato Bake (stove-top & oven baked with stuffing)
Two convenience products in one dish elevate each other to new heights. The hash browns add a chunky texture to otherwise boring mashed potatoes. Although pre-cooking the hash browns adds a step, the creamier finished product is worth it. Green or yellow onions can be used in place of leeks.

1 package frozen hash brown potatoes (680 gr)
1/4 cup butter, divided
1 cup chopped leeks
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 package dried mashed potato mix (113 gr Idahoan Butter and Herb is good)
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
pinch ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper

1. In a pot of boiling water, cook frozen hash browns 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In same pot, cook leeks and garlic in 1 tbsp butter over medium heat until softened and translucent. Add water and milk then bring to a boil. Stir in potato mix and drained hash browns. Turn off heat.
3. Mix in remaining butter, sour cream and goat cheese. If mixture looks to stiff, add more milk. Stir in nutmeg, salt and pepper.
4. Transfer to a greased glass lasagna pan (9 x 13). Bake for 60 minutes in a preheated 350 F oven or until golden brown around edges and on top. Broil for the last five minutes to brown up if needed. Leave broiler on if making brussel sprouts.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
Pretend that you have a sous chef who has pre-trimmed and blanched your brussel sprouts when you start this recipe. At that point you are simply warming vegetables and garnishing with crisp bacon. Time saved = 20 minutes

1 kg frozen brussel sprouts, defrosted and drained
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp olive oil
8 slices pre-cooked bacon, chopped
2 tbsp cider vinegar
salt and pepper

1. In an baking pan large enough to hold sprouts in one layer, broil sprouts in chicken stock 5” from heat source until warmed through and stock has almost evaporated, about 6 minutes.
2. Add olive oil and toss. Sprinkle bacon over top and continue to broil until bacon is crisp and brussel sprouts are browned on the edges, about 8 minutes. Shake pan after 4 minutes to prevent one side from burning.
3. Carefully add vinegar (it will bubble when it hits the hot pan). Swirl around to coat sprouts and bacon. Season with salt (check first because bacon adds saltiness) and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Stove-top Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Puree
I love butternut squash but cutting and peeling sometimes turns into a wresting match with sharp objects: case in point. A simple fake uses diced squash and canned sweet potato. The roasted red chile paste adds a smoky note to this sweet dish. Look for the small jar in the Asian food section of your grocery store. Time saved= 25 minutes

1 kg frozen, diced butternut squash
1 can sweet potato (597 ml), drained
1/4 cup butter + 1tbsp for finishing
1 tsp each: vanilla and salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp each: cinnamon and cumin
1/4 tsp roasted red chilli paste pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar, to taste

1. Cook frozen squash in steamer insert over boiling water for 5 minutes or until defrosted. Drain well and transfer to a large pot. Add sweet potatoes and mash. Over low heat, add remaining ingredients except sugar and stir well.
2. Sprinkle brown sugar and small pieces of reserved butter over top so it can melt in. Cover pot and keep warm until ready to serve. Taste and add further seasoning if needed.

Pear Upside Down Cake
For best results use two 9” diameter round cake pan. Plan to bake this cake while you are eating dinner so that you can serve it immediately. Scratch cake easily takes 25 minutes to pull together, ours only 7 minutes from start to finish. Time saved = 18 minutes

1/3 cup butter + extra for buttering pan
11/4 cups brown sugar
2 cans Bartlett pear halves or slices (398 ml/14 oz)
1 box lemon cake mix*
3 tbsp cornmeal
* ingredients plus 3 eggs, 1 to 1 1/4 cups water and 1/3 cups oil

1. Melt butter in microwave. Add brown sugar and microwave 90 seconds or until bubbly and brown sugar has dissolved.
2. Pour half of the syrup in each buttered cake pan. Tilt pan to distribute evenly. Don’t worry if it doesn’t completely cover pan bottom. Arrange fruit cut side down in a pretty pattern. Slice extra thick pieces so entire pan has fruit on it.
3. When preparing cake mix add 3 tbsp of cornmeal prior to adding wet ingredients indicated on the box.
3. Pour half of the cake mix (2 1/4 cups in each pan) over fruit.
4. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cake and the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan.
5. Immediately after removing the cake from the oven, run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen. Use a larger (10” minimum) plate held on top of the cake pan. Flip the pan over and gently remove the cake pan. Serve immediately.

Shopping List
2 x 1 1/2lb bone in turkey breasts (called split breasts)
maple syrup
fresh thyme
apple cider
2 package poultry gravy mix
1 lb Italian sausages
3 granny smith apples
2 boxes stuffing mix (120 gram is usual size)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 package frozen hash brown potatoes (680 gr)
2 leeks
minced garlic
1 package mashed potato mix (4 serving size)
sour cream
goat cheese
Asiago cheese
1 kg frozen diced butternut squash
1 can sweet potato (597 ml), often incorrectly referred to as yams
brown sugar
toasted walnuts
1 kg frozen Brussels sprouts
chicken stock
1 package precooked bacon
cider vinegar
2 cans Bartlett pear halves
1 box lemon cake mix


Jaina said...

Oh yum, I can't wait for Thanksgiving!

Last Place Finisher said...

Have you ever barbequed a turkey? That is an easy way to fix one!