Thanksgiving in a Flash

Let’s face it…we lead busy lives. Taking a week to prepare a Thanksgiving feast for your family just is not in the cards. Thank goodness for our ancestors that could devote the week to preparing a spread fit for royalty. I will layout a Thanksgiving meal that should only take about three hours to prepare and it will hit most of those “traditional” flavors that we long to experience.

The Turkey
About seven years ago, I stumbled upon a copy of Gourmet Magazine that featured techniques for roasting turkey. It is a quick read and covers just about every turkey starting point there is:

I start with a fresh turkey. This involves a trip or two to a local farmer’s market or butcher. One trip is to order the bird. The other is to pick up and gather other supplies. You will need to plan ahead with regard to storage of the 20 pound behemoth that will be dinner.

When it comes time to roast the turkey, I prefer a simple rubbing of salt and pepper, inside and out. I will fill the cavities with onions, celery, carrot, fennel and herbs like thyme, sage and marjoram. From here I truss the turkey to help even out the cooking of light and dark meat and place it in a roasting pan. I use an inexpensive roasting pan with a rack. It is a lot sturdier than a disposable pan yet if it should experience a roasting catastrophe, I would have no qualms about replacing it.

As the article mentions, I roast the turkey at 450 degrees F. I was skeptical at first but I have had great results. I rotate the turkey after about an hour of roasting. I may or may not baste the parts that are not cooking as quickly as the rest. The turkey will be done roasting after about 2 1/2 hours depending on the size of bird. I recommend using an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature. Remove the bird from the oven when the temperature reads 165 degrees F. Allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. As you carve, remember to save the carcass and trimmings to make a stock. This will become your gravy for next year.

The Gravy
I am alluding to the idea that one year’s turkey will become next year’s sauce. One turkey carcass, a few pounds of vegetables, and some water will give about one gallon of stock. Freeze a quart of this year’s stock to use next year. Use the remaining stock to make a nice pot of soup. For this first year in the cycle, simply use the giblets and neck to make a basic stock. The article above gives a simple recipe. My preference for thickening gravy is to use cornstarch slurry. It’s quick and easy and usually does not require any additional cooking.

The Sides
There are a myriad of side dishes that could be explored. However, I am looking at quick ideas that allow for some distraction time. After all, what would Thanksgiving be if you did not see the Macy’s Parade.

To fit in the time frame, I think that a simple medley of kale, roasted sweet potatoes and onions will add a lot of color to the meal. I am sharing a recipe ( see below) for Double Butter Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes that are luxurious and fitting for a feast. I need cranberry relish to brighten and heighten the flavors. Plus the cranberries and kale almost make the meal seem “healthy.”

The Dessert
I like to leave the dessert up to the local artisan baker. My clear favorites are pumpkin pie and Dutch apple pie. They are simple and comfortable. For those that are looking to use a local bakery, I would like to remind everyone that Kent State Dining Services does a Holiday Bake Sale. Order Forms are available online . Sale ends 5 p.m. on Nov.14.

I think I can accomplish all this in about three hours on Thanksgiving Day.

Cranberry Relish

Yield: 1 quart
Portions: 8, portion size: ½ cup

1 pound fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 pineapple, peeled and cut into cubes
2 oranges, zested and peeled
1 cup sugar

Run all ingredients except sugar through a meat grinder with a medium hole die into a large bowl.

Add sugar and stir. Allow to sit under refrigeration at least two hours until the sugar has dissolved.

Double Butter Mashed Potatoes

Yield: 7 pounds
Portions: 20, portion size: 4 oz.

5 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled
2 pounds butter, room temperature
Heavy cream, as needed
Kosher salt, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

In a pot, add potatoes. Cover with cold water and add enough salt to taste like salt water.

Bring to a boil and simmer until tender. Drain.

While hot, work potatoes through a food mill.

Stir softened butter into potatoes.

Taste and adjust consistency with cream. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Sweet Potato Hash

Yield: 4 pounds
Portions: 8, portion size: 1 cup

6 sweet potatoes, diced small
1 cup yellow onion, diced small
1 pound bacon, diced
1 pound kale
Canola Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Peel and dice sweet potatoes. Place in bowl and coat with canola oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan and roast on 450 degree oven. Turn to even the cooking. Cook until tender.

In a sauté pan, cook bacon over medium heat. When it is almost crisp, add onions and sauté until tender. Add kale and sauté until wilted.

When potatoes are done, combine with bacon and kale.