Recently, I mentioned that, since I almost never strictly follow a recipe, it's hard to duplicate a fantastic dish.
The last couple of Thanksgivings, I've found myself absent-mindedly trying to remember, "what was it, again, that I put in the sweet potatoes that made them so good last year?" Since we seem to have happily settled into being the Thanksgiving house, I thought I'd make some notes here, where I can find them next year. If you guys find them useful, so much the better.
We do all the obligatory traditionals: turkey, stuffing (gluten-free and phenomenal), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and gravy. The only thing that changes much, from year to year, are the green vegetables.
I'm currently enamored of brussels sprouts. We didn't have them often as a child but when we did, I think my mom may have...microwaved them; I know they hit the table unseasoned. Don't blame her. It was a generation raised serving vegetables out of a can. My mom has come a long way; not too long ago, she called to ask me how she should prepare the brussels sprouts from her garden. This is what I told her, sans bacon, because it's not good for my dad's heart.
These are the easiest thing in the world to make, and are completely addictive. They regularly convert people who think they don't like brussels sprouts.
Vegetarians should stop reading here, or just skip the bacon, like my dad.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
1 Stalk Brussels Sprouts (Buy them on the stalk if you can. Otherwise, look for the smallest ones you can find. They're less bitter.)
1 lb Bacon ( I use Niman Ranch)
2 or 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Cut bacon bite sized and, over low heat, render it all the way down. It will take some time. (If you're making these for a holiday, this part can be done the day before.)
3. Halve brussels sprouts.
4. Place them on a roasting tray or cookie sheet. Generously toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Use your hands to make sure they're evenly coated.
5. Roast for 25-35 minutes. Turn in pan once during roasting. They're done when the cut sides have crisped and caramelized.
6. Remove from oven, and add bacon.
7. Toss to incorporate. (If you've rendered the bacon the day before, and it's cold from the refrigerator, put the whole tray back into the oven for 90 seconds or so to warm and crisp the bacon.)
8. Pop into mouth, like candy. Don't burn your fingers. Try and remember to save some for your guests.
Make Ahead Gluten-Free Gravy
My attempts at gravy have historically been hit or miss, and mostly miss. I've always dreaded making gravy; it's such a chaotic last-minute event. It's all fumbles with the scorching roasting pan, and vain attempts to separate fat from drippings--a loathsome, messy chore--in the midst of trying to get everything to the table before it gets cold.
I have made one or two noteworthy inedible gravies.
This year I smartened up, and checked out Elana's plan. I used her recipe as a leaping off point. This just become an instant classic in my holiday oeuvre:
2 Organic turkey legs
Crimini Mushrooms (The equivalent of one package's worth. I usually prefer to select them by hand, loose.)
2 Garlic Cloves
2 or 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
4 or 5 Cups Turkey Stock
1 Tablespoon Fresh Sage Leaves
Fresh Chives (small handful)
Fresh Thyme (leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs)
Fresh Rosemary (leaves from 1 sprig)
Drizzle of Cream (optional)
1. Send husband to store for organic turkey legs.
2. Preheat oven to 375°.
3. Peel and quarter onions.
4. In the same tray, drizzle olive oil over the turkey legs, onions and mushrooms.
5. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Roast and roast while you do other things. You almost can't let it go too long. I left it in for close to two hours.
7. Remove from oven. Place onions and mushrooms into Vitamix, or a good blender. Discard turkey legs, or use them for something else, if all the flavor isn't cooked out of them.
8. Deglaze roasting pan with turkey stock.
9. Add deglazing liquid, herbs, and about 3 cups of stock to Vitamix.
10. Blend. Taste for seasoning. add salt and pepper.
11. Slowly add stock until gravy is of desired consistency.
12. Optionally, if you're not afraid of a little saturated fat, finish with a drizzle of organic cream.
Gluten, or gluten-free, this was hands down the best gravy I've ever made. In addition to being gluten-free, it's also entirely stress-free: I made it first thing in the morning, while still in puttering pajama mode. The onions and mushrooms thicken it, so there's no messing with flour, corn starch, arrowroot, or any of the traditional thickening agents. In fact, it was almost a little too thick for He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-Online. Next year, I'll use more stock but, as God as my witness, I shall never again make last minute gravy!
Bourbon Laced Sweet Potatoes
This is my best effort, to date, at sweet potatoes. Definitely make them the day before:
Sweet Potatoes (I fed 12 people and 1 bag wasn't nearly enough. With 3 bags we had plenty of leftovers. 2 bags would have probably been ample.)
Good Bourbon (a couple of shot's worth)
Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice (a glug or two.)
Zest of 1 Orange, or 2 or 3 Clementines (which was what I happened to have in the house.)
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
Butter (to taste)
Salt & Pepepr
Baby Marshmallows (optional)
1. Peel and roughly chop sweet potatoes.
2. Roast at 400°until fork tender. Mashed sweet potatoes can be too wet and goopy. Roasting them, instead of boiling, helps. Don't allow them to char, as you would if making roasted root vegetables, or they won't mash well.
3. Remove from roasting pan and transfer to a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Add butter to taste. Begin to mash.
4. Add enough bourbon to give it some bite. (Keep tasting)
5. Add the orange juice and vanilla.
6. Season with salt, lots and lots of pepper, and the zest.
7. Mash through and incorporate.
8. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
9. The next day, allow ample time ( a few hours) to come to room temperature.
10. Bake at 375° for about an hour.
11. Instruct one of your juvenile kitchen servants helpers to artistically arrange marshmallows over the top. (These sweet potatoes don't actually need marshmallows, and I mostly eat around them, but it makes the kiddies happy, and it looks pretty. What can I say? I've got a little trailer happily co-existing alongside the princess in me.)
12. Broil under lowest setting around 90 seconds or so. Keep a close eye. The marshmallows will scorch in the blink of an eye.
If I were worth my salt as a blogger I'd have beautiful photographs of all this for you.