November 18, 2009 in Food

Put a new spin on classic Thanksgiving dishes

By The Spokesman-Review
Molly Quinn photo

Ideas for alternatives to traditional Thanksgiving menu dishes.
(Full-size photo)

Thanksgiving is the time for tradition. For most families, there’s never a question about what will be on the holiday table. But if you’re thinking of adding a new dish to the menu or want to try something a little bit different, consider a recipe that doesn’t stray too far from the classics. The suggestions below come from an array of magazines, books and Web sites, the perfect places to find inspiration and guidance for holiday cooking.

Cider-glazed turkey

From Gourmet, November 2009. “A roast turkey glazed with a buttery, cider syrup is burnished outside and juicy within. You’ll have more than enough gravy to ladle over the stuffing, the smashed potatoes, and tomorrow’s leftovers,” editors wrote. It’s their final edition; publisher Conde Nast announced plans to shutter the stalwart food magazine this fall.

For turkey:

1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey, at room temperature 1 hour, neck and giblets (excluding liver) reserved for stock

1 apple, cut into chunks

1 small onion, quartered

1 small bunch thyme

1 cup water

For cider glaze:

1 cup unfiltered apple cider

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

For gravy:

2 cups dry white wine

Melted unsalted butter, if necessary

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

About 4 cups hot turkey giblet stock

Preheat oven to 425 degrees with rack in lower third.

Rinse turkey inside and out and pat dry. Put turkey on rack in roasting pan and season inside and out with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Put apple, onion and thyme in large cavity. Fold neck skin under body, then tuck wing tips under breast and tie drumsticks together with string.

Add water to pan and roast, without basting, 1 hour.

Meanwhile, boil cider and sugar in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved and mixture is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter 1 tablespoon at a time, until emulsified. Let glaze stand until ready to use.

After turkey has roasted 1 hour, rotate pan 180 degrees. Roast, without basting, 40 minutes more.

Brush turkey all over with glaze and continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into fleshy part of each thigh (test both; do not touch bone) registers 165 to 170 degrees, 5 to 15 minutes more (total roasting time: 1 3/4 to 2 hours).

Carefully tilt turkey so juices from inside large cavity run into pan. Transfer turkey to a platter and let rest, uncovered, 30 minutes (temperature of thigh meat will rise to 170 to 175 degrees). Discard string.

Make gravy while turkey rests: Strain pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve into 2-quart measure and skim off fat (or use a fat separator), reserving fat.

Straddle roasting pan across 2 burners, then add wine and deglaze by boiling over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 2 minutes. Strain through sieve into measuring cup containing pan juices.

Put 1/2 cup reserved fat (if there is less, add melted butter) in a 4-quart heavy saucepan and whisk in flour. Cook over medium heat, whisking, 3 minutes. Add pan juices and stock in a fast stream, whisking constantly, then bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.

Briskly simmer, whisking occasionally, until gravy is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve turkey with gravy.

Yield: 8 servings

Wild rice, dried cherry and almond stuffing

From “Thanksgiving 101” by Rick Rodgers. This stuffing can be made up to 1 day ahead. “The deep, earthy flavors of this stuffing work especially well with wild turkey. Wild rice is really a grass, not a rice at all. Cooking times depend on the type of wild rice. The most expensive wild rice is hand-harvested from canoes and takes the longest time to cook. Machine-harvested brands … cook more quickly,” he writes.

1 cup (4 ounces) dried cherries

2/3 cup tawny or ruby port

2 cups (11 ounces) wild rice, rinsed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus 3 tablespoons butter if making ahead)

3 medium celery ribs, finely chopped, plus 1/3 cup finely chopped celery leaves

1/2 cup minced shallots

1 cup (4 ounces) toasted slivered almonds

4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage or 2 teaspoons dried

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup turkey stock or canned reduced-sodium chicken broth, or as needed

In a small bowl, mix the dried cherries and port and let stand while preparing the stuffing.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the wild rice and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the wild rice is tender and most of the grains have burst, 45 to 60 minutes. Drain well and rinse under cold running water. Place the rice in a large bowl.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped celery and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots and celery leaves and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cherries and their soaking liquid. Boil until the port has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir the mixture into the wild rice, along with the almonds, sage, salt and pepper. (The stuffing can be prepared up to 1 day ahead, stored in a self sealing plastic bag and refrigerated. To reheat the stuffing, melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter over medium heat in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add the stuffing and cook, stirring often until warmed.)

Use to stuff the turkey. Place any remaining dressing in a buttered baking dish, cool, cover and refrigerate. To reheat, drizzle with about 1/4 cup broth and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Yield: About 10 cups


From Williams-Sonoma “Thanksgiving”

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 cup all-purpose flour

Butter a standard-sized, 12 cup popover or muffin pan.

In a bowl, combine the eggs and salt. Using a whisk, beat lightly. Stir in the milk and butter, then beat in the flour just until blended. No not overbeat.

Fill each popover cup about half full and place in a cold oven (see note). Set the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and continue to bake until popovers are golden, 10-15 minutes longer. They should be crisp on the outside.

Quickly pierce each popover with a thin metal skewer or the tip of a small knife to release the steam. Leave in the oven for a couple of minutes for further crisping, then remove and serve at once.

Note: According to cookbook author Marion Cunningham, the best way to bake popovers is to start them in a cold oven. If this doesn’t work in your Thanksgiving Day cooking schedule, they may be baked in a preheated oven, but check them after 25 minutes to be sure they are not done early.

Yield: 12 popovers

Rosemary cranberry sauce

From “Happy Holidays from the Diva of Do-Ahead,” by Diane Phillips. “This piquant sauce is also delicious to serve for other holidays. Offer it as an accompaniment to roasted poultry or pork, use it as a glaze for ham, or spoon it over block of cream cheese to spread on crackers,” Phillips says.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries, picked over for stems

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and rosemary and cook, stirring, until the onion softens, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and continue boiling until the cranberries begin to pop and the mixture begins to thicken, 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for another 10 minutes until the cranberries have popped, releasing their juice.

Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Note: At this point you can cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Yield: About 3 cups

Green beans with crispy pancetta, mushrooms and shallots

From Fine Cooking, October-November 2009. The article, “Flip Sides” by Susie Middleton, offers modern makeovers for six favorite Thanksgiving side dishes. “The onion-topped green bean casserole is a Thanksgiving mainstay,” Middleton writes. “This version, while full of familiar flavors, is a bit more elegant and dare we say it, a lot more flavorful.”

Kosher salt

1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed

2 1/2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (5 or 6 1/16- to 1/8-inch slices)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 medium cremini mushrooms, trimmed, halved if large and very thinly sliced

2 medium-large shallots, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced

1/4 cup very thinly sliced fresh sage leaves

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Fill a large mixing bowl with ice cubes and water and set aside.

Fill a 6- or 7-quart pot two-thirds full of well-salted water. Bring the water to a boil and boil the beans uncovered until tender to the bite, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain, transfer to the bowl of ice water, and let sit until cooled, about 2 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Put the pancetta in a 12-inch nonstick skillet and cook over medium-low heat until crisp and browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and coarsely crumble. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool slightly.

Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the pan and return it to medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, shallots and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until both are nicely brown and shrunken, about 5 minutes. Add the sage and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Take the pan off the heat and add the vinegar, mustard and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Stir to combine.

Return the pan to medium heat, add the green beans and toss to combine and heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Transfer to a warm serving platter and garnish with the pancetta.

Note: The beans can be boiled and refrigerated up to 6 hours ahead. The remaining ingredients can also be prepped up to 6 hours ahead and held in the refrigerator. An hour before finishing, remove the beans from the refrigerator to come to room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings

Bacon smashed potatoes

From Gourmet, November 2009: “Taking a cue from German potato salad, these Yukon Golds are smashed with a hot bacon dressing and then tossed with fresh dill. Steaming rather than boiling the potatoes keeps them fluffy.”

3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 to 3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons chopped dill

Steam potatoes in a large steamer rack set over boiling water, covered, until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet.

Add 2 tablespoons vinegar, sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to hot bacon fat, scraping up brown bits.

Transfer potatoes to a large bowl, reserving 1/2 cup steaming water. Add vinegar mixture to potatoes and smash with a potato masher to desired texture, adding reserved water if desired. Stir in dill, reserved bacon, remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Note: Potatoes can be made 3 hours ahead and kept at room temperature. Reheat, covered, in a microwave or in a 300-degree oven.

Yield: 8 servings

Brandied sweet potato-apple gratin

From “You’ve Got it Made: Deliciously Easy Meals to Make Now and Bake Later,” by Diane Phillips.

2 (15.5-ounce) cans sweet potatoes, drained or 4 large sweet potatoes, baked until soft and peeled (see note)

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup dark corn syrup

1 tablespoon brandy

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch ground nutmeg

2 medium-size apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sweet potatoes, 2 tablespoons of the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, brandy, cinnamon and nutmeg at medium speed, until smooth.

Coat the inside of a 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread half of the sweet potato mixture in the dish. Top with a layer of apples, then the remaining sweet potatoes mixture.

Cover the sweet potatoes with the remaining apple slices, arranging them in an artful pattern. Brush the top of the apples with the remaining butter, completely coating the apples so that they don’t discolor.

Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, if necessary.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Allow the casserole to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the apples are golden brown. Serve hot.

Note: If you would prefer to bake your own potatoes, prick them several times with the sharp point of a knife and bake them at 400 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, until the potatoes are soft when squeezed with a pot holder.

Yield: 4 servings

Pumpkin ice cream torte

From Cooking Light, November 2009. Thaw 10 minutes before serving to slice.

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Cooking spray

1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

9 cups vanilla low-fat ice cream (about 1 1/2 cartons), divided

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted and divided

1/4 cup jarred caramel topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine first 4 ingredients (mixture will be crumbly). Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes; cool on a wire rack.

Combine pumpkin and spices in a bowl. Soften 6 cups ice cream; add to pumpkin mixture, stirring to blend.

Spoon half of mixture into prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze 1 hour or until firm. Cover and freeze remaining pumpkin ice cream.

Soften remaining 3 cups vanilla ice cream; stir in 3 tablespoons pecans. Spread over pumpkin ice cream layer; freeze 1 hour or until firm.

Soften remaining 3 cups pumpkin ice cream; spread over vanilla ice cream mixture. Cover; freeze 8 hours or until firm.

Cut torte into 12 wedges. Place 1 wedge on each of 12 plates. Place topping in microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high 45 seconds. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon topping; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon pecans.

Yield: 12 servings

Nutrition per serving: 260 calories, 8.2 grams fat (3.1 grams saturated), 5.6 grams protein, 40.9 grams carbohydrate, 13 milligrams cholesterol, 2.8 grams dietary fiber, 186 milligrams sodium.

Winter sangria

From Cooking Light, November 2009. “For the best flavor, let the sangria chill overnight. If you can’t find satsumas, use tangerines instead,” editors note.

1 cup fresh satsuma orange juice (about 4 satsumas)

1 cup satsuma orange sections (about 2 satsumas)

1/3 cup triple sec (orange-flavored liqueur)

1/4 cup sugar

2 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

1 (750-milliliter) bottle fruity red wine

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Yield: 10 servings (serving size: about 2/3 cup)

Nutrition per serving: 137 calories, less than 1 gram fat (no saturated fat), .3 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, no dietary fiber, 4 milligrams sodium.

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