Archive for December 4th, 2011

4th December
written by Arthur

For the first time in my 29 Thanksgivings, I took the lead for this year’s day of culinary excess.  Over the years, I’ve cooked a variety of T-day dishes.  A sweet potato dish for the big day here, a Turkey for a work party there.  But, before this November 24th, I never had to worry about the timing of it all at once and I’d never made real stuffing.

In order to ensure a moist turkey, I took the only path I know that doesn’t involve a deep fryer: brining.  It seems counterintuitive, but soaking a Turkey (or any meat for that matter) in a salt bath actual makes for a more moist bird.  I’m not a chemist, but the process allegedly involves osmosis–where the cells in the bird take on more water.  For a 13-15 pound turkey, use one and a half gallons of water and one and a half cups of kosher salt.  Combine the water and salt in a large pot, heat (to below a simmer), and stir until the salt is dissolved.  Then cool the pot in an ice bath or outside as Loren recently suggested.   The cooling is critical, otherwise you’ll be holding the turkey at a temperature idle for bacterial growth.  Once the brine has cooled immerse the turkey fully and set in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours.  You can immerse the turkey in either a large pot or in a large trash bag (it’s a good idea to triple layer if you go the bag route).   Prior to cooking, remove the turkey from the brine and put an herb butter mixture under the skin.  The herb butter will add some flavor and further moistness.   The end result?  An amazingly moist turkey.  Even days later the left overs are still moist.  I honestly don’t understand why everyone doesn’t brine their Thanksgiving turkey!

While the Turkey is the corner stone of thanksgiving dinner, everyone knows that the day is really about the sides.  So I pulled together some stuffing, a sweet potato dish, creamy garlic mashed potatoes, some fresh baked bread, and cranberry sauce.  Stu (the vegetarian) brought a nice big pan of mac’n cheese and Matt, in classic MN style, brought a pan of green bean casserole.  Iggy and her sister Heidi made a cucumber and sour cream salad.

The Stuffing

Since Stu is a vegetarian, I made both a meat and vegetarian version.  Both start the same way, with a few cups of celery and a few cups of yellow onion.  In a heavy bottom pot, cook the finely chopped celery and onion for approximately 15 minutes until soft and translucent.  For the meat version, I added in a few chopped chicken and apricot sausages.  Next I added about a cup of golden raisins that had soaked in warm water for about 20 minutes.   Next throw in a bunch bread crumbs and slowly mix in a few cups chicken stock (Stu let me do this for the “veggie” version as well) until the bread crumbs become soft, but not soaked.  At this point you can either stuff the turkey or bake in a baking dish.  Because oven space was at a high premium, I cooked the veggie batch on the stove in a dutch oven to create that crispy outside.

The Sweet Potatoes

This one requires a little planning.  The night before cooking  these you’ll need bake a couple sweet potatoes in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until they can be easily pierced with a knife.  Store in the fridge over night.   When it’s time to actually make the rest of the dish, skin the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1 inch slices.  Layer the slices sweet of potatoes with some crushed walnuts and canned sliced pineapple rings.  On the top, layer mini-marshmallows.  Bake covered for 15 to 20 minutes and then bake uncovered until the marshmallow begin to brown.

Cranberry Sauce

I had never made cranberry sauce before, but I was excited to try something new.  For some reason I had  visions of ginger cranberry sauce dancing in my head.  After finding a few recipes, I put a couple in to the following:


  • One 16 ounce pack of cranberries
  • One cup of water
  • One cup of sugar (1/2 recommended for the future)
  • One table spoon of ginger
  • Zest of one orange
Combine the sugar and water in a pan, heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Next add the cranberries and other ingredients.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook for 5-10 minutes, until  all the cranberries have burst (there is a minute or two where you can hear them popping like weak popcorn).  Remove from the heat, let cool and then refrigerate.
Overall, I liked how it turned out.  The orange and the ginger paired well with the sourness of the cranberries.  I would use the recipe again, but I would cut the sugar back to a half cup–this version was just a little overly sweet.

Also, while making my own cranberry sauce was fun, I still had to follow tradition and break out the canned stuff, served on a plate with can rings and all.

The Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Nick has made this dish a few times before and when it came time to select a mashed potato dish I knew that this one had to be it:


  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 5 table spoons of butter
  • 2/3 cups heavy cream
  • One bulb of roasted garlic

Slice off the very top of the garlic head. Drizzle the head with olive oil and wrap in foil and bake at 400 for roughly 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Cut the potatoes into large pieces, making sure all are relatively the same size. Place the potatoes in a large pot, add the salt, and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to maintain a rolling boil. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile heat butter and cream until butter melts. Add the roasted garlic to the potatoes, mash all together, add the butter-cream mixture, and continue to mash until combined.  Serve immediately.

Warning: this dish is delicious AND incredibly filling.

The Meal

True to Thanksgiving tradition, after hours of prep and a day of cooking, everyone at the table was full beyond the ability to move in about 25 minutes.  After a movie break,ThanksKilling (a little known gem of a movie that was robbed at the Oscars), and picking at our plates as the first round of food settled, it was time for a little coffee and some great homemade apple and pumpkin pie.

All-in-all, I would say my first Thanksgiving cooking was a success.