Believe it or not, you can make an entire Thanksgiving meal in under 2 hours. Yep, TWO HOURS! That’s less time than it takes to watch a bad Saturday afternoon movie on TBS … with commercials!
Thanksgiving is intimidating to most people, and I’m not sure why. The actual meal is easy. There are so many options, which make choosing what you make harder, but not hard. Even if you’re not a cook, what could be easier than throwing a bird in an oven for a couple hours?
What’s scary about Thanksgiving is “living up to tradition” and “pleasing your guests.” For almost everyone I know, Thanksgiving is steeply routed in tradition. Canned cranberry sauce vs. homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing inside the bird vs. stuffing outside the bird, and the gravy! Who’s gonna make the gravy?!
For our family it’s simple: pour more wine and welcome anyone who walks in the back door. We’re not too fussy about the actual meal. Because when it comes down to it, you do one of two things: eat too much (and either regret it out of caloric guilt or extreme pain), or just consider it another meal. For us it’s the latter.
I much prefer the company I keep that day. Note to the wise, if your guests give a rats-ass about why your gravy is separating or your cranberry is out of a can, they should go stuff and baste themselves.
In New York, it’s even harder. This is why I understand people being intimidated by Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving in a tiny apartment … with one oven … a tiny set of burners … and expensive NYC groceries ($23/lb for pecans!?!) … now that’s rough. Hence why the reservation line is busy.
Here are some tips:
- Cut your ingredients in half. Using bacon in one dish? Use it in another. Prepare it in a different way or include it with contrasting ingredients (bacon with your Brussels Sprouts and then again in your Dried Cranberry Cornbread Stuffing, one is savory, one is sweet).
- Break the turkey apart. Separating the turkey into pieces allows for the bird to cook faster and more efficiently. We’ve all over-cooked the breast waiting for dark meat to cook. Ask the butcher/meat guy to do this for you.
- Create a sure-fire pan gravy with the “good stuff” aka the innards. The neck, use it. Backbone, you bet. Those are the key ingredients to tradition. “Traditional” food is code for your grandmother’s gravy recipe and butter.
- Make everything individual. “Individual” is great for New Yorkers, everyone loves their space. Give them their own Thanksgiving sides. Cooks faster and keeps people feeling special. Again, something New Yorkers love to feel, special.
- Cook and drink! While you’re at it, throw on some football. You’re probably hung-over from the night before, so why not keep going? Everything will taste better by the afternoon anyway, even if you screw up.
Here are the recipes I used during the class I taught at Whole Foods last week. Happy Thanksgiving!
Cider Glazed Turkey with Lager Gravy
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Cornbread and Pancetta Stuffing
Apple Pie “Cupcakes”
Cider Glazed Turkey with Lager Gravy (serves 12)
- 1 12 to 13 lb. turkey (to be broken down)
- olive oil
- Head of garlic, opened and halved
- 1 Jalapeno, halved
- 1 Granny Smith apple, quartered
- 12 sage leaves
- 1/2 cup cider
- 1 stick butter
- vegetable oil
- turkey bones and giblets
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 1 12-oz lager
- 1 bay leaf
Break down the turkey into breast and wing, thigh and drumstick portion. Reserve backbone and giblets. Or choose a turkey and ask the butcher to break it down and give you the giblets.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In roasting pan add all turkey parts and generously drizzle extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. In roasting pan add garlic, jalapeno, apple, and half sage leaves. Place in oven and cook for 30 minutes.
In small sauce pan heat butter with remaining sage leaves and cider. After 30 minutes rotate the pan and begin glazing with butter mixture, every 20 minutes or so.
To prepare gravy add oil and remaining salted and pepper turkey pieces (minus the liver). Sear and remove from pan. Stir in flour to make a paste and gradually whisk in cider and lager. At this point you can return the turkey parts or discard. Add turkey and 3 cups of water, bay leaf and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until thick. Given our timing this could be thick or thin. Remove bay leaf and turkey parts.
Puree the gravy, strain if necessary.
Allow turkey to cook until browned and 165 degrees F. About an hour and a half.
Cornbread and Pancetta Stuffing Cupcakes (serves 12)
- olive oil
- 8 oz. pancetta, cut into cubes
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 lb. cornbread, cut into 1” cubes
- fresh sage
- 3 eggs
- chicken broth (1-3 cups, depending on dryness of bread)
Place cornbread (if not already toasted) in oven at 350-400 degrees until slightly toasted. Allow to cool. In a skillet cook pancetta until slightly browned, remove and drain. Place in bowl. Add onions, celery, salt and pepper and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly. Add all dry ingredients to pancetta bowl and toss. Whisk eggs and mix, carefully not to cause cornbread to break apart. Add just enough broth to moisten and place in well buttered muffin tins. Dollop each muffin with tablespoon of butter.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta (serves 12)
- olive oil
- 8 oz. pancetta, cut into cubes
- 2-3 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved
Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat and add pancetta. Cook until slightly browned and drain on paper towel. Drizzle a bit of olive oil, judge on how oily the pancetta is. Add sprouts and caramelize. When they begin to brown add pancetta back and season with salt and pepper.
Apple Pie Cupcakes (serves 12)
- 3 free form pie shells (divided into quarters)
- 6 apples, granny smith or a “less sugary apple”
- sugar, to taste
- 2 TB all purpose flour
- nutmeg, dash
- 2 TB bourbon
- cinnamon, to taste
- punch of salt
- 12 TB unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Separate pie shells and chill while making the filling. Cut apples in slices, and then half the slices. They should be small pieces, since we’re making cupcakes not pie. Season with sugar. This depends on the level of sweetness in your apples. TASTE the apples. If they are tart, add as much as 1/2 cup. If you think they are sweet, limit it to 1/4 cup sugar. Add flour, nutmeg (a dash!), cinnamon to taste, and bourbon. I also ask for a pinch of salt. The mixture should be wet but not soupy.
Line the muffin tins with each pie portion. It won’t be perfect. If you’d like to make them in more circle forms, use a rolling pin and shape, not necessary as they will overhang the tin. Add the apple mixture and crinkle the remaining pie shell around. Add one tablespoon of butter on top of each muffin.
Bake until golden brown. About 15-17 minutes.