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Thanksgiving Dinner for 9

Guacamole with Tortilla Chips
Brined Turkey with Italian Sausage Stuffing
Our Traditional Potato Casserole
Tomatoes Stuffed with Creamed Spinach
Roasted Root Vegetables
Spiced Cranberries
Plum Crumble with Plum Ice Cream

It seems as if every year I try a different way to roast a turkey and I’m usually not very happy with it. The turkey is dry, over or undercooked, etc. etc. Each year I swear I’ll never cook one again, mostly because of the number of dirty dishes a turkey dinner creates. But, like most things, time makes me forget all that and I’m again craving the aroma of a roasting turkey in the oven and looking forward to having family and friends around the table.

This year, I checked out some food blogs for ideas and landed on Pioneer Woman, a very good read and a brine recipe that said ‘Turkey 2011’ to me. I bought a small (about 13 lbs.) fresh free-range bird and brined it for 24 hours. The turkey was incredibly moist and tasty, even though we could not discern the individual flavours from the brine. Here is the poor thing in the brining bag:

(I roughly halved this recipe)
1 1/2 c. apple juice
1 gallon cold water
2 T. fresh rosemary leaves
4 clove garlic, minced
3/4 c. Kosher salt
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 T. peppercorns
3 bay leaves
peel of 2 oranges

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover. Allow to cool completely, then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place turkey in brine solution and refrigerate for 16-24 hours. When ready to roast the turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse very well under cold water and pat dry.

To roast turkey, place it on a rack in a large roasting pan and cover tightly with heavy-duty foil. Place in a preheated 275ºF and roast for about 2 1/2 hours (if roasting a 20 lb. turkey, roast for about 3 1/2 hours). Melt 1 stick of butter in a bowl. Remove turkey from the oven, and brush with 1/3 of the melted butter, increase oven temperature to 375ºF and place the turkey uncovered back into the oven. Continue roasting, basting with butter every 30 minutes until the internal temperature registers 170ºF. Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest until ready to serve.

Italian Sausage Stuffing
Since the turkey tends to get overcooked and dry when it’s cooked already stuffed, I bake the stuffing in a separate dish. It can be mixed and almost completely baked early in the day, then uncovered and finished to brown the top while the turkey is resting. For people who prefer a meatless stuffing, just substitute a variety of sautéed mushrooms for the sausage.

about 8 cups of Italian bread, cut into 1″ cubes
2 T. olive oil, divided
1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed (mild or hot, to taste)
3 medium onions, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. fresh thyme, chopped
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 c. chicken or turkey broth
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. Italian parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Put bread on baking sheet and bake until just dried out, about 10 minutes. Heat 1 T. oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and cook the sausage, stirring and breaking it into small pieces, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl with the toasted bread cubes. Add onions, celery, garlic and thyme to the pan and 1/2 t. each of salt and pepper, and cook until soft and golden. Add vegetables to the bread and sausage. Whisk together the eggs, stock, cheese and parsley, then stir into stuffing. Turn into a buttered baking dish, cover with foil and bake at 425ºF for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is golden and crisp, about 15 more minutes. (Stuffing can be made and baked up to the last step, then reheated and browned before serving.)
This is the bread I used:

Tomatoes Stuffed with Creamed Spinach
1 T. unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 T. flour
pinch grated nutmeg
3/4 heavy cream
1 package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to tast
grated gruyère cheese
8-9 tomatoes

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Melt butter in heavy saucepan. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add the cream and cook until thickened. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach and add the spinach to the sauce. Add Parmesan cheese and season to taste. Using a melon-baller, hollow out some of each tomato to create room for spinach stuffing. Fill tomatoes and top with grated gruyère cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes or until heated through and lightly brown on top. Tomatoes can be filled, covered and refrigerated the day before serving.

Our Traditional Potato Casserole
This has been part of our family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner menu for many years. It can be assembled 1-2 days ahead, covered and refrigerated, then baked before serving. Or, it can be completely baked, refrigerated and then microwaved to heat. Just leave the onion ring topping till the end so they stay crisp. If I am feeling energetic, or I am contributing food to the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at someone else’s house, I have made my own deep-fried onion rings. But the tinned variety is so easy and quite good.

2. c. mashed potatoes
1-8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 eggs
2 T. flour
salt and pepper
1 can deep-fried onion rings
9″ square dish

Cook and mash potatoes. Beat in the cream cheese, onion, eggs, flour and salt and pepper. Turn into buttered baking dish and top with onion rings. Bake until hot, about 25 minutes at 350ºF. Makes 8-10 small servings and can easily be doubled for a crowd.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Marcona Almonds
This recipe is adapted from Leite’s Culinaria I used fewer types of vegetables than indicated in the original recipe, but stuck with the addition of sage-garlic butter, sherry vinegar and marcona almonds which combine to make this a unique dish. I bought the almonds at Pane e Fromaggio on 10th Avenue, Vancouver. Don’t worry if you can’t find them, just use regular almonds.

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 small acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 small celery root, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 small yams, peeled, seeded and cubed
5 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 c. Marcona almonds, toasted
1 1/2 T. sherry vinegar
Sage-Garlic Brown Butter, warm
zest of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a roasting pan or on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast vegetables until tender, about 30 minutes.

To make brown butter sauce: Melt 3 T. unsalted butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add 1T. finely chopped garlic and cook until garlic and butter are just golden brown. Stir in 6 thinly sliced fresh sage leaves and remove from heat. Stir in almonds and sherry vinegar.

Drizzle the vegetables with the brown butter sauce and nuts and garnish with lemon zest.
If making ahead, roast vegetables and make butter sauce. Reheat vegetables and toss with the sauce before serving.

Spiced Cranberries
4 c. cranberries
1 T. grated lemon zest
2 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1 cinnamon stick
2T. lemon juice
1/2 t. ground cloves

Combine zest and sugar in a food processor, then put into a saucepan with the water, cinnamon stick, lemon juice and cloves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add cranberries and boil slowly for 12 – 15 minutes, or until thick.
Makes about 2 cups.

Plum Crumble
I tried this for the first time, having read the post on The Wednesday Chef. I had some perfectly ripe prune plums and was wondering what to do with them. I was really in the mood for plums, so paired this with the plum ice cream recipe below. And what a plummy dessert it turned out to be! I used almost double the number of plums called for in the original crumble, and have adjusted this recipe accordingly.

22 purple Italian or prune plums, cut in half and pitted
3 T. brown sugar
2 T. plus 1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. plus 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground ginger
3 heaping tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 t. baking powder
1 egg, well-beaten
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted

Place plums in bowl and heat oven to 375ºF. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix brown sugar, 2 T. flour, 1/4 t. cinnamon, ground ginger and candied ginger. Add to plums and mix well. Arrange plums skin side up in ungreased, deep pie plate.

In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar, baking powder, remaining flour and cinnamon. Mix well. Stir in egg and, using hands, mix thoroughly to produce little particles. Sprinkle over plums.

Drizzle butter evenly over crumb mixture and bake 30-35 minutes, or until plums are soft and the top is lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool. Serve warm.

Plum Ice Cream
Adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts
The plum purée and custard can be made a couple of days prior to freezing. The mixture needs to be very cold to freeze properly.
3/4 lbs. soft ripe prune plums
1 c. whipping cream
5/8 c. sugar
2 egg yolks
vanilla to taste
Wash the plums, cut them in half and pit them. Crack 4 or 5 of the pits and reserve their kernels. Cut the fruit into 1/2″ slices and put them in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of water and the reserved kernels. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until the plums are tender, about 15 minutes. Purée them through a food mill of in a blender or food processor, depending on how smooth you want the purée. Boil 1/2 c. of water and 1/2 c. of sugar for 5 minutes, then add it to the purée. Chill thoroughly.

Warm 1/2 c. of the cream with the 5/8 c. sugar in a heavy saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Whisk the egg yolks just enough to mix them and pour in a little of the warmed cream mixture, stirring constantly. Return to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the spoon. Add the remaining cream and the plum purée and chill thoroughly. Add a few drops of vanilla and freeze according to the directions with your ice cream maker.

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