Tidewater Kitchen: November 2005

A Classic Thanksgiving

I was thinking about all the Thanksgivings I have spent with my family and what has made them so special. It was all about the familiar smells, the familiar tastes and the beginning of cold weather. It’s about tradition and having some of the same things every year that everybody looks forward to.

MOLASSES GLAZED
ROAST TURKEY

Adding the cider/molasses baste and brining the bird not only enhances the turkey’s color, but also makes it much more flavorful. The salt in the brine unravels the meat proteins, which allows it to release its natural juices. Sugar has a huge capacity to hold the water, and as the sugar is absorbed into the bird it brings added moisture along with it.

The Brine:
8 cups water
2 cups pure maple syrup
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
6 whole cloves
6 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
16 cups ice cubes
1 fresh or frozen turkey, about 12-14 pounds (thaw if frozen)
2 gallons cold water, or as needed

Cider Base:
1 cup apple cider or juice
¼ cup molasses

Combine the water and the next 7 ingredients for the brine in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the ice to cool the brine. Place the turkey in a 4-gallon bucket and pour the brine mixture over it. Add cold water until the turkey is immersed, then refrigerate; brine for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. Combine the cider and molasses in a small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a roasting pan with heavy-duty foil. Remove the turkey from the brine and prepare for roasting. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Add a few cups of water in the pan.
Roast the turkey for 45 minutes, then remove from the oven. Using a pastry brush, brush the turkey with the cider mixture. Tent with foil, roast another 45 minutes, then brush with basting mixture again. Roast an additional 1½ hours, brushing 4 more times. Make sure the foil is tented over the turkey as it continues to roast. Cook until the turkey registers 170 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. Make sure you allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

MAKE-AHEAD GRAVY
(Makes 6 cups)
This gravy is great to make the day before and reheat when you are ready. I have used canned turkey stock to make this in a pinch, but homemade just makes it taste its best.

Stock:
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large onion, cut into wedges
4 garlic cloves, smashed
3 lb. turkey wing pieces
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water

Gravy:
1 cup whole milk
6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roast the celery, onion, carrot and garlic, along with the turkey wings, in a large oven-proof pan for 1¼ hours.
Add 2 cups broth and roast an additional 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to the stovetop and add the remaining broth and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until the liquid is reduced to about 4 cups. Remove the wing pieces, strain the vegetables and defat the stock.
I like to put the milk and flour in a jar with a lid on it and shake it really well. Then I add it to the stock and bring to a boil. This helps with your no-lump gravy. Whisk in the slurry (flour and milk) and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

CORNBREAD DRESSING
(Makes 10 cups)
For the best cornbread stuffing, you need stale or dried-out French bread and cornbread first. This will allow the starch cells to soak up all the delicious flavors.

6 cups stale cornbread, torn into pieces
4 cups stale French bread, cubed
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups whole milk
1 stick butter
2 cups celery, diced
2 cups onion, diced
3 Tablespoons minced fresh sage
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup minced fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 3-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Combine both types of bread, broth and milk in a large bowl, stirring just to incorporate. Let stand for 3 minutes.
Saute celery and onion with the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add sage and cook for 1 more minute.
Add the celery mixture, eggs, parsley and seasonings to the bread mixture. Mix well, then spoon the dressing into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until golden brown.

GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE with CRISPY ONION RINGS
(Makes 4 cups)
This is the old favorite, but with a new and very flavorful twist! This recipe has no canned soup in it and can be made the day before and reheated.

2 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced
½ cup onion, sliced
1 cup button mushrooms, quartered
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups warmed milk
1½ pounds green beans, blanched

Spray a 1-quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Saute the bacon in a pan over medium-high heat and cook until crispy brown. Add the onion and cook until tender. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until soft and onions are golden, about 5 minutes, then set aside.
Cream together the cream cheese, butter, Dijon mustard, garlic, herbs, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce in a food processor until blended; chill.
Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the warm milk, whisking until thick. Stir in the herbed cheese mixture, salt and pepper until melted. Combine the blanched beans, mushrooms and cheese sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to prepared casserole dish and chill until ready to bake, up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake casserole for 30 minutes, or until filling is bubbly. Right before serving, add the fried onion topping.

Onion Ring Topping:
3 cups vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced into ¼-inch rings
1½ cups buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt to taste

Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
Soak the onion rings in the buttermilk.
Blend the flour, cayenne pepper and salt in a second bowl. Dredge the onion rings in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Fry until golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Drain in a paper towel then place on the casserole right before serving.

SWEET POTATO
BREAD PUDDING

This is best made the day before to allow the milk to soak into the bread

1 cup sour cream
¾ cup milk
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup whiskey (optional)
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dried cranberries
Zest of 1 orange, minced
4 cups French bread, cubed
1 pound sweet potatoes, cooked and pureed
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

Whisk together the first 11 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the bread cubes and stir gently to coat; cover and chill overnight.
The next day, cook the sweet potatoes in boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a food processor or a potato ricer. Puree until smooth. Fold the sweet potato puree into the bread mixture.
In a separate bowl, combine the pecans, brown sugar and flour for the streusel, and stir in the melted butter.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare a 1-quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the bread pudding mixture to the dish and sprinkle with streusel. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife tip inserted comes out clean.

GRAHAM CRACKER
SWEET POTATO PIE

2½ cups graham crackers
2/3 cup granulated sugar
10 Tablespoons butter, melted
3 cups canned sweet potatoes
3 large eggs, beaten slightly
½ cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2½ Tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine the graham crackers and sugar in a food processor until very fine. Add the melted butter and combine.
Put the graham cracker mixture into a pie dish. Press the cracker crumbs into place on the bottom and sides with a spoon or the back of your hand. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until firm and golden brown. Let cool completely.
Turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Blend all remaining ingredients in a mixer or food processor until smooth. Pour filling into cooled crust.
Place the pie in the center of the oven and bake for 1 hour or until the top starts to crack. Let cool before serving. I love to add a dollop of fresh homemade whipped cream on top.

CHEDDAR CHEESE APPLE PIE
Crust:
3 cups flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 stick butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
4-6 Tablespoons ice COLD water

Filling:
7 tart apples, peeled and sliced (I prefer Granny Smith)
1 lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon cream
Cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top of pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put flour, sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the shortening and butter and pulse until pea-sized balls form. Add the cheddar cheese and 4 Tablespoons of ice cold water. Pulse until it forms a ball. If it doesn’t form a ball, add another Tablespoon or so of water until it does form a ball.
Divide the dough into 2 disks and wrap in Saran Wrap and place in the refrigerator until very cold, about 1 hour.
Mix your apple filling together and put aside.
Roll out your pie crust and place into the pie pan. Pour in the filling and cover with the top crust. Brush the edges with the cream to help seal the 2 crusts together. Cut vents in the top crust. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar.
Bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling starts to bubble. I like to serve this with vanilla ice cream.