Thanksgiving is for many the perfect holiday: nondenominational, lacking the stress of shopping for presents, and the one time of year you can take the luxury of not checking your e-mail every 5 minutes. There are some stresses however, namely cooking. That’s where we want to add our two cents.
C&S’s Thanksgiving is very side dish-centric—the turkey, as we’ll explain a bit later, is not the focus of our attention. We’ve got the expected vegetables, cranberry sauce, mash, and bread but with our usual casual touch: delicious and unfussy is what we’re after, so we can spend more time toasting and cozying up with friends and family.
First, our take on creamed onions and green bean casserole: pearl onions and Brussels sprouts in creamy white sauce, topped with toasty buttered breadcrumbs, fragrant hazelnuts, and crisp Brussels sprout leaves.
Instead of mashed potatoes, a chunky mash of potatoes (you don’t even need to peel them) and caramelized parsnips, flecked with Aleppo pepper and chives.
For a salad that’s there to be enjoyed rather than make you feel better about your caloric intake: mixed greens fresh from the greenmarket, tossed with chunky homemade croutons.
Finally, dessert: layers of crackling, marshmallow-y meringue spread with lightly sweetened butter.
Are you ready to eat?
ROAST TURKEY and SAUTEED CLEMENTINES
Serves 10 to 12
The turkey is Thanksgiving’s totem, but it’s not our favorite item at the table. It just wouldn’t be seemly to not have the big bird at the table, however, so here it is. This is by far the easiest turkey method we’ve encountered: no fussing, no brining, no nothing. Rub the turkey with salt, put it in the oven, and all done. It’s juicy, perfectly seasoned, and dressed only with butter-laced pan drippings: simple, sensible, and the perfect accompaniment to rich and comforting side dishes. Oh, but, do remember to thaw the thing out. And take out the goody bag that’s inside.
This recipe is courtesy of Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats. Sheer brilliance.
1 (10 – 12 pound) fresh turkey
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 clementines, cut in half
¼ cup sugar
Fresh sage leaves
Fresh thyme sprigs
Remove racks from oven and place roasting pan directly on oven floor. Preheat oven to 500°F. Rinse turkey under cold running water, then pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Carefully loosen turkey skin by gently slipping fingertips between skin and meat. Rub salt directly on meat (you should use ¾ teaspoon per pound). Remove roasting pan from oven. Arrange turkey in a V-rack or oven-safe rack that will fit in roasting pan and place in pan. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F and return roasting pan to oven floor. Roast, basting turkey three times throughout baking with butter, until deepest part of breast registers 150°F on an instant-read thermometer and legs register 160°F, 3 to 4 hours.
Transfer turkey (on rack) to rimmed baking sheet and allow to rest at least 30 minutes prior to carving. Pour released juices into gravy boat or serving bowl and reserve.
Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Dip cut halves of clementines in sugar, then cook until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
When ready to serve, carve turkey: Place turkey on large cutting board, preferably one with a canal to catch any juices. With a sharp boning knife (long and narrow) or sharp chef’s (all-purpose) knife, begin cutting one breast half, starting from the neck and going towards the tail, keeping the knife flush with the breastbone. Angle the knife and run it along the rib cage, then place the breast on cutting board. Repeat procedure with second breast half. Hold the turkey by the drumstick/thigh area and pull it away from the turkey carcass until it lays flat on the cutting board. Using the tip of the knife, find the point where the leg socket meets the carcass and cut through it until the drumstick and thigh come away. Cut through the point where the drumstick meets the thigh. Repeat procedure with second leg. Slice breast halves against the grain. Arrange all turkey meat on platter. Warm drippings and drizzle over turkey. Garnish with clementines, sage, and thyme.
CREAMED BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND PEARL ONIONS WITH CRUNCHY TOPPING
Serves 6 to 8
This recipe is easily doubled; if doing so, assemble in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
2 pounds yellow pearl onions
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup hazelnuts, coarsely choppe
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
Recipe may be made 1 day in advance; if doing so, arrange the sauce-coated vegetables in dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Store breadcrumbs and hazelnuts in a zipper-lock bag. Roast the sprouts’ leaves the morning of Thanksgiving, then toss with crumb mixture and sprinkle over vegetables. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until dish is warmed through.
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add onions and cook until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. While onions are boiling, prepare an ice bath by combining equal amounts of ice cubes and water in a large bowl. Drain onions and drop in ice bath. Cool 10 minutes then drain. Using a paring knife, trim the root ends and peel onions. Reserve. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Rinse out pot and fill once again with water. Bring to a boil and prepare a second ice bath. While the water comes to a boil, trim ends off Brussels sprouts and remove enough leaves to make them about the size of the pearl onions; reserve the leaves. Add 1 tablespoon salt and sprouts to the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and drop in ice bath. Cool 10 minutes then drain. Reserve. Season the leaves with salt and pepper and toss with oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until crisp and dark brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter. In medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, melted butter, hazelnuts, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve. Melt an additional 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat in large skillet and sautée sprouts and onions. Transfer to 8-by-8-inch baking dish and wipe out skillet.
In liquid measuring cup, combine cream and broth. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Slowly and steadily whisk in cream-broth mixture and cook, whisking, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Whisk in mustard, lemon zest, and juice. Season with salt and pepper, then pour sauce over vegetables and stir to combine. Top vegetables with breadcrumbs and leaves, carefully stirring them with fork to combine. Bake until topping is crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.
BACK-OF-THE-BAG CRANBERRY SAUCE WITH GINGER
I make cranberry sauce with wine, citrus, etc., etc., etc., but always, always I start with the recipe on the back of the bag: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is a basic sauce perked up with fresh, sharp gingerroot and for extra punch and sweetness, chopped crystallized ginger. You may want to make an extra batch for that leftover sandwich.
Although not absolutely necessary, pulsing the sugar and ginger in a food processor breaks down the fibrous root and releases more of its flavor. Sauce may be prepared up to 3 days in advance and stored, covered and refrigerated.
3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
¼ teaspoon salt
2 (12-ounce) bags fresh cranberries
Pulse ginger and sugar in a food processor until the sugar is damp and the ginger is no longer visible. Stir the sugar, water, and salt together in a large saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the cranberries and bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until the mixture is jam-like and the cranberries have started to pop. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
ROASTED PARSNIP AND POTATO MASH
This rustic mash can be prepared one day in advance. If doing so, stir in only half the melted butter, and re-warm over low heat in a large pot. Stir in the remaining butter and the chives. If making the mash the day of, keep them warm in a bain marie (fill a pot with water, bring to a simmer, and place the bowl of mash in the water and cover with foil).
2 ½ pounds parsnips, peeled
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
4 pounds waxy potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup minced chives
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut parsnips in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise. Cut out and discard woody centers from parsnip pieces (you’ll see it’s a bit more pale than the rest of the parsnip). Trim parsnips to roughly ¼-inch-thick batons and arrange them in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle them with oil, and season with salt, pepper, and Aleppo; toss to coat evenly. Roast parsnips until caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through roasting. Transfer to cooling rack and cover with foil. Let rest 10 minutes.
While parsnips are roasting, place potatoes in large pot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain potatoes in colander in sink and transfer to large bowl. Coarsely mash the potatoes and parsnips; combine in large bowl. Stir in butter (add more or less if you like) and chives. Adjust seasoning and serve.
MERINGUE AND SWEET BUTTER CAKE (PASTEL RUSO)
Serves 8 to 10
For the Meringue Layers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 cups (about 14 ounces) granulated sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 teaspoons white vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Butter Spread
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the Meringue Layers: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 275 deg;F. Grease 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with butter. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and tap out excess. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper rounds.
Combine sugar and cornstarch in small bowl. Beat egg whites, vinegar, and salt on medium low speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium high, and, with mixer running, slowly add the sugar-cornstarch mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. When finished, continue mixing until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 2 minutes longer. Add vanilla and beat just until combined. Spread an equal amount of meringue in prepared cake pans. Bake until dry and crisp, about 1 hour, rotating and alternating pans halfway through baking. Shut off oven, prop open with wooden cooking spoon, and allow meringues to sit in oven for 1 hour.
For the Butter Spread and Assembly: Meanwhile, prepare the butter spread: Beat the butter, ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl with mixer on low speed, about 1 minute. Once confectioners’ sugar is combined with butter, increase speed to medium and beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Carefully invert 1 meringue onto a plate and remove and discard parchment. Place the meringue, top side up, on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread with half of butter mixture. Repeat inversion method with second meringue, arrange on top of butter mixture, spread with the remaining butter mixture, and top with third meringue. Sift remaining 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar over meringue. Serve.