Archive for the 'Thanksgiving' Category

Cranberry-Apple Relish with Ginger and Chilies

Cranberry-Apple Relish with Ginger and Serrano

Traditional cranberry sauce is too sweet for the Vietnamese palate, which explains why I’ve been making and eating the fluorescent-hued condiment solo on every Thanksgiving in recent memory. A few of my cousins request a small serving out of curiosity, while an aunt or two might give it a try in the name of antioxidants, but no one really likes the chunky, fruity stuff but me. And I’m cool with that because I eat leftover cranberry sauce for fun and by the spoonful.

When I saw this recipe for cranberry-apple relish in last week’s New York Times article “Complements for the Chef” by David Tanis, I was immediately intrigued by the list of ingredients. Instead of the usual combination of simple syrup and cranberries, this one called for cider vinegar and apples with ginger, Serrano chili, and cayenne pepper flourishes. While straight up sweetness does not speak to my family, I am hoping that this tangy and spicy number with a hit of jammy-ness might do the trick.

With the assistance of my math whiz Astronomer, I adjusted the proportions from the original recipe to use an entire standard bag of cranberries (12 ounces). The recipe below reflects these changes. Other than that minor tweak and leaving the skins on the apples, this recipe is great as is. The relish’s flavors are fresh yet familiar, while the combination of chilies, ginger, and cayenne packs some real heat.

If I know my family as well as I think I do, it’s quite likely that even with this new recipe, I’ll still be the lone cranberry sauce eater at the table. And I’m cool with that because I eat leftover cranberry sauce for fun and by the spoonful. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds tart, crisp apples cut in 1/2-inch chunks
  • 12 ounces cranberries
  • 2 1/3 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeño or Serrano chili
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

Cranberry-Apple Relish with Ginger and Serrano

Begin by chopping the apples, grating the ginger, and mincing the chili.

Cranberry-Apple Relish with Ginger and Serrano

Over medium heat, in wide stainless steel skillet, heat sugar, vinegar and salt, stirring to dissolve.

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Turkey Broth and Turkey Noodle Soup

Turkey Noodle Soup

After carving all of the meat from the soy-brined turkey, I didn’t think anything of chucking the carcass straight into the trash. However, as soon as the bones hit the liner, I instantly remembered that roasted bones equals kick ass broth, and immediately fished them out of the bin.

Since I had just spent the better part of the day cooking, I was glad to find a turkey broth recipe that was relatively hands-off and called for ingredients that I already had at home. Two hours of slow and low simmering extracted the turkey’s flavors into an all-purpose broth that eventually became the base for turkey noodle soup a few days later.

While I knew I would enjoy the turkey noodle soup, I wasn’t expecting to love it so much. Following many meals of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, the soup offered a light yet still very comforting change of pace. And of course, it made great use of the leftover turkey meat that we had in abundance.

I ate my bowls of turkey noodle with slices of avocado on top, which took the already standout dish to a whole new level. Why can’t all leftovers be this successful?

For turkey broth

  • 1 turkey carcass, cut into 4 or 5 pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped coarse
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped coarse
  • 1 rib celery, chopped coarse
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 3 quarts water

For turkey noodle soup

  • 1 recipe turkey broth
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 rib celery, sliced thin
  • Salt
  • 8 ounces noodles
  • 2 cups cooked turkey meat, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • Pepper

Make turkey broth

Turkey Noodle Soup

Bring all of the ingredients to a simmer [when the liquid is at a gentle simmer, you see a few small bubbles breaking the surface every few seconds] in a large stockpot and cook for 2 hours, skimming off any fat or foam that rises to the surface.

Turkey Noodle Soup

Strain the broth through a large mesh strainer into a large container, removing any fat that rises to the surface as it cools. This broth can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

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Sausage, Sage, and Thyme Bread Stuffing

Sausage, Sage, and Thyme Bread Stuffing

If I had my way, stuffing would be the centerpiece of Thanksgiving. An expertly roasted bird has its merits, as do silky potatoes dotted with butter and doused in gravy, but for as long as I can recall, my heart and stomach have belonged to stuffing. I grew up on the Stove Top variety that my aunt brilliantly doctored-up with onions, celery, and chicken gizzards. I later moved on to a gourmet version made with cornbread and dried fruit that my brother outsourced from his neighborhood Dean & Deluca. From low end to high end to everything in between, I’ve yet to encounter a stuffing that didn’t appeal to me.

While my soy sauce-brined turkey was roasting in the oven at 325 degrees, I got started on making the stuffing, which fortuitously called for similar temps. Preparing a turkey and stuffing all in one day was admittedly a lot of work for a first-timer, but it would’ve been a travesty eating a thirteen pound bird without some proper dressing on the side.

I chose a classic sausage, herbs, and French bread recipe from this month’s Cooking Light magazine. Its straightforward flavor profile and manageable ingredients list spoke to me, and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. The bread had an awesome custard-like consistency, while the trio of herbs perfumed each bite. The stuffing-specific sausage that I picked up from Trader Joe’s was too crumbly and mild for my taste, but it didn’t detract from the overall success of the dish. Next time, I’ll be sure to use my favorite spicy Italian sausage instead.

My mom’s already called dibs on stuffing for this year’s Thanksgiving feast, but hopefully next year I can share this gem with the fam. And for good ‘ol times’ sake, I’ll even add in some chicken gizzards.

  • 10 cups (1/2-inch) cubed French bread (about 1 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 15 ounces hot turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Sausage, Sage, and Thyme Bread Stuffing

Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange bread in single layers on 2 jelly-roll pans. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden, rotating pans after 10 minutes. Turn oven off; leave pans in oven for 30 minutes or until bread is crisp.

Sausage, Sage, and Thyme Bread Stuffing

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook 11 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Add sausage to pan. Increase heat; sauté 8 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.

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Soy Sauce Brined Turkey

Soy Sauce Brined Turkey

When the folks at Kikkoman approached me to soy brine a turkey for Thanksgiving, my first inclination was to turn them down. I love turkey and all, but preparing one from scratch seemed rather difficult for a novice poultry cook like myself. My worst case scenario was that the big ‘ol bird would turn out unattractive and dry and that the whole experience would scar me for Thanksgivings to come.

What eventually motivated me to change my mind was exactly what scared me at the start—the challenge of brining and roasting a turkey all by myself. I felt that if I didn’t step up to plate this year, it’d probably be a solid decade before the opportunity would present itself again. I had to do it.

For the brining process, I adapted a simple recipe from Kikkoman, and for roasting, I turned to my beloved cooking bible, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Now, that everything’s been prepped, roasted, carved, and eaten, I must say that the process wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined, and the results were definitely stellar. The soy sauce brine made for an all-around juicy bird and imparted a mild savoriness upon the flesh. The Test Kitchen’s “flipping” method (details below), yielded an evenly cooked bird with a golden and crispy exterior from top to bottom.

Turkeys are notoriously fickle creatures with a penchant for dryness, but thanks to the brine and the Test Kitchen’s tried and true methods, everything turned out just right. From one first-time turkey roaster to another, you can totally do it!

For brine [recipe for a 16-24 pound turkey]

  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 10 ounces naturally brewed soy sauce
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 4 bay leaves

For roasting turkey

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper


Brining the turkey

Soy Sauce Brined Turkey

The night before roasting, remove the giblets and turkey neck from the bird. Rinse the turkey inside and out. In a large stock pot, combine all the brine’s ingredients. Stir well, making sure that all of the salt is dissolved. Place the turkey inside a brining bag and pour the brine mixture over the turkey.

Soy Sauce Brined Turkey

Seal the bag tightly using a twisty tie and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours. Right before roasting, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well. Pat the turkey dry using paper towels. [The least messy route is to snip off a corner of the bag and to let the brine drain into the sink.]

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