Last Saturday I hosted a roast turkey supper with all the trimmings. The timing was strange as it was neither Thanksgiving in Canada or our southern neighbour. What gives? I missed out on Thanksgiving this year back in October because I was in Georgia for my last race of the season. Although my family does not place much significance on the holiday, I do miss the traditional holiday dishes. With just over 10 days until American Thanksgiving, the online world is abuzz with turkey talk. Every article I read only made my craving even stronger. Coincidentally, I already invited Dad to come over for lunch so the decision to cook up a storm with all kinds of seasonal favourites seemed rather obvious.
With only three of us, roasting a whole turkey would be overkill. Instead, I opted to roast a split breast and a thigh for a choice of white and dark meat. The amount was just right with plenty of leftovers. Following the directions in The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, my Orange & Rosemary Turkey was juicy, tender, and infused with citrus herbal taste. If presenting a whole bird is not a priority, I heartily recommend roasting turkey parts. Brining the turkey was trivial since each part fit neatly into a large resealable freezer bag and I could fit them into separate empty spaces in the fridge. As for roasting? It took merely 90 minutes! Both the breast and thigh cooked to perfect doneness at the same time. And carving was so incredibly easy!
The turkey was so juicy and flavourful on its own that it did not need any accompaniments. However, none of us turned down the offer for a dab of cranberry sauce or a slick of gravy. I always kick off preparation for turkey feast with cranberry sauce and this time was no exception. The Orange Cranberry Sauce with Apples & Figs is a preserve that belongs in any Thanksgiving feast as much as my breakfast toast. The bright and tart taste is balanced with sweetness from apples and figs. I especially adore the crunchy little fig seeds! The gravy was made from browned roux, drippings, and chicken stock. It was flavourful without being heavy. Yet another great recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.
I cannot imagine a turkey feast without stuffing, mashed potatoes, a savoury squash dish, and something sweet with apples. There was no question which recipe to use for stuffing. Our family favourite Chestnut Mushroom Pancetta Stuffing has been a staple since I served my first Thanksgiving meal over ten years ago. It has all kinds of deeply flavourful goodies like pancetta, sausage, portobello mushrooms, roasted chestnuts, sage, thyme, onion, and celery. This recipe even convinced my once-stuffing-averse Boyfriend to request for Christmas dinner!
For many years, I make my mash potatoes in a very specific way. I would boil small chunks of Yukon Gold potatoes until tender and whip them to incredibly fluffy texture using the paddle attachment of stand mixer. Mashing? Who needs mashing? Mine would be done in under 5 minutes! This year, I decided to veer from my tried-and-true and experiment a technique touted by numerous cooking experts. A mix of russet and Yukon Gold potatoes were boiled, dried, and then passed through a food mill. It took a lot of elbow grease but I’m not sure I like the end result too much.
The Spiced Squash, Fennel, Apple Soup was a lucky coincidence. I made it the previous day for French Fridays with Dorie and the fall flavour couldn’t have worked better as part of my turkey feast menu. I was particularly pleased with adding a low-cal healthy option too.
Why do I emphasize on healthy dishes on my menu? Isn’t Thanksgiving an excuse to indulge? First, this isn’t really a celebration of Thanksgiving. Secondly, I know that Dad and Little Brother are the biggest fans of my cooking and will happily eat whatever I put on the table. That is why I feel the obligation to make something both delicious and healthy. Of course we could end the meal with pies but would it significantly increase our satisfaction? I doubt it. Instead, I stayed with the essence of harvest dessert and served Maple Baked Apples with Dried Fruit & Nuts. With its filling of almond, pecan, dried cherries, and figs, each bite of soft baked apple was like tasting the best of apple pie filling. The maple apple cider reduction and dollop of creamy Greek yogurt made the humble baked apple tasted decadent. It was a lighter yet equally appropriate ending to a traditional turkey feast.
Not-Thanksgiving Turkey Feast
This is part of my new Menu Monday feature as I cook a complete multi-course menu. I hope you enjoy it and will come back to check out future menus!