Thankful.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2009

It probably comes as no surprise that Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. It is, after all, the only holiday that centers around good food and good company, and not buying crap. And the key to an even more enjoyable Thanksgiving? Keeping it small. That whole ‘too much of a good thing’ saying is also true when it comes to friends and family. This year, like last, it was just three of us, as my little sister Robin came to visit. And it was perfect.

I don’t know if we’re just getting better or more comfortable in the kitchen, but we were shocked at how smoothly it all went. Except for a bit of a panic over the pumpkin pie (stay tuned for photos of the mutant pie), it was easy. How often do you say that about preparing a huge meal all by yourselves? Cranberry sauces were done the day before, and even with the pie-do-over, the turkey was done and we were sitting down to eat by 3:30. Compare that to our late night 6:00 meal on our very first Thanksgiving alone, and we’ve come a long way.

Thanksgiving Dinner 2009

I realized I never posted the recipes we cooked last year. And kicked myself for not doing so, since I couldn’t for the life of me remember what pie or stuffing recipe we had used (and whether we actually liked the result or not). So this year, in an effort to prevent Thanksgiving-amnesia, I’m posting it all, good, bad, and mediocre. Then, come next Thanksgiving, I’ll be able to easily identify what deserves a repeat and what would be better off left in the archives for good.

On the menu this year (recipes to come):
– Honey Brined Turkey with Sal’s Holiday Gravy
– The Definitive Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
– Haricots Verts with Herb Butter
– Jellied Cranberry Sauce
– Grapefruit and Agave Cranberry Sauce
– Sausage and Cornbread Stuffing
– Pumpkin Pie

So yes, it is probably overkill to cook an 11-lb turkey and all this food for 3 people (we’ll be eating leftovers for at least another week), but I’d hate for the small-size of our gathering to hinder the Thanksgiving experience.

And if you’re looking for recipes for your own Thanksgiving leftovers, why not give these delicious Ramekin Turkey Pot Pies or Turkey Tacos with Cranberry Salsa a try?

Honey Brined Thanksgiving Turkey

As for the turkey, we’ve only been on our own for 3 years now, that’s 3 turkeys we’ve cooked by ourselves. We’ve used this delicious recipe for a Brined Turkey with Cranberry Glaze for the past two, but this year decided to try a slightly different recipe (still brined – I don’t think I’ll ever cook a turkey otherwise).

The verdict? It was a delicious turkey by any standards, but I think Emeril still has the upper hand. The brine seemed to impart a bit more flavor to the turkey, while the cranberry glaze is just that little extra kick to take it over the top.

So next year? Who knows. Maybe we’ll try something new, maybe we’ll stick with our tried and true favorite.

Honey-Brined Turkey

Adapted from Epicurious.

Ingredients:

1 19- to 20-pound turkey; neck, heart and gizzard reserved for gravy
8 quarts water
2 cups coarse salt
1 cup honey
2 bunches fresh thyme
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black pepper

2 lemons, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil

5 cups (about) canned low-salt chicken broth

Directions:

Line extra-large stockpot with heavy large plastic bag (about 30-gallon capacity). Rinse turkey; place in plastic bag. Stir 8 quarts water, 2 cups coarse salt and 1 cup honey in large pot until salt and honey dissolve. Add 1 bunch fresh thyme, peeled garlic cloves and black pepper. Pour brine over turkey. Gather plastic bag tightly around turkey so that bird is covered with brine; seal plastic bag. Refrigerate pot with turkey in brine at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours.

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Drain turkey well; discard brine. Pat turkey dry inside and out. Squeeze juice from lemon halves into main cavity. Add lemon rinds and remaining 1 bunch fresh thyme to main cavity. Tuck wings under turkey; tie legs together loosely to hold shape. Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Rub turkey all over with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Roast turkey 1 hour. Baste turkey with 1 cup chicken broth. Continue to roast until turkey is deep brown and thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180°F, basting with 1 cup chicken broth every 30 minutes and covering loosely with foil if turkey is browning too quickly, about 2 1/2 hours longer. Transfer turkey to platter. Tent turkey loosely with foil and let stand 30 minutes. Pour pan juices into large glass measuring cup. Spoon off fat; reserve juices for gravy.