Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Thanksgiving Table

 We were especially grateful to have my brother and sister-in-law, Steve and Dawn Ann come out for Thanksgiving this year!  We are truly grateful this time of year for the beauty and bounty of the earth, the abundance of our blessings. for the goodwill of mankind and for the love we share as a family.  We took a beautiful nature walk along the C&O Canal and went to see Romeo and Juliet at The Folgers Theater in Washington D.C.  Hope you enjoy this menu and that you will enjoy this delicious food around Christmas time as well!

                                   "Small cheer and a great welcome makes a merry feast."
                                                                              ~ William Shakespeare

Place setting of Lenox China, Fruits of Life pattern... still my favorite!

Our centerpiece was composed of found pine cones, berries, pine cone candles from Pottery Barn and hazelnuts from my grandmother's hazelnut tree.  Always be on the lookout for beautiful pine cones, acorns, nuts etc. from nature to interject into your centerpieces.  My pine cones were collected on a hike in the Kaibab Forest in Arizona and from a walk in Long Beach California. 

It was so fun to set the table with my grandmother's sliver.  Grand Baroque pattern. A timeless favorite.

Thanksgiving and Christmas Dry Brined Turkey

16-18 lb. turkey
1 yellow onion
1 orange
handful or fresh herbs
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons butter

Rinse turkey the day before you are cooking it.  Place it on the rack in the roasting pan.  Remove any giblets to a sauce pan.  Salt and pepper the cavity.  Rub turkey with a generous amount of salt and fresh ground pepper.  Place turkey in a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.  You can brine the turkey a few days in advance if preferred.  To roast the turkey preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Remove turkey from plastic bag and place on rack in roasting pan.  Stuff cavity with Grandma's Old-Fashioned Stuffing or with 1 quartered onion and 1 quartered orange and a handful of fresh herbs.  Rub turkey with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Rinse a piece of cheese cloth and place over turkey breasts to prevent turkey from drying out and overbrowning.  Place roasting pan on lowest rack in hot oven.  Pour 1 cup of water into bottom of roasting pan.  Roast turkey for a total of 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until thermometer inserted onto thickest part of a thigh registers 170-175 degrees F.   Remove cheese cloth 20 minutes before turkey is done to brown the breasts a little. 

Perfect Pan Gravy

2 cups milk, plus more if needed
3/4 cup flour plus more if needed
salt and fresh ground pepper

Remove turkey from roasting pan and place on serving tray.  Tent turkey with foil.  Place back in warm oven.  Strain pan juices into a separate pan and then return strained juices to roasting pan.  Place roasting pan on stove top burners and bring pan juices to a boil, whisking all the while to loosen the bits from the bottom of pan.  In quart jar add 2 cups of milk and 3/4 cup of flour.  Shake until mixture is combined.  This mixture is called a slurry.   Pour half of the slurry into simmering pan juices and whisk constantly until thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and a chicken or vegetable bouillon cube or two if needed. If gravy is too thick add more milk and if too thin add a little more of the slurry, whisk to combine.  When gravy has reached desired consistency pour into gravy boat and serve over mashed potatoes and sliced turkey.

Mashed Potatoes For a Crowd

Love these easy mashed potatoes.  My grandma always loved to stir in sour cream.  I usually forget to stir in any extras, but you can stir in some sour cream and or parmesan cheese, if desired.
10 pounds peeled baking potatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup butter
3/4 -1 cup milk (more if needed)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Place potatoes in large pot and cover with water.  Boil gently for 45 minutes or until soft enough to stick a knife into potatoes easily.  Drain water from potatoes and return potatoes to pot.  Add butter, milk, salt and pepper.  With electric beaters whip, potatoes with butter and milk until smooth and fluffy. Adjust seasoning and add more milk if needed to reach desired consistency.

Fresh Orange ~ Cranberry Sauce
This is the best cranberry sauce ever and it's so easy, fast and sooooo fresh and delicious too.  You'll never go back to the canned cranberry sauce! 

12-16 ounces fresh cranberries
1 whole orange
1 cup sugar

In food processor, grind cranberries and whole orange.  Pour into a bowl and stir in sugar.   

Brown Bag Apple Pie
 This is the absolute best apple pie!  This is a family recipe that we make every year, because everyone loves it. Yes everyone, even the, "I don't like apple pie" people!   My sister in law Dawn Ann made this pie for our Thanksgiving Feast this year and I loved how she formed the top crust, it gave the pie such a beautiful appearance.  So I've added her trick to the top crust directions.   Baking it in the paper bag ensures a moist but golden brown perfect pie.  Dawn Ann and I have both tried baking the pie with out the paper bag and it's just not as good.  The apples are drier and the crust is just not the same. So we recommend using the paper bag.   No, the bag won’t catch on fire but it will catch the spills! 
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt, scant
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cold milk

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl add all ingredients for the crust.  Mix it up with your hands until thoroughly combined.  Press mixture into a 9 inch pie pan.  Edges will be rough, no need to crimp.
8 cups peeled and sliced apples
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

 Peel and slice apples and place in a medium bowl.  Toss with sugar, flour, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Pour into crust.  Pile the apples up high.
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup flour

 In small bowl mix butter, sugar and flour with your hands.   Mixture will be really sticky.  With your hands, form dough into flat portions and lay on top of apples, covering almost the entire top of pie.   Place pie inside a paper bag and fold ends under pie.  Set in hot oven and bake at for 1 ½ hours until golden brown.  Serve with a large dollop of whipped cream sweetened with a little maple syrup.

Apple Cranberry Jello Salad

This delicious and festive jello salad could be made a day in advance if necessary.  Angela Barum shared this recipe with me from our Thanksgiving feast last year.  It looks so beautiful on the salad plates with a dollop of whipped cream and a little mint leaf.

1 Tbsp. plain gelatin
2 (3 ounce) pkgs. raspberry, cherry or cranberry jello 
2 c. fresh cranberries
2 unpeeled red apples
1 cup sugar
2 oranges (peel and juice)

 Grate the orange peel off the oranges and then juice them.  Set aside.  Dissolve the plain gelatin in 1/3 cup cold water.  Grind the cranberries and apples.  You could do this is your grandma's grinder or in a food processor or blender if needed. Just try not to puree them, you'll want them in tiny chunks.  Add the orange juice and zest to bowl or ground cranberries and apples.  Make the flavored jello with 2 cups of water.  Add the sugar to the jello and stir to dissolve.  Stir in the unflavored gelatin. Add cranberries and apples.  Pour into a 9X13 glass baking dish and refrigerate a few hours until set.  You may need to stir the jello a few times while it is setting to ensure the fruit won't sink to the bottom.  

Fancy Dinner Rolls
These are some amazing rolls.  My friend, Angela Barnum made these for Thanksgiving last year.  They were so good that I had to get the recipe!  I made them this year and we all loved them!  The left overs were happily used for post Thanksgiving day turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches!  Yummy!

3 ½ c.  warm water
4 Tbsp. yeast
¾ c. oil
¾ c. sugar
1 c. powdered milk
1 ½ c. potato flakes
1 Tbsp. salt
3 eggs (room temp.)
10 to 12 c. flour

You can make these rolls without a mixer by using a very large mixing bowl to mix the dough by hand and kneading your dough for 10 minutes.  OR you you will need to use a large electric mixer, like the largest Kitchen Aid, or a BOSCH for this recipe.  Add the warm water to your bowl.  Add yeast and stir until dissolved.  Stir in oil, sugar, powdered milk, and potato flakes, salt and eggs and stir until smooth.  By hand or with dough hook add 10-11 cups flour one at a time.  Mix in mixer for 10 minutes, or knead by hand for 10 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap sprayed with bakers spray, and let dough rise to double.  Divide dough into four equal portions.  Roll out each portion into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut with a pizza cutter, as you would a pizza, into 16 wedges about 3 inches wide.  Roll each wedge up starting at the wide side.  Set rolls on greased baking sheet, with tips of wedge down.  Spray a piece of plastic wrap with bakers spray and cover rolls until they double in size.  Bake at 350 for 11-15 minutes or until light golden brown.  Unwrap a stick of butter and gently rub hot rolls with stick of butter for a buttery, glossy look. 
Grandma's Old-Fashioned Stuffing

 This is my favorite stuffing.  It's my grandma Vuela's recipe and we make it every year. I've tried other recipes but I keep coming back to this one!  My son Thomas learned how to make this from his grandpa Tim.  Thomas made it all by himself this year and did a great job.  You can toss in some pine nuts or dried cranberries for variation and double the butter for an even richer flavor.

1 and 1/2 cup butter, divided
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 quarts torn French bread or baguettes ( I use my homemade baguettes)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 beaten egg

Tear French bread or baguettes into bite sized pieces and place in large bowl and set aside.  Melt 1/2 cup butter in skillet and sauté onion, celery, carrot and parsley.  Add one more cup butter and melt. Stir salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, chicken broth, chopped parsley into butter mixture. Add beaten egg to bread mixture and mix well.  Stuff turkey lightly or pour into 9x13 inch baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

PS...We were so excited to sit down and eat, I forgot to take pictures of our Sweet Potatoes, Perfect Pan gravy and Pumpkin Pie!  I will add those recipes and pictures ASAP!

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