Nov 25 2009

A Complete and Delicious Thanksgiving Meal Menu and How To Prepare It

Published by at 11:16 pm under General

By Bettina Fimio

Holidays, especially a holiday surrounding a big meal like Thanksgiving, can be stressful and expensive for the host, but it doesn’t have to be. Plan your meal ahead of time, incorporate ingredients that are seasonally available in your area and keep an eye on grocery store sales to keep yourself on budget. I normally prepare a little extra food so that I have leftovers to keep my freezer stocked for weeks.

Synonymous with the holiday itself, the roast turkey is the big-ticket Thanksgiving item. I ordered a15 lb. fresh free-range turkey in advance. Since they were fresh, not frozen, I didn’t have to sacrifice half my refrigerator for a week while the frozen bird thaws out. Along with the turkey I served dishes with common fall ingredients: potatoes, squash, cabbage and a chutney made from the green tomatoes that didn’t have time to ripen on the vine before the first frost.

The recipes below will make enough food for an average of 10 people.

The Thanksgiving Menu:

  1. Roast Turkey with Bread Stuffing and Gravy
  2. Orzo Stuffed Bell Peppers
  3. Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  4. Whipped Acorn Squash
  5. Marno’s Quick Kapusta
  6. Marno’s Green Tomato Chutney

Roast Turkey with Bread Stuffing and Gravy

Stuffing:

What You Need:
1 small onion, finely chopped
5 Cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
4 cups breadcrumbs
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
2 tbsp olive oil
1 to 1½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

What You Need to Do:
Sautée onions, mushrooms and celery in olive oil on medium heat for approximately 5 minutes or until tender. Let cool in pan.

In a large bowl, mix breadcrumbs, poultry seasoning and Italian seasoning. Add in the onions, mushrooms, celery and any remaining oil from the pan to the mixture. Add in stock a half cup at a time and mix well until the stuffing is moist throughout, but not mush.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Turkey

Baste liberally and regularly to keep the turkey moist and give it a nice golden color. Factor approximately 1.3lbs per person to leave some leftovers.

What You Need:
1 turkey
Olive Oil
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup warm water
3 tbsp poultry seasoning
1½ tbsp Italian seasoning blend
1½ tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp garlic powder (use roasted garlic powder for a fuller flavor)
1 heel from a loaf of bread (optional)

What You Need to Do:

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F

Thoroughly rinse the inside and outside of the bird and pat dry with paper towel and set the bird in a roasting pan breast up.

Loosely stuff the turkey with the stuffing prepared earlier. Place the heel of the loaf of bread over top of the stuffing at the cavity and truss the bird. The heel acts as a door to help keep the moisture in the stuffing and should be removed prior to serving.

Drizzle olive oil on top of the bird and rub with a basting brush until the skin is evenly coated. Evenly sprinkle the bird with the poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning, paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic powder and place in oven.

Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave and mix with the water. Baste the turkey every 30 minutes to prevent the skin from drying out until there are enough juices in the bottom of the pan to baste with those. Factor in 15 minutes of cooking time per pound of turkey, allowing for the bird to rest for approximately a half an hour after roasting for juices to re-distribute.

Once the turkey is done, remove from pan to rest and pour roast drippings through a fine sieve into a medium size pot and set aside for the gravy.

Gravy:

Roast turkey and mashed potatoes just aren’t the same without a good gravy. I make my gravy with the roast drippings for added flavor.

What You Need:
Roast drippings (reserved from roast turkey, above)
Plus enough chicken broth to equal about 3 cups of liquid
1 tsp poultry seasoning
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
⅓ cup heavy or table cream
⅓ cup white wine
3 tbsp cornstarch

What You Need to Do:
Simmer drippings, broth, poultry seasoning and pepper in a medium pot. Add in cream and stir. In a small bowl or mug mix the white wine into the corn starch. Whisk the corn starch mixture into the pot and stir constantly to prevent clumping. Remove from heat once the gravy has thickened.

Orzo Stuffed Bell Peppers

This recipe is easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time and re-heated in an oven or microwave. Substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock for a vegetarian option.

What You Need:
6 large bell peppers (green are ok, but red, orange or yellow provide sweeter options)
2 cups orzo
4 cups chicken stock
1 can whole roma tomatoes
2 zucchini, shredded
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely shredded (use freshly shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for a fuller flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste

What You Need to Do:

Pre-heat oven to 400°F

Bring the chicken stock to a boil and add orzo. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, so that the grains are not fully cooked. Drain orzo and reserve stock.

Slice the tops off of the peppers and remove the seeds and ribs. Set peppers aside.

Open can of whole Roma tomatoes (including liquid) to large mixing bowl. With clean kitchen shears or a fork and knife cut tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Add shredded zucchini, minced garlic, ½ cup shredded cheese, orzo rice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers and place peppers in a deep baking dish (approximately 4 quarts in size). Pour the reserved stock into the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with a lid or with tin foil if the baking dish does not have a lid and bake covered for 20 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Remove peppers from the baking dish and place in a serving dish. Discard remaining stock once cool. Sprinkle the remainder of the shredded parmesan over the warm peppers

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

A perennial favorite, these are easy and sure to please.

What You Need:
10 medium red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
5 whole cloves of garlic
2 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ – ½ cup heavy or table cream
1 tsp salt
¼ cup chopped parsley

What You Need to Do:
Place salt, cubed potatoes and garlic in a large pot and fill with water until all potatoes are covered. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes or until tender. Drain potatoes and garlic, add butter and mash well. Slowly add cream until desired consistency and creaminess is reached. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Whipped Acorn Squash

This recipe easy to make and can be prepared ahead and reheated in the oven.

What You Need:
2 medium acorn squash, halved with seeds and pulp removed
½ cup heavy or table cream
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

What You Need to Do:
Pre-heat oven to 350°F

Place halved squash cut side down in a baking dish and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Let cool until just warm to the touch.

Scoop the flesh of the squash into the bowl for a stand mixer, being careful that you don’t scoop the peel into the bowl. Mix on low speed for approximately 1 minute until smooth. Add in cream, nutmeg and pepper and mix until thoroughly blended.

If making ahead, place squash in an oven-safe bowl and cover with aluminum foil. Place in oven once you have removed the turkey (at 350°F) and heat for 20 to 30 minutes until warm throughout.

Marno’s Quick Kapusta

Kapusta is a traditional Polish dish served often at family functions. Kapusta can be prepared in a variety of ways, from a thick mash to a thin soup that can be stewed for hours. Here we have a chunkier version with my stepfather’s quick way to make this savory dish that can be made ahead of time.

What You Need:
3 slices of bacon, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
½ green or savoy cabbage, chopped
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup parsley, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste

What You Need to Do:
Brown the bacon and onions in a medium pot. Add the cabbage and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add chicken broth, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the cabbage is tender.

Marno’s Green Tomato Chutney

Thanksgiving marks the end of the harvest season, and typically there are a few green tomatoes still left on the vine in the backyard garden by the time the weather turns cool. Instead of letting the frost take them, my stepfather harvests what’s left of the garden every year to make a chutney that keeps well in jars throughout the year. This recipe makes a nice alternative to cranberry sauce.

What You Need:
Juice of 1 freshly squeezed lemon
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups green tomatoes, diced
2 red peppers, diced
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
½ cup ginger root, peeled and finely chopped

What You Need to Do:
In a large pot brown the garlic in the lemon juice. Add remainder of ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Preserve unused portions in jars for future meals.

Most importantly remember the enriching experience of sharing meals, and enjoying them with others (or even just savoring and enjoying them on your own!)  Giving thanks is a powerfully restorative and empowering act, like a prayer, that reminds us of all that we have in this bountiful life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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