AUTHOR: Carolyn Savage | POSTED: 11/13/12 9:18 PM
CATEGORIES: Blog, Food on the Fly, Glass City Parent, Holidays
There are a few things in our house that are a given on Thanksgiving day.
Turkey, wine, and expletives.
The turkey? Well duh!
The wine? Well…double duh!
The expletives? Well…let me explain…
First of all, swearing shouldn’t be part of anyone’s Thanksgiving day traditions. I’m pretty sure the pilgrims and the native Americans weren’t cursing while celebrating their first harvest.
Mrs. Pilgrim and Mrs. Indian were in the kitchen trying to make the last minute gravy while the stuffing was burning, and the cranberries boiled over. If that scene was playing out…there may have been some obscenities muttered about how a bunch of men thought cooking all this food at once was a grand idea, while the wee ones played in their skirts…like this…
Absolutely, especially based on the scene that usually plays out in my kitchen as preperations for the gargantuine feast are climaxing. That’s usually when tension boils over as someone (usually my mom) is chaotically scraping the bottom of the turkey roaster trying to chip off the good stuff to make the gravy, and someone else makes a quip wondering why dinner isn’t ready yet…which usually ends up with said inquisitor getting smacked with a wooden spoon and culminating in an expletive. (In our home it’s usually the S-bomb).
In order to avoid the scene described above, I’ve ripped a page from my mother-in-law’s book of doing things early. Her motto is, “If you can cook it early, cook it earlier…then freeze it.”
The first time I experienced a holiday dinner at my mother-in-laws, I was stunned. Absent were the women running through the kitchen, throwing hips and shoulders to protect their coveted work space. There was nothing burning or boiling over. Just serene calmness. I have to admit it was such a bizarre experience for me, I had to stifle my instinct to shout out a cuss word at…well…anyone…you know…just to remind me of home. Actually, the whole thing felt a little “Stepford” for me, but I have to admit…I kind of liked it. There was no swearing and her sink didn’t look like this afterwards…
As I’ve grown older, I’ve implemented a few of my mother-in-law’s do-ahead methods. Not all of them. I’ve written before about how I like a little chaos in my life. I don’t totally want to lose my childhood experiences of the excitement of the last minute meal prep. So I compromised with three dishes that are tried and true do-ahead winners. I’m sharing them with you this week just in case you want to try and make your Thanksgiving day kitchen a little more zenlike!
Make Ahead Cranberry Orance Sauce
I haven’t always been a fan of cranberry sauce, but this recipe sweetens it perfectly and is easy-peasy. Cranberry sauce actually tastes better if made at least a few days ahead of time. It gives the spices of the dish time to mingle, resulting in a yummy sauce that will make even the driest of birds taste like heaven.
2 12 oz bags of cranberries
2 cups of orange juice
2 cups of brown sugar
the zest of one orange
3 cinnamon sticks
1. Place cranberries, brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon sticks and orange juice in sauce pan. Mix.
2. Bring to a boil and then lower heat, simmering for 90 minutes or until sauce thickens.
3. Remove from heat and refrigerate.
This recipe can be made up to two weeks in advance and kept in refrigerator. Warning…it makes a lot, so if you have a small crowd, cut ingredients in half!
Do Ahead Turkey Gravy
Like I indicated above, making the gravy last minute causes chaos in the kitchen. Who knew you could make it early and freeze it until the big day. Brilliant.
4 Turkey Wings
2 cups of chopped onions (I use a bag of frozen chopped onions…easier)
1 cup water
2 quarts chicken brothe
3/4 cup chopped carrot
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3/4 cup wondra flour (you can use all purpose but Wondra is better for gravy)
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
1/4 tsp black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Arrange a single layer of turkey wings in a large roasting pan. Brush wings with olive oil. Scatter the onions over the top of the wings. Roast in the preheated oven for 1-1/4 hours or until wings are browned.
- Place browned wings and onions in a 5 quart stockpot. Add water to roasting pan and stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour the the water from the pan into the stockpot. Stir in 6 cups of broth, carrot, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 1-1/2 hours.
- Remove wings from the pot and place on a cutting board. When the wings are cool, pull off the skin and meat. Discard the skin and save the meat for another use. Strain contents of stockpot through a large strainer into a 3 quart saucepan. Press on the vegetables to extract any remaining liquid. Discard the vegetables and skim the fat off the liquid and reserve in a frying pan. Bring the contents of the pot to a gentle boil.
- In a frying pan (with reserved fat), whisk flour, 1/2 cup butter and the remaining 2 cups chicken broth until smooth. Gradually whisk the flour mixture until the “floury smell of the flour is gone”…about five minutes. (You just made a roux!)
- Pour the Roux into the simmering turkey broth; simmer 3-4 minutes or until the gravy has thickened. Stir in the pepper. Serve immediately or pour into containers and refrigerate or freeze.
If you freeze, warm gradually in sauce pan the day of Thanksgiving. Enjoy!
Make Ahead Sausage and Sage Stuffing
This is my mother-in-law’s recipe. It’s truly the best stuffing I’ve ever had. It makes a huge batch, though. So…adjust measurements as you see fit. (Remember…you are freezing it, so buy some smaller containers and freeze for other meals. What a treat!)
3 pounds sage breakfast sausage (I use Bob Evans)
2 1/4 cups of chopped onions
4 1/2 cups of chopped celery (I chopped two celery hearts)
2 1/4 cups butter, melted
16 cups of dried bread cubes (I used two loaves of Pepperidge Farm House White bread. Cubed and dried for 24 hours.)
9 tsp. of poultry seasoning
3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
6-8 cups of chicken broth (to be used the day of cooking)
- Cook sausage. Do not drain! Put aside.
- Melt margarine in large sauce pan or frying pan.
- Saute; onions and celery in butter until onion is tender. DO NOT BROWN. Add poultry seasoning, pepper. Stir.
- In large bowl, (and I mean honking huge bowl) mix bread crumbs, butter mixture, sausage and drippings. Mix well..with your CLEAN hands. Be careful it’s hot.
- Place the stuffing in a buttered casserole dish. (I needed three 9×13 dishes)
- Allow stuffing to cool, cover tightly and freeze.
- 24 hours before meal, place stuffing in refrigerator. Thaw.
- Before baking, pour 2-3 cups of chicken broth (per 9×13 pan) in stuffing to moisten. Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes, basting occasionally to keep moist.
Oh…one last given at our Thanksgiving Day table is Toll House pie. You see, my family doesn’t like pie. We like chocolate. So, I compromise because it seems just plain unpatriotic to eat anything but pie on Thanksgiving day. You can make this the day before…but it’s best all gooey and straight from the oven so I put in the oven while we are eating dinner!
Toll House Pie
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts (chopped)
1 nine inch single pie crust (you can make your own..I don’t! Let’s be real people. The ones from the grocery store are perfection!)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
- Beat eggs until frothy, add sugars and vanilla.
- Melt butter or margarine, and add to sugar and egg mixture.
- Stir in flour until well blended.
- Mix in walnuts and chocolate chips.
- Pour into pie pan and bake for 1 hour. Serve warm with ice cream!
Note…This pie is very gooey. Pie is supposed to be gooey. Don’t let the chocolate goo freak you out. Just eat it and enjoy!