Our Thanksgiving norm is “traditional with a twist,” and this year was no exception. We like to make the things you’d expect—turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, etc.—and take a slightly different twist on one or two dishes.
The menu this year included:
Rotisserie turkey breast
Turkey and dressing roulade
Creamy mashed potatoes
Sauteed green beans in mushroom, Port, and cream sauce
Homemade cloverleaf rolls
We did two twists this year. The first was the roulade and the second was our take on green bean casserole. I suppose rotisserie turkey is a bit of a twist, but it seems pretty normal to us by now, since that’s what we’ve had for several years running.
I started Wednesday by making the brine, a take on what Thomas Keller does for his Ad Hoc fried chicken.
2 gallons water
5 large lemons, cut in half
1 cup salt
12 bay leaves
25 green peppercorns
1 cup fresh parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup honey
1 head of garlic, halved along equator
I stirred all the ingredients into a 5 gallon crab pot and brought it to a boil, letting it continue for about a minute, then turned off the fire and let it cool, uncovered. I then realized that the crab pot wasn’t going to fit into any fridge, so we eventually used the 9.5 quart Le Crueset Dutch Oven to brine the breast in overnight. I put it in around 1am, then pulled it out when I got up around 7:30. Brining is great, but I’m always concerned about overdoing it and making the meat too salty, so I’d rather err on the side of taking it out too early. Before putting it on the rotisserie spit, I gave it a good rub down with olive oil.
The breast was just under 9 pounds, although it still had part of thigh bones in it, which is a little unusual. The packaging suggested 3.5 hours, but I knew from experience that once it’s brined, it will cook faster. It ended up taking about 2.5 hours, during which time I frequently basted it with the drippings that were coming off of it. This led to a nice crispy skin (most of which seemed to get eaten by the guests standing around while I was carving).
We had the butcher debone two breasts. I thought that they’d be pounded flat, like cutlets, but they weren’t. We butterflied them the rest of the way open, but decided to not pound them. We simply took some of the dressing we had already made and laid it in a channel in the middle of the breast. To that we added some whole cranberries which we had given a few rough pulses in the food processor. To finish, we sprinkled on some fresh pine nuts, then rolled the breast as tightly as we could. We tied them with kitchen twine, brushed the outside liberally with butter, and put them on a foil-lined baking sheet, cooking at 325F for 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Carving these was a challenge because the breasts were too thick to completely roll up, meaning that some of the stuffing was spilling out of one side. I eventually figured out that cutting them thicker led to slices that stayed together better.
The gravy was a direct nick from Tyler Florence. We didn’t have the turkey wings, but we did end up adding some of the drippings from the rotisserie turkey toward the end, and the gravy was outstanding. It needed a touch of thickening, so we used just a little corn starch, and it came out perfectly.
Dressing we made right off the Pepperidge Farm package instructions. We made it on Wednesday night so we’d be ahead of the curve on Thurdsay.
CREAMY MASHED POTATOES
These potatoes are all about texture and taste. They’re intentionally decadent.
4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
12 tbl unsalted Plugra butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 tbl kosher salt
We washed, peeled, and cut the potatoes into small pieces on Wednesday evening. We put them into water as we were cutting them, then strained that off at the end and added fresh water. We covered the pot and put it into the fridge over night. Before cooking, we rinsed them again.
We boiled them for just about 20 minutes. As that was happening, we put the cream and butter into a saucepan, cooking over a low heat until the butter melted, about 5 minutes. Once the potatoes were done, we drained them in a colander, put them back into the pot, and stirred for about 2 minutes to make sure they were dry, putting them into a bowl at the end. We then ran them through a food mill (so they’re not really “mashed,” they’re “milled”) back into the pot, then folded in the cream mixture and salt, stirring until they had the consistency we wanted, immediately transferring to the serving bowl in the food warmer.
“GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE”
Again, this is where we tried to make a personal take on a traditional dish.
2 lbs fresh green beans, trimmed
6 tablespoons unsalted Plugra butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
16 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp dried sage
¾ cup port
¾ cup heavy cream
3 tbl all-purpose flour
We started by melting 4 tbl of butter to sauté the shallots in, just until they were starting to get translucent. We added in the mushrooms, thyme, and sage, sautéing until most of the liquid evaporated (just under 10 minutes). We stirred in the flour and cooked for 10 more minutes or so, then added the Port (we used RL Buller & Sons NV Tawny, a reasonable inexpensive Port too cook with, not to mention have the occasional sip of), stirring until the mixture was thick. We added the cream and simmered another 5 minutes.
While Gretchyn finished up the sauce, I sautéed the green beans in the remainder of the butter. We wanted them still to have some crisp to them, so I made sure to not overcook them. It took about 6 minutes. Once they were done, we poured the sauce over the beans, stirred them together and served.
The dish was supposed to be topped with frizzled leeks (basically leeks trimmed into thin strips, coated with flour and fried), an obvious take on the canned fried onions. I hopelessly burned them. When I can manage to get them right, we’ll repost about it.
HOMEMADE CLOVERLEAF ROLLS
As we were making these, I was lamenting the amount of time it took and wondering if we had been better off buying some nice dinner rolls, or making something a little less time-consuming. Once everyone had eaten them and raved, I realized that it was time well spent.
¾ cup skim milk, heated to 110F
2 tbl sugar
2 ¼ tsp rapid-rise yeast
1 large egg, plus 1 large yolk
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
10 tbl unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces and softened
2 tbl melted butter
Gretchyn made the dough while I was putting the turkey on the rotisserie spit and then we rolled them out together later.
Step 1: She preheated the oven to 200F then turned it off. She greased a bowl to put the dough ball into.
Step 2: She whisked the milk, sugar and yeast into a bowl and then added in the egg and yolk. Using the stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, she mixed the flour and salt. With the mixer on low, she added the liquid mixture steadily until the dough began to form (about a minute) before increasing the speed and adding the butter, one piece at a time. She continued this about 10 mnutes, until the dough was smooth.
Step 3: She turned the dough onto the counter, which had been disinfected and lightly floured, and kneaded it until it formed a smooth, cohesive ball. She then put the ball into a greased bowl and turned it to coat it, covering and putting it the preheated oven until it doubled in size (roughly 45 minutes).
Step 4: Once again flouring the counter, she punched down the dough lightly, then divided it into thirds, rolling each into an 18-inch long rope (for which I swear she got out the measuring tape). She then cut each rope into 12 equal pieces and covered them with plastic wrap. This is where I came in. We started rolling each piece into a smooth ball and then putting three of each into a 12-cup muffin tin which had been brushed with butter. Once we were done with that, we covered each tin with plastic and let it rest.
Step 5: We baked them about 15 minutes in a 375F oven, until they were golden brown. When they came out, we brushed the top with butter, let them cool for about 5 minutes and then served.
The recipe is for a single batch. We made two, using different butter for each. For one, we used the Plugra, the other Land-o-Lakes. While they were both wonderful, the favorite was clearly the batch made with the higher-fat content Plugra.
I’m not sure what it is about the jellied cranberry sauce in a can, but I love that stuff. I also appreciate a nicely-crafted homemade cranberry sauce, but it just doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving without that can.
12 oz package of whole cranberries
1 ¼ cups of sugar
2 tbl frozen orange juice concentrate
2 tbl Grand Marinier
We spread cranberries into small glass baking dish, then sprinkled with sugar and orange juice concentrate. We stirred to combine it all, then tightly covered with foil. We baked it at 325F for about an hour, uncovered it and stirred in the Grand Marinier. We let it cool to room temperature, covered and refrigerated overnight. On Thursday, we just let it come up to room temperature.
One of our friends took some of it home along with a few of the rolls, which she told me made a great breakfast with a nice cup of coffee.
One of our other friends had volunteered to make desserts, and we were happy to let him since we know he makes awesome stuff. He brought an apple pie and a pumpkin cheesecake that were both spectacular.
NV Schramsberg Brut Rose
2010 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc
2007 J.L. Chave Sélection Hermitage Farconnet
2008 Dusky Goose Oregon Pinot Noir
2002 Louis Latour Chambertin
2009 Carte Blanche Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Stanley Lambert Shiraz The Family Tree
Starting off with a sparkler is always a good choice, and Schramsberg makes affordable, tasty ones. Sancerre is the perfect match for roast turkey in my opinion. Since the rotisserie turkey had a citrus element to it, I thought that a more citrus-y Sauvignon Blanc would be a nice match. I was right.
After the delightful Chave, from the Rhone, the next two Pinot, which is the Red that I would most likely choose to go with all the traditional trimmings. The Dusky Goose was fruit-driven enough that I would have misidentified it as a California Pinot instead of Oregon. It may have been my favorite of the day, although the Chave Hermitage was also quite special.
I would have also gotten it wrong on the Carte Blanche Cab. The nose was super peppery and candied enough that I would have thought it was French Syrah. I only had a little bit of the Stanley Lambert Shiraz, but it was an unmistakable instantiation of the grape.
All this great food and all this great wine paled in comparison to the friends that we enjoyed the day with. They were certainly what we were most thankful for.