I hope your Thanksgiving dinner is the best ever. The recent snowfall has made for a scenic drive over the river and through the woods journey to grandma’s house. Now go fill your house with delicious smells just like grandma did!
Perhaps I can guess what you are thinking about right now and before you get your feathers all ruffled about everything you think you need to accomplish, take a few deep breaths. Your flock of merry feasters will still think the world of you if the gravy is lumpy, the turkey a bit dry and you realize the green bean casserole never made it to the oven. Relax, have a glass of bubbly or a cup of cocoa and carry on. Call grandma for advice if you are fortunate enough to have her around — she’ll love hearing from you. If not, read on and be confident your meal will be delicious no matter what happens.
After years of cooking holiday meals, I still mess up plenty. Without a few memorable stories to tell, how will you amuse your guests? My best to date: the time the dog ate an entire bowl of Waldorf salad I set out on the deck to stay cool while I finished dinner. He was fondly referred to as Waldorf Willy for quite some time. The winner, though, was when I roasted a goose. I basted it with a black currant liquor sauce that didn’t quite have all the alcohol cooked out of it. The alcohol hit the hot goose grease and exploded in the oven like a Molotov cocktail. The oven door blew open and assorted pieces of goose flew out, landing on top of the curtain rods still aflame. The only thing I could do was laugh and pour more bubbly!
• If you don’t have one, purchase an oven-proof meat thermometer. The ideal temperature you want to cook your turkey to is 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Nestle it in between the breast and the leg area at the thickest part and let it register. If it is getting close to 155, you will want to keep a close eye on it, as once it gets close to that magic number, things happen real fast in the oven.
• In an attempt to keep the breast meat moist, rub the turkey all over with olive oil and cover the entire breast area with a triple layer of cheese cloth. Pour a little white wine over the cheese cloth and a good amount of melted butter. With kitchen twine, tie the legs together at the end. Cover the entire bird with foil sealing it onto the roasting pan. Put the beast in a pre-heated 325 degree oven. Peel back a corner of the foil and pour in a good amount of water to the pan, about 1/4 inch. This will ensure you have sufficient drippings to make your gravy from. Check the level about every 45 minutes while Mr. Gobbler is roasting. Don’t let the liquid totally evaporate and be sure there is enough liquid left at the end of roasting so you don’t end up making gravy from a packet.
• About 45 minutes before it’s done, remove the foil (save it) and cheesecloth (throw it out.) If the bird gets brown before it’s done, recover it with the foil.
• Once the internal bird temperature hits 155 degrees, remove it from the oven. Use your baster to suck up the drippings in the pan and transfer them to a saucepan for gravy; also, save some of the drippings to drizzle over the carved meat for moistness and flavor. Cover the bird loosely with the foil tent. Let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving, as resting allows the juiciness to return to the meat.
Because that turkey almost always takes longer to cook than anticipated, have a couple appetizers ready. I like easy recipes, especially when I am busy preparing a big dinner.
Aunt Alice’s Cocktail Shrimp and Sauce
For the shrimp:
2 bay leaves
1 lemon, quartered, plus extra wedges for serving
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 pound (about 24) raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
For the cocktail sauce:
1/3 cup sweet chili sauce (I like Heinz)
¼ cup ketchup
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons horseradish
1 teaspoon hot sauce
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and black pepper
Make the shrimp: Combine 8 cups water, the bay leaves, quartered lemon, peppercorns, coriander seeds and 2 tablespoons salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and add the shrimp. Simmer until the shrimp curl slightly and are just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove the shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon; refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve with the cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.
Make the cocktail sauce: Combine the chili sauce, ketchup, lemon juice, horseradish, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
Scratch Onion Dip
I love good, basic food and you are right-on with this always popular dip.
Serve with veggies, crackers and of course, potato chips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups diced onion
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ cups sour cream
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
In a sauté pan over medium high heat, heat pan and add oil. Add onions, sugar and salt. Cook stirring occasionally until the onions caramelize, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. Add cooled onions. Adjust seasonings. Refrigerate and stir before serving.
The kitchen is a wonderful place to be. Good snacks, good drinks, good people.
Teri Robl is longtime Homer resident who loves to cook for friends and family.