Thanksgiving was never a big deal when I was growing up; more often than not my family didn't even celebrate. I'm not sure if it was a cultural thing or a geographical one (probably a bit of both). But between moving (from Quebec to Ontario) and spending holiday time with friends as I got older, I somehow ended up acquiring a real love for Thanksgiving. Spending time with people I care about, celebrating the harvest with delicious food, and enjoying the splendours of my favourite time of the year: what's not to love?
This year, the SO and I finally had a chance to play hosts for the feast! It was quite exciting, if somewhat daunting (did I mention we'd never cooked a turkey before?) In the end, it all came together, leaving me excited to host future holiday dinners. American Thanksgiving, anyone?
The package said 10 hours in the fridge would defrost our 5 kg (just over 12 lbs) turkey. The package lied. We had to switch to soaking it in cold water in the sink, changing the water every half an hour. Luckily, that did the trick.
As the turkey was defrosting, I got started on Cook's Illustrated's Skillet Apple Pie. I'd never made pastry in a food processor before. How did I ever get by without it? No more store-bought pie shells for me!
Cutting the butter and shortening into the flour mixture:
The apples caramelizing in a little butter:
Caramelized apples mixed in with cider, maple syrup, and cinnamon:
The pastry gets rolled out and laid on top of the apples before being cut. There is no bottom crust:
It tasted as good as it looks. I'll definitely be making this one again.
The acorn squash was parboiled, glazed with a mixture of pureed chipotle chiles and maple syrup, and finished off in the oven. The chile heat was a little intense, but luckily our friends like their food spicy. Nevertheless, I think I'll cut the amount of chipotles in half (maybe more) if I make this again.
The turkey in all its glory:
The meat thermometer we got at the last minute turned out to be an invaluable investment. Ours has a probe with a long cord and a timer/thermometer that sits on the counter, so we didn't have to open the oven until the turkey was almost done, which kept the oven temperature nice and consistent. The SO then basted the turkey with its own juices and put it back in the oven until it reached an internal temperature of 185F. After that, it was a matter of a 20-minute rest on the counter before finally being carved (while it was resting we used the newly freed oven to reheat the acorn squash; then while we were eating we reheated the apple pie). I'm happy to report that even the leftover turkey was juicy. Our successful roasting experiment leaves me enthused to try different techniques next time: brining or--dare I go there?--deep frying.
The table's set and ready to go. Two bowls contain cranberry sauce (from a can--it's the only way to go). One contains raisins (I didn't add them when cooking the stuffing because one person doesn't care for them). The pumpkin bowl (actually a lidded soup bowl) holds gravy.
Of course in all the excitement I forgot to take photos of a few things: the stuffing (more dressing than stuffing, as it didn't actually get stuffed into the turkey); mashed white and sweet potatoes; pumpkin pie made by the SO (his signature dessert); brussels sprouts with bacon (I need that recipe!) brought over by our friends; or the huge platter of veggies with two kinds of dip (store-bought Ranch and homemade hummus) that we never even got around to eating (we definitely overestimated the amount of food we'd need). All washed down with beer and mulled apple juice. It was a lot of work and a lot of clean up. I had a great time :)
Domicile's Rice Stuffing with Nuts and Dried Fruit
This not only tastes great but it smells like Thanksgiving.
2 tbs butter
2 onions, chopped
1 large stalk celery, chopped
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup packaged mixed brown-and-wild rice (or 1/2 cup each of brown rice and wild rice)
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups parboiled white rice
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cups chopped toasted almonds
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
Optional: Add up to 1/2 cup each of dried cranberries, chopped dried apples, pine nuts, chopped pecans, and/or chopped cooked chestnuts. You can also substitute these for the fruit and nuts called for in the recipe, if desired.
In Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat; cook onions, celery, thyme, and bay leaf until softened, stirring occasionally (about 5 minutes).
Stir in brown and wild rice; add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add parboiled rice; cover and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove and discard bay leaf.
Stir in dried fruit, nuts, parsley, pepper, and salt, if using.
Serve while warm. If you're planning on stuffing the turkey with this, allow to cool completely first. You can also make this 1 to 2 days ahead of time. To reheat, place in a slow cooker set to "warm" for two to three hours. Alternately, place in a covered baking dish and reheat in the oven at 350F for about 30 minutes (time and temperature can be adjusted, if necessary--a longer time at a lower temperature, or a shorter time at a higher one).
All photos by Domicile. Click to view larger.