Thanksgiving Series 2016

 Thanksgiving turkey recipe

A tale of a table

I am very happy to share this Thanksgiving recipe series with you!  No matter how your year has been so far or how shocked the elections left you, there are always things to be grateful for.

For me it’s always a humbling experience putting the Thanksgiving food altogether.  Even if I cook all the time through the days and weeks of the year, it’s only in Thanksgiving when, after giving thanks of course, everything is all about the food and how they compliment each other.  The idea of feeding my guest’s bellies with good food and souls with joy always makes me smile and realize how one can influence other's lives with even the smallest actions.

I’m repeating my beloved techniques of dry brining the turkey and roasting it in high temperature for less time different than traditional recipes.  Also I decided to “brine” the Brussels sprouts.  It’s so frustrating to season them very well just to bite them after being cooked and still getting that bitter taste.  I get creative and came with this idea, don’t know if someone has ever done it.  The result is a more pleasant bite and when mixed with the sweetness of the honey, the acidity of the balsamic vinegar and the saltiness of the prosciutto the flavor profile is simply delicious.  I’m including the link to last year’s Thanksgiving recipes post so you can read other tips and notes as well.

This post is a short one because there are lots of recipes for you to read.  But let me assure you, these recipes are quite easy to make.  There are components that you surely can make ahead, so you just need to roast the turkey and put everything together during Thanksgiving Day.  Besides, after uploading this post I have to work on the Sugared Plums Cheesecake dessert post.  And I’m sure you don’t want me messing around with the dessert!  Read this recipes ahead so you know how to organize the schedule.

This is a glance for this year’s menu:

Garlic and ginger roasted turkey
Homemade pumpkin and olive oil bread stuffing with shallots and Gruyere cheese
Port and maple cranberry sauce
Sweet potatoes cassoulet with coconut milk and almond marshmallow topping
Honey roasted Brussels sprouts with pepitas and prosciutto
Sugar plums cheesecake with dark rum salted caramel

I leave you with some recipe notes so you can check what things you can make in advance and other points to take in consideration when preparing your meal.  Don’t be shy and shout me a message if you have any doubt with the recipes.  I’ll be more than happy to help!

Recipe notes:

1.     The cranberry sauce is a jelly, so you can make it as soon as you can since it will be good for a couple of weeks.  Heat it with a sprinkle of salt and some port wine before serving.

2.     You may do the pumpkin bread two days in advance.  I used fresh marjoram inside the batter but feel free to swap it for any other earthy herb you prefer, such as rosemary, thyme or sage.

3.     These sweet potatoes are cooked with the same technique as the potatoes in a Spanish frittata.  Think on steaming them in the olive oil instead of making them crispy.  If the heat rises too quickly just turn it down a notch and spread the content to the edges of the pan for a minute or two, then reincorporate everything and turn the heat back to medium.

4.     It’s super important that the turkey is well thawed before seasoning it.  If you realize it’s not, place it under hot water for a while to get rid of any ice lumps left.  Pat dry as much as you can.  It will probably continue to drip water, so keep patting and, depending on how much seasonings are being drowned with the water, increase the amounts of them.  If there’s too much water on the bottom of the turkey when you are ready to roast it, pat dry as much as you can until it is mostly dry and season again, drizzling more olive oil when you finish.

5.     You may brine the turkey up to two days in advance and it will be fine.  A good overnight brine will be also fine.

6.     Remember to read all the recipes before starting to cook, this way you can organize your cooking schedule and make sure you have everything you need in hand.

7.     Here’s the link to my last year’s Thanksgiving recipe series so you can read other recipes and notes that could be very useful as well.

8.     Organize well and keep a glass of wine around.  Happy cooking!

 Port cranberry sauce

Port & grapefruit cranberry sauce
Makes about 3 cups
Total time – 30 minutes  Prep time – 5 minutes
Make ahead - as soon as you can

Cranberries, fresh or thawed – 3 cups
Grapefruit juice – ½ cup
Brown sugar – 1 ½ cup
Maple syrup – 1 TBSP
Ginger, ground – ½ Tsp
Nutmeg, ground – ¼ Tsp
Port wine – ¼ cup + 2 TBSP (optional)
Lemon zest – of 1 lemon
Lemon juice – 1 TBSP (juice of half lemon)
Fine sea salt – ¼ Tsp + more to taste

In a large saucepan or pot combine all the ingredients except for the port wine, the lemon zest, lemon juice and salt.  Cook in medium high heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cranberries have broken.  Retire form heat and add the ¼ cup of the port wine, the lemon zest, lemon juice and salt.  Return to heat and cook for 5 minutes more.  Add the extra tablespoons of the port for a more intense boozy flavor and add a pinch or two of extra salt to adjust the taste.  Serve into a bowl and let it cool before serving.

 Thanksgiving turkey recipe

Savory pumpkin bread for stuffing
Makes an 8 x 8 bread
Total time – 40 minutes Prep time – 10 minutes
Equipment – 8” x 8” square or 8” round baking pan, stand up mixer or electric mixer with the beater attachment or whisk and wooden spoon for mixing

Unbleached all purpose flour – 1 ½ cup
Baking soda – 1 Tsp
Unsalted butter, softened – 3 TBSP
Sugar – 1 TBSP
Olive oil – ¼ cup
Pumpkin puree – 15 oz (1 can)
Eggs – 2
Marjoram leaves, chopped – 1 ½ Tsp
Ginger, ground – ¼ Tsp
Garlic, ground – ¼ Tsp
Fine sea salt – ½ Tsp

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease or spray an 8” x 8” or 8” to 9” cake pan or oven dish.

In a bowl combine with a whisk the flour with the baking soda.

Preferably using an electric mixer, if not with a hand whisk, beat the butter with the sugar for a couple of minutes.  Add the olive oil and beat a couple of minutes more, until the batter looks integrated and uniform.  Add the pumpkin and beat until well integrated.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until combined.  Add the marjoram, ginger, garlic and salt and combine once more to mix everything through.  With the mixer in motion add the flour mix in three additions, waiting for it to almost incorporate before adding the next part.  Alternatively, if mixing by hand, add the flour to the wet ingredients in three additions, mixing with a wooden spoon after each addition.  Do not over mix, small lumps are OK.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes.  It is ok if it turns out a little bit dry because we are going to sauté it with olive oil for making the stuffing.

Pumpkin bread, shallots and Gruyere turkey stuffing
Total time – 10 minutes  Prep time – 5 minutes

Olive oil – 3 TBSP
Shallots, chopped in fourths – 1 ½ cups (6 o 7 shallots)
Fine sea salt – ¼ Tsp + a couple of pinches more to taste
Pumpkin bread, broken in pieces – approximately 4 cups
Gruyere cheese, shredded – 1 cup
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over moderate heat.  Add the shallots and sauté for a couple of minutes, tossing frequently until they are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the ¼ teaspoon of salt and mix once moreIncorporate the pieces of the pumpkin bread, drizzling a bit more of olive oil if necessary, and sauté everything together.  Retire from heat and mix in the Gruyere cheese.  Sprinkle with a pinch or two of the salt and a good sprinkle of pepper if desired.  Reserve.

Sweet potatoes in coconut milk cassoulet with almond marshmallow topping
Total time – 1 hour  Prep time – 10 minutes  Active cooking time – 25 minutes
Equipment – deep cast iron pan or oven proof deep skillet, stand up mixer and candy thermometer for the marshmallow


Medium sweet potatoes – 8, peeled and cut in ½” slices, then cut in fourths or sixths to get ½” cubes
Olive oil – 3 TBSP + a couple of drizzles more on demand
Fine sea salt – ½ Tsp + ¼ Tsp
Organic full fat coconut milk – 2 ½ cups (1 ½ can)
Rosemary sprigs – 4 to 5

Freshly ground black pepper – ¼ Tsp

For the marshmallow topping (optional)

Raw sugar – 1 cup
Water - ⅓ cup
Egg whites – 3
Fine sea salt – 2 pinches
Almond extract – 1 Tsp

Make the cassoulet Prehet oven in 325°.

In a large cast iron pan (I used a 13” pan) or oven proof deep skillet heat the 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat.  Add in the sweet potato pieces with the ½ teaspoon of salt and start moving frequently, almost constantly to prevent burning the borders of the potato cubes.  The idea here is more of steaming the potatoes in the olive oil rather than frying them and making them crispy.  Continue working on medium heat, turning it down to medium low for a couple of minutes if the pan gets too hot, and drizzling bits of oil if you see the potatoes are getting dry too fast.  Cook for 25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but slightly under cooked (that you feel them al dente).

Retire form heat.  Add in the coconut milk and sink in the rosemary sprigs. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and the black pepper.  Place it into the oven and cook for 20 minutes.  Retire form oven and set aside.  Turn the oven off and let it open so it cools down a bit.

Make the marshmallow In a small sauce pan combine the sugar with the water.  Bring to a boil in high heat without revolving the content.  Let it cook until a candy thermometer has reached 240°, about 5 minutes.

As soon as you start cooking the syrup, start whipping the egg whites with the salt in a stand up mixer with the whisk attachment in medium (4 in the Kitchen Aid mixer).  Whisk until the whites are completely white and have increased half in volume and they look with some structure but still smooth. If the syrup is almost ready and you feel the white needs more air, increase the mixer one notch (6 in the Kitchen Aid) for 30 seconds, then return to the previous speed.

When the syrup has reached the 240°, retire from heat and immediately start pouring it into the egg whites, with the mixer still in motion.  Drip through the side in a very thin stream and with a paced motion, being aware that the syrup is incorporating into the whites and not sticking to the wall of the bowl.  When the syrup has been completely incorporated, mix in the almond extract.  Beat for an extra 30 seconds, then stop the mixer.

Assemble the cassoulet Using a spatula spread the marshmallow over the sweet potatoes to cover them completely.  Turn the broiler to medium low or #2.  Place the pan in the middle of the oven and broil for 30 to 45 seconds, until the top is golden brown.  If you prefer the marshmallow a little bit burned, broil it in medium or #3, but keep an eye on it and remove after 30 seconds.  You may serve warm.

The turkey
Serves 10 to 12 persons
Total time - Minimum 2 days from start to finish  Active time – 20 minutes  Cooking time – 1 hour and 20 minutes
Equipment – Roasting pan with rack or baking pan with a small oven proof dish to place inside it to elevate the turkey, plastic paper, oven mittens for turning the turkey, disposable latex gloves (optional)

Turkey – 12 to 14 lbs bird, with all the cavities already emptied, completely thawed and pat dry
Unsalted butter, softened – 12 TBSP (1 ½ stick)
Rosemary leaves, chopped – 2 Tsp
Sage leaves, chopped – 3 Tsp
Fine sea salt – 4 TBSP + more to taste
Paprika, ground – 3 Tsp + more to taste
Ginger, ground – 1 Tsp + more to taste
Fresh garlic, minced – ½ to 1 Tsp
Olive oil – ⅓ cup
Freshly squeezed lemon juice – ¼ cup

Place the butter with the rosemary and the sage in the bowl of a food processor already attached to its base.  Pulse until the herbs have integrated completely into the butter.  Set aside or transfer to a bowl and reserve if doing ahead.

Spread a long piece of plastic paper over a flat surface and place the turkey, breast side down.  Loosen the drumsticks.  Start by rubbing almost half of the salt through all of that side, lifting the skin of the bird as far as you can and seasoning directly the flesh as much as you can reach.  Take advantage of any open cavity or access to the flesh as much as you can to rub salt.  Repeat the process with the paprika and ginger.  Turn the turkey and repeat the same process.  Remember to rub under the wings and the tips of the drumsticks.  Turn again and rub half of the olive oil and half of the lemon juice.  Sprinkle any remaining salt and a bit more of the seasonings.  Don’t be afraid to use a few pinches more than the recipe requires, it’s really hard to over salt a turkey.  Turn again and repeat the process, rubbing for the last time a few pinches extra of the salt and seasonings through the whole bird, remembering to take advantage of any access to the direct meat.  Sprinkle with some oil the inside of the turkey and rub some salt through that meat as well.  Careful not to tear it, lift the breast skin as much as you can and fill it with the herbed butter.  You can even reach the top of the drumsticks.

Wrap the turkey very well with plastic paper, using a couple of pieces more to wrap it horizontally and vertically to prevent dryness.  Place in the fridge and let it rest at least two days in advance.

When ready to roast the turkey, take it out of the fridge at least 45 minutes before so it comes up to room temperature.  Stuff it with the stuffing, pressing as much as you can so you use it all.  Wrap again the drumsticks and twist the wings to tuck them below the bird (Here's a great guide on how to twine a turkey).  Place a rack on the lower third of the oven and preheat in 425°.  You want a very hot oven so let it heat for at least 30 minutes before placing the turkey inside.

Place the turkey in a roasting pan breast side up (see notes) and into the oven.  Roast for 40 minutes, then take it out and turn it upside down.  Roast for 40 minutes more.  Retire form oven and turn breast side up again.  Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

Use the drippings to make a traditional gravy, mixing it with a cup of chicken stock in a small saucepan and cooking it with 2 teaspoons of arrowroot (or cornstarch or flour) for five minutes or until the thickener added has completely dissolved, then strain it through a sieve.

If you need to reheat the turkey, bring the oven to 425°.  Drizzle a bit of oil through the top of the turkey.  Place it inside the oven and heat for 5 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 275° and heat for 10 minutes more.  Take outside the oven and wait 1 or 2 minutes before serving.

 Honey roasted Brussel sprouts with pepitas and prosciutto

Roasted Brussel sprouts with pepitas and prosciutto
Total time – 35 minutes plus time for brining the Brussel sprouts  Prep time – 10 minutes  Active cooking time – 5 minutes
Equipment – baking sheet, skillet

Brussel sprouts, – 2 lbs
Fine sea salt – 1 ½ TBSP + ¾ Tsp + ¼ Tsp + more to serve
Raw sugar – 1 TBSP + ¼ Tsp + more to serve
Olive oil – 2 TBSP + 1 TBSP
Honey – 1 ½ TBSP + more to serve
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) – ½ cup
Proscuitto, chopped in fine medium pieces – 1 cup
Fresh bok choy, leaves and steams, sliced – 2 cups
Balsamic vinegar – 1 to 1 ½ TBSP

Remove the outer leaves and any black stained or yellowish leaves around each sprout and cut their bases.  Place them in a bowl and cover them with water, then add 1½ tablespoon of salt and the tablespoon of sugar.  Move to dissolve and let them brine for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Drain and pat dry the sprouts as much as you can.  Pat dry the walls of the bowl as well.  Mix in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the ¾ teaspoon of salt, the ¼ teaspoon of sugar and the 1½ tablespoon of honey.  In a small bowl sprinkle the pepitas with ¼ of the salt.  Transfer the sprouts with the pepitas to a baking sheet.  Roast for 25 minutes, tossing them halfway through to prevent burning on one side.  Take them out of the oven and cool down for a few minutes.

In the meantime heat over medium high the remaining tablespoon of oil in a skillet.  Fry the prosciutto pieces until they are crispy, moving frequently, about 5 minutes.

When ready to serve, combine in a bowl the sprouts and pepitas with the prosciutto and bok choy.  Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, some extra honey and few extra sprinkles of salt and sugar.  Serve immediately.

 Thanksgiving turkey recipe