Plenty for Everyone!


That’s what inspired Thanksgiving, isn’t it, a celebration of, and gratitude for, a bountiful harvest?  Today’s entry heartily endorses that appeal with a plate full  of the best of farm, forest and field.  Just the crops alone are well-represented in the produce spilling from the cornucopia below:CornucopiaToday’s feast started with an episode of the Cook’s Country television program (on public television here in the US, at least), which shows viewers how to prepare a turkey breast in the French en cocotte method.  After the turkey is seared, it’s sealed in a pot with thyme, celery, garlic and other flavor enhancers.  Off it goes to the oven to cook low and slow for a couple hours, resulting in bird that’s beautifully flavored and oh-so-juicy.  Best of all are the tastes remaining in the pot, which go on to make a rich, silky gravy.

What good’s gravy, though, without fluffy whipped potatoes to carry its splendor to pillowed heights?  To create spuds worthy of such a mission, a call was placed to Mom, to seek advice on approaching the magic she’s given the world for decades now.  Not surprisingly, some cream and a touch of butter are involved.  Also made a couple personal riffs, including using sweet potatoes and a generous supply of freshly-grated horseradish.  The results still don’t equal hers, but darned if they don’t come close!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes   Thanks, Mom!

Now we’re getting somewhere, and you can’t have Thanksgiving dinner without cranberry sauce.  Save the stuff in a can, though, and opt instead for the deeper, soul-tingling flavors Bon Appetit described in the November 2019 issue.   Its Fancy Cranberry Sauce features whole cranberries, softened as they release their essence, and suspended in a jelly infused with juices, bay and cardamom.  Cranberry sauce for grown-ups like you, with sophisticated tastes.

Rounding out the meal are Brussels Sprouts Pan-Sautéed with Shallots.  No special recipe for this one; just the lessons years of cooking have introduced.  The sprouts are quartered and are pan-seared with olive oil and sliced shallots until the greens are tender and have picked up a toasty nuttiness.  Nicely complimenting the other flavors on the plate.

Here you have all of Thanksgiving’s standouts, though without the fuss of a “full” spread, the table groaning beneath the burden and all.  Instead, a turkey breast is ideal for an intimate family meal, or even for a couple to share in anticipation of leftovers later.  Which could come the next day,  as below, when turkey is sliced thinly for sandwiches.  Oh, don’t forget the cranberry sauce, which is a superb condiment too!

Turkey Sandwich Pull up a chair and fill a plate.  Pleased as punch you made it here!  There’s much to go around, and nobody’s going hungry at this table.  Nope, no lack of satisfying nourishment, good company and sparkling conversation.  We’re warm, we’re happy, we’re included.  Let us give thanks.

****

Turkey Breast en Cocotte with Pan Gravy

  • 1 (6-to-7-pound) whole bone-in turkey breast
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped (*1, 2)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Remove all but the lowest of the cooking racks and preheat the oven to 250°.  Pat turkey dry and season with salt and pepper.  Place a stockpot over a medium-high flame.  Add the oil, and when it just is smoking, add the turkey.  Brown it on all sides, about twelve minutes total,  then transfer to a large plate.

Pour off all but two tablespoons of fat from the pot.  Reduce the flame to medium and heat oil until it shimmers.  Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes.   Stir in the garlic, thyme and bay leaf and cook until fragrant, about 30 minutes.  Turn off the flame and add the turkey breast and any juices that accumulated on the plate.

Fit a large sheet of aluminum foil over the pot, and press to seal along the perimeter, then cover tightly with the lid.  Transfer to the oven and cook for two hours.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven and place on the stove.  Transfer the turkey to a carving board and tent loosely with the foil.  Let rest while making gravy.

Turn the flame to medium-high and cook remaining stockpot ingredients until nearly all the liquid is evaporated, about fifteen minutes.  Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until browned, about two minutes.  Slowly add the chicken broth, whisking constantly to smooth out any lumps.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until gravy is thick and measures about a cup-and-a-half, about ten minutes.  Pour the gravy through a fine-mesh strainer and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the skin from the turkey breast and carve as desired.  If you anticipate using some later for sandwiches, remove about a pound of the breast before carving, wrap it well, then place it in the fridge.  Plate carved turkey and serve alongside gravy.

NOTES:

1 –  While onions are a good creation, aren’t two medium shallots even more Divine a Gift?

2 – Don’t worry too much about making  the onion, carrot, celery and garlic too pretty, as they eventually will be strained from the gravy and discarded anyway.  Their purpose is to add flavor, and exposing as much surface area as possible will accomplish this.  A rough shop is fine; no need to fuss over aesthetics.

*****

Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Horseradish

  • three sweet potatoes, about 1-and-1/2 pounds each, washed (*3)
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • two tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (*4)
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated horseradish, optional (*5)

Peel potatoes and cube roughly into approximately two-inch pieces.  Add to a large pot and just cover with water.  Place over a medium-high flame and bring water to a boil.  When it does, reduce flame to medium and add a couple pinches of salt.  Continue cooking until potatoes are barely tender and a fork just penetrates them, about twenty minutes.

Pour potatoes into a colander and rinse them with cold water, to stop the cooking process.  Put potatoes into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Fit the mixer with the paddle blade and mash potatoes at low speed until they just unite to a smooth(ish) consistency.  Stop the mixer and add the butter, salt, pepper, the horseradish and about half the cream.  Turn motor back to medium speed and continue beating until potatoes are smooth and fluffy, adding a little cream at a time to improve silkiness, about five minutes total.

NOTES:

3 – The best sweet potato for the task is the murasaki, a red-skinned Japanese variety, yielding creamy flesh and a subtle taste.  In replacement, most other varieties of sweet potatoes and yams will do, though without quite the same magnificence.  For that matter, “plain old” red potatoes are fine too.

4 – Replace with milk for an even lower-fat combination, working your way all the way down to skim if that’s important.  Be warned, though, a little of the taste will be lost.

5 – You also can use the jarred variety if you can’t find fresh horseradish, or if you aren’t inclined to peel and to grate it.  As the jarred version is preserved in vinegar, though, its profile is more intense.  As a result, 1/3 cup will accomplish what half a cup of freshly-grated would.

*****

Brussels Sprouts Pan-Sautéed with Shallots

  • one pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
  • one medium shallot, sliced thinly
  • one tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Place a medium skillet over a medium flame and pour in the oil.  When it shimmers, add the Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring frequently, for two minutes.

Add the shallots and continue cooking and stirring frequently, until the greens have toasted and browned somewhat.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

*****

Fancy Cranberry Sauce

  • non-stick vegetable oil spray
  • 1-and-1/2 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1-and-1/2 pounds fresh (or frozen and thawed) cranberries
  • 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice (*6)
  • 1-and-1/2 cups, plus three tablespoons, sugar
  • two 2-inch by 1-inch strips of orange zest, sliced thinly lengthwise

Lightly coat a four-cup gelatin mold with cooking spray.  Put half a cup of warm water into a separate bowl and stir in the gelatin.  Let bloom for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, set aside two tablespoons of the cranberries for later use.  Add to a large saucepan the rest of the cranberries, the cardamom, bay leaves cranberry juice and sugar.  Place over a medium flame and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves, about ten minutes.

Reduce flame and continue cooking until the berries begin to burst and mixture begins to look syrupy, about twelve minutes.  Turn off the flame and extract the bay leaf and cardamom pods.

Stir in the gelatin mixture and pour slowly into the gelatin mold.  Refrigerate until completely set, at least twelve hours.

Just before the gelatin is ready, toss the orange zest and the cranberries you reserved in a small bowl with three tablespoons of sugar.

To unmold the gelatin, dip the mold into a bowl of warm water and hold for thirty seconds.   Place a platter, upside-down, over the mold and invert.  Gelatin should come out in one piece.  Garnish with the orange zest and berries you sugared.

NOTES:

6 – Unsweetened cranberry juice is available at health-food stores, or online.  You may replace it with a similar quantity of water, but the gelatin won’t have quite as full a taste or as striking a color.

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16 thoughts on “Plenty for Everyone!

    1. Ahhhh, thanks so much, Crystal. Same to you, my friend!

      No matter whether you’re hosting or guesting, there will be plenty of leftovers to feed both body and soul for the coming year. In fact, the freezer surrendered the last packet of 2021 stuffing a month or so ago.

      How about you and Kody, home or away?

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      1. Awesome, Crystal, and as expected! Anticipation warms your heart, and it’s increasingly difficult to focus on anything routine for more than seconds. You likely haven’t been this excited since you were a little kid on Christmas Eve. Well, maybe on your wedding day, and when Kody presented you that sapphire, but Thursday’s up there on the podium as well.

        Enjoy!

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      1. You’re welcome — and thank you, timing be walled up in a waterway (points if you can make sense of that)! Besides, how many times have I been late with such things? Er… Don’t answer that.

        Actually… I’m not sure stuffing has ever been a big thing in our house. Turkey? Yes. Pumpkin pie? Definitely. But stuffing? A few things get cozy with the poor bird, but that’s basically just item A, subsection C, not *stuffing*. My sister makes a corn pudding every year, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Corn pudding? Cool! I’ve tried it before and l like it. Personally, the version developed at the King’s Arms Tavern in Williamsburg is a favorite.

        As for “walled up in a waterway,” I gather the meaning contextually, but I have no clue where it originates. No points for me, then. What am I missing here?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Interesting! I’m not familiar with the King’s Arm Tavern, but I’m partial to the old-fashioned name (and, I suspect, to any such decor).

        Oh, it’s no discredit to you. I like puns; but for better or worse, many of mine require some tangential translation. For example: what do you call a barrier constructed to hold back water and raise its level? A dam. Now convert that into a past tense verb, use it to replace “walled up in a waterway,” and…

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Well, I’ll be darned, Rachel!

        As usual, you have my tumblers spinning. I’m relieved a pun outpaced me, not pop culture. “Felix, do you mean to tell me you’re completely unaware of the “Walled Up in a Waterway” phenomenon sweeping music, movies and TV for three years now?” Whew. Obviously, I would rather be though stupid, than uncool.

        King’s Arm is a must-visit when I’m in Williamsburg. It was named in the 1760s, back when Virginia still was a British colony, when a loyal subject designated his restaurant/inn/bar in honor of the royal coat of arms. And, yes, I think you would like the decor. Provided you appreciate the colonial aesthetic, that is.

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  1. This is a delicious post with which to celebrate Thanksgiving.

    Everything here reads as scrumptious parts of an entire feast.

    I have never thought of horseradish combined with sweet potatoes but I am assured by your food skills that this is a fabulous combination!

    Happy Thanksgiving, Keith.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You too, Tamara. I hope yours was similarly enjoyable.

      Horseradish does wonders for sweet potatoes. Particularly for the variety I favor, Muraski, which isn’t as cloying as are many of the other kinds. The spirited horseradish really dances with the potatoes’ mild sweetness.

      Liked by 1 person

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