An Extra Thanksgiving Helping
So many questions, too little time. That's always the case when I host my annual Thanksgiving chat. Below is a handful of questions left in the queue, that cover the gamut of Thanskgiving preparation. Feel free to weigh in on any of the topics in the comments area below. Have a great weekend and remember to breathe!
I am tasked with bringing an appetizer for a Thanksgiving potluck and I would like to use sweet potatoes as a main ingredient, since no one else is bringing a sweet potato dish for the main meal. What do you suggest?
Oooh, I've got it! Last year at Christmas time, I experimented with a fun recipe for sweet potato dip, a puree of roasted sweet potatoes and onions that get a extra layer of richness with tahini paste. It's surprising and interesting and low cal to boot.
I served it with pita chips and slices of apple and pear. It's a really nice, clean option to kick off what tends to be a heavy meal. You can prepare this a day in advance and be ready for showtime.
In the event your host is offering his kitchen space to do some prep, you could also play with sweet potato latkes. You'd grate a few raw sweet potatoes, a medium onion and an apple and drain the mixture really well. Mix with bread crumbs or matzo meal, a beaten egg, salt, pepper, cayenne and a smidge of cardamom.
Form into patties and fry in about 1/3 cup of oil until golden. You can keep warm in a 200-degreen oven. Serve with applesauce!
Arlington, Va.: I am trekking up to Connecticut to celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband's family. I came up with an easy side dish that I can prepare off to the side and out of the way when we're up there (Sweet Potatoes Au Gratin: sliced and layered with gorgonzola cheese and broth). I'm looking for a dessert that I can make in Virginia the day before and bring with us on the five or six-hour drive. These are hardy Italian folk, so any dessert needs to stand up to the homemade tiramisu and pizzelle. Any thoughts?
Two ideas come to mind, Arlington. Given that the inlaws are Italian, what if you impressed them with a batch of homemade biscotti? The version I make in the video include dried cranberries and pistachios and they're always a hit at this time of year. You could make them this weekend and keep'em stored in an airtight container for the holiday trek.
Now, for something a little more experimental and showstopping, consider making candy. Pumpkin seed brittle, to be exact. The family will be way impressed. It's beautiful, unusual and a nice addition with a glass of grappa after supper! This too can be made this weekend; in fact, I'd recommend it, as cooking sugar requires focus and time that the work week doesn't allow. Keep in a metal container, if possible, to keep out moisture.
Vienna, Austria: Finding myself in a foreign country where they don't celebrate T-giving, my choice this year is a frozen Butterball turkey from the local commissary (or pay 43 Euro, that's approx. $55 for a similar weight fresh turkey from the Viennese market -- I just can't justify it). I've NEVER dealt w/ a frozen bird -- how many days to defrost in the fridge (about 14 lbs) and any suggestions on making it tastier?
Bravo, Vienna! You get a big high-five all the way from Washington for recreating Thanksgiving in another land. Rule of thumb for frozen birds is the following: For every five pounds of bird, estimate 24 hours of thaw time. In your case, that means starting the process Monday afternoon. Check the label for "self-basting" lingo or any mention of salt solution. If salt has already been added, adjust your seasoning accordingly. I like what a compound butter does to a turkey. Soften a stick of unsalted butter and mush it up like Play-Doh. To it, add a diced shallot, some lemon rind and herbs of your choice. For turkey, thyme, rosemary and sage are all good choices. Mix together and roll up in either parchment paper or plastic wrap. Place in freezer. When frozen, slice it up and place underneath the skin and in the cavity. Save a little for basting. Have a wonderful overseas Thanksgiving!
Alexandria, Va. Please tell my parents they're crazy for insisting on using the old electric knife for carving the turkey. We always end up with turkey shards instead of slices!! I there any type of electric knife that is good for carving turkey, since I don't think I will ever be able to break their stigma?
Alexandria, that's one of the questions I asked Bryan Voltaggio, chef at Charlie Palmer Steak, who recently taught me and Post Food editor Joe Yonan how to carve a turkey. (Watch the video!)
Voltaggio said that anything with a serrated edge, which includes that electric knife, is a sure-fire way to hack up the turkey. As you'll see in the video, Voltaggio uses a straight-edged knife as well as a two-pronged meat fork (something woefully lacking in my kitchen and on my shopping list this weekend). One idea is to pick up a brand spanking-new carving knife and meat fork for the occasion, as a gift for your folks, or as a "loaner" that you bring over that day. Show them the video!
I usually make turkey salad (like chicken salad) with some of the leftovers, but I've had a growing intolerance to mayo lately. Can you point me in the direction of a mayo-less recipe?
Last year, I got turned on by an Asian-style turkey salad with cellophane noodles that I found in Nigella Lawson's "Feast." It's a enlightened antidote after all the heavy feasting from the previous day and it's free of the dreaded mayo! If I've got leftovers, I plan to whip some up myself next weekend.
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