Utilizing Your Thanksgiving Pantry

How to Build a Beginner Pantry, Part 4

Can you believe that fall is here along with many birthdays and Holidays? To the busy family, planning Thanksgiving can be daunting, but you have your organized pantry to go to for solutions. Aren’t you excited that you have everything labeled, stored properly, and have even expanded to buying in local markets? This Thanksgiving meal is going to be worry free and more delicious than ever.

Let’s begin with your overall menu and “kick up” a few old favorites.

Menu

Traditional turkey with a full proof recipe
Mom’s secret stuffing
Roasted vegetables
Homemade gravy
Truffle and crème fraiche scalloped potatoes
Cranberry maple reduction

This menu is a three “pot” meal for preparation. You will need a traditional roasting pan with rack or even use a small cooling rack inside a square baking pan, glass casserole dish, and a sauce pan. Turn your oven to 350 or 375 depending on your oven type on bake setting.

Let’s assemble the turkey and please remember to take the gizzards, etc. out first. Take chicken stock or broth and pour into the bottom of your roasting pan. If using stock, add one chicken bouillon cube or two if using broth. This is going to create a steam Jacuzzi for your turkey. Rub your turkey with your favorite rub inside and out. I simply love Lawrey’s season salt or Herbes de Provence.

Take cold butter and cut slits, not into the meat, around the turkey and slide the butter under. This is including the legs. Place your turkey aside to allow it to come up in temperature while you make the stuffing. It is a consistent debate whether to stuff the turkey or cook stuffing (dressing) on the side.

This recipe is good for both, but I grew up on a stuffed turkey and carry on that tradition today. It adds real juices to your stuffing and helps keep the inside of the turkey moist.

Mom’s stuffing recipe

(I may receive a lecture on sharing her family’s recipe but it is the best)

Seasoned stuffing cubes (one bag or two depending on the size of the turkey)
Chicken stock
Fresh celery with the leaves
Ground sage
Water chestnuts (optional but not to Mom)
Butter
Salt and pepper

Melt 2 pats of butter and set aside. Put your stuffing cubes in a bowl large enough to add liquid to. Dice the inside of the celery stalk including the leaves and add to the cubes. I prefer just the lightest colored and tender celery towards the center. The leaves add the most flavor. Add your strained water chestnuts whole. Pour the butter over the top while adding salt and pepper to taste. Put a large palm full of ground sage in the mixture. Now add just enough chicken stock to hold it together. You do not want soft stuffing, at this point. The turkey will do that for you while adding it’s own flavor. Put all of the stuffing you can inside your turkey and leave some on the outside. Sprinkle a little of the rub you have chosen on the stuffing sticking out. Remember you have some on the inside of the turkey already.

Now it is on to the vegetables. Everyone has their favorites so, by all means, use what you and your family prefer. I use, carrots, shallots, fennel, turnips, potatoes (if I am not making a potato dish), and parsnip if in season. Just a large cut on the vegetables and place on and around your turkey. Sprinkle the vegetables with your chosen season rub. Cover your turkey with aluminum foil, loosely so steam can escape, and place in the oven. Cook for the desired length depending on the size of your turkey. For the last 45minutes, remove the foil and allow your turkey to brown. You have created an all in one meal except the potatoes and reduction. Both of these can be made now to be cooked during the last minutes of the turkey. Your homemade gravy is making itself as the turkey and vegetables release their juices into your chicken stock Jacuzzi. With the addition of basic flour, a little at a time, and a whisk, you have your gravy done. Just place your roasting pan over two burners under low heat to make the gravy. Add the flour slowly to your desired thickness.

I have added truffle and crème fraiche scalloped potatoes to our family meal as my favorite. Remember, you have truffle oil in your pantry and you can buy crème fraiche from your local specialty market.

Truffle and Crème Fraiche Scalloped potatoes:

3 pounds Russet potatoes
1 ½ cups crème fraiche
1 tablespoon truffle oil (I prefer black for baking)
Mixture of your favorite herbs
Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and prepare a 9’”by 13” glass casserole dish with non-stick spray. Hand grate the fontina cheese and thinly slice the potatoes. The thinner, the better for this recipe. Place the potatoes, overlapping slightly, in the dish with salt and pepper on every slice. Spread half of the cheese and crème fraiche on one layer. Then again, on the top layer. Make sure each layer has a drizzle of truffle oil and a sprinkle of herbs. Bake for approximately 30-45minutes until golden brown and fork tender. Simply cover with aluminum foil if the potatoes are getting too brown to finish cooking.

Can you already taste, not only the food, but a successful Holiday ahead? My favorite phone calls during the Holidays are cooking questions pertaining to an upcoming meal. There is, always, a simple solution if you are organized and have a great pantry. Don’t be afraid to put a twist on an old classic and create a favorite with your name on it. Keep your pantry updated and inventory often so you don’t forget all of the goodies you can create. Bring out some of the heirloom dishes that never get used to really show off your meal and create conversation with family and friends. The most important thing is to enjoy not only what you have cooked, but cooking it.

Originally written for 406 Woman Magazine.

By Kristen Ledyard Owner/Executive Chef of John’s Angels Catering LLC

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