Thanksgiving Feast Part 2

Aaaah part 2...I did not take very good pictures of the sides because I think we were all so anxious to eat -- sounds familiar?  I tend to do that a lot :) I also forgot to take pictures of the main dish, the Herb Roasted Turkey!!! But thankfully I just did it the same way as when I make herb roasted chicken and it turned out fantastic --  very moist and tender, and there were no leftovers at the end!

Some Tips on Making Turkey:

  • Defrost defrost defrost ... Because a turkey is much larger than a chicken you will need to defrost your turkey a couple days beforehand.  I defrosted mine by Friday morning so I place it in the brine.
  • Ever had dry Thanksgiving turkey, where even all the gravy in the world couldn't make it moist?  Well brining a turkey will prevent that from happening.  You can refer back on how to make a brine if you do not know how.  Be creative and make your own brine with your choice of herbs and spices.  Brine the turkey for at least 24 hours for best results.
  • Plan accordingly.  It takes about 15 minutes per pound to cook the turkey at 350F.  So if you are planning to serve guests at 5pm with a 20 lb turkey it would take up to 5 hours so it'd be best to place it in the oven a little before or at 12.
  • Once the turkey is done, you need to let it sit for 15-20 minutes before carving to allow the juices in the bird to set.  Or you will lose all the precious delicious juices onto the plate :(!

Does anyone have any of their own Turkey tips? Please let me know if you do! Okay let's sample some Sides shall we?

Ingredients for Succotash with Fresh Corn and Flageolet Beans: (serves 12)

  • 4 cups of fresh corn
  • 3 cups flageolet beans, cooked
  • 1 cup butternut squash, diced and blanched
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

Tips on chopping onions:

  • Don't like crying while you're chopping? Soak your onions in water before cutting, I hear chewing gum helps too but I have never tried it myself.
  • Fastest way to peel an onion is to trim off both sides and peel off the dry skin.
  • Cut the onion in half and lay it on the board and make crosswise incisions as shown above. Then simply chop and you will have some lovely diced onion pieces!
  • If your onion pieces are a little too big, simply run your knife over them and give it a few chops.

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, melt some butter until bubbling at medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.  Add the fresh corn and flageolet beans along with the chicken stock and allow to simmer for 45 minutes on medium heat or until the beans are soft. Once the mixture is cooked, add in the butternut squash and cream.  Taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a large bowl.  Cover and reheat when ready to use.

I made the succotash the night beforehand, the day of the party I simply reheated and added the butternut squash and cream.  I chose to add the butternut squash later on so it could keep its bright orange color.

For those of you who have never made dried beans it is really simple.  Take your dried beans and place them in a large bowl of water, make sure your beans are completely covered by at least 2 inches of water.  The dried beans will soak up the liquid and expand the next day, so plan accordingly! I cooked the beans for 30 minutes on medium high heat until they were almost softened.  Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and emtpy the beans in a clean bowl.  Immerse beans in water, cover and store in fridge until ready to use.

Prep Time: 10 minutes   Total Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients for Mustard Greens and Smoked Ham:(serves 12)

  • 3 bunches of Mustard Greens, chopped
  • 1 cup smoked ham, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat the butter at medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.  Add the ham and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add the mustard greens in batches, they will wilt down quickly from the heat.  Cook until all greens have wilted and add the cream and salt and pepper to taste.

I made the greens the night beforehand without the cream and allowed them to soak up the delicious smoked ham juices.  I simply reheated with cream the day of the party and it was absolutely delicious.  I think this was one of my favorite sides!

Prep Time: 10 minutes   Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients for Honey Roasted Carrots with Spiced Pecans: (serves 12)

  • 1- 5lb bag peeled baby carrots
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into thin slices
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

You can make the pecans up to a week beforehand and store them in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Boil water in a small saucepan.  Once ready, dump in the pecans and quickly blanch them, about 2 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  Line a large cookie sheet with foil and dump the pecans on there.  Mix pecans with the powdered sugar, pepper and cinnamon, making sure all nuts are evenly covered.   Bake for 15 minutes, or until the sugar is crispy.  Set aside and cool.  Store in glass container or plastic bag until ready to use.

Line a large roasting pan with foil.  Place the baby carrots and mix well with butter and honey.  Place about 1 cup of water and cover the pan with foil.  Bake at 350F for 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake on broil for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Reheat in oven for 10 minutes when ready to serve.

Prep Time: 10 minutes   Total Cooking Time: 1 hour

Ingredients for Cranberry Chestnut Stuffing:(serves 12)

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups chesnuts, shelled and cooked
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 10 cups of dried bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat 4 tablespoons butter at medium heat.  When foamy, add in the onion, celery and chesnuts, cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the cranberries and chicken stock and let simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  In a large roasting pan, line with foil and place the dried bread crumbs ontop.  Pour the vegetable stock mixture all over the bread, making sure it is all evenly distributed.   Add the eggs and half of the parsley mixture and toss well.  Dot the stuffing with the remaining butter and cover the pan with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake on broil uncovered for an additional 7 minutes or until stuffing is golden brown on the surface.  Add the remaining parsley, toss and serve.

I made the stuffing the night before as well, except just the vegetable stock mixture.  The day of the party, I simply just combined it with the breadcrumbs and baked it in the oven!

Prep Time: 30 minutes   Total Cooking Time: 1 hour

And THIS was my fruit bowl that I made and filled it with a nice Honey Mint fruit salad! It actually did not melt as fast as I thought it would -- after placing the fruit in the bowl, I placed it back in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  This helped cool down the fruit salad so the bowl would last longer.  After about a little over an hour, the bottom of the bowl had pretty much melted -- sad panda :( but it sure was pretty while it lasted!

I had a blast planning out this dinner party, I was scared because it was the biggest one I've had yet.  It was really nice having all my friends and family over where we enjoyed good food, good drinks and of course great conversation.  I will close out the post with the prep list that I had planned out to help anyone who is crazy enough to ever want to throw a Thanksgiving feast for 12 or more :) Granted it kept me busy for a couple days, the hard work was well worth it.  Everyone ate themselves into oblivion and my friend from Bosnia actually fell into a food coma on my couch (that made me very happy ^_^).

Prep List:

  • Wednesday: Grocery Shopping
  • Thursday:
  1. Defrost turkey.
  2. Make cheesecake and freeze in freezer.
  3. Boil eggs and store in fridge.
  4. Make sweet potatoe filling for phyllo cups and store in fridge.
  5. Bake phyllo cups and store in bags in cool dry area.
  6. Toast pine nuts and make spiced pecans and store in fridge or in cool dry area.
  • Friday
  1. Brine the turkey.
  2. Roast squash for magic salad.
  3. Make egg mixture and store in fridge.
  4. Make mustard greens and store in fridge.
  5. Make succotash and store in fridge.
  6. Make bruschetta mixture and store in fridge.
  7. Make stuffing mixture and store in fridge.
  • Saturday (day of the party)
  1. Assemble phyllo cups, bruschetta, magic salad, and deviled eggs.
  2. Bake cookies
  3. Bake turkey
  4. Bake stuffing
  5. Bake carrots
  6. Cut fruit salad and place in fridge
  7. Make mashed potatoes
  8. Reheat all sides

And there you have it! Throwing a big dinner party is simple if you plan ahead and make an easy yet tasty menu.  If I can do it, anyone can ^_^.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I hope all of you enjoy your time with family and friends, see you guys when I get back!