Let’s talk Turkey…or not. Why you may ask…turkey is probably my least favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. For me…it’s all about the sides! So go ahead and brine the turkey or not, fry it, roast it, rub it, stuff it…do whatever you do. This blog is going to be all about the side dishes…oh and the GRAVY. I guess I have been making gravy for so long, that I never really realized what an art form it really is…there are a lot of you out there who really struggle with this…I am going to make it super easy for you…you will be a rockstar gravy maker this Thanksgiving!
Appetizers…to do or not to do…that is the question? I say yes…parades and football all day long require snacks. Inevitably we never start our meal on time…having a few apps will relieve the pressure to perform…hahaha! Click here for some ideas to serve up pre-Thanksgiving.
What to do with leftovers? I’m going to show you some creative ways to actually enjoy leftovers. I have been on a kick lately making TV dinners. Check out my TV dinner recipes for Pot Roast and Salisbury Steak. You can throw these in the freezer and enjoy them on a weeknight when you just do not feel like cooking! You are going to need these TV dinner trays…click here to purchase…grab them now so that you will be good to go on Thanksgiving night!
Well…I’ll talk turkey for a brief second…I buy a turkey breast…rub a stick of butter under the skin, season with salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan…that’s it! Fairly simple and always comes out beautifully, with a crispy skin and moist, tender inside! Don’t have a roasting pan…I would suggest you adding one to your kitchen…click here for one similar to the one I use! I will use this pan again during Christmas when I make my prime rib!
GRAVY AND SIDE DISHES
The key to any gravy is to develop the flavors over a period of time using bones, but it’s that initial browning that really makes all of the difference. If you can find bone-in turkey parts, use them. If not, chicken will do just fine. I like using bone-in, skin-on, turkey or chicken thighs. If you are feeding a larger crowd, toss in a few extra thighs. In a pot, heat up the olive oil. Season the thighs with kosher salt and pepper, on both sides. Dredge each thigh in flour. Add to heated oil and allow to brown (not burn) on both sides. If at any point, the thighs burn…you have to start over…sorry…it is a must.
Once the thighs are nice and browned on both sides, add the turkey stock, celery, onion and bay leaves to the pot. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom. Turn up the heat and allow to just come to a boil. Lower heat to a very low simmer. Simmer for at least two hours. I like to place my pot on the back of the stove and just allow to slowly simmer away as I am preparing the rest of the meal. You will not finish the gravy until the very end.
To finish gravy, remove and discard the thighs, celery, bay leaves, and onions. I like to run the stock through a sieve or strainer. This will ensure that any tiny bones will be caught. I do this just by placing a fine mesh strainer, like this one, over a bowl and pouring the stock from the pot. Wipe out the pot and pour the stock back in. Whisk in the turkey bouillon. In a small bowl, add in the cornstarch and whisk in just enough of the stock to make a thick slurry. Try not to thin the slurry too much. Turn the heat up on the pot to medium-high. To avoid lumps, with a whisk, slowly combine the slurry…you may or may not use it all…just check the texture as you are pouring. Once it thickens to a gravy consistency, you are good! Taste for salt.
This recipe has been in my Family for generations. My mother still has the paper that my grandfather wrote the recipe on. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I am just going to link the recipe here. Although, I do want to note, this year, I did try something different and formed some of my stuffing in a loaf pan. I wanted to do this to show you how you can create a cool sandwich with all of the leftovers! I cut two pieces of the stuffing and used as bread, filling the sandwich with leftover turkey, my homemade cranberry sauce, a few thin slices of brie cheese and a bit of peppery arugula!
Now that I am living in the South, I have noticed over the years, how many people refer to “stuffing” as “dressing.” I suppose no one would stuff their bird with oyster dressing like we northerners do with out sausage stuffing, but nonetheless…Oyster Dressing is pretty amazing. Give it a try. Click here to check out my recipe! If you are local to Charlotte, grab your shucked oysters from The Carolina Meat & Fish Co.!
The most beautiful, and pleasing part to the eyes (pun intended), were these delicious roasted rainbow carrots. Honestly, ditch the honey glazed and skip the herbs…you do not need any more sweetness or competition with flavors on Thanksgiving…a simple roast will do perfectly with the inherent sweetness of the carrots. I found these cute rainbow carrots from Cal Organics at my local Harris Teeter. You just may want to make extra…I am not much of a carrot fan…and I loved them!
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Layer the carrots on a pan…I kept the greens on my long stem carrots just for show…feel free to cut off. You will notice some of the baby carrots are larger than others…go ahead a cut in half, longways. Drizzle the olive oil all over…you can even use a bit more oil if want. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Place in over for about 30 minutes…flipping every so often.
ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON AND ALMONDS
This recipe is a keeper and one that you will be preparing all throughout the year. You can prep in advance and throw in the oven when you remove the turkey…it is a one-pan wonder and so super delicious. Click here for recipe!
What is Thanksgiving, or any meal really, where there is gravy involved and not mashed potatoes? Click here for all of the details on how to make my outstanding homemade mashed potatoes. Not wanting carbs, yet craving an alternative to mashed potatoes? Check out my recipe for Mashed Cauliflower. They kind of look the same, right? Don’t have the time, or just do not want to make your own mashed potatoes…I found Bob Evans brand to be fairly close to homemade.
Cranberry sauce has never really been my jam (pun intended). My family and husband grew up on the can. This year, I am breaking the spell and making a version of my own, that I cannot only serve on the Thanksgiving table, but also use for leftovers. I will also be making plenty for a Baked Brie dish…I’ll link here as soon as it’s finished. Honestly, making your own cranberry sauce could not be easier…really…about 10 to 15 minutes…that is it!
On medium heat, in a pot, combine the sugar, orange juice/water mixture, apple juice and peels. Whisk just until the sugar dissolves. Add in the remaining ingredients. Continue to whisk often. Cook for about 10 minutes or until most of the cranberries have popped. You will notice the mixture thicken. Cool. This is definitely one of those make ahead recipes. Prepare a day or so in advance and store in fridge! Garnish with a touch of lemon or orange zest.
As mentioned earlier, try your hand at a cool sandwich with stuffing as your bread, or even an open-faced turkey sandwich. My favorite idea for Thanksgiving leftovers are these TV dinners. Just pop in the freezer and you can enjoy a Thanksgiving meal in January! See link above to order these trays!
I hope you all enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving with Family and Friends and I would love for my recipes to make it on to your table. Thank you and ENJOY! Please share your comments with me! Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more ideas and stories!