Thanksgiving, My Favorite Holiday

By Judi Gallagher.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Friends and family gathered together for a festive meal that celebrates all the flavors of autumn in family-secret-recipe side dishes enhancing a cider-brined roasted turkey is my idea of genuine bliss.

Because I prepare Thanksgiving dinner for a large crowd, including a few vegetarian friends and those on restricted diets, I have learned to calibrate the meal. You won’t see a “tofurkey” near my holiday buffet table, but you will find offerings such the traditional noodle pudding, sweet potato casserole laced with sugar-pecans and fingerling potatoes roasted with fresh chives and parsley from the herb garden on my patio.

I have learned to find hearty and toothsome alternatives for my vegetarian friends without adding hours to my culinary event, which is three days in the planning and preparing. I serve two cranberry sauces. The first sauce is just an enhancer to the turkey, simple with a hint of ginger and orange zest. The other includes lots of crushed almonds and pecans mixed into tart chunky cranberry sauce. This one has texture and crunch.

It is my tradition to have two roasted turkeys along with a beef tenderloin roast or Parmesan-fennel crusted pork roast, my husband’s masterpiece. Each turkey represents a different of stuffing or dressing.

My mother always served traditional New England stuffing. She left out loaves of sliced white bread to get stale over the days leading up to the holiday. After breaking the bread into small pieces, mom sautéed onions and mushrooms with Bell’s poultry seasoning and garlic salt and then moistened the mixture with chicken stock. Today I make almost the same recipe but I add diced celery, chopped dried apricots and chopped and peeled McIntosh apples to amplify the flavor.

My best cooking tip for serving a large crowd that includes vegetarians and people on a restricted diet – don’t go overboard trying to please everyone. The act of coming together from different places (culinary as well as
geographic) puts people in an accommodating mood. Everything will be fine. I once had a guest bring her own frozen prepared diet meal to my Thanksgiving table. My first reaction was to be insulted. Then I realized how much she wanted to come to my home. She agreed to use my holiday china and she let me sprinkle her dish with the appropriate herb garnish. Ultimately the Thanksgiving meal is all about the people, the conversation, the friendship.

May your turkey be moist, your gravy smooth and free of lumps and may the pleasures of your Thanksgiving table last all year long.


Turkey Gravy
There is nothing better than smooth and silky gravy at Thanksgiving. While my Mom was a great cook, her gravy was not her strong point. Unfortunately the better the gravy, the more mashed potatoes you consume but don’t count calories at a holiday dinner.

Pan Gravy:
1 1/2 cups turkey stock
¼ cup pan drippings from turkey or chicken
Fresh ground black pepper
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 white all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cream (if desired)
1 splash gravy master

Empty all but ¼ cup pan drippings from roasting pan. Gently scrape bottom to get all the delicious crust from the roasted bird. In a separate pan, melt butter. Gently whip in flour using a whisk until thick and continue to stir over low heat for 10 minutes to cook out the taste of flour. (this is called a roux)

Add turkey broth to roasting pan with gravy master and pepper. When the stock starts to simmer, gently whisk in very small amounts of roux, stirring constantly with whisk until there are no lumps. Add more roux if needed, bit in small amount and continue to heat over medium heat until gravy thickens. Add more stock if needed and cream if desired. Adjust seasoning.

Cranberry Chutney
½ white onion minced
1 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 oranges, zested and juiced
3 cups Sugar
1 cup white vinegar
2 each cinnamon sticks
12 ounce package cranberries

In a sauce pan, combine the onions, ginger, orange juice and zest, sugar, vinegar and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil and cook down to a syrup (about 15 minutes). Add cranberries and continue to cook until the
cranberries have all “popped”

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Napoleon
(Serves 4-5)
I love this recipe because you don’t have to be a pastry chef to make a fabulous dessert for the holidays. Try the pumpkin filling on top of golden brown cheese blintzes for a decadent holiday brunch dessert. 1 sheet puff pastry- thawed and cut into 9 pieces

1- 10 ½ ounce jar pumpkin curd
8 ounces of cream cheese
8 ounces whipping cream
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup powdered sugar plus extra for dusting
½-teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, plus extra for garnish
¼ cup pumpkin pie filling
1-teaspoon sugar
crystallized ginger
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Chill beaters and medium sized metal bowl in freezer.
Place thawed puff pastry (30-40 minutes to thaw) on floured counter top. Cut into 9 3-inch squares. Place on non-greased cookie sheets and bake at 400 degrees until brown (Approximately 12 minutes.) Cool on wire rack.

Whip cream until almost peaked. Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Whip until peaks form. Set aside 2 ounces of whipped cream for garnish.

Whip softened cream cheese and jar of pumpkin curd with pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin filling. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Lightly fold this filling into the whipped cream. Chill for 1 hour.
Carefully slice the puff pastry square in half. Top one layer with filling (about 3 tablespoons) and top with half of puff pastry, repeat, top with puff pastry. Garnish with a teaspoon of whipped cream and sift powdered sugar and pumpkin pie seasoning over the top and plate. Garnish with smashed pieces of crystallized ginger. Let rest for 4-6 hours in the refrigerator, uncovered.
(Find crystallized ginger in most gourmet markets and health food stores. Ginger is considered a digestive aid and many people chew a little on a airline flight to ease an unhappy tummy.)

Flavors and More Magazine – November 2009

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