Thanksgiving was last week, but as I mentioned, I’m swamped at work because of the holiday season and I’m behind on posting. Also, I went gambling again over the weekend — this time to Mohegan Sun — and after winning a little bit of money, I think my bad habit may now be irrevocably reinforced. In any case, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year because it’s the one day you get to eat like a fat bastard without any shame. Of course, being with loved ones is also great, but this is a food blog, so let’s talk food!
As usual, my mom lovingly brined the turkey overnight in a mixture of herbs, salt, and water. This year she added a few apples to the mix.
Here is a picture of the huge eleven pound beast in front of Adam, my little nephew. Eleven pounds isn’t too large, but considering the other dishes we make, we always have a ton of leftovers. I don’t mind though. Nothing beats Thanksgiving leftovers the next day, especially the turkey skin. I always take all the turkey skin and render it out further on my George Foreman grill. The end result are turkey cracklings that you can eat like chips. Oh yeah, baby.
There was also the requisite spiral ham, which was Adam’s favorite. The photo above is from a previous Thanksgiving, since I didn’t take a good picture this year. Unfortunately, after the usual marathon of Thanksgiving cooking, I’m too tired and hungry to focus on taking pictures. Anyway, it’s a shame to let good food get cold.
My contribution was a spicy cornbread stuffing with sausage that I’ve been making for a few years now (recipe below). It’s always a hit. Last year I experimented with a different recipe and although it was OK, I completely regretted it. This stuffing is a good blend of spicy and sweet, and the cumin and chili in the recipe takes the dish to a whole new realm of deliciousness. My brother calls the stuffing Cajun, and Hannah, my sister-in-law, refers to it as the Jamaican stuffing. Really, it’s just plain American with a southwestern kick. I always bake the the cornbread or corn muffins for the stuffing the night before. This year I used a recipe for cornbread muffins from Dorie Greenspan that she posted on Serious Eats called Corniest Corn Muffins. I think it was good, although the muffins could have been even cornier. I think next year I’ll increase the ratio of cornmeal to flour.
As for the duds this year, I made the Barefoot Contessa’s Homemade Gravy, which to be honest, wasn’t horrible, but was just very muddled tasting. I like a gravy that’s more richer and sharper. Another semi-failure was Tyler Florence’s Cranberry Sauce, which was way too tart with the amount of brown sugar specified. I had to bump up the sugar quite a bit to make it edible. I also took out the cinnamon stick after just a few minutes. I don’t like a heavy cinnamon flavor in my cranberry sauce. Also, last year I made a cranberry sauce with clementine zest. I think I prefer the softer flavor of clementine zest over the orange zest called for in this recipe.
We talked at the end of Thanksgiving feast about maybe skipping the turkey next year, which to me sounds sacrilegious. I think the rest of family finds the amount of food every year a bit excessive and the giant bird extreme overkill. You really can’t have Thanksgiving though without turkey, so next year I think I may make a smaller turkey dish, like perhaps a cassoulet or a pot pie instead. We’ll see. Somehow, I have a feeling you’ll be seeing another picture of our fine defeathered friend next year.
1 lb. hot Italian turkey sausages, casings removed, meat crumbled (I use turkey sausage because David doesn’t eat pork, but pork sausage is, of course, better.)
3 cups chopped onions
3 cups chopped celery
1/2 cup minced, long green peppers (I don’t seed the peppers because I like heat, but seed if you wish.)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons hot chili powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
butter and/or olive oil for sauteing
salt and pepper to taste
1 pan of cornbread or 12 corn muffins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut cornbread (Use whatever cornbread or muffin recipe you like. Muffins will make a sweeter and stickier stuffing. I used Dorie Greenspan’s corn muffin recipe this Thanksgiving.) into 3/4″ cubes. Place on baking sheet. Bake until dry but not hard, about 15 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.
Melt a pat of butter and/or olive oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. You don’t need more than a few tablespoons of butter or oil because a lot of oil will come out of the sausage. Add sausage and saute until brown, about 6 minutes. Add onions, celery, peppers, and garlic, and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in chili powder and cumin and saute for 2 minutes. Mix in cornbread. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Butter a baking dish. Stir 1 1/2 cups chicken broth into stuffing. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to prepared dish cover with foil.
Bake covered stuffing alongside turkey for 45 minutes. Uncover stuffing and bake until top begins to crisp, about 25 minutes longer. For extra tasty stuffing, mix in some turkey drippings before serving.