Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Success!

I survived making my very first Thanksgiving dinner for my family!  Here are some highlight's from last week's feast:

My 13 pound turkey was yummy!  I followed an easy recipe from Ina Garten and--though the cooking time was more like 3 hours, not 2 1/2 like Ina said--the turkey turned out great.  No brining or basting required! 

My husband and father carved up the bird using the handy dandy electric knife.  I really prefer the thick chunks of breast meat to the traditional thin slices.  The meat seemed more moist, stayed warmer, and felt more substantial.

I went 2 for 3 with my side dishes. 

The classic green bean casserole (yes, from Campbell's!) was predictable but good (the Mister loves this dish!).  There's something so wrong and wonderful about those damn French Fried onions!

The stuffing was AMAZING.  I've never made stuffing before, so I just threw everything in and hoped for the best.  I wanted to appease the people who like "inside the bird" stuffing (because I did not stuff my bird when I cooked it) and those of us who prefer outside the bird stuffing.  I think my stuffing was a satisfying mix of moist and crunchy goodness.  (My "recipe" is at the end of this post.)

The smashed sweet potato casserole was a flop.  The recipe was also from Ina, the rare TV cook that usually has good cooking ideas...but this one was a miss.  My husband was the only one who liked it.  It was too nutmeg-y for me and Greta said it reminded her of soap.  Yup...that's a FAIL.  If I were to try this again, I'd steer clear of the stupid nutmeg.  Lesson learned!

The other sides for the night were easy: a can of cranberry sauce (yes, a can!  We love the open and slice approach to cranberry goodness), sauerkraut (it's not Thanksgiving without it!), and gravy.  Mom helped me out with the gravy, and it turned out delicious as always.

Desserts were also kick ass!  Greta made pumpkin pie (with a little help from Mom, who makes the world's best pie crust), I made Chocolate Guinness Cake (a cake I'm inexplicably sick of), and I also had some mincemeat tarts from Cost Plus World Market.

Overall it was a very good meal and a happy Thanksgiving.  Oh, and before I forget, here's how I made my stuffing.  I didn't really have a single recipe that I followed, but it turned out super yummy. From reading many different stuffing recipes, I figured out that the most important thing was to make sure my stuffing had a lot of moisture.  I'm currently doing the Weight Watchers program, and I don't usually eat this much rich yumminess, but it's Thanksgiving...why not break out multiple sticks of butter?  This is not a recipe for calorie counters, but so be it. 

Lydia's "How the Hell Do You Make Stuffing?" Stuffing
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage (I used the unseasoned "original" kind from Jimmy Dean because Greta hates sage.  Use whatever you want!  Even Italian sausage would work here.)
  • 1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 14 oz. package of cubed stuffing (I used Safeway brand because I'm cheap.  I also opted for the unseasoned variety because of the sage-hater.  If you have homemade bread cubes, use that)
  • fresh parsley, chopped (to taste--I probably used 1/4 cup or so)
  • To taste: 
    • Kosher salt
    • Fresh cracked black pepper
    • Dried thyme
    • Dried marjoram 
    • Dried rosemary
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups chicken stock (I used my homemade stock)
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
Brown sausage in a hot pan, breaking it up into small pieces.  When cooked through, place sausage on paper towel lined plate to drain a bit. Pour out excess grease from the pan.

In the same pan, melt 1/2 stick of butter over medium high heat.  Add the celery, onion and garlic.  Cook a few minutes then add the mushrooms.  Cook and stir well to get all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan up and mixed into the veggies.  Add a few pinches of salt and pepper to this mixture and cook until veggies are soft.

In a large bowl, combine cooked sausage and cooked veggies.  Stir well to mix.  Add cubed bread to the bowl and toss well to combine.  Add parsley and seasonings, stirring well.  (I spent a lot of time stirring and adding to make sure the entire mixture was well seasoned.)  Pour in chicken stock and stir to moisten.  Place mixed stuffing in a large casserole dish sprayed with Pam. 

You can either cook the stuffing right away or put it in the fridge and let it sit overnight, to be cooked the next day.  Before you put the stuffing in the oven, pour the melted butter over the top of the casserole.  Bake at 350 until heated through...about 45 minutes or so.

1 comment:

phairhead said...

My brother made the ubiquitous green bean casserole w/ Trader Joe's fried onions....gotta say it was yummier than French's