By Stuart J. Faber
It’s almost Thanksgiving again? Seems as if it was only a few months ago that we celebrated my favorite holiday. I love to prepare for and cook a Thanksgiving dinner. Not only is it festive, fun, and colorful, guests scream with delight as they circle our huge dining room table, which we convert into a buffet.
Notwithstanding my age, I regard myself as a person who keeps pace with the changing world. I love computer technology. I marvel at the developments in avionics. Driverless automobiles–I’m ready for them. I do, however, harbor some apprehension over the concept of pilotless passenger aircraft.
That being said, when it comes to Thanksgiving, I’m a traditionalist. Turkey with goat cheese or pesto sauce? No thanks. I love the fragrance and taste of an old-fashion turkey roasting in the oven. I make my own cornbread and form it into a traditional stuffing with that familiar smell of sage.
I love everything about this holiday–journeys to the market, selecting just the right turkey, planning the menu, proofing and kneading the dough for homemade rolls, baking the pies from scratch, and making certain that each component of the buffet comes to life at the same time and is presented in an inviting and festive array.
The following recipes are excerpts from a cookbook I have written that will be published early next year. The title: COOKBOOK FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE LAWYERS. In case you didn’t know, when I’m not flying an airplane or puttering in my kitchen, I’m usually wearing my trial lawyer hat and hanging out in a courtroom. Over the years, I’ve encountered many folks who seem to hate lawyers. But I’ve never encountered a person who disliked me after sampling some of my culinary treats. I would rather be loved than hated, so I wrote the cookbook. For this article, I would love to share my Thanksgiving treasures with my In Flight USA readers.
Contrary to popular belief, roasting a turkey is one of the easiest cooking exercises. Perhaps the size of the bird is intimidating. But I learned from flying airplanes, the bigger ones are easier to fly. Follow these few simple steps, and a gorgeous bird with a sumptuous skin and moist interior will soon emerge from the oven. The debate over brining a turkey will never be resolved. I have made brined and non-brined turkeys and, to me, the difference is barely perceptible.
Mire Poix (A fancy term for chopped vegetables).
2 medium onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 fresh turkey, 14 to 17 pounds
1 stick butter, softened
2 tablespoons each dried sage, rosemary, thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
6 cups chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade
Remove turkey from refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. Mix the butter, herbs, ½ tablespoon each salt and pepper and paprika until well combined. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Remove all giblets, neck, and gizzard from cavity. Season cavity with salt and pepper. Put a handful of the mire poix in the cavity. Sprinkle the remaining mire poix on the bottom of the roasting pan. This will serve as the rack and will also add sumptuous flavor to the gravy.
Rub the entire surface of the turkey with a thin layer of the butter mixture. For an extra flavor and moisture step, place your hand between the skin and the breast and place some butter mixture between the skin and the meat.
Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan. If desired, place neck and giblets in roasting pan. Discard liver. Place the turkey on top of the mire poix and roast for about 45 minutes. The upper surface should be getting golden brown. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue to roast for another 1 ¼ to 2 hours, depending on the size of the bird. Baste the turkey every 15 minutes with the chicken stock and the drippings. After 1 ¼ hour, check frequently with an instant thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. The thermometer should register 170 degrees. Any juices that run should be clear, not pink. The temperature should read 160 degrees.
Remove the turkey and place on a carving board. Cut up neck meat and giblets and set aside. Cover the turkey loosely with foil and let rest at least 30 minutes before carving. For gravy (don’t purchase store-bought), remove most of the grease, then place the roasting pan on stovetop burner. Turn heat to high. Scrape bottom of pan with a wooden spatula to loosen all of the tasty drippings. Add 3 tablespoons of flour and mix with remaining drippings until the flour disappears. Add 2 tablespoons of butter for richness. Add 4 cups of chicken or turkey stock, bring to a boil until the liquid thickens. Add ½ cup cream or milk.
Prime Ribs of Beef
Some folks love prime rib for Thanksgiving. I always make one. This offering delights lovers of beef. Even those folks who “don’t eat beef” can’t stay away from it.
1 choice or prime short end rib roast, at least 2 or
3 ribs. Preferably prime grade or Angus Choice
2 or 4 cloves of garlic, cut in slivers about the
thickness of toothpicks
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
1 onion, sliced
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 teaspoon thyme
Remove from refrigerator about 1 hour before cooking. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. With a paring knife or ice pick, drill as many holes in roast as you have garlic slivers. Insert garlic in each hole. The garlic should be spread out over the entire roast. Rub entire surface with freshly milled pepper. Just before placing roast in oven, generously rub salt over entire surface of roast.
Place onion slices over bottom of heavy roasting pan. I prefer a cast iron skillet. Make a circle with onion slices that approximate the size of the roast. After preparing roast, place it, fat side up, directly atop bed of onions. Roast for about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F. roast for an additional 45 minutes, then check the internal temperature of the roast with an instant thermometer. For rare, remove roast from oven when thermometer registers 155 degrees F. For medium rare, 120 to 125 degrees F. When roast reaches desired temperature, remove from oven and pan, cover with foil.
Place the roasting pan over a stovetop burner. Turn heat to high and with a wooden spatula, scrape the bottom of the roasting pan. Add the wine and cook until reduced to about ¼ cup. Add beef stock, mix well, and season with salt, pepper, and thyme for taste of an exquisite au jus.
Baked Glazed Ham
1 whole or half spiral cut cooked ham. I avoid Farmer John–very fatty. Spend a few extra bucks for the premium model–it’s worth every penny.
1 cup Dijon Mustard
1 cup brown sugar
½ t. ground cloves
1 ½ cups brown sugar
3 t. orange juice
½ t. ground cloves
Glaze #3: Pineapple Glaze
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
¼ teaspoon salt
1 8-oz can crushed pineapple
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon mustard
Mix glaze ingredients until they form a paste.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Cut away skin and trim fat to a thickness of about ½ inch. Place ham fat side up in shallow roasting pan with foil. Cook about 10 minutes per pound. A whole ham should take about 2 ½ to 3 hours. A half ham should take about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Temperature should read 130-140 degrees.
Add desired glaze about 30 minutes before done. Rub it over entire ham. For a sweeter, glossier glaze, lightly brush with maple syrup or honey 30 minutes before completion.
For pineapple glaze, mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in saucepan. Stir in pineapple, lemon juice, and mustard. Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens. Boil one minute. Last minute before putting on glaze, brush with maple syrup.
Best Pumpkin Spice Bread
This is one of the easiest and quickest breads. It adds to the beauty of the table and the flavor and texture are incredible.
1 stick butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9” loaf pan.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
In three stages, beginning with the dry ingredients, add them alternatively with the water. Mix after each addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the pumpkin. Stir in the nuts if using.
Pour into the loaf pan and level top with an offset spatula. Bake for 1 hour. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove bread and place on a wire rack. Cool completely.
Orange Ginger Cranberries
This cranberry dish takes about 30 minutes to make. Don’t even think about purchasing those canned cranberries. You can prepare this recipe about 2 days before Thanksgiving.
24 ounces fresh cranberries (2 packs)
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest (scrape orange peel from orange, not the white part)
1 1/2 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium heat until berries pop open, about 10-15 minutes. Toward the end of the cooking, skim off and discard foam that rises to top. Cool, then place in a covered dish and place in refrigerator.
Cornbread and Sausage Dressing
If you take the extra time to make this stuffing and your own cornbread, you will never buy those boxes of stuffing again.
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage or andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Fresh corn from 2 ears
½ pound sliced mushrooms
Basic Cornbread, recipe follows
3 slices stale white or whole wheat bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces, crusts removed
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon each sage and oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 large eggs, beaten in ¼ cup milk
1 to 2 cups chicken or turkey stock, as needed
Melted butter as needed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and set aside.
In a large skillet, cook the sausage until brown and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl to cool.
Add the corn bread, white bread, green onions, pecans, parsley, and thyme to the bowl with the sautéed vegetables. Mix well with your hands. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, and eggs, and mix again. Add enough broth, 1/2 cup at a time, to moisten the dressing, being careful not to make it mushy.
Transfer to the prepared dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake until heated through, about 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes more.
Basic Cornbread: Make 2 days ahead. You can use this recipe or the one on the box of Alber’s Cornmeal.
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Pour 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into a 9-inch baking pan or heavy cast iron skillet. Place the pan into the oven as it preheats, allowing it to heat for at least 10 minutes.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and cayenne in a large mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the buttermilk and egg to the mixture, and stir well to blend. Pour the cornmeal batter into the preheated pan and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving or using in the dressing. Cut the cornbread into one-inch squares.
Yield: 8 servings. Double the recipe for 16 servings. Will fill 1 16lb turkey and 1- 13x9 pan.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Once again, please avoid canned sweet potatoes.
5 large sweet potatoes or yams
2/3 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup pure maple syrup
Peel sweet potatoes or yams. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Place potatoes in boiling water and cook until just tender, about 12 minutes. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Place the mixture in a 35 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped pecans or mini-marshmallows and bake an additional 5 minutes.
Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
5 pounds Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes
1 stick butter, diced
1 cup warm milk
1 ½ cups grated Parmesan
Boil potatoes until tender. Drain and return to pot. Heat milk. Add butter and mash well. Mix 1 cup of milk, then 1 cup of cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add more milk to reach desired consistency. These can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature, then reheat in 350-degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Mound potatoes in a bowl. Sprinkle remaining cheese and garnish with parsley. You can also add 2-chopped scallions and/or 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.
Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie
You will be astounded when you see how quick and easy it is to make this pie. And your guests will rave over the sumptuous taste.
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (crush or process about 12 crackers)
5 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons white sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients. Add melted butter and mix well. Remove and reserve ¼ cup of crumb mixture. Press remaining mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan. Use the bottom of a glass and pat down the crust. Pour the reserved mixture into a small baking pan and spread out the crumbs. Place pie pan and small baking pan in oven and bake for 8 minutes. Remove and cool completely.
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mixture)
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
Combine pumpkin, brown sugar, orange juice, and spices. Mix ice cream into pumpkin mixture and keep mixing until there are no longer any streaks of pumpkin. Pour into cooled crust. Freeze until ready to serve. If desired, whip some heavy cream and spread over the filling. Then, sprinkle reserved crumbs over top of whipped cream–or the filling if no whipped cream.
I guarantee that this will be among the best Thanksgiving dinners you will ever have. If you love turkey and trimmings as much as I do, you can dig into the leftovers for the rest of the weekend. I should warn you–your phone will start to ring off the hook early next October.