Friends, don’t get wrapped up in an idea of a holiday. Walk past the displays of turkey decorations, ignore the commercials featuring an extended family at a table. Banish from your email any implied guilt over declined invitations, and turn off your phone.
Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday, because in its essence it is about giving thanks, surrounded by people who love you. Who those people are, where you are and what you eat isn’t defined by Hallmark, ABC Family or Target. It's defined by you.
The idea of an intimate, cozy dinner for two on Thanksgiving appeals to me in a million ways. What an amazing gift to give another person -- to say that on this holiday, I choose YOU, above all others, to spend the day giving thanks. And that holiday could be spent eating pizza or watching "Beavis and Butt-head" reruns, because again, it's about what feeds you.
But if you’re eating pizza because you think you can’t make a gourmet meal, or because you can’t figure out how to downscale a Thanksgiving feast, well, let's unwind that thought. I’ll show you how. You won't need to change the temperature on the oven, you won't need a lot of pots, and you won't have to get up at the crack of dawn.
Roasted Turkey Roulade with Cornbread, Cranberry, Walnut and Sausage Stuffing
Cherry/Red Wine Compote
Blanched Haricot Vert
Twice Baked Potato (or Sweet Potato Souffle)
Apple Gingerbread Crumble
I chose ingredients from Trader Joe’s, and specifically chose items that are available nationally -- if you don’t have a TJ’s nearby, do your best to match. Nothing here is critical. I spent about $60 between TJs and my turkey.
2 bulbs of fennel
1 handful of cranberries, dried or fresh
1 pint of heavy cream or half & half
4 apples (a variety, I chose 4 different, doesn’t matter much)
1 bottle of TJ's cherry juice
1 handful of walnut pieces
1 box of cornbread stuffing
1 container of TJ's mirepoix (this is just chopped carrot, celery & onion if you need to substitute)
1 sausage link, mild Italian (you can go with chicken if you’d prefer)
1 bottle of TJ’s red zinfandel
6 oz graham crackers or gingerbread cookies
4 tbsp of brown sugar
2 tbsp of white sugar
1 head of garlic
3 medium russet potatoes
1 bag of TJ’s haricot vert (green beans, but pretty uniform ones)
1 green onion/scallion
1 bunch of dill (but dried dill or dill seed is a fine substitute)
2 tbsp flour
1 turkey breast, butterflied (Ask your butcher to do this for you, even if you buy from the case. They will!)
4 ft of twine or cotton string (your butcher will give you this for free if you ask)
½ cup of cheese (cheddar, parmesan, whatever)
Pots & Pans
1 large frypan
1 medium/large baking dish
1 small baking dish
1 decent knife
1 cutting board
Cuisinart or stick blender
We’re going to break this into Wednesday and Thursday, although you can do it all Thursday if you’d like. But geez, take a break, why don’t you!
Wednesday - Soup and Stuffing
This is only going to take about 30-45 minutes. First, let's take out your ingredients.
Start by putting the saucepan and the frying pan on the stove. Throw a little olive oil into both pans, turn on medium high heat and throw half the mirepoix into each. It's going to start to sizzle as you’re working, and that’s OK. Every minute or so, reach over and give each pan a shake.
Start with the sausage. Slice it into rounds. Sausage is a bit tricky in this way, but no worries, you’re cooking it, so it doesn’t need to look nice. Just break it down.
Now, take out your fennel. You’re going to cut the “heart” out of it. Then chop it into large pieces. The sausage goes into the frypan, the fennel goes into the saucepan. Shake both pans for a second, and then let them continue to sizzle away.
Add 1 cup of water or stock to the saucepan with the fennel and a handful of dill. You don’t even need to chop it. At this point, you’ll be at the stovetop, stirring each every 30 seconds or so. Once the sausage is brown, add in the cranberries and the walnuts and continue to stir. Stir another minute, and then take the stuffing off the stovetop, and allow the soup to continue simmering.
While the soup is simmering, pour 1.5 cups of cornbread stuffing into the pan with the sausage and cranberries and stir. Now add in 1 cup of water or stock and stir again. Boom, you have stuffing. Put it in a bowl, cover it and put it in the fridge as it needs to cool. You’ll have a bit more than you need, so feel free to taste test it.
The soup only needs to simmer for 15-20 minutes. At this point, take out your stick blender and give it a whirl, or put it into your blender. Add in half the cream and blend again. Now, just pour it into some tupperware and save it for Thursday. Good work!
Thursday -- Turkey, Potatoes, Green Beans, Apples
So the timeline to keep in mind today is that you want to start at least 3 hours before you want to eat. The turkey is going to take 1.5 - 2 hours to cook, and it needs to rest before you serve it.
Let's get started. Turn the oven to 375 degrees F. Take out your potatoes. Notice I chose smooth, uniform, same-sized potatoes. This is important. Now stab them with a fork, 3-4 times each. But, notice where I’m stabbing them, right down the center, in the middle. Now cut off the top of the garlic and break it apart. These go into the small baking dish and into the oven on the top rack.
Now take out the cherry juice and the wine. Pour half the juice and an equal amount of wine (about 1.5-2 cups) into the saucepan, and turn it onto medium high heat. This requires no babysitting except to make sure it's never above a simmer. Once it boils, you may need to turn it down to medium.
OK. It's the moment we’ve been waiting for. Let's prep the turkey.
The butcher should have butterflied this for you, meaning it's long and flat. Feel free, if it is not, to use a meat pounder (Heh. It's a thing. I know.) or a pan to flatten it a bit. You’re not pounding it into oblivion, just a series of medium weight, flat smacks to get it to flatten a bit.
Once it's laid out on a cutting board, take out your string and cut it into three equal pieces. Lay this under the turkey, as shown.
Into the oven, no need to change the temperature. Notice the potatoes are still on top.
If you have a meat thermometer, this is an EXCELLENT time to use it. If not, hey, it's Monday, you still have time to get one! Put it into the dead center of your roast, and set it for 165 degrees.
While that cooks, let's get onto dessert.
Take out your apples, and peel them. I let them bathe in water and lemon juice while I’m working. Quarter them, core them, and throw them back in the water.
Now head over to your Cuisinart. If you don’t have one, no worries, that just means you get to use a hammer and a ziplock. Throw in the cookies. Blitz them until they’re powder. Now throw in the brown and white sugar. Blitz. Now cut the butter (cold) into slices and throw those in one at a time and pulse the blender until you the crumble will hold together when you squeeze it in your hand. If it won’t, just add more butter. This solves like, every problem, ever.
Now let's get the potatoes out of the oven. We’re going to take them out of the pan and then put them into the microwave for 90 seconds. This is all we need to soften them up. Hold them with a towel vertically and slice off the very top with a sharp knife. I cut it from both ends so it doesn’t get all scraggly.
Now, carefully scoop out the potatoes using a spoon. Again, scoop from both sides, gently. You’re not completely emptying them out, just getting out what you can. Put the skins aside.
Press the garlic so all the roasted garlic comes out and put that into the potatoes. Whip them by hand, or in a mixer, with 2 tbsp of butter and the rest of the cream. Salt and pepper to taste, and then throw in a small handful of cheese. At this point you’re just going to put all that right back into the potato skins with your spoon. Gently. Put these aside and wash the baking pan.
If you have a lovely pie pan, this is a good idea for the apples, but if not, the baking pan you just washed is fine. Slice the apples and throw them in. Add a handful of walnuts if you please, add the flour, toss to coat. Now cover in the crumble and put the thing in the oven.
The potatoes can go next to the crumble in the oven, they don’t even need a pan.
Around now, the compote should be done. It's done when the thing has reduced enough it becomes a syrup. Take it off the stove. As soon as the turkey hits 165F, take that out of the oven and put it aside for 20 minutes to rest.
It's time for the green beans, which are explained best, below.
Now take the fry pan out, add some water and salt to it, and get it to a boil, add the bundles and cover for 4 minutes. Remove the bundles and we’re ready to go.
Reheat the soup simply -- in the saucepan on the stove. Serve it with some fresh dill on top.
OK. Are you ready? Because I’m ready. Slice the turkey into 1” slices using a sharp knife. The key here is to use as few strokes as possible. Now put a spoonful of the compote on the plate, the slice of turkey on top of it, and then the potato on the side. Finally, the green bean bundle. Right before you go to the table, turn the oven off.
Best part? You have a very drinkable red wine, half of which is left, to get you going.
Finally, scoop some apple crumble onto a plate, and then, ideally, serve with some ridiculous vanilla ice cream.