By Pete Snaith and Stephen Sands, Chefs and Owners
Culinaria Cooking School
Pumpkin pie, cornbread, roasted turkey and other traditional Thanksgiving fare weren’t actually part of the original meal enjoyed by the Pilgrims back in 1621. Potatoes were unavailable, butter and oil were scarce, and without ovens, roasting on a spit took hours.
But the pilgrims were determined to celebrate the end of the draught that revived their crop of corn and fruits with their neighbors, the Wampanoag. Happy to help, the Native Indians brought five deer, adding to a meal of stewed fowl, boiled lobster and fish, corn and wheat breads, a stew of dried fruits, and water to drink. According to the pilgrims’ journals, about 150 people enjoyed the feast that lasted three days.
Now that’s a celebration! At Culinaria Cooking School, we believe that it’s important to work with whatever you have on hand. Fortunately, we have supermarkets to help us out in 2010. And when we host our grand opening on November 7, we invite you to bring your friends and family for a party you won’t forget. See details here.
Below you’ll find a recipe for brining a turkey. This simple process ensures your bird will come out of the oven juicy on the inside, crisp on the outside. You’ll also find a recipe for Sausage Chestnut Stuffing. Yum!
That’s not all. Later this month, we’ll be blasting out the recipes for our entire 21st century Thanksgiving menu to all of our newsletter subscribers (see that feast below). If you haven’t signed up yet, do so at www.culinariacookingschool.com. Here’s to wonderful holiday season!
Thanksgiving Feast 2010
For starters: Parsnip Soup w/ Truffle Oil
The main course: Brined Spice-Cured Roast Turkey
On the side:
- Brussels Sprouts with Apple, Bacon & Pine Nuts
- Cranberry Pinot Noir Relish
- Red-Wine Braised Cabbage and Onions
- Roasted Sweet-Potatoes Spears with Turkey Bacon Vinaigrette
- Sausage Chestnut Stuffing
For dessert: Delicata Squash Tart
Brined Spice-Cured Roast Turkey
Culinaria Cooking School Tip: By soaking the turkey in a brine mixture, it will be slightly pinker, have a moist texture and spicier flavor than a standard roast bird. Make sure to reserve the neck and giblets for another use, and allow for the turkey to cure for about 24 hours or at least overnight.
What you’ll need:
1 18-lb. turkey
Butter to brown: 2 sticks unsalted butter, 20 fresh sage leaves
1. In a medium saucepan, bring the butter to a simmer over moderate heat. Simmer, scraping up any solids that stick to the bottom of the pan, until the butter turns a deep tan color, about 6 minutes; do not let the butter burn. Remove the saucepan form the heat and stir in the sage leaves and let steep for 8-10 minutes.
2. Using a fork, remove and discard the sage leaves. Pour the butter into a glass dish or container, cover, and refrigerate until solid. This can be made two days ahead. Before using, let the butter soften to room temperature until pliable, at least 30-45 minutes before.
Spice Rub: 2 T. fennel seeds, 2 large dried red chilies, 1 T. whole allspice berries, 1 T. whole black peppercorns
1. In a small skillet, toast the fennel seeds, chilies, allspice berries, and peppercorns over moderately high heat, tossing frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
2. Let the spices cool, then transfer to a spice grinder or mortar & finely grind them. The spice mixture can be kept, covered, at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Brine: 1 cup coarse or kosher salt, 2 cups sugar (plus 2 T.), 3 bay leaves, 1 to 2 T. thyme (either dry or fresh, more if using dry), 8 cloves, 2 tsp. whole allspice berries coarsely cracked, 1 tsp. crushed juniper berries
1. In a very large stockpot, combine the ingredients for the cured turkey (without the bird itself) with 2 gallons of water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
2. Pour the cooled brine into a large container, add the turkey, breast side down and let stand overnight and up to 2, in the refrigerator.
3. On Thanksgiving Day: remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 500F. Season the turkey inside the body cavity (don’t forget the neck cavity in front) with salt and the some of the Allspice mixture made above. Stuff the bird and the neck cavity with the stuffing of your choice. Remember not to overstuff the cavity or it will explode.
4. Using your fingers, loosen the skin from the breast without tearing it. Evenly spread the softened brown butter under the skin. Close the neck with either toothpicks or metal darning needles.
5. In a large roasting pan, set the turkey breast side up on a rack with chopped vegetables — including onion, carrot, celery in a ratio of 3:2:1. Sprinkle the remaining Allspice rub all over the bird and loosely tie the legs together with kitchen string (cotton only). Roast the turkey for 20 minutes at 500F, then lower the heat to 350F, cover the turkey loosely with foil and continue roasting for about 4 hours, basting frequently, until an instant-read thermometer registers 165F to 170F when inserted into the inner thigh.
6. Add chicken stock or water to the pan during cooking if juices evaporate. Once done, transfer the turkey to a carving board and let it stand for at least 30 minutes before carving.
7. Make the gravy. Pass the pan juices through a coarse sieve or strainer into a medium saucepan, pressing down on the softened vegetables to work them through the strainer; make sure to save the juices. Skim the fat from the pan. Next, place the roasting pan over 2 burners on moderately high heat. Add 1 to 2 cups of water and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Lower the heat to medium and simmer stirring constantly, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir this mixture into the pan juices that you saved earlier, and heat until it simmers.
8. If needed, thicken the gravy with 2 rounded T. of flour, mixed with 2 T. of water. To avoid lumps in the flour, mix the water and flour in a jar with a lid. Shake well to form slurry, then add this mixture to the gravy and let it simmer for at least 3 minutes before serving to cook off the flour taste.
Thanksgiving Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing
Makes 12-14 cups
What you’ll need:
12 cups of French bread, cubed (1” cubes)
4 T. olive oil
2 T. dry thyme
2 lbs. spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, broken into clumps
4 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped shallots
2 lbs. mixed mushrooms, sliced
4 cups chopped celery
2 T. finely minced garlic
2 T. dried sage leaves, crumbled
15 oz. jar of chestnuts
2 whole apples, cut into 2” diced pieces
1 cup dried sour cherries or dried cranberries
2 cups reduced chicken stock
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and toss with 2 T. of olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread the bread cubes on two baking sheets and pop them into the oven for about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature, and return to the bowl.
2. While the bread is toasting, brown the sausage in a heavy skillet over medium heat, breaking up the clumps. Using a slotted spoon, drain the sausage on paper towels to remove excess fat. Place in the bowl with the bread cubes, draining the excess fat (or reserve it to sauté the onions).
3. In a large skillet, add the sliced mushrooms and stir them frequently over medium heat. When they begin to render their liquid, add 3 cups of olive oil and stir until tender. Season with salt and pepper and deglaze with 2 cups of dry white wine, and sauté until almost all the wine has been reduced. Then let it cool before adding it to the stuffing mixture.
4. Place the remaining 2 T. of oil in the pan used to cook the sausage. Add the onion, shallots, celery, garlic, and sage and sauté over medium-low heat for approximately 15 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Stir often so they don’t brown. Add to the bread and sausage, along with the apples and cranberries. Toss well.
5. Drizzle the chicken stock over the entire mixture to moisten it. Toss well to mix and season with salt and pepper to taste. Be sure to cool completely to room temperature before stuffing the turkey.
Culinaria Cooking School Tip: If you are stuffing the turkey, be sure the mixture is completely cooled to room temperature. This is best if you make it the day before and refrigerate it overnight.