Thanksgiving Made Easy
Is this familiar? It's Thanksgiving morning, and you've been awakened by nightmares of lumpy gravy, raw turkey and soupy pumpkin pie. Your head is spinning with all that needs to get done. You’re snapping at the dog and just hoping for a miracle that will help you get through the day
There is a way to avoid this frightening scene. The key is to do much of your work ahead of time, little by little. I do just about everything from scratch, but there are some acceptable ready-made items. I’ll make recommendations where I think store-bought will be ok. Follow my instructions and you should be able to sit and put your feet up before the guests arrive.
So here’s how I do it . . .
Three weeks ahead I’m making the turkey stock that will be used as the base for the gravy and in the stuffing. You can find turkey stock ready-made but I haven’t found one that comes close to the flavor of a home-made stock. And it’s very easy!
Turkey parts are readily available at the market, so I bought 2 wings, a neck and a backbone, all inexpensive parts. I’ll make about a gallon of stock, put it in 3-4 plastic containers and freeze them. A couple of days before Thanksgiving I’ll put them in the refrigerator to defrost and they’ll be ready to go! Here’s the link to my stock recipe: Chef Janet’s Turkey Stock
It’s about 10 days until Thanksgiving and I started thinking about my shopping list for the big meal. On the menu at my house is:
Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Yams with Bourbon Orange Sauce
Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Sweet Potato Pie
I checked my pantry for some the key ingredients like ground sage, dried thyme, sunflower oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, white rice flour and some low sodium broth (just as a back-up). The markets get crazy next week and I like to get much of my shopping done before the rush. So today, on my regular weekly visit to the grocery store, I picked up some pantry items and things that will do fine in the fridge or freezer for a week:
2 loaves of Rudi’s gluten-free bread, for the stuffing (put it in the freezer)
low-sodium chicken broth
a bunch of celery
an orange (for the cranberry sauce)
a pound of butter
a bag of gluten-free ginger snap cookies (for pie crust)
2 dozen eggs (look for a good expiration date-eggs can go a month after harvesting)
frozen concentrated orange juice
dried shiitake mushrooms
After dinner I had a few minutes and decided to get the fresh cranberry sauce done. It’s extremely easy to make and will keep very well in the fridge. Here’s my recipe for Fresh Cranberry Sauce.
It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving and I have a few things on my to-do list:
First, I’ve moved my turkey stock from the freezer to the fridge to defrost.
Next, I’m making the mushroom soup for the green bean casserole. It will keep well in the refrigerator and will taste even better in a few days. Here’s the link to my Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole with the soup recipe included.
I’ll also make the sauce for the roasted yams – it’s really quick and easy. Here’s the link to the recipe – Yams with Orange-Bourbon Sauce.
Taking the time to get these few little tasks done is going to make life easier in a couple of days.
Tuesday – I made my final shopping trip today and on the list are:
fresh green beans, fresh parsley, thyme and sage, 4 lbs of yams (some for dinner and some for pie), shallots, turkey and some extra butter, just in case
The day before Thanksgiving has arrived! A fem more items on my to do list and tomorrow should be a breeze:
Cook the yams for the Sweet Potato Pie. Put them in the fridge once they’ve cooled. And while they’re in the microwave or oven . . .
Chop the onions and celery for the stuffing and cook them gently in butter just until soft. Get all the butter out of the pan too and store in the fridge for tomorrow. I also like to measure out the thyme, sage, salt and pepper and leave it in a little bowl. Here’s the link to my Cornbread Stuffing Recipe: Gluten-Free Stuffing. Whether you use cornbread or any other bread the recipe is the same.
With the onion and celery out already, cut a half onion in 2 and cut 2 stalks celery in chunks. This will be used to help flavor the gravy.
Turn the cookies into crumbs for the pie crust. Use the food processor or put them in a heavyweight plastic bag and crush with a rolling-pin.
Take the bread (for the stuffing) out of the freezer. Before bedtime tonight I’ll pull the bread out of the bag and lay the slices out to dry out a bit.
My last task in the kitchen is to salt the turkey. This has a similar effect as brining, it’s also called dry-brining and is much more simple. Remove from the wrapper (do not rinse, cooking will kill any bacteria) cover the whole bird in a thick coating of kosher salt and place in the fridge on its own shelf. Here’s a step-by-step guide to dry brining: seriouseats.com
It’s Thursday! Here’s how I’ll put it all together:
I like to work backwards, so I’m starting with the pie. With the cookie crumbs I made yesterday I’ll make the crust. While the crust is baking, put together the filling. The yams are cooked so this is a snap. Here’s the recipe for the pie and crust: So Easy Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Pie. Bake the pie.
Once the pie is in the oven, put a large pot of water over a high flame and add 1 Tbsp kosher salt. When it’s boiling add the green beans for the Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole. There’s a large bowl of ice water waiting to “shock” the beans after they’ve cooked 2 minutes. This will stop the cooking and preserve the nice bright green. Once cold, the beans get laid out on a towel to dry.
While waiting for the water to boil, I get the gravy started. Here’s my step-by-step recipe for Gluten-Free Turkey Gravy. There’s some onion and celery that I chopped yesterday so I just add a couple of chunks of carrot and herbs and it’s on it’s way.
About 1 hour before it needs to go in the oven, take the turkey out of the fridge. This will reduce the cooking time and makes it less likely to dry out.
Next I’ll cut up the yams and get them in the oven. I made the sauce earlier this week so this will be quick. Here’s the recipe I’m using: Yams with Bourbon-Orange Sauce.
At this point I think it’s time for a break.
The potatoes should be done so I’ll get the turkey in the oven.
Now I’ll get the stuffing assembled. I’ve got the spices, celery and onion ready to go, so there’s just a few easy steps left. Here’s the recipe to my Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing. This recipe will work with any bread. This year I’m keeping it traditional with gluten-free sandwich bread. If you have a 2nd oven throw it in or wait til the turkey is almost done and put it in with 30 minutes left.
The last bit of cooking is to make the Gluten-Free Crispy Onion Topping for the Green Bean Casserole. Here’s the recipe: Crispy Onions. This one is a little time-consuming but well worth it. If you don’t want to deal with this step you could just break up some gluten-free crackers or pretzels.
We’re almost there. The green beans should be dry so, I’ll cut them up and add to the mushroom soup. The soup will probably seem too thick, but it will loosen up once heated. I’ll get the casserole in the oven, when I can, and we are pretty much done!
Turkey? check, Stuffing? check, Gravy? check, Yams? check, Cranberry Sauce? check, Green Bean Casserole? check, Pie? check. Phew, I made it!