Let Us Give Thanks


Autumn is officially in full swing and the pinnacle of the fall season is almost upon us!

Thanksgiving is one of the most beloved holidays of the year and one of those few times during the year when even people who ordinarily would never dream of cooking anything beyond a frozen TV dinner roll up their sleeves and fire up the ovens. Sometimes this freshman foray into the culinary world pays off big time with surprised “oohs” and “ahhs” from people that once thought your only chef skill was opening a can of Chef Boyardee. Other times, you’re faced with the epic fail of a dried out turkey, undercooked yams and burnt stuffing. Ya win some, ya lose some…

Back when I was younger and still honing my Badass-edness, preparing the perfect turkey was the Holy Grail of cooking to me. The quest of achieving a succulent bird with a crisp evenly browned skin and dynamite flavor was probably brought on by my utter and dismal failure the first time I tried cooking a turkey.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I utterly and completely failed-with-a-capital-F.A.I.L.E.D at my first turkey. In fact, I failed so miserably, that any of you reading this and wishing “I wish I could become as much of a Badass in the kitchen as Annamarie” should take heart and have hope.  I was not born a Badass. That skill set came through years of practice and learning from my failures.

Like the 16 hour turkey.

Long ago, in my younger B.G.M (Before G-Man) days, I was a young bride, married just over a month to my first husband. I was excited to host a holiday at my house  and thought I’d do a practice run on Thanksgiving in September.  So I happily went to the store, bought my frozen turkey and all the ingredients for the side dishes, got home and put the turkey in the fridge to thaw, dreaming of the feast I was going to surprise my new husband and family with.  So right now you’re probably thinking, “Ok, how the hell did she fail so miserably? This all sounds about right…”

First off, let me mention that the turkey was only 10 pounds. Yeah, you do the math. To properly cook a turkey, you roast it at 325F for twenty minutes per pound which translates roughly into about 3 hours and twenty minutes. Now take a look to the title of my story:

The 16 hour turkey

You see, I bought a frozen turkey the day before I intended to cook it, thinking that it would fully thaw overnight in the fridge.

Can ya see where this is goin’?…

Now, back then, one thing I always got teased about was my lack of ability to get all the dishes on the table at the same time. The main course would be cooked and we’d have to wait on sides or vise versa. When I started out cooking my dinner that day, I was bound and determined to get everything done and on the table at the same time. And I did! I set the table and placed all the side dishes around my gorgeous, golden brown turkey. Seriously, this turkey was so perfect and beautiful, it could’ve starred in a Butterball commercial. Everyone was impressed at the spread and that I’d managed to break ties with my time management issues in the kitchen. We said grace, thanking God for each other and the food that was before us. Then I picked up my knife to carve into what I just knew was going to be the most delectable turkey ever roasted!

Joy! Rapture!

Wait…why is this turkey so hard to cut into? What the..??!!

IT”S RAW????

What the hell??? My turkey was so raw, it could have walked off the table, hailed a cab and gone to the bar down the road for a drink.

I was crestfallen and my family was hungry. How could this have happened? I did everything right, dammit!  My Mom, wise woman that she is, spoke. “Ok, so go over what you did, step by step. Did you take the giblets out?”

Yes.

“Did you cover it for the first couple of hours?”

Yes.

“Was the oven on the right temperature?”

Yes! Dammit YES!!!

“Was it still frozen?”

“No! I put it to thaw in the fridge when I got it home yesterday!”

My Mom, along with the rest of my family and my then-husband started to laugh. I, however, did not see the amusement in the situation.

“Uh, you need to thaw the turkey for about three days in the fridge before you cook it…”

THREE DAYS???

Why the hell wasn’t this written somewhere on the packaging??

So we packed up the side dishes and put them in the fridge and back into the oven went the turkey, for an additional 5 hours. In the meantime, my dad and ex went to the grocery store to pick up some cold cuts, hero rolls and chips to make sandwiches for dinner.
Five hours later, I rechecked the turkey. In a feat that somehow defied physics, the damn bird was still raw!!! At this point, I was exhausted and ready to give the turkey the bird. I left it in the oven overnight for an additional 8 hours.  By the time I woke up the next morning, the house was filled with the glorious aroma of roasted turkey. I took the bird out of the oven nervously. Not wanting to get my hopes up, I hesitantly peered under the foil…it looked stunning! But I’d been burned by this bird before so I took a deep breath and with my ex standing anxiously behind me, cut into the turkey.

SUCCESS!!!

Seriously, the heavens opened, the angels sang and I almost wept for joy. My little 10 pound turkey managed to stay super juicy even though it had cooked for a total of 16 hours! Later on, I served the turkey with the reheated sides and everyone agreed that it was a success.

Throughout the years the memory of that botched first attempt at roasting the perfect bird has ignited a fire to come up with the ultimate turkey. Since then, I’ve enjoyed good luck ranging from the  ridiculously delicious-that was the year I discovered injection basting and injected a pound of melted butter, some lemon juice and almost a whole bottle of Chardonnay into the turkey (that bird was freakin’ AMAZING) to the delicious yet entertaining year I decided to soak my turkey in red wine and oranges, resulting in a really delectable bird that just so happened to be a lovely shade of lavender.

So in an attempt to assist you first time and veteran roasters alike, here are a few recipes to help you pull off a feast for the fam.

Yes, you can prepare Thanksgiving like a pro!
Yes, you can prepare Thanksgiving like a pro!

Generally when you think of Thanksgiving you conjure up memories of enjoying a huge meal surrounded by family and friends. You probably also think of the hours and hours spent preparing that meal, followed by collapsing on the couch from a turkey induced coma fueled by the exhaustion that comes only from struggling to get that 40 pound  behemoth of a bird into the oven at 3am so it’s fully cooked and ready to serve by dinnertime.

Now you may think I’m crazy, but now that I’ve gotten the turkey down to a science, I love all the prep work that goes into a big holiday dinner. But even I like to get out of the kitchen once and a while, especially when it means spending time with my favorite people in the universe-my family.So when we decided to tackle a Thanksgiving episode for The DBA web series, my goal was to create dishes that were not only full of the yumminess that one expects from a Thanksgiving meal, but that help cut back on the time in the kitchen so you can spend more time with your favorite people.  Enjoy!

             Badass Brined Turkey with Kick-Ass-Easy Pan Gravy

turkey
I buy a fresh turkey now, but if you’re using a frozen bird, remember my 16 Hour Turkey and allow enough time to thaw your turkey fully and safely!

The Badass says:  “Brining a turkey not only injects your bird with massive flavor, it also ensures a tender and juicy bird every time!  I layer flavor by rubbing a herb infused compound butter under and on top of the skin, stuffing the bird with aromatics, then roasting it with white wine and veggies.  Say  “goodbye” to dry and “hello” to a juicy, flavorful bird!”

Here’s what you need for a 10-15 pound turkey:

For the Brine:

6 quarts of water

2 quarts of apple cider vinegar

1 cup Kosher salt

1 cup sugar

 ½ cup pink peppercorns

About 10-12 cups of ice

A gigantic pot or other large vessel (at least 21 quarts)

Mix all ingredients in the large pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool down with the ice (you can use more ice if you need to) It’s VERY important to have the brine cooled down before adding the turkey or you will start to cook the turkey and invite the growth of all sorts of yucky bacteria. Make sure your turkey  is “empty” before brining. Check for and remove giblet packs and gravy bags (no, I’m not kidding, the turkey I bought came with a sealed bag of “stuff” to add to the drippings to make gravy….scared me a little, I gotta say…)

Cover and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours. When the brining process is complete, rinse the turkey and pat dry. Discard the brine.

For the compound butter rub:

2 sticks of salted, sweet cream butter, softened

2 tsp fresh thyme, minced

2 leaves fresh sage, minced

½  tsp salt

½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper

Mix all ingredients together until well combined.  After the turkey has been brined, rinsed and dried, carefully slip your hand between the skin and breast of the turkey and gently loosen the skin. (I like using disposable gloves for this) Then liberally smoosh the compound butter in the pocket you’ve created between the skin and the meat. Use about 2/3 of the butter under the skin and use the rest to spread on the outside of the bird.

For the aromatic “stuffing”:

1 onion, quartered

1 lemon, quartered

1 bunch of thyme

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 sprigs of sage

Loosely place all aromatics in the cavity of the turkey.

For the roasting:

2 cups white wine

2 carrots, chopped

2 ribs of celery, chopped

1 onion, quartered

In the bottom of a large roaster pan, add the wine and chopped veggies. Place the turkey on top. Cover with foil, leaving small vent openings the foil on either side of the pan. Roast, covered, at 325F for 20 minutes per pound of turkey (for example, if you have a 10 pounder, it’s 20 minutes X 10 pounds=200 minutes. Divide that by 60 to get the number of hours. So a 10 pound turkey will take about 3 hours and 20 minutes) Uncover for the last hour of roasting and baste every 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let turkey rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.

For the gravy:

The pan drippings from the above turkey (you’ll probably end up with about 4 cups of that golden deliciousness-if you have less than that you can use a bit of chicken stock to make up the difference) Make sure you strain the drippings to ensure a smooth gravy

3.5 TBS butter

5 TBS flour

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan on high heat. Add the flour, reduce heat to medium high and stir quickly (a whisk is the best tool for this job) and constantly until flour starts to get brown.  Lower heat to medium low, add the pan drippings, whisking as you go.  Keep whisking to break up any flour lumps and cook on low for about 8-10 minutes, whisking regularly, until gravy reaches desired thickness. If gravy is too thick, add a bit of hot water or chicken stock. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

SWEET POTATO HASH WITH BACON & BROWN SUGAR CRUMBLE

The Badass says:  “ Throw out the gloppy canned yams and go fresh! My sweet potatoes have an unexpected kick, compliments of some fresh Anaheim peppers and get a sweet and savory topping of brown sugar and bacon with some quick oats for added crunch.  Trust me, no one will miss the marshmellows.”

Here’s what you need:

3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes

2 medium onions, chopped

4-6 fresh Anaheim peppers, chopped into ¼ inch pieces

10 ounces of peppered, apple wood smoked bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces

½ stick softened butter

¼ -½ cup white wine

½ cup packed light brown sugar

¾ cup quick oats

salt

An additional ¼ stick of softened butter (optional)

You’ll also need:

A large pot with a lid

A baking dish (in the 10X13 inch range)

And here’s what you do:

Cook the bacon on medium low until all the fat is rendered down and the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon and set aside.  Add the ½ stick of butter and let melt then add the onions and peppers plus a healthy pinch of salt and cook on medium for about 2 minutes, or until the veggies start to get soft.  Add the wine and cook for about a minute then add the sweet potatoes. Mix thoroughly, cover, then cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

While the potatoes are cooking, prep the topping by combining the brown sugar, oats and a pinch of salt in a bowl and mixing well. At this point, you can add ¼ stick of very soft butter and mix to combine evenly. This will make for a richer dish and a moister crumble. Last but not least, add the bacon and mix well.

When the potatoes are done, taste and add salt as needed.  

Spoon the potato mixture into the baking  dish and evenly top with the crumble mixture.  Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.

Serves 6-8

 

    GARLIC GREENBEANS WITH WARM LEMON VINAIGRETTE

 beans

 

The Badass says: “I don’t do the infamous “Green Bean Casserole”. First, I’m allergic to mushrooms (it’s made with cream of mushroom soup) and second, I prefer fresh green beans any day of the week.  These are steamed with a bit of garlic, then tossed in a lemony vinaigrette and are just the wake up call your palate needs during a very rich Thanksgiving meal. The gorgeous pop of green color they add to your table is an added bonus!”

Here’s what you need:

1 lb of fresh green beans, washed and de-stringed (to do this, snap the ends of each bean and pull down to release the string)

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 TBS hot water

The juice of 1 lemon

 1 tsp Champagne or white wine vinegar

 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

You’ll also need:

 A sauté pan with a lid

 A whisk

And here’s what you do:

Put 1 TBS of the oil in the sauté pan along with the garlic and cook on medium high heat until you start to smell the garlic (yummmm).  Add the green beans (carefully, since the oil may “pop” a bit once the beans hit the pan)  Next, add the water, toss  and cover. Reduce heat to low and steam for 1 minute or until beans are tender-crisp and still bright green. 

When beans are done, remove and place in a serving dish. Remove the chunks of garlic and discard.  Whisk in the remaining 2 TBS of oil, the lemon juice and the vinegar along with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss with the beans and enjoy.

Serves 4-6


                                   Garlic Smashed Potatoes

garlic mash
Serve these and two things are certain: No leftovers and no unannounced vampire visits.

 The Badass says:  “Breathe new life into a family favorite by adding a few cloves of garlic to your mashed potatoes and finishing off with heavy cream!”

Here’s what you’ll need:

4 lbs of potatoes, washed thoroughly and cut into 1 inch cubes (I like to leave the skins on but you can peel ‘em if you like)

5 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 stick of softened butter

 About 1 cup of heavy cream, light cream OR ½ & ½

 salt and pepper to taste

You’ll also need:

A large pot

 A colander

A potato masher

 Some self control

And here’s what you do:

 Put the cubed potatoes in a pot and add enough water to cover them with the water level about 1 inch above the potatoes.  To smash the garlic, use a knife with a wide blade, such as a large chef or Santoku knife.  Place a garlic clove on your cutting board then place the knife, blade side facing outward, on top of the clove, make a fist and using the flat side of your fist (the side where your pinky is) hit the blade. This will smash the garlic and make the skin very easy to remove. Add the garlic to the pot, cook on high until the water boils then turn heat to medium/medium high-you want to keep the water boiling but prevent it from boiling over-and cook for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain and put back in the pot with the butter and allow the butter to start melting as you start to mash the potatoes. Heat the cream for about 30-40 seconds in the microwave so it’s not cold when it hits the potatoes. Mash to desired consistency adding salt and pepper to taste. If a creamier mash is desired, add a bit more cream. If a smoother mash is desired, you can use a food mill or a ricer to run the potatoes through.

Serves at 6-8

                                     Stuffing Italiano!

A new take on an old fave
A new take on an old fave

 

The Badass says: “Try my flavorful Italian twist on traditional stuffing. Big croutons spiked with pesto not only give a flavor punch but also give a nice, hearty texture. And the pancetta morsels are like little hidden gems waiting to be found!”

Here’s what you need:

½ stick butter

 3 sage leaves, minced

 4 ounces of pancetta, diced

 2 medium-small onions, diced

 2 ribs celery, diced

 ½ cup white wine

 Three 5 ounce bags croutons (I used Mrs. Cubbison’s Basil Pesto Panini but if you can’t find those, use an Italian flavor variety and add  about ½ tsp of the pureed basil that you find in the produce section)

1-2 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper

The zest of 1 lemon

You’ll also need:

A big skillet with a lid

And here’s what you do:

Cook the pancetta in the skillet on medium until the fat is rendered down and the pancetta is crispy (about 5 minutes) If the pancetta is cooking too quickly, lower the heat to medium low. Add the butter, onions, celery, sage and some cracked black pepper (about ¼ tsp) a healthy pinch of salt (about ¾-1 tsp) and cook on medium until the veggies start to get soft (about 3 minutes or so). Add the wine and cook for another minute then add the croutons and carefully mix. Add chicken stock, starting with about a cup, mixing until all croutons are moistened. Add more chicken stock a little at a time if needed or if you like a moister stuffing and mix gently. Taste and add salt and pepper to suit taste. Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.

Serves at least 6.

 

                         NO-BAKE APPLE PIE CHEESECAKE

 

The Badass says: “When cooking Thanksgiving Dinner, oven space is at a premium, leaving nowhere for baked desserts to, well, bake.  My solution? Don’t bake! My no-bake cheesecake has an apple pie filling that is cooked on the stovetop and packs a little punch with some bourbon and a delicious spice blend.”

 Here’s what you need:

 For the apple pie filling:

 About 4 cups of sweet variety apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch pieces (the yellow and blush varieties like Golden Delicious, Cameo, Pink Lady and SugarCrisp are great)

 The juice of one lemon (I used a Meyer lemon because they are sweeter)

 2 ½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp cardamom

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

A tiny pinch of salt

 ½ stick softened butter

 ¼ cup bourbon

 For the cheesecake filling:

 Two 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened

 1 cup heavy cream

 ½ cup plus 2 TBS superfine sugar

Dash of cinnamon (optional)

½ tsp lemon zest (optional)

 For the crust:

 12 pecan shortbread cookies, ground into fine crumbs

 For the topping:

 About 3 cups cinnamon toast cereal, ground into fine crumbs

 1 TBS brown sugar

 1 tsp cinnamon

 You’ll also need:

 A large pan with a lid

 A food processor or blender (if you don’t have either of these, a couple of heavy duty plastic zip baggies and a rolling pin will do the trick nicely)

A large mixing bowl

A hand mixer

A 10×10 inch baking dish

A little extra butter to coat the baking dish

And here’s what you do:

First prepare the apple pie filling.  After you’ve prepped the apples, toss them with the lemon juice. Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the apples, spices and bourbon, stir to combine and cover. Cook on low heat for about 8 minutes or until apples are soft.  Next, we have to cool the apples down. To do this, place in a shallow pan and set that pan in a slightly larger pan filled 1/3 of the way with ice and water. Set the pan with the apples in the ice bath to cool quickly. To help speed up the process,  place the whole contraption in the fridge.

While the apples are cooling, prep the crust.  Put the cookies in a food processor process on high till you’re left with fine crumbs.  If you don’t have a food processor, use the “Old School” method-put the cookies in a heavy duty baggie, let all the air out and seal it tightly. Then take the roiling pin and beat the hell out of ‘em. The processor may be faster and more efficient, but the old school way is more therapeutic. You choose your method, I don’t judge. Next, butter the baking dish then press the shortbread cookie crumbs into it. That’s it. Tough, huh?

Next up, it’s the cheesecake filling. Whip the softened cream cheese with the sugar till it’s super smooth-no lumps allowed! Then add the cream and if you like, a dash of cinnamon and some lemon zest (both of those are optional, but I think they give the cheesecake filling a “real” cheesecake taste) Whip again on high speed till the mixture is light and fluffy.  Store in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the dessert. 

Last but not least, it’s the topping.  Put the cinnamon toast cereal in a food processer or use the “Old School” method. When the cereal turns into crumbs, add the brown sugar and cinnamon and mix thoroughly.

Now to assemble!

Place half of the cheesecake mixture into the prepared pan, followed by all of the fully cooled apple mixture, followed by the rest of the cheesecake mixture. Place the pan on a large dish or cookie sheet and sprinkle on the topping. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.

Serves 4-6

For a little more instruction on how the dishes are made as well as a little entertainment, the Thanksgiving Edition of The Domestic Badass web series will be up tomorrow night, thanks to the tireless efforts of The G-Man.  I hope you guys will have as much watching it as we had making it 🙂

Thanksgiving is a time for being thankful for everything we have. This year I’m thankful for my wonderful family-my mom, dad and sister, Jennifer along aunts, uncles and cousins who, although far away in distance, are always close to my heart, a husband who goes along with all my crazy plans and supports my little pipe dreams, the wonderful and supportive group of folks I’m proud to call “friends”, a warm place to call home and a table filled with wonderful food and laughter.  And of course, I’m thankful for you guys, who read and watch my adventures faithfully and who encourage, inspire and support our efforts here at DBA HQ. To say I couldn’t do it without you is a lie. I could, it just wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and a bright, beautiful & Badass kick off to the holiday season!

Have Fun…and Be Fearless!

xoxox

PS: Hunger is not Badass so we decided to donate this entire meal to a family in need in our community, via the Mount Holly Food Bank. For info on how you can help in your community, contact your local food bank or soup kitchen or go to:

http://www.nokidhungry.org or http://www.feedingamerica.org

 

 

 

 

 

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