Friday, November 26, 2010

United States: Thanksgiving Dinner

When I started this blog a bunch of people asked me what I would cook for the US, if I would even bother. And I wasn't sure. I thought about a Southern feast of fried chicken and biscuits, I thought about a barbecue with burgers and hot dogs. Then, because of a family situation, I had to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the second year in a row. And this is a pretty American meal. I kept it pretty simple, since it was just for the four of us. Also, my grandmother can make several more dishes, including gravy, and have it all on the table at the same time, when she says it's going to be ready, but I don't know how she does it.

Simple, in my family, meant a young turkey (12 lbs, give or take, on a rack of celery with an onion inside), stuffing separate, mashed potatoes, corn and green beans, cranberry sauce, and apple sauce, with apple pie for dessert. I made the stuffing and apple pie in the morning, since all they needed to do was heat up at the last minute. Last year the mashed potatoes proved stressful, but my sister vetoed my dad's suggestion of instant and made them herself from scratch. Even with low-fat milk instead of cream, they were delicious. The cranberry sauce came out of a can (the best kind!), the applesauce out of a jar (we didn't end up touching it), and the vegetables out of the freezer. The turkey, which I made following the directions on the package, was a little overdone; it cooked faster than I expected, but it wasn't that dry. And much better than last year's perfect breast and not nearly done dark meat.The gravy came from Trader Joe's. I was unimpressed, even after adding some pepper and poultry seasoning. The stuffing was delicious as always, and the pie came out well (not out of the pan well, though, as you'll see from the pictures). I used the America's Test Kitchen dough recipe, which is a little easier to work with, but I don't think the crust keeps well overnight. May have to experiment with other recipes. Dad and sister's take on the filling:
Molly: The nutmeg really adds a little somethin...
Dad: Nutmeg flavor?
Molly: Yeah, that.

Recipes (when I have them) and photos are after the jump. Tell me about your family's Thanksgiving traditions in the comments!


9 slices of bread, crusts removed and torn into small pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 lb breakfast sausage
poultry seasoning to taste
4 tbsp butter or margarine
pepper to taste

Fry sausage until evenly brown; remove to a plate covered with a paper towel. Saute the onions and celery in the butter or margarine and sausage drippings in the pan until tender but not brown. Add 1/3 of the bread and the seasonings, then mix the sausage and food from the pan into the remaining bread and mix well. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Mashed Potatoes

Red-skinned potatoes
milk and butter
salt and pepper to taste

Cut up the potatoes and boil until soft. Mash with a potato masher, then add milk and butter until the texture is what you want. Add salt and pepper.

Molly was in charge of mashed potatoes

Apple Pie

2 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup shortening
4 tbsp vodka
4 tbsp cold water

Mix the dry ingredients well. Using a pastry cutter, knife, or food processor, cut the fat into the dry ingredients until there are no lumps of either. Sprinkle vodka and water into the bowl and mix well. Make two balls (one slightly larger than the other), wrap in saran wrap, and refrigerate at least 45 minutes.


6-8 apples, a mix of Granny Smith and McIntosh and whatever else is around
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

Peel and slice apples thin, combine with other ingredients. Roll out dough one circle at a time. Place first in pie pan, put filling inside, cover with other circle of dough. Crimp the edges together and poke holes in the crust. Sprinkle sugar on top. Cover the edges with aluminum foil and bake at 425 for 45 minutes, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes.

Dad: "Usually I like to start with the point, but I can't tell where the point is!"

Snow out the kitchen window!

I thought I would be helpful and take the legs off the turkey, not realizing that they really should be cut off.

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