Friday, December 2, 2016

Recent Eats - Volume 4 and Thanksgiving in Review!

A round-up of my favorite bites and other food drama from the past few weeks

And just like that, Thanksgiving has come and gone! Are you in full-on Christmas mode yet? I wasn't into it, but then my husband encouraged me to start decorating and, needless to say, I couldn't stop! We still need to trim the tree and put some outside lights up, but there is certainly holiday cheer all around. Now, what should I bake...?

Keep reading to see what tasty bites I've been eating this month (and yes, there is a turkey involved)!

Thanksgiving 2016

If you follow me on Instagram, you will see that I successfully hosted my first Thanksgiving! The day could not have been better! We had my parents and sisters as well as my husbands parents and sister for a total of 9 people, ourselves included (dog, cat and tortoise not included). As a first-time hostess, living in a 2 bedroom apartment outside of Boston, this number was perfectly manageable.

What was on the menu?

- Turkey! I wanted to go the easiest route possible without having an abysmally dry bird. Using the method outlined below actually resulted in a moist (seriously! not dry!) and super flavorful turkey.

First, I'd recommend getting a fresh turkey. Most major grocery stores have both fresh and frozen options, and choosing the fresh one meant no worries about defrosting or cooking a frozen bird. Just be sure to buy it the week of (we bought ours Sunday evening to cook on Thursday) and that the expiration date is after Thanksgiving.

As for the size, the internet is at odds with how much is a good amount. Between one and two pounds per person should be more than enough. For 9 meals, we had a 17+ pound turkey and I'm sure I don't have to tell you that, yes, we are still working through leftovers. I'd recommend getting as close as you can to one and a half pounds per person for dinner and a few days of leftovers. Cooking time is also dependent on the size. The best estimation I found is 13 minutes per pound, but if you stuff/truss it that may vary.

Here's how I prepped and cooked it (grab a detailed printable copy here). Take the bird out of the refrigerator,unwrap it, and remove giblets and neck 1 hour prior to cooking to rest and come to room temperature. Place your turkey in a rack in a roasting pan un-trussed, but tuck the wing tips under the bird. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine half a cup of salt with the zest of one orange and one lemon, as well as a teaspoon or so each of dried rosemary and thyme. Rub the salt all over the turkey - skin, cavity, under the skin if you're feeling frisky. Melt 1 stick of butter in a small saucepan and brush the butter all over the turkey skin. Stuff some chopped carrots, celery, and onion plus a sprig or two of parsley in the cavity. Carefully pour in about an inch of chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Put it in the oven and pray (kidding/serious). After 45 minutes, remove the bird and baste it in more melted butter. At this point, I loosely tented mine with a double thickness of aluminum foil to prevent burning. Every 30 to 45 minutes after this, take the bird out and baste it with some of the melted butter as well as some broth from the bottom of the pan. When you are in the last hour of cooking time, remove the foil. Once a thermometer plunged into the thigh read 165 degrees and the pop-up thermometer in the bird popped, I removed the turkey from the oven (it was about 4 hours and 15 minutes for my bird), tented it again with foil and allowed it to rest 1 hour before carving (during this time, we did a mad blitz to warm up the sides and make the gravy).

- Gravy! Nothing crazy here...and semi-homemade. The process was quite simple and quite delicious: I skimmed the fat off the bottom of the roasting pan but left in the rest of the delicious drippings, melted in half a stick of butter then sprinkled 3 heaping tablespoons of flour on top. Using a gravy spatula, I whisked it all together over medium-low heat until no clumps remained. After that, whisk in about 3 cups of chicken broth and heat until starting to thicken. Then, as a little cheat, I add 1 jar of store-bought turkey gravy. This extends the amount of gravy and binds the whole dish together. Season as appropriate - too simple!

- Stuffing! Well, actually, it was "dressing" and it came straight from the wonderful Pioneer Woman's A Year of Holidays Cookbook. I left out the cornbread and used only ciabatta and Italian loaves, then I added a big tablespoon of fresh chopped sage and a bit of lemon zest. My Dad said this was one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable dishes - a win in my book!

- Grandma's Carrot Casserole! That's the one in the casserole dish that is oozing delicious cheesy sauce all down the sides and has the beautiful crunchy golden brown topping. I plan on getting this on the blog soon because it would be AH-mazing with a spiral ham! Christmas, anyone?

- Garlic Green Beans! Crunchy, buttery, tossed with garlic, a bit fancy and yet oh so simple. Bonus - no oven space required! I strongly recommend at least one dish that doesn't need the oven, and this recipe comes from Ina Garten. It's foolproof!

- Parker House Rolls! If it isn't broken, don't fix it! That's my motto with these rolls. I went with the par-bake brown and serve method. It was wonderful to get these done two days ahead of time. Again from The Pioneer Woman...she saved my Thanksgiving ;-)

- Candied Sweet Potatoes! My Mom brought these all the way from Long Island to Boston and they were addicting! Tender sweet potatoes, swimming in a glorious glaze of brown sugar and butter. It's true perfection.

- Potato Casserole! My mother-in-law brought this dish. It is a classic family recipe and it FLEW off the table. In fact, I think my younger sister had 90% potato casserole, 10% other offerings on her plate...

- Dessert! Pecan Pie (Pioneer's the BEST), perfectly smooth Pumpkin Cheesecake, and the most beautiful double crust apple pie, courtesy of my sister-in-law! Team work makes the dream work.

- Drinks! Apple Cider Sangria, beers of all kind, red wine and white wine! Something for everyone. Pro-tip: I spent a lot of time researching the best wines to pair with turkey/Thanksgiving dinner...grab a bottle each of Reisling and Pinot Noir! Yep! Something for everyone.

Icelandic Candy

Cory and I honeymooned in Iceland, and other than the fact that it's one of the most breathtaking places I've ever been - they also have the MOST delicious chocolate. Seriously. It's sweeter and smoother than American chocolate. And I think it ruined me. I had one bar called Florida that just rocked my world. I've been talking about it a lot recently so I finally scoured the depths of the internet and found a site that delivered!

It may seem crazy, but ugh! This candy. Imagine a super crunchy Kit-Kat, drenched in the best chocolate ever mixed with crunchy rice, then coated in a thin layer of coconut. More, please!

Maine Brew Bus

For our first anniversary, I treated Cory to a little weekend getaway in Portland, Maine. The trip revolved around one big activity - the Maine Brew Bus! If you love craft beer and find yourself in southern Maine, we absolutely recommend grabbing a tour on the brew bus! The craft beer industry in Maine is absolutely exploding, and the brew bus takes you to three different breweries - designated driver and new friends included. We had 4 tastings at each brewery, plus a mid-tour snack. Our snack was a Kale, Potato and Feta hand-pie from a local bakery. It was like spanikopita but in a buttery, flaky pie crust! I'm still dreaming about it and also very interested in recreating it at home! Fingers crossed for a recipe soon...

Pumpkin Sage Arancini

Speaking of recipes I owe you guys, this is one for the ages! Creamy, dreamy pumpkin risotto, bursting with fresh sage and grated parmesan, all wrapped up in golden brown, crunchy ball. This is a showstopper recipe and it turns out - it's not nearly as hard as it looks! But are they tasty? Well, let me just say, there are not enough words to describe how unreal these tasty bites truly are. Come see me next week and I promise you won't be disappointed!

Tell me - what did you make for Thanksgiving? What else are you eating and drinking this holiday season!?

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