Holiday Culinary Spectacle

Thankfully the calendar gods have seen fit to give us all a good practice run at the holiday season every year by starting us off with Thanksgiving. Are you looking for some good holiday dishes to incorporate into your festivities this year? Well Megan and I delved in and hopefully some of these ideas will help you wow your kin and acquaintances with your culinary prowess and enlightened pallet (sorry, you’re on your own for help with appropriate family conversation topic, we generally fail at that anyway. All the more reason to have amazing food though, am I right?)

So let’s start by asking ourselves how we got to this point.

Well I’ll tell you,….. I don’t know. At some point during the fall, the subject of Thanksgiving Dinner came up and for some reason I volunteered (I know, doesn’t sound like me, but nonetheless). Anyway, one thing lead to another and then 25 people were coming for dinner. Then I conned Megan into getting involved and I roped my sisters from Preciously Paired into doing the table setting and decorating. The short version is that Megan and I spent a solid three and a half days shopping, cooking, baking, cleaning, and then eating.

Clearly, it went really well.

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

Jalapeno Butternut Squash Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2-in. cubes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • Crème fraîche (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a 4- to 5-qt. pot over high heat. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeño, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant but not yet browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cayenne and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add squash, broth, brown sugar, and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. In a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, then pour back into the pot. Stir in cream and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot, with a swirl of crème fraîche if you like.

First, let us introduce you to our distinguished dinner guests, Polly and Filbert. Considering neither of us knew what we were doing when it comes to turkeys, these turned out fabulous! I decided it was only appropriate to name our birds as due to the preparation process I had to get rather well acquainted with these two (Megan was barely able to stay in the kitchen whilst I sat elbow deep in these two and then proceeded to give them oil and butter rubdowns. Let’s just say by the time we ate, Polly, Filbert and I were very close (but still had trouble looking each other in the eye). Filbert was soaked in a brine overnight which made the meat really moist and tender. Polly was glazed with a black pepper, pomegranate glaze. The glaze was beautiful and fantastic, but didn’t really do much for the birds interior bits (read anything below the skin). Both turned out great, although I might have taken them out of the oven 20-30 minutes sooner next time. All in all, the first holiday miracle was present and accounted for.

Recipe note: This recipe calls for pomegranate molasses. We didn’t have that so we reduced pomegranate down into a thick syrup and used that.

Food

Turkeys

Megan had never had cranberry sauce before so I insisted we make fresh cranberry sauce (no Ocean Spray can for us!). It was also real easy and the results were well worth it. I’ll leave you with Megan’s words on the subject:

“Cranberries were a revelation for me this year. I have never actually eaten cranberry sauce…ever. This recipe was extremely easy to make and the perfect mixture of sweet and tart. Win win win!”

My family usually does a (very larger) variety of finger-type foods for their pre-meal snacks. Things like shrimp, olives, crackers, cheese, etc… This year we (I) decided to do a nice harvest-y soup for the opener, a Butternut Squash and Jalapeno Soup with ginger and cream. I’d had this at friends house prior to the holiday meal one year. It not only looks great, but is tasty and easy to make too. (don’t my sisters’ table settings look great! I mean, let’s be honest, the soup really sets the whole thing off but really, so nice!)

This soup got a little spicy, but not overly so. If you need to cut out some of the spice, the friend I got the recipe from recommend leaving out the cayenne. The creme fraiche is a must! It not only adds a nice visual, but it adds depth of flavor and helps cool down the heat.

Soup

Of course for a holiday meal there a few staples that are a must, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be interpreted some. Our green beans were pretty standard fare. We stole a buttered lemon green bean recipe from the Julia Child cookbook.

Green beans

For our yams we wanted to do something a little different. We did do a pan of delicious maple glazed yams with cranberries which are always pretty amazing (sorry, no pan of candied yams with tiny marshmallows and fruit cocktail to be found here), but we also did a pan of savory sweet potato stacks on a recommendation from another friend.  Thinly sliced yams layered with cheeses, herbs and other goodness. So stick that in your yam hole! We did and we’ll never go back. Technically these are supposed to be stacked in muffin tins and then they come out as little individual servings but the store only had huge monster yams so they ended up in a casserole dish and cut into squares. It worked out though.

sweet potatoes

To add some additional color to the plate (and because I love everything about this dish) we made a corn dish that my family does called Corn Escallop. It’s basically a few pounds of corn mixed with everything else you love like bacon, butter, onion, peppers, and sour cream. It bakes in a dish for about an hour and comes out so great and the colors add a lot to any plate. It’s also pretty fool-proof, I mean how can you go wrong with this much butter and bacon.

corn

Despite being dog-tired by the time the meal was served everything came out pretty well.

Megan and Nathan

As you can see from our picture the subtext is clearly something along of the lines of, “if these people don’t clear out of here in the next ten minutes there will be murders,….. or I will be shoving my face full of pie.”

Speaking of pie and spectacle and shoving: the pies this year were a holiday triumph! Instead of using my go-to recipe from Martha Stewart for Pate Brisee I used the pie dough recipe from Cooks Illustrated that a friend sent over to me. It uses half butter and half Crisco for the fat and then half water and half vodka for the liquid. I was slightly suspicious as the dough came out very wet, but it rolled out so nice. As a finished product it was flavorful (thank you butter) and tender (thank you Crisco) and flaky (thank you Vodka). See this video where my sister attempts to make me look like I know what I’m doing.

Pies

Much like this picture here (confession: I didn’t carve the turkey).

Nathan and Turkey

All in all we had ten pies in addition to a pumpkin cheesecake (also super easy) and pumpkin cake roll (also super easy as I had my grandmother bring it).

Plate

Cranberry Sauce
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 c sugar
  • Orange or lemon zest
  • 2 TBSP water
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Instructions
  1. Empty a 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries into a saucepan and transfer ½ cup to a small bowl.
  2. Add 1 cup sugar, 1 strip orange or lemon zest and 2 tablespoons water to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the reserved cranberries. Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste and cool to room temperature before serving.

Good Easts Roast Turkey
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
  • For the brine:
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1½ teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped candied ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water
  • For the aromatics:
  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 leaves sage
  • Canola oil
Instructions
  1. to 3 days before roasting:
  2. Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
  3. Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
  4. Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:
  5. Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
  6. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
  7. Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
  8. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
  9. Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2½ hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

Jalapeno Butternut Squash Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2-in. cubes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • Crème fraîche (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a 4- to 5-qt. pot over high heat. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeño, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant but not yet browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cayenne and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add squash, broth, brown sugar, and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. In a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, then pour back into the pot. Stir in cream and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot, with a swirl of crème fraîche if you like.

Savory Sweet Potatoes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ pounds small sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded mozzarella cheese, divided*
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • ½ to ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Garnish: fresh thyme
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Layer half of sweet potatoes in a lightly greased 12-cup muffin pan. Sprinkle with 1½ tsp. thyme and ½ cup cheese. Top with remaining sweet potatoes. (Potatoes will come slightly above the rim of each cup.)
  2. Microwave cream, next 3 ingredients, and remaining ½ tsp. thyme at HIGH 1 minute. Pour cream mixture into muffin cups (about 1 Tbsp. per cup).
  3. Bake at 375°, covered with aluminum foil, 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining ½ cup cheese. Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly golden.
  4. Let stand 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife around rim of each cup, and lift potato stacks from cups using a spoon or thin spatula. Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish, if desired.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Rate this recipe: