Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Prepping for Thanksgiving

I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year for the first time. Fortunately it's a small gathering - just my husband's parents and us. But I have to admit, I'm still a little nervous. Sure, I've helped out with Thanksgiving dinners in the past, but my experience is limited pretty much to the last minute dash to make the gravy, finish the potatoes and other side dishes and carve the turkey, all the while trying to get it onto the table while it's still hot. This flurry of anxious activity is the one thing I'm hoping to minimize.

So, I'm trying to make as much as I can ahead of time. Yesterday I baked a couple of loaves of bread that I'll use for the stuffing (or dressing, since I won't be putting it in the bird). Today I made my cranberry sauce so it has time to set and my pie crust so it has time to chill in preparation for making pumpkin pie tomorrow. Here are my recipes:

Citrus Cranberry Sauce

1 12-ounce bag cranberries
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup Cointreau

Combine sugar, orange juice and Cointreau in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and add cranberries. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't boil over. Mash berries until sauce reaches desired consistency. Chill at least 4 hours before serving. (You can make this up to a week ahead.)

Flaky Pie Crust
(Makes 2 crusts)

2 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
up to 1/2 cup cold water

Put butter in freezer for 15 minutes to thoroughly chill.
In a food processor, combine flour, chilled butter cubes, salt and sugar. Pulse 10-15 times until mixture is crumbly.
Add water 1 Tbsp. at a time, pulsing until the dough begins to clump.
Test the dough by pinching it - when it holds together, it's done.
Pour the crumbly dough out into a big bowl or onto a cutting board. Shape into 2 evenly sized discs. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour and up to a day ahead (or freeze for up to 2 months).

When you're ready to make your pie, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Lightly flour your rolling surface and sprinkle flour on top of the disc of dough. Roll out until the dough is about 1/8" thick and fully covers your pie plate.

So, I know I make it seem like I am the master of planning and all things are going according to plan. But in truth, I do have a "Thanksgiving oops" confession to make. Part of my master plan was to roast a succulent, beautifully brined turkey. I took my turkey out of the freezer on Friday night so it would be defrosted in time to put it in the brine tomorrow.

Everything was going swimmingly until I checked the turkey this morning to see how it was coming along and noticed a little logo on the top of the package that said "naturally basting." Not exactly sure of what that meant, I continued reading and noticed fine print at the bottom of the package that the turkey contained up to 8% added moisture. In other words, it was effectively pre-brined.

My mad dash search of the Internet determined that brining any further could make it too salty or turn the meat to mush. I half considered rushing out to the store to get a fresh, non-basting turkey, but decided that a) I really didn't need 2 turkeys and b) I really don't want to brave the grocery store - especially the turkey section - 2 days before Thanksgiving.

Hopefully this will be my biggest blunder in preparing the Thanksgiving feast. But I have a feeling there might be more misadventures in the next few days... stay tuned!


ARLENE said...

Good luck on your first "solo" Thanksgiving. I have a file for each holiday with a master shopping list and my favorite recipes. Each year I make a detailed schedule. For example, Saturday, I put the turkey in the fridge to defrost; Sunday, I did the big shopping; yesterday I ironed the linens; today I did all my mise en place; tomorrow I'll bake the pies, assemble the antipasto, and prepare a few side dishes up to the point of cooking. I also have a schedule for Thursday with times that each dish goes in the oven. Anal? Yes. But I usually get everything on the table, hot, at the right time. I'm sure you'll do a great job! Your recipes sound wonderful.

"Prof. Kitty" said...

Thank you thank you for the pie crust recipe and pic. I was assigned pie-making for Thanksgiving and though baking is not my forte I would never just BUY one! I was all flustered about how exactly to assemble this thing, and your post is a godsend. I'm printing it out now! Happy turkey day to you!!