For some oddball reason, we managed to roast the Thanksgiving turkey upside down, without anyone even noticing until the master carver of the house, preparing to slice up the bird, asked why it was placed breast down on the presentation platter.
We still can’t explain that one, but the surprise result was a turkey that yielded exquisitely moist white meat. True, it could be thanks also to the dry brine it underwent in the days leading up to the holiday, or the liberal rubdown with Porchetta-Spiced butter it received just prior to cooking. But the accidental upside-down roast method got us to thinking; maybe we were on to something, by pure happenstance.
A little cookbook sleuthing finds it may be so. Research and experiments into how to roast the perfect turkey, detailed by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated in The Best Recipe (1999, Boston Common Press), reference James Beard’s technique for achieving equal temperatures in the white and dark meat – turning the bird as it roasts, starting with the breast side down on a rack, turning onto each side during the cooking time, and finishing with the breast side up. The Cook’s Illustrated editors concluded: “Brining, turning, and basting are work, yes, but the combination produces the best turkey we’ve ever had.”
Funny, it was the exact same thing we’d theorized, standing over the upside-down bird on its decorative holiday platter. That’s the tried-and-true method for roasting a chicken that we learned from Julia Child. Although in truth, turning a searing-hot chicken is work enough, so the next time the turkey may be started breast side down, and flipped once. That’s probably what Kate was aiming for in the first place, having used the L.A. Times method for how to dry brine. The big flip just got lost somewhere in the dinner hustle-bustle. Because we also tend to follow the advice offered by The New York Times on how to stop freaking out about the turkey: “Remember, it’s just a big chicken.”
Bonus tip: Because this Porchetta-Spiced Turkey recipe includes fennel seed in the dry rub, we added some fresh fennel to the dressing. It lends a clean, fresh note to the traditional celery, onion and sage combination, while echoing the seasonings in the turkey and resulting gravy.
Contrary to our Midwestern roots, the Three Points cooks will not be adding Snicker Salad to the Thanksgiving table this year (or any year). The New York Times reveals that the top Google searches for recipes in all 50 states this week place Nebraska (Kate’s home state) at the center of the Snickers Salad belt. The ” salad” is composed of whipped topping, apples, chopped-up Snickers bars and, sometimes, pudding mix.
More in keeping with our dinner in D.C. (where the top search was for “corn pudding”), we will be having Mrs. Apple’s Creamed Corn, a traditional Pennsylvania recipe made with dried sweet corn. That ingredient was, of course, purchased via an online search.
Meanwhile, the top searches this week on Three Points Kitchen reveal more diverse global interests: Cranberry Coffee Cake, Salsa Verde Cruda, Pan de Coco, Tamarind Ice Cream, Allspice Ice Cream, and Povitica.
Thanks, indeed for a beautiful, crisp and clear fall day for the first Thanksgiving at Kate’s first home. This year’s gathering of international and food-obsessed guests was reflected in the menu that blended traditional elements with the tastes of Mexico and the British Isles.
Here’s the menu:
- Squash on Toast. Amelia took this a step higher by making her own baguettes.
- Crab and Artichoke Dip
- Roast Turkey with Chipotle and Apple
- Chestnut and Tart Apple Dressing
- Potato-Tomatillo Gratin. A cooking class two days before Thanksgiving, and taught by the charming Eliza Gonzalez, inspired this dish. We took the potato filling from stuffed jalapenos — combining potatoes, garlic, tomatillos and ricotta cheese — and turned it into a gratin for the table (and potato pancakes the next day).
- Braised Cabbage, with apples and clove.
- Roasted Beets with Garlic and Cream.
- Bread Sauce, another British Christmas favorite that was new to the table, a simple sauce heady with clove.
- Cranberry Salsa with Chilies and Cilantro.
- Green Bean Casserole. Yup, the delicious, old-school dish we know from childhood, complete with crispy canned onions on top.
- Little Balls of Happiness (Julia Child’s Oignons Glacés a Blanc).
- Mocha-Pecan Pie, now our gang’s traditional dessert.
- Apple Tart. Listening to an NPR special on Julia Child gave us the idea to make an apple tart with souped-up apple flavor. She put fresh apples on homemade applesauce. We laid them over apple butter and brushed them with apple jelly. A tasting of the Genepi liqueur brought from a friend’s home region in France provide the inspiration for a glaze touched with that herbal Alpine liqueur.
- Cranberry and Pear Hand Pies with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.
This year’s Thanksgiving feast chez Kate focused on new combinations of traditional ingredients. Case in point: to liven up the pumpkin portion of the meal, Kate served up fresh-baked Slow-Rising Pumpkin-Thyme Dinner Rolls. Warm from the oven, they were a lovely way to start the dinner, spread with some Cheddar-Cava Spread and a glass of sparkling Chevalier Cremant de Bourgogne.
Alongside the Roasted Turkey.
- Mashed potatoes with Celery Root. Aromatic celery root (celeriac), diced and boiled with the potatoes, adds a subtly different note. (Can’t mess too much with the mashed potatoes.)
- Wild rice and chestnut dressing.
- Roasted Beets with Garlic and Cream. Golden beets refresh this favorite dish. Roasted beets are sliced and warmed in a saucepan with minced garlic and heavy cream.
- Twice baked butternut squash. Guest Kathryn’s take on the twice-baked potato, swapping out with halved butternut squash.
- Little Balls of Happiness, aka Julia Child’s recipe for Oignons Glacés a Blanc
- Mateja’s Green Beans with Potatoes and Parsley
- Cranberry Salsa with Chilies and Cilantro
- Lemon Posset (A Thanksgiving Miracle) served as a palate cleanser, before slices of Potica filled with Mascarpone and Tarragon.
Pumpkin made a final appearance in the form of Ginger-Pumpkin Cheese Tart, spiced up with a cheesecake-style filling, fresh ginger and gingersnap crust, along with the can’t-do-without Mocha Pecan Pie. Simplify the latter recipe a bit by using the pie crust recipe of your choice and basic whipped cream; the filling itself shines by cutting the usual toothache-inducing sweetness of pecan pie through addition of espresso and cocoa.
Ah, Thanksgiving. The turkey-centric holiday that often left those of the vegetarian persuasion feeling a little freakish for our desire to just eat the vegetables. But with the increasing popularity of vegetarianism, fueled as much by locavore ideals as by the popularity of books exposing the underbelly of commercial food production, more and more feasts are now featuring lavish vegetarian centerpieces. For this year, we made Squash Gratin with Poblanos and Cream, a heavenly combination of butternut squash, roasted poblano peppers, heavy cream (yes, vegetarians like heavy cream! And butter, too!), as well as a combination of Farmers’ and Monterey Jack cheeses. Add some fresh thyme and oregano and you have a side dish that is sure to please both meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
— Amelia Peltz
- Double-Mashed Potatoes with olive oil, smoky paprika, cumin and garlic
- Cranberry Salsa with Cilantro and Chiles offered a bright, clean taste that would have been great on turkey sandwiches, if any had been leftover
- Shredded Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Ham and Pecans had even nonbelievers going for seconds
- Mocha Pecan Pie The best of all possible pies. Simplify this recipe a bit by using the pie crust recipe of your choice and basic whipped cream; the filling itself shines by cutting the usual toothache-inducing sweetness of pecan pie through addition of espresso and cocoa.
- Pumpkin Soufflés These individual soufflés can be prepared ahead of time and held in the freezer. Pull out as many ramekins as needed and bake in the down time after the main course.
A vegetarian feast! (for two). B and I have both been a little under the weather, so as far as menu planning went, the key ingredient was ultimately what required no outside resources to prepare. We had plenty in the fridge to work with, however, so it wasn’t exactly a master round of Iron Chef or anything.
- Butternut squash soup of my own devising (roasted squash, a couple potatoes, onion, veg stock, some sweet curry powder, a little milk, etc.)
- Roasted root vegetables with a maple syrup/mustard/garlic powder glaze
- Roasted rapini with garlic
- And since that big red cabbage would not stop begging me to pay some attention to it, braised red cabbage with a sprinkle of goat cheese for good measure
In honor of family Thanksgivings of days past, we sat down to dine at 4 p.m. without really thinking about it and then wondered how that tradition got started exactly.
What’s everyone else cooking/eating today?