Happy Black Friday! Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know we did. We had the great privilege of hosting our very first Thanksgiving in our home this year. I was beyond thrilled to have a house full of company! We both love entertaining and don’t get to do it nearly enough!
Even more excitedly, this year’s Thanksgiving feast was chosen by the editors of foodbuzz to be a part of the foodbuzz 24,24,24 event which is a live blogging event featuring 24 meals, in 24 hours, on 24 different blogs around the world! It was really hard not to let the cat out of the bag a few weeks ago when I found out. I’m so excited to be participating in the November event! Definitely go check out what the other 24,24,24 featured bloggers have done!
Planning your first Thanksgiving can be overwhelming, especially if you have a personality like mine. Without a doubt, I’m a planner and a perfectionist. Even though I had the menu picked out weeks ago, I knew exactly when each dish should go in the oven, and I had the shopping done. I was still anxious. What if I burn the turkey? What if it tastes horrible? What if my oven breaks? I can’t help myself! And I can’t help you with that sort of anxiety. But I can help you get all your ducks in a row! I can’t imagine how I could have pulled off this Thanksgiving without the planning I did (and I didn’t get it done at 2pm like planned but we were all sitting down to eat at 2:30 so I didn’t do too bad for my first try!). So here I am to share some helpful tips with other first timers such as myself. You can keep these in mind for next year, or really these would be helpful when planning any meal for company!
Its critical to plan your menu in advance, especially for a meal like Thanksgiving! With so many dishes needing to be cooked at the same time, you have to coordinate cooking times and oven temperatures. You ideally want to choose recipes that are close in temperature so you can make adjustments and cook it all together. Unless you’re blessed with a wonderful kitchen with multiple ovens! I unfortunately do not, I’m not even blessed with decent counter space! But with all that in mind, I started out by putting our wonderful menu together:
Thanksgiving Feast, Texas Style!
Cajun Roasted Turkey
Tamale & Green Chile Cornbread Dressing
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Green Bean Bundles
Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Carrots & Mushrooms
Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
So now what? You’ve got the menu planned but it doesn’t stop there! There are some other things to consider and plan for!
- Consider what kind of turkey you want (fresh turkeys should be ordered in advance, and frozen turkeys will require planning as they take time to defrost). Check out this Turkey Guide. We ordered a fresh turkey from a local butcher)
- Make a grocery list from menu several weeks in advance and double check your list twice to make sure you’ve got everything covered (this saves you from having to run out on Thanksgiving day!)
- Clean out the pantry & fridge! You’ll be bringing home a lot of groceries and you need to make room.
- Stock up on shelf stable items one to two weeks in advance and make a run to the grocery store or farmer’s market a couple days before Thanksgiving for all the fresh veggies, bread, etc.
- Plan a time line. Consider how long each dish needs to prep and cook. Review each recipe twice (or more)! You don’t want to suddenly realize the day of your event you should have started the night before! And if you’ve familiarized yourself with your recipes, you’ll be calmer the day of!
- Check to make sure you have all the proper cooking equipment and enough serving dishes for everything
- Print and/or make copies of all your recipes. You don’t want to hassle with having 4 or 5 open cookbooks
- Prep/chop as much as you can the day before a big event. Things such as dicing onions, peppers, celery for stuffing can be done in advance. What does that leave you the day of? Simply combining it all and throwing it in the oven!
- Make all baked goods the night before. These hold up very well and it greatly frees up your kitchen time the day of the event
So where are the recipes?? I know that’s why you’re here! Well you’ll find the turkey and dressing recipes below. I was inspired by a hometown restaurant, Z’Tejas for the dressing recipe. The recipe was shared by my fellow blogger at Slightly Cheaper than Therapy. I substituted roasted Hatch green chiles for jalapenos and scaled back the cilantro which I’ve shown below but pop over to her blog to check out the originals. I’ll be honest and say its not my favorite cornbread dressing of all time. The family raved about it though so I was definitely in the minority. I do have to say though, I liked it enough to go back for seconds It was different and I loved the color! It was worth blogging about!
The green bean casserole… well it was my disaster. It should have been good. But I had overcooked the green beans for the bundles when I blanched them the night before so I was worried about overcooking the green beans when I blanched the 2 pounds of green beans for the casserole. I ended up undercooking them and didn’t know it til it was too late. It was the crunchiest green bean casserole I’ve ever had and the sauce didn’t really thicken up like it should have. Oh well. I guess they couldn’t all have been winners my first thanksgiving
The green bean bundles however were a huge hit. Unfortunately I don’t have a recipe to share yet. I’ll work on measuring and bringing you a recipe soon. But you can’t bean bacon wrapped green beans covered with brown sugar, garlic & butter!
All the roasted veggies got all around raves. Not many had had roasted veggies before which was surprising! They’re a fave in our house though and so simple! This particular recipe for roasted carrots & mushroom came from my fellow blogger, Kalyn. She has a great blog for those watching their waistlines (new year’s resolutions anyone?), particularly south beach dieters. These were a huge hit and so very simple! I meant to add pearl onions but with the help in the kitchen and everything going on, I got distracted. But we’ll definitely be eating these in the future so I’ll give the onions a try another time.
The sweet potatoes were a huge hit. But again, I don’t have a recipe to share as of yet. I threw in some butter, cream cheese, cinnamon and nutmeg and then topped them with chopped pecans and marshmallows. The side y were fabulous. I don’t even like sweet potatoes that much and I think these were actually my favorite dish! So I’ll be working on recreating the recipe to share. I need to make these much more frequently!
And of course the biggest and most important recipe of all… the turkey recipe! It got all around raves from everyone, myself included. None of us had ever had a brined turkey before. We’re all used the smoked varieties, but this was fabulous! I loved the seasoning and it was so moist! I wish I had bought a larger turkey; we’ve already taken out all the leftovers! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
It was a wonderful Thanksgiving and I can’t wait to do it all over again! I’m so thankful for all the blessings in our lives. I hope everyone had as fabulous of a holiday as we did! And stay tuned because Christmas is just around the corner which means the surplus of baked goodies is about to come a knockin!
Cajun Roast Turkey
2 c water, plus more water to cover the turkey
1 c kosher salt
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
Ice cubes for cooling
12-14 lb turkey, giblets removed
1 onion, quartered
2 Tbsp cajun seasoning
1 lemon, halved
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 c unsalted butter
1/2 c all-purpose flour
To make the brine: In a large saucepan, combine the 2 cups water, salt and sugar and set over high heat. Cook, stirring, until the salt and sugar are completely melted. Fill the saucepan with ice cubes to quickly cool the brine. Put the turkey in a large stockpot, heavy plastic bag or cooler large enough to hold the bird when covered .Add enough cold water to cover the turkey. Add the cooled brine and the onion. Add more ice if you are brining the turkey in a cooler. If brining in a stockpot or plastic bag, place in refrigerator. Leave the turkey in the brine for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
To bake the turkey: Preheat oven to 325°. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse under cool water in the sink, and pat dry with paper towels. Place it on a greased V-shaped roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Pat the Cajun seasoning evenly all over the turkey, inside and out. Place the lemon and garlic in the turkey’s body cavity. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Stir the flour into the melted butter and pour over the turkey, taking care to cover the whole bird. Bake the turkey, basting about every 30 minutes for 3-4 hours. The turkey is done when the legs are loose in their sockets and an instant-read thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 175° to 180°. Remove from oven and let rest for about 30 minutes before carving.
Source: Adapted from The Pastry Queen Christmas by Rebecca Rather with Alison Oresman
Z’Tejas Sweet Corn Cornbread
Yields two 10″ skillets
1 1/2 c stone ground corn meal
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 c plain nonfat yogurt
1/3 c plus 1 Tbsp canned creamed corn
1/3 c plus 1 Tbsp frozen whole kernel corn (thawed)
3 large eggs
1/3 c plus 1 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
Mix all dry ingredients together and set a side. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk all wet ingredients (including corn) together. Then add dry ingredients to form a batter. Spray a 10″ cast iron skillet with nonstick spray or melt 1/2 a stick of butter. Fill with 1/2 the batter. Bake at 400° (375° for convection ovens) for about 20 minutes. Test by inserting a toothpick in the center of the cornbread; toothpick should come out relatively clean but still a little moist.
*If using this for the Tamale Dressing, make at least one day in advance and allow to dry out.
Tamale and Green Chile Corn Bread Dressing
One recipe of Sweet Corn Cornbread, crumbled into quarter sized chunks
6 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 red peppers, steemed, seeded & chopped
2-3 poblano peppers, steemed, seeded & chopped
3 roasted Hatch green chiles, steemed, seeded & chopped
1 Tbsp fresh sage or 4 tsp of dried
1 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 c crushed corn chips
1 1/2 c frozen corn kernels (thawed)
12 pork, chicken or beef tamales, shucked and chopped into 1″ chunks
3 c chicken stock, heated
3/4 c canned creamed corn
Salt & Pepper to taste
Melt butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, bell peppers, all chilies, sage and oregano. Sweat the vegetables (sauté until about half way cooked). Transfer to bowl with cornbread. Mix in cilantro, corn chips, kernel corn, creamed corn and heated chicken stock. Stir well. Mix in tamales, being careful not to break up the chunks. Add salt and pepper. If stuffing is too dry for your tastes, add a little melted butter.
Preheat oven to 325°. Butter a 13×9×2 baking dish. Pour mixture into baking dish and cover with foil. Bake approximately 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes or until top is browned.