Thanksgiving Delights

This special feature has been added in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Of course, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is a turkey with all the trimmings. So, I have compiled a set of recipes and methods that I hope will make your Thanksgiving dinner a little bit better than last year.

The recipes presented this month are but a small yet diverse collection of the recipes in my yet to be published book, Phil's Family and Friends Cookbook. Feel free to email me at with your comments and requests. Be well, and good eating!

Now, on to the recipes!

Thanksgiving Delights
Appetizers
As an introduction to the feast to follow, appetizers stimulate the appetite and are also pleasing to look at. Here are a few suggestions:

Vegetable Platter

  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks
  • Broccoli crowns cut into bite sized pieces
  • Cauliflower crowns cut into bite sized pieces
  • Olives on toothpicks
  • Ranch dressing

Decoratively arrange the vegetable pieces on a serving platter and serve with one or two bowls of ranch dressing as a dip.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Devilled Eggs

One of my favorite appetizers for the Thanksgiving day is devilled eggs. These decorative and delicious appetizers can be served for nearly any occasion. They are an excellent introduction to a holiday dinner. These may be prepared ahead of time and chilled until ready to serve.
  • 12 hard boiled eggs
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 T. mustard
  • ¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 T. pickle relish
  • Paprika

Shell the hard boiled eggs and cut each one in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and put into a bowl. Set the whites aside for later filling. Using a fork, smash the yolks and add the mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and pickle relish. Mix thoroughly. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the mixture into each of the egg white halves. Garnish each filled egg half with a little paprika and serve on a platter decorated with parsley sprigs.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Stuffed Mushrooms

Another favorite appetizer for the holiday is stuffed mushrooms. These too may be prepared ahead of time and chilled until ready to serve. Note that small tomato halves may be stuffed in a similar manner.
  • 14 to 16 large mushrooms
  • 1 brick (8 oz.) cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded crab meat
  • 3 T. butter
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Cream together the butter and cream cheese until thoroughly mixed. Next, combine the crab meat into this mixture. Spoon the mixture into the mushroom caps and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Place the stuffed mushroom caps on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until they are hot.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Thanksgiving Turkey

Making a good juicy turkey is something of an art. Success has a lot to do with selecting the right bird and the cooking method. A fresh hen turkey will nearly always produce the best result. Frozen or pre-basted birds are good, but certainly not the best, in my opinion. The right stuffing for a turkey will also make for a good bird.
  • 1 turkey, 12 lbs. or larger
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red or pink wine

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees while preparing the dressing and stuffing the turkey. Stuff the dressing mixture into the body and neck cavities of the turkey. Any remaining dressing can be put into a casserole dish for later baking.

Once the turkey is stuffed, rub the bird with butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the bird into a large roasting pan and place into the oven, uncovered. Allow the bird to brown at 500 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes. This high heat will seal the juices into the bird resulting in a much juicier end product. In addition, the heat also kills any bacteria, such as salmonella, that may be present on the bird. After searing at 500 degrees, reduce the heat to 325 degrees and cover the bird.

Allow the bird to cook for 20 minutes per pound of weight. After the first hour, begin basting the bird at 30 minute intervals, using the juices which build up on the bottom of the roasting pan. About halfway through the cooking process, pour a little red or pink wine over the bird. This will produce a better tasting gravy. About ½ hour before the bird is done, remove the cover and allow the skin to brown. At this time you may also begin baking any addition dressing.

Once the bird is done, remove from the oven and let sit for approximately 15 minutes. This part of the process is essential so that the juices may be reabsorbed into the meat as the temperature of the bird decreases.

Finally, spoon out the dressing into a serving bowl. The turkey may now be sliced in preparation for serving.

  • Yields: 12 or more servings
  • Preparation Time: 2 to 4 hours

Stuffing

What would a Thanksgiving turkey be without stuffing? I don't want to think about it! Anyway, here is one of my favorite making stuffing recipes. There can be infinite variations on the theme. Consider adding a few slices of apple, pineapple chunks, or some raisins for a new twist to this Thanksgivings stuffing!
  • 1 pkg. cornbread stuffing mix
  • 1 cup brown and wild rice mix, cooked
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • 1 can water chestnuts, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp. summer savory
  • ½ tsp. tarragon leaves
  • ¼ tsp. basil
  • ¼ tsp. thyme leaves
  • Dash of sage
  • 5 fresh mushrooms, diced
  • 6 T. chopped walnuts

First, remove the giblets and neck from the turkey, rinse, and put them into a small pot with enough water to cover, plus a little more. Salt the water lightly and bring to a boil. Simmer the giblets for about 1 hour. In another small pot, cook 1 cup of wild/brown rice mix.

When the giblets are done, remove from the liquid, allow to cool and chop up the giblets into small pieces. Remove the meat from the neck and chop this meat also. This meat will be used in the stuffing.

To prepare the stuffing, put the cornbread mix into a large bowl. Add the chopped giblets and neck meat. Also add 1 cup of the cooked rice and mix well. Add the walnuts, herbs and mushrooms. Continue to mix and add the eggs. Blend well and add a little of the broth from the giblets until the mixture is moist, but not wet. Stuff this mixture into the body and neck cavities of the turkey. Any remaining dressing can be put into a casserole dish for baking.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 2 hours

Gravy

In my opinion, a simple gravy is best. If a little wine is used in basting the turkey, the subtle and complex flavors of the wine will complement the flavor of the gravy. Here is my recipe for a simple and flavorful turkey gravy.
  • 2 T. butter
  • 3 T. flour
  • Pan drippings and juices from turkey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux (see the Seasoned Cooking archives for more details on making a roux). Brown and slowly add the pan drippings, stirring well to minimize lumps. If necessary, add another tablespoon of flour dissolved in a little cold water to thicken the gravy more. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with mashed potatoes, and pour over the turkey and dressing if you like.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

This recipe is a unique turn on the traditional mashed potatoes that every American has learned to love. Serve with melted butter or your favorite gravy. This is an excellent dish to serve with turkey, roast beef, or any other traditional American main course.
  • Potatoes (3 lbs.)
  • Elephant garlic (1 clove)

Prepare the potatoes for cooking by cutting into cubes approximately 3/4 inches square and put them into a pot for boiling. Cover them with water, add one clove of elephant garlic, and bring to a boil.

Cook the potatoes until they are tender by the pierce of a fork (about 40 minutes). Pour off the excess water, and begin mashing with a potato masher or whip with a mixer. Add milk in the process until the potatoes have reached the desired thickness.

Regular garlic may be used in place of elephant garlic, but it will have a stronger flavor as the elephant garlic is mild. If using regular garlic, use one small clove, or use ¼ tsp. of garlic powder as a substitute.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Editor's Note: If you need some ideas about serving dessert at this year's Thanksgiving dinner, check out Happy Endings. There are also some more great Thanksgiving recipes in Victoria's Vegetarian Victuals and Momma Gert's Place. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

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