I admit it, the title is misleading. This isn’t my first Thanksgiving BUT it it my first time hosting Thanksgiving. Am I a real adult now? Luckily I’m able to start off small as it will just be my husband and his parents. Only 4 people! Easy, right? I was just in Ottawa so I won’t be joining my family this year for the feast my mom (and before that, my grammie) would put on. It will be hard to top but I have a few tricks up my sleeve.
- Early prep! I made my squash a few days ahead. I chopped and sautéed all the ingredients for the stuffing the day before.
- I’m using a butterball turkey because they seem kind of fool proof?
- Canned cranberry sauce because I don’t have time for those fresh sour assholes.
- A disposable roasting pan because A) easy cleanup and B) I don’t have space in my apartment to invest in a real roasting pan.
- A sous chef. Matt will help peel potatoes etc. and do most of the clean up (I hope)
- Matt’s parents are bringing a pie. Thank god. As previously mentioned on my blog, I’m not huge into baking. especially when I have 400 other things on the go.
- Set your table the night before! Ooooo so lovely.
So what am I making for my first ever thanksgiving feast? Way too much! I got too excited. I’m making a turkey (duh!), a big casserole dish of stuffing (or dressing, whatever you want to call it. The yummy savoury bread crap), brown sugar butternut squash, peas, mashed potatoes and rosemary roasted carrots. I could have done without the carrots but when my parents were visiting last week they brought me beautiful multicoloured carrots and I thought they’d add such a splash of colour. Also, vegetables are good for you so I can feel better about having a double dose of gravy. Let’s break this beast down.
Or as I call it “squainch”. I don’t know why, it’s just fun to say. Try saying it out loud. I promise you’ll smile. I used a buttercup squash for this. That’s the big ugly green one with a super cute name. You could also use acorn squash or butternut squash. Buttercup is my fave for this. This recipe is super simple. If you’re a powerful person who is confident with a knife, cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. I found this next to impossible so I placed my squash on a ramekin filled with a bit of water and microwaved it until it was a bit softer and easier to cut. FYI it’ll be hot when you cut into it so maybe let is cool for 10 minutes before removing the seeds if you plan on keeping you finger prints.
While you’re microwaving your squash, preheat the oven to 350. Place the squash, flesh side down, on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the flesh is soft all the way though. Remove from oven and let cool. While it’s still warm, scoop out all the good stuff into a casserole dish. Add a pad of butter, 2 tbsp’s brown sugar (or maple syrup), a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir is around. DONE. Cover, put in the fridge and pop it in the oven Thanksgiving day while your turkey is resting, for about 40-an hour, until warmed through. Simple, right? I used one big squash which will be enough for 4 people. Double or triple the recipe accordingly. It tastes like heaven. When salty gravy mixes in with the stuffing and you get some sweet squash in there it’s like angles are breakdancing on your tongue.
I made a variation of this stuffing last year from a recipe I found in Food and Drink magazine. All I remember is that it had apples and that I loved it. I found a similar recipe from Ina Garten and made a few changes.
I used gala apples from the farmers’ market instead of granny smith, fresh thyme and sage instead of rosemary and parsley and I omitted the almonds. I also used a big white crusty bread and half a baguette that I cut into cubes the day before and let dry out. I found that one cup of chicken stock wasn’t nearly enough, so I added 2. You can stuff this in your turkey like the recipe suggests, but that makes for a longer cooking time and time wasn’t on my side! I was having people over for a late lunch and didn’t feel like waking up at 7am. I put my stuffing in a casserole dish and baked it for an hour at 375, while the turkey was resting. It’s savoury and comforting and I had a bowl full of it covered in gravy for a bedtime snack.
These are easy peasy! Get some nice fresh carrots of your choice, cut them into similar sized pieces, drizzle with honey, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper and bake for an hour (along with the stuffing and squash) at 350 while the turkey rests. They add a nice pop of colour and extra sweet, herby goodness.
EVEN EASIER. I used frozen peas. I boiled them. I drained them. I buttered them. DONE. With so many different flavours going on, sometimes it’s nice to have something simple and green on your plate. It also gets me excited for the hot turkey sandwiches that I’ll most certainly have as leftovers.
THE MAIN EVENT! Like I said, this was my FIRST time ever cooking a full turkey. I’ve cooked a full chicken, a turkey breast, but never the whole shebang. I treated it as I would a chicken. Since you’re not supposed to use a roasting rack in an aluminum pan (it can puncture it) I placed some onions and carrots at the base to elevate the turkey a bit. Shove a halved onion, halved lemon and handful of fresh sage and thyme in the turkey. You can use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand too. Rub it’s body with butter, salt and paprika. The Paprika doesn’t give it a lot of flavour but it makes the skin look really pretty.
Pop it in the oven at 325. My turkey was 11 pounds and according to the internet, it would take about 3 hours at that temperature. It’s usually about 15 minutes per pound. Because I had gently stuffed the turkey and was using an aluminum roasting pan with a cookie sheet underneath for stability (which apparently impedes the heat a little bit) I cooked it for just over 3 and a half hours. Seeing as this was my first turkey I would have preferred it to be slightly dry than undercooked. I only had to baste this guy about 3 times.
Once out of the oven, transfer to carving platter, cover tightly in tinfoil and then tuck an old towel around it to keep in all the heat while it rests. It turned out beautifully. I probably could have cooked it about 20 minutes less but it was still absolutely delicious. The skin was crispy, the meat was moist, (especially with the gravy I made) and most importantly it LOOKED GOOD. Isn’t he pretty?
I saved gravy for last because it is maybe my favourite thing on earth. Gravy makes everything better. Dry turkey? Add gravy. French fries? Gravy. Mashed potatoes? Gravy. An old hamburger bun? DIP IT IN GRAVY. My turkey made an abundance of gorgeous pan drippings. After I removed the carrots and onions from the pan, I transferred all of the goodness to a pot. Add one cup of chicken broth, bring to a light boil over medium heat and stir in 2 tbsp’s of corn starch mixed in a quarter cup of cold water. Bring back to boil, whisking constantly and then turn down to a simmer and let it thick, whisking occasionally until it thickens. Transfer to gravy boat and pour directly into mouth…I mean, onto turkey…
The finished product was a perfectly balanced Thanksgiving meal. There were sweet, savoury, salty, crunchy, soft, silky and chewy textures and flavours. I don’t know why people don’t do this once a month…
I’d like to take a moment and thank all the turkeys who died for us. And to all the farmers for the beautiful bounty! Also, big thanks to my parents and grammie who showed me how it was done for so many years. Shout out to my mom who answered my last minute turkey questions! Sometimes moms are better than Google.
Did I mention we finished off dinner with a homemade pumpkin pie that Matt’s mom made? Perfection.
I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving! And to my American friends, enjoy your Thanksgiving in November! Thanks for reading 🙂
PS: Did I mentioned I was making turkey soup?! YOU GOTTA! Recipe to follow!