Leftovers are my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. The open faced hot turkey sandwiches are perhaps one of my all time favorite things to eat. Seriously. A nice slice of bread, topped with turkey, some dressing/stuffing, possibly mashed potatoes, and then gravy. Warm it up (oven or microwave, your preference), and top with cranberry relish/sauce. OMG so good. Yes, a carb fest, but so delicious I really don’t care.
Yesterday I made a Thanksgiving menu of experiments. Recipes I’ve been wanting to try, but I didn’t want to make someone be a guinea pig. Here’s a brief review of what I made and how it went.
Turkey breast, brined: I’ve never brined a turkey before. Alton Brown (food and science nerd GOD!) swears by this method and it’s supposed to keep the turkey moist during roasting. The brine I made included water, white wine, orange juice, peppercorns, whole allspice, fresh ginger, brown sugar and salt. I actually put the turkey breast in the brine on Wednesday night, and stirred and flipped the breast over first thing Thursday morning. The total brine time in the fridge ended up being about 18 hours. Anything between 12 and 24 hours is good. I rinsed it, rolled it up and tied it with twine so the skin covered all the meat, rubbed it with a little bit of oil, salt and pepper, and thew it in a roasting pan with onion, celery and apple chunks (aromatics make for good roasts!). It certainly came out tender and moist, and the brine gave the meat a bit of flavor. You could definitely taste the salt, and I’d prefer to not taste it, so I need to figure out what I did or what I need to do to fix that. Maybe I need to rinse it more before roasting, or roll it up and tie it before brining to reduce the surface area exposed to the brine. But I could taste a hint of ginger and allspice, and I liked that very much. Overall, quite delicious.
Dressing: no stuffing, as I’m not roasting a whole bird. So instead I’m making my own dressing, with fresh bread cubes dried out in the oven. We’ve always used the bag of bread cubes in the past, but I wanted to make only a partial recipe (like only one-fourth of the usual size), so it was actually easier to make my own out of a small loaf of white bread. A little onion, celery, broth, butter and seasoning, and you have dressing. Mine turned out a bit dry, but it sure tasted good. I just need to add a bit more broth to keep it moist. But it did soak up the gravy quite nicely.
Gravy: of course. Made from the pan drippings, which have all this great turkey flavor plus the aromatics. Tasty stuff. No giblets, no hard boiled egg, just pan drippings, pepper, some broth and thickened up with a broth and cornstarch slurry. It didn’t thicken up the way I wanted, but gravy is an art. I just need to practice more. As my mom said, “it’s in the doing” that you master gravy. It did thicken a bit as it cooled, however, so I did something right.
Brussels sprouts: I love these. Love them. I love to roast them with other veggies, or even just steam them and top with some butter and a touch of vinegar. This year I decided to try another Food Network recipe, this one from Giada: Brussels sprouts with pancetta. OK, so I didn’t have pancetta…but I did have BACON! Brussels sprouts, bacon and garlic sauteed together. How can you go wrong. Seriously. Because I used bacon rather than pancetta and it tends to be fattier, I did have to pour some of the rendered fat out of the pan before I added the garlic and sprouts. OMG so good. I could eat this all by itself for dinner!
Mashed sweet potato with ginger: I bought fresh ginger for my turkey brine, and had a bit leftover. My friend LC told me about these amazing mashed sweet potatoes with ginger that she had sampled from Whole Foods. So I decided to try and recreate it. I baked the sweet potato in it’s jacket, and then peeled and mashed it up with milk, a touch of butter, shredded fresh ginger, a touch of brown sugar, and just a dash of salt and pepper. Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.
Cranberry-apple-orange relish: OK, so this one is a tradition. But as I said before, the holiday just doesn’t feel right without it. I’ll probably make it again for Christmas at Grandmother’s this year. And I do love eating it. A full recipe gives me a weeks worth, but I honestly don’t get sick of it. It also has some candied ginger in it, and I always throw in a bit extra to give it an extra little bite.
Mulled apple cider: another tradition. I bought a 1/2 gallon of fresh local apple cider at the farmers’ market on Wednesday, and simmered it with whole allspice, whole cloves, cinnamon stick, a sliced orange and a touch of sugar. Between the cider and the turkey the house still smells incredible.
The menu verdict: I will definitely try this menu out again on guests. An excellent Thanksgiving meal. I even took a few pictures and put them up on Flickr, the turkey breast roast turned out that pretty and the Brussels sprouts that delicious looking. I’m actually kind of impressed with myself that it did turn out that well. I wasn’t expecting it. A very satisfying plate of food. Aussie thoroughly enjoyed her plate as well [the dog gets just a bite of everything…it is a holiday after all].
The leftover sandwich today (and tomorrow, and Sunday, etc.) should be damn good. I realize there was no dessert listed, but I’m making Pumpkin Rolls today (yes, five of them), and I will have to sample one to make sure they turn out right. Cook’s prerogative, you know (nudge nudge, wink wink).
Hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving leftovers as much as I am!