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A Homemade Thanksgiving

Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”

John Henry Jowett

 

It’s that time again isn’t it? Time to decide if the potatoes will be gratined or mashed. Mashed, definitely mashed. So then mashed with sour cream, heavy cream, butter or all of the above? Will the green beans be casseroled, roasted or simply blanched then tossed with browned butter? What sort of spice and herb mix will go into the stuffing? Perhaps you have had this all long figured out. Maybe there’s no change from year-to-year. I can appreciate that too.

I love scouring magazines, websites and cookbooks this time of year for the classics and new twists on the classics. But this year what I’m most struck with as I start to visualize the Thanksgiving table is not what recipes, flavors, and ingredients I’ll use but rather how incredibly thankful I am to have a spot at the table.

I’m finding myself less motivated by which method I’ll brine then roast the turkey and more inspired by the heart of the holiday; being thankful. The simple fact that I get to think about my potato preparation, which pies to include in the dessert line up, and who is joining me at the table, well, that’s enough.

Coming to this realization was first met with a bit of fretting over the fact that it’s already into November and I haven’t given the food as much thought as I normally do. Thoughts of letting people down, and lackluster side dishes began to swirl before that rational voice inside my head, however soft it may be, began to whisper, “just be thankful.”

There will be a feast, maybe it won’t be as inspired as the Latin Thanksgiving menu we enjoyed last year but I will be thankful, grateful and very full by the end of the day.

 

TURKEY ROULADE WITH SAUSAGE STUFFING

inspired by Ina Garten

Serves 8

This is a twist on the classic bird but the classic flavors are all there. Extra bonus – it doesn’t take nearly as long to roast.

The most difficult part about this recipe is tying the stuffed turkey just prior to roasting. It makes the job much easier if you have an extra set of hands help you get the turkey to submit. It’s going to be messy and you’ll feel a bit clumsy. Be brave and confident as it will come together and your reward for such bravery will be a flavorful and moist turkey that will sure evoke elation and cheers as it’s brought to the table for (easy) carving.

3/4 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)

1/2 cup brandy

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 ½ cups diced onions (2 onions)

1 cup (1/2-inch-diced) celery (3 stalks)

3/4 pound pork sausage, casings removed

1 ½ teaspoons paprika

1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts, toasted

3 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix (homemade recipe below)

1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade

1 large egg, beaten

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons good mustard

1 whole turkey boned (save bones, wings and giblets for gravy and stock)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

 

Place the dried cherries in a small saucepan and pour in the brandy and 1/4 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, crumbling it into small bits with a fork, and saute, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until cooked and browned. Stir in 1 teaspoon paprika and a pinch of salt. Add the cherries with the liquid, the chopped rosemary, and hazelnuts and cook for 2 more minutes. Scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon.

Place the stuffing mix in a large bowl. Add the sausage mixture, chicken stock, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir well. (The stuffing may be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a baking rack on a sheet pan.

Lay the butterflied turkey skin side down on a cutting board. Sprinkle the meat with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and spread the mustard over the turkey.

Spread the stuffing in a 1/2-inch-thick layer over the meat, leaving a half-inch border on all sides. Don’t mound the stuffing or the turkey will be difficult to roll. (Place any leftover stuffing in a buttered gratin dish and bake for the last 45 minutes of roasting alongside the turkey.)

Starting at 1 end, roll the turkey like a jelly roll and tuck in any stuffing that tries to escape on the sides. Tie the roast firmly with kitchen twine every 2 inches to make a compact cylinder.

Place the stuffed turkey seam side down on the rack on the sheet pan. Brush with the melted butter, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and remaining ½ teaspoon paprika, and roast for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees F in the center.

Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Carve 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve warm with the extra stuffing.

 

Homemade Stuffing Mix

3 cups ½” diced rustic bread

½ cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon, sage, rosemary, thyme etc.)

½ teaspoon garlic powder

3 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

pepper

 

Combine everything in a large bowl and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350*F until bread is golden and dried out, about 20 minutes. Stir the mixture halfway through the baking process. Taste and add more salt if desired.

 

-Ashley Rodriguez

Chef, feeder of three hungry children, creator of Not Without Salt and author of Date Night In, Running Press 2015.

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Late Summer Soup

For weeks now people around me have been hinting at fall. “It’s coming!” they’ll say. Or, “Did you feel the chill in the air? It’s almost here.” And I would just simply look at them and shake my head, not yet. I wasn’t ready and fretted a bit not knowing if this would be the one year that I regret the coming of the next season. But I should know this by now; it happens in an instant and I think today is that instant.

We’ve just returned from three days of camping in the woods. A sort of last hurrah complete with a camp fire that never quit, a breezy hike to the beach, bacon cooked until crisp over the fire, stories told with sticky marshmallow covered fingers, and dirt, well, everywhere. As we were packing up our tents, the gray clouds started to sprinkle and the ice cream cone that I craved just the day before turned into a spiced cider craving. Suddenly, thoughts of apples hanging low in the trees made me giddy and raspberries seemed so last season. I’m craving butter baked into pies tucked around tart, crisp apples and sturdier vegetables roasted until sweet then whirred into a light, yet creamy soup that gently warms during the soft coolness of the evenings.

I have that sort of soup today (recipe below). It’s hearty and yet somehow light, which in my mind is the perfect setup for a transitional soup. You know, the sort that can still be enjoyed on a sunny day but satisfies when the days are getting shorter and you need more heft than the salads of summer can offer. This soup uses an assortment of vegetables with cauliflower making up the bulk, but really it could easily be adapted to what you have lying around. The idea is a tray filled with roasted vegetable blends with onions, stock and cooked potatoes, so that it’s creamy but not heavy cream creamy – that wouldn’t be right for a transitional soup.

There’s also the leek, which is a member of the allium family, but the flavor is lighter and somehow more refined. We could boast of all the vitamins found in leeks here too but we don’t want them getting a big head.

Their paper-thin layers tend to collect dirt so I like to cut the leeks in half then run them through cool water. From there I thinly slice them and use them as you would onions. But even raw in a salad they do just fine, as their flavor is less abrasive than their cousin’s. They are just the right match for this sort of late-summer soup.

I should have remembered that my moment would come eventually. The one where I’m suddenly ready for cool weather and cozy evenings at home, or maybe I’m just too tired and don’t want to think of unloading the car from our camping trip. Either way, tonight seems like the perfect one for this soup.

by Ashley Rodriguez                                                                           

Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom.

You can read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com

Creamy Roasted Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

1 medium head cauliflower,

1 large leek, white part cut in 1/2-inch slices

4 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch pieces

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1 potato, diced

1 tsp thyme leaves

Pinch chili flake

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk (or whole milk)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Pepper

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 400° F.
  • Toss cauliflower, leeks, and celery with 3 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for an hour or until vegetables are tender and there is a good deep color on many bits of the vegetables.
  • In a large pot add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil shimmers add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables, potatoes, thyme, chile flakes, stock, coconut milk, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to the heat to medium low. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  • Carefully puree the soup in a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Recipe adapted from the book Small Plates and Sweet Treats