Posted on

Thoughts With Ashley

“So I’m thinking about ordering a pre-cooked turkey.” A friend texted me two days before Thanksgiving. It’s this time of year when the texts from friends and family are less about “how are you doing?” and more closely resemble a conversation with the Butterball helpline. I love it. I consider it an absolute pleasure to be able to speak for hours about all butter crusts, to par-bake or not to par-bake and brining – wet, dry, is it really needed (yes, salt and pepper the day before)? My ease and joy in the kitchen is a gift and one that I absolutely am delighted to share.

“Should I order a pre-cooked turkey? Should I be scared about cooking a turkey?” My friend continued. Even through my iPhone screen I could feel the tension. He was kicking himself for not thinking about all of this sooner and feeling overwhelmed by the weight of the turkey cooking task. “First of all roasting a turkey is not hard.” I started “but don’t let the turkey cooking overshadow the point of the holiday. If a pre-cooked turkey will help you focus on the actual thanks-giving and the company of friends and family then that’s the way to go.”

I love spending hours in the kitchen slowly simmering homemade stock for the purpose of creating a luscious and deeply flavored gravy. Pie crusts and bread doughs relax in the fridge days before the main event. Weeks before I’m scouring blogs, magazines and cookbooks trying to craft the perfect menu although I don’t usually iron out all of the details until the day before. But I realize that not everyone is like me.

And while the table will be mightily set with a half a dozen dishes including caramelized squash with feta and onion, a crisp Brussels sprouts salad with smoky bacon and tart cranberries and a pumpkin pie with a thick sugar cap, the sink will also be piled high with dishes, there will be socks scattered around the house that the dog has chewed and I’ll be lucky if the kids have brushed their hair. But I’m happy and giving thanks for a bustling kitchen and a house filled with people I love.

This time of year is so busy, the endless tasks can so easily choke out the joy and quite frankly the purpose of all the celebrating in the first place. I hope for all of us that the moment we start to feel overwhelmed we’ll order a pre-cooked turkey, or whatever that may look like for all of us. I’ll forgive myself for the lack of Christmas garnish around the house or unmade beds if it means that I’m digging deeper into the peace, hope, and joy that this season seeks to bring us.

Ashley Rodriguez

Food Blogger, notwithoutsalt.com

Posted on

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.