Thanksgiving Menu 2011

It's that time again!  As a confident cook, this is one of my favorite times of year!  I get to try at least 5 of the recipes I've been hoarding for the rest of the year!  Who am I kidding?  At least 7.  Last year (that list didn't include the shrimp bisque I ended up making) I made one of the best turkeys I've EVER had.  And I don't even like turkey!  This year we'll be at my mother-in-law's house so I won't need to do the meat.  They have some favorites and I have free reign to make whatever I want.

Rashan & I had fried oysters our first Thanksgiving together at his mom's house & now we require them at all holiday gatherings!!!
Turkey, ham, fried oysters

Soup & Appetizers
My family didn't eat soup for holiday meals traditionally but with in subscribing to food magazines for years, I now consider them a staple!  For meals at my mother-in-law's, Tyler's ultimate french onion soup is required! 

French onion soup, chicken liver paté (me/Tyler Florence), marinated chickpeas (me/Tyler Florence), olives with rosemary & orange (me/Tyler Florence)

The most important thing about Thanksgiving?? Maybe... Meat is required, but Thanksgiving would be worthless without a plethora of sides.  I knew I wanted to try a dressing even though they use stuffing.  My sister-in-law makes a fabulous mac & cheese so she'll be doing that.  And grandma's mac & cheese is a staple at their holiday suppers.  Without it, there would be mass revolt!
Stuffing, sausage brioche dressing (me), french-style green beans, squash casserole (sis-in-law), cranberry sauce, goose fat smashed potatoes (me/Rachael Ray), mac & cheese (grandma), sweet potatoes (mom-in-law)


I'm not a bread person unless it's in dressing or laden with butter (brioche or croissants)... I doubt I'll even touch these.  No one requested cornbread.
Crescent rolls

I'm making a tart mostly because I've had a tart pan for almost a year and never used it!  I'm also considering a pumpkin custard and a chocolate mousse since they love all things chocolate!
Triple the Ginger snaps (me), streusel pear tart (me), sweet potato pie (sister-in-law)


Slow Cooker Chicken with Brown Rice & Tomatoes and Sauteed Broccolini

I've started doing a lot of riffs on existing recipes.  Here are a few of those takes.

Slow Cooker Chicken with Thyme & Rosemary
Based on this recipe from Emeril Lagasse
  • 3 chicken leg quarters, cut into thighs and legs
  • Kosher salt
  • Cracked white pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme 
  • 3 small sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon, juiced 
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon flour
Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook well until well-browned on all sides.  Place in a slow cooker. Scatter the onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, lemon juice and broth over top of the chicken. Cover the slow cooker and set the temperature to high. Cook for 4 hours, undisturbed.

Remove the chicken from the slow cooker, and pour the juices into a 2-cup heatproof container. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Whisk in flour.  Cook until lightly browned. Add broth. Cook until thickened, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Serve chicken with the thickened pan juices ladled over the top.

Results: Wonderful!  Fall off the bone chicken!

Brown Rice, Tomatoes & Thyme
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten
  • 1 cup Texmati brown rice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup Champagne or rice wine vinegar (I used sherry vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (I just used 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, large-diced (I found 1 lb. to be way too much tomato)
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves (1 large bunch), chopped (I subbed thyme)
Bring 2 1/4 cups water to a boil and add the rice and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Return to a boil, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the rice is tender and all the water is absorbed. Transfer the rice to a bowl.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, remaining teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Pour over the rice. Add the tomatoes and basil. Mix well and check the seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Results: Delicious!

Sauteed Broccolini
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten
  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the broccolini in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water.
Melt the butter in a large saute pan. Add the lemon zest and garlic and stir. Drain the broccolini and add it to the garlic mixture and heat for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper, and toss well before serving.

Results: Very good!  Bizarrely it was my first time blanching anything?? What's wrong w/me? IDK.


Buffalo Blue Cheese Chicken Sausage Burgers with Cilantro Raita

This recipe, like most of the recipes I create, started with a sale.  Fresh Market had its chicken sausage half off with some pretty amazing-sounding flavors so I took advantage!  I knew the buffalo chicken would need something cooling.  A regular blue cheese dressing was out because it was already in the burger.  I LOVE raita and had all of the ingredients for it on hand.  Match made in heaven!


  • 1/2 medium cucumber
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, dry toasted
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Burger

    • 1 1/2 lbs. buffalo blue cheese chicken sausage, removed from casing
    • 1/2 small onion, diced
    • 2 tbsp. Frank's Red Hot Sauce (optional)
    • One tomato, sliced
    • 4 buns, toasted
    Yields: 4 burgers

    1. Combine raita ingredients.  Cover and set in the refrigerator.
    2. Combine chicken sausage, onion and if using, hot sauce.  Score with the side of your hand to make four evenly-sized burgers.  Make them a little flatter than you would for a beef burger because they will plump a bit.
    3. Cook in a skillet between medium and medium high heat for about 4 minutes on each side until browned and cooked through.
    4. Drain burger.  Place on bottom bun, top with raita, tomato and top bun.  If you have lettuce, add that, too.
    Results: This burger had just the right amount of spice for me.  I like medium spicy... hot enough to make your nose run a little but not enough to make your eyes water.  But Rashan could have had it much spicier.  We both loved it!  I served it with a side of blue corn tortilla chips that we dipped into the excess raita.  This is a quick and easy meal that would also be great for cookouts with people avoiding beef or pork.


    2011, Recipe 105: Pepper Crusted Salmon with Creamy Chickpea Vinaigrette

    Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence
    • 1 lb. salmon fillet
    • 2 T. ground coriander
    • 1 T. ground black pepper
    • 2 T. olive oil
    • Salt and pepper
    • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, with liquid
    • 1/4 c. olive oil
    • juice from 1 lemon
    • 1 T. cumin
    • 1 tsp. paprika
    • Salt and pepper
    • Spinach, dill and mint
    • lemon wedges for garnishing
    Mix together the coriander and ground pepper, and spread it in an even layer on a plate. Dredge both sides of the salmon in the pepper mixture, so it’s nice and well coated, and then sprinkle a bit with salt and pepper.

    Dump the can of chickpeas, with their liquid, into a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, and a bit of salt and pepper, and mix it all up together. Put about half of the chickpea mixture into a food processor or blender, and blend it until it’s nice and creamy, then add it back with the rest of the chickpeas and stir together.

    Combine spinach, dill & mint and pile on the side of plate.  Plate chickpeas and vinaigrette.  Top with salmon.

    Results: So good!  This was definitely one of my favorite recent recipes.  It's very quick, very easy and very delicious.  That crust impressed both of us!  The dumping the chickpeas w/their liquid stumped me.  I mean I guess.  It didn't harm the flavor but I'm so used to rinsing my canned beans that I was confused.  And this actually makes a delicious salad as well.  Y'all know I don't like mint so I didn't use that.


    2011, Recipe 104: Sky High Cranberry Apple Pie

    Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart

    Aerial pie view

    This recipe came from the November 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living (and isn't online yet).  It's an apple pie that calls for FIVE POUNDS of apples.  Whoa.  I used four pounds and I really can't see how an additional pound would make my pie as high as hers.  Her pie was crazy.  I made her basic pie crustIt wasn't my first crust but it was my first in a food processor and that makes the process (tee hee) even easier!  I loved it!  I was told this was the best crust one of my people had ever tasted.  I like sweeter crusts so I'd probably add more than a tablespoon of sugar.

    Side pie view
    My biggest issue with this pie is it takes almost three and a half hours what with resting the crust twice, the pie once and cooking the pie for over an hour and a half.  It's ridiculous and smells torturously delicious.  But the combo of cranberries and apples in a pie was a hit at the October party!  Plus it's beautiful!  I was supposed to use sanding sugar but I used turbinado which created the black speckles.