This yearly feast is one of our favorites and yet so many home cooks — the experienced and the novices — have questions every year. Here are four that seem to come up with lots of folks. Happy Thanksgiving! Hope this helps you relax and enjoy the day.
What are a few side dishes that can be made ahead of time?
On Thanksgiving day, the kitchen can get mighty crowded. And I am not just talking about family and friends wandering in and out — I am talking about bowls, platters, and similar containers of food. This chaos can be controlled if you make a few things ahead of time. Side dishes are perfect for this treatment.
I like a shaved Brussels sprouts salad (see the recipe below). It’s seasonal and a nice, light and crunchy addition to the heavier Thanksgiving fare. You can shave the sprouts, shred the cheese, and mix up the vinaigrette on Wednesday before the meal, or early in the morning. Just before serving, dice the apples and toss them with the sprouts and cheese. Whisk the vinaigrette and drizzle it over the salad, season with s&p, and carry it to the table.
I also like suggest you roast some butternut squash with a little olive oil ahead of time, cube it, and then toss it with arugula, pomegranate seeds and shaved Parmesan just before the meal. Dress the salad with a light vinaigrette. What could be easier?
What is the difference between putting stuffing in the turkey and cooking it in a casserole?
While stuffing traditionally is heated inside the turkey, it’s a better idea to put it into a casserole and heat it alongside the turkey or in a second oven at 350°F. for about 45 minutes or until it reaches a temperature of 170°F. (at which temperature any harmful bacteria have been killed). Be sure to insert an instant read thermometer into the center of the stuffing for the most accurate reading.
You can do the same thing if you choose to stuff the bird. Take the stuffing’s temperature and if it’s not hot enough and yet the turkey is done, scoop it out of the bird and transfer it to a casserole dish. Put this in the oven or even the microwave until it’s 170°F. or hotter. I love the flavor of stuffing cooked in the turkey, but I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Is there a way to make the mashed potatoes a little more interesting but still as tempting as ever?
I augment the traditional butter and cream with Greek yogurt and sour cream, or leave out the butter and cream altogether and count on these other dairy products to smooth out the potatoes. To avoid dairy completely, smash the cooked potatoes with chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, marjoram) and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. I also puree roasted fennel or caramelized onions and fold them to the potatoes to give them a subtle flavor boost.
White or Red?
I drink either white or red on Thanksgiving — one of the best things about this meal. But my favorite on turkey day is rosé Champagne!
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Apples and Parmesan
I’ve served this to skeptical adults who swear they “hate Brussels sprouts,” only to witness them dig in with gusto after the first bite. Even kids come back for seconds! Raw salads are extremely popular these days with everyone concerned with their health, and this is one of the best. It takes only minutes to put together. Love it!
Serves 6 to 8
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 tart apples, preferably Rome, cored and cut into small dice
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded
In a small bowl, whisk together the salt and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well combined. Season with pepper and set aside.
With a sharp knife, trim the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts. Slice each sprout as thinly as possible, using a sharp knife or a mandolin. Transfer the sprouts to a serving bowl and add the apples and cheese.
Whisk the vinaigrette again to emulsify and toss about ¾ cup of it with the salad. Use more if needed. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve right away.