It’s Thanksgiving. You’ve endured the awkward hugs from your auntie and cousin who went to UCLA, and the constant questions about whether you’ve met a boyfriend or girlfriend. You’ve explained exactly what the startup company you’re about to work for does for the umpteenth time. You made it past the pang of guilt about unwritten cover letters and untouched LSAT books when you find out your cousin passed the bar exam or so-and-so got that big summer internship at Latham & Watkins.
After an interminable amount of awkward conversations and bad advice, you’ve finally made it: Thanksgiving dinner is ready. The glorious repast of massive cooked bird and a host of comforting fall sides await. Belts are pre-loosened and football’s on the television. Your gracious host takes a knife to the breast of the bird and then wiggles the knife a little more. Wait. Your host then saws the knife back and forth and the muscle fibers of the turkey start to shred like meat confetti.
The turkey is an inedible, over-cooked mess. The mashed potatoes are a gummy, flavorless paste. Don’t even get started on the pie: it’s store-bought, which is fine if you’re going to throw it at someone — not fine if it’s served at the biggest meal of the year.
“But it’s not about the food,” your family will say. “It’s about coming together as a family and seeing each other and being thankful.” Sure, it is. But for every leftover-filled night between Thanksgiving and the standing rib roast at Christmas, now is the winter of your discontent.
Dry turkey is a homewrecker, and Thanksgiving with bad food is a recipe for disaster. So don’t be “that” family with the untouched food this Thanksgiving. With a little help from the Daily Trojan staff, maybe everyone can forget about jobs and school and focus on what’s really important during Thanksgiving: the food. OK, and the family, too.
BRINING THE TURKEY
Getting a nice, moist bird worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting isn’t as hard as it sounds: sometimes all the turkey needs is a brine. Brining is the process of soaking something in salt water before cooking. The result is a juicier bird that loses a little bit of turkey flavor (“what turkey flavor?” you ask) but leaves a little bit of the flavoring up to the cook, in a way similar to a marinade.
Brining requires a few things: a large container and fridge to hold that container, a turkey that hasn’t been pre-salted, a lot of water, salt, brining ingredients and time. You’ll need to prepare the brine anywhere from 6 hours to a night ahead of time. Also, you won’t be able to make stuffing in the turkey cavity, so prepare it separately. This brine needs to be prepared early on the day before Thanksgiving, so that it can be cool before nighttime (when you’ll brine it overnight).
Turkey Brine (overnight brine for a thawed, 14-17 lb turkey):
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup salt (for less time, use more salt, up to a full cup for a 6 hour brine)
1 gallon of ice water
1 gallon of chicken stock
Other ingredients to consider: garlic, herbs, spices, halved lemons. Bear in mind each of these flavors will make it into the turkey.
1. Boil stock, sugar and salt in a large pot until the ingredients dissolve. Immediately bring to room temperature, then refrigerate or cool.
2. Pour ingredients into brining container along with the gallon of iced water, and then put the turkey with the cavity facing down or breast side down (that’s the part that needs to be brined the most) in the container.
3. Cover and brine overnight.
When preparing the turkey on the big day, don’t forget to pat the skin of the turkey down: this ensures that the skin gets crispy and browns evenly. Stuff the turkey cavity with aromatics such as apples, lemons, onions or whatever tickles your fancy and matches the flavors of the brine. This ensures that the turkey upholds its structural integrity and cooks evenly.
The rest is up to you. Good luck. With a turkey this delicious, you’re sure to be on the road to getting some compliments of your own this Thanksgiving.
What’s turkey without delicious sides? Don’t give your guests the bird — dress that turkey up with some hearty side dishes.
Euno and Evan’s Mac and Cheese
A certain Daily Trojan Lifestyle Editor’s little brother once requested that he have macaroni and cheese at Thanksgiving. Without going into detail, the result was referred to in his family as “The Mac and Cheese Incident of 2011.” So a certain Daily Trojan Lifestyle Editor hit up the kitchen with his best friend and worked hard on a new formula for a winning macaroni and cheese. Here’s what they came up with:
1 16 oz. box of elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk (room temperature)
1 cup heavy cream (room temperature)
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (aged white cheddar, if you can)
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 bay leaf
Dash of paprika
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 cup Japanese panko bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Begin cooking the pasta according to package instructions (to al dente).
3. In a tall-walled saucepan or pot, make the roux: melt the butter over medium low heat and slowly whisk in the flour (shake the flour very slowly and whisk into the melted butter).
4. Turn up the heat on the roux to medium and keep whisking until the mixture becomes a nutty, cappuccino brown.
5. Turn the heat down to medium. Stir in the bay leaf, paprika, milk and heavy cream and keep stirring for about ten minutes, or until it takes on a thicker consistency. Stir for all ten minutes and attend to the pot constantly.
6. Break the egg, whisk it in a separate bowl. Stir in most of the cheese (leave a little of each cheese for the topping) and add the egg. Keep stirring — the pot should now have a very velvety cheese sauce.
7. Stir in the cooked macaroni, making sure to cover all of it. Pour the contents out into a baking pan and top with extra cheese. Top this with a layer of breadcrumbs and put the pan into the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until breadcrumbs brown.
8. Remove the pan (be careful, it’s hot) and let cool for 7 to 10 minutes before serving — this gives the cheese time to reset.
Hearty Autumn Medley
Daily Trojan columnist Sara Clayton shares her recipe for a Hearty Autumn Medley. It’s a hearty, red meat-free side that’s easy to make and invokes all the flavors of fall.
1 sweet potato
1 russet potato
1 honey crisp apple
1 large red onion
2 chicken sausages (I use Trader Joe’s Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage)
Italian herbs (i.e. basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut up the yam, sweet potato, russet potato and honey crisp apple into 1-inch cubes. Put finished potatoes and apples into a bowl.
3. Cut red onion up into 1/2-inch slices.
4. Pull out casserole dish (or something similar) and put in potatoes, apples and sliced red onions.
5. Give the mixture a couple of splashes of olive oil — enough to cover mixture, but avoid soaking.
6. Sprinkle Italian herbs onto mixture and mix everything together.
7. Take out chicken sausages and nestle them in mixture.
8. Put casserole dish into oven.
9. After 25 minutes, take out casserole dish and cut sausages into 1-inch coins. Mix the sausage into rest of medley and put back into oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Warm Apple Cobbler
Daily Trojan food writer Alegra Hueso shares her recipe for warm apple cobbler. Who needs store-bought pie when you can use fresh apples (which are in season) to create this phenomenal cobbler? Best of all, making it should be a piece of cake — or easy as pie.
4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 5 1/2 cups)
3 large Fuji apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the topping:
1 stick of butter
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Vanilla ice cream
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish.
3. Toss first five ingredients in large bowl. Add sugar, flour and cinnamon; toss to combine.
4. Transfer to baking dish.
1. Whisk butter and eggs in medium bowl until smooth.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger in large bowl.
3. Form well in center of flour mixture and add butter mixture. Using a rubber spatula, toss until large clumps form.
4. Using your fingertips, break up clumps into smaller pieces and sprinkle topping over apples.
5. Bake until apple mixture is bubbling and streusel is golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes.
6. Cool slightly. Serve cobbler slightly warm topped with vanilla ice cream.
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