Turkey Day Tip # 2: Have some fun with the menu – add a twist to the traditional.
Of course the star of the show at Thanksgiving is the turkey. I would never suggest replacing this staple of Thanksgiving Day dinner with some obscure centerpiece like a Tofurkey, Turducken or any other type of protein or obscure combination thereof. However, the trimmings are where you can have some fun. Even I have sat through many a Thanksgiving dinner where I was presented with the “standard” side dishes of mashed potatoes, some sort of green bean casserole, wonder bread stuffing, overly sweet pumpkin pie and, who can forget, the fresh from the can Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. At best, any of this served warm would be an improvement. This year I say throw caution to the wind, mix it up a bit and have some fun with the fixins’.
Perhaps you could substitute Aunt Mary’s soggy green bean casserole for Brussels sprouts with roasted chestnuts, switch out Abuelas’ bland mashed potatoes for potato and cheese pie or potato soufflé and replace mom’s good ole’ pumpkin pie for pumpkin gooey butter cakes. You may even get real crazy and make your own cranberry sauce from scratch.
I am excited this year to have the opportunity to spend the holiday with my entire family. A welcomed break from the norm as most holidays I’m in the weeds at the restaurant cooking for other families. This year I have been charged with the task of preparing the bird and drippins’, a few sides and something sweet. I am taking my own advice and spicing it up a bit with these not so run of the mill Thanksgiving dishes.
Turkey brine with a mixture of spices and herbs *(and how to cook the bird day of)
Sausage, apple and walnut stuffing
Roasted beets with pickled onions, candied hazelnuts and goat cheese
Brussels sprouts with panchetta, roasted chestnuts and lemon
Pumpkin gooey butter cakes, yes Goo-ey!
Stay tuned in the days leading up to Thanksgiving as I will share these recipes and some photos of me preparing the dishes. In the meantime, here is my recipe for turkey brine.
- 2 Gal Water
- 2 C. Kosher Salt
- 1/3 C. Brown Sugar
- ¼ C. Garlic, Whole
- 1 ½ Tbsp. Whole Black Peppercorns
- 1 ½ Tbsp. Juniper Berries
- 3 Bay Leaves
In a large pot place turkey and combine all of the brine ingredients and stir. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove the turkey from the pot, discard the brine, and rinse the turkey thoroughly under cold water, pat dry with cloth and set aside for seasoning and roasting.
**Note: I find using a cooler and submerging the bird in water and ice overnight is the easiest method for brining.