Happy Thanksgiving!

We had a happy thanksgiving weekend!  Cooked up a storm on Wednesday and Thursday and had a great time celebrating with our families.  We were lucky enough to have the day off on Wednesday, so we cooked just about everything ahead of time.  Thanksgiving morning, Michael got up at the crack of dawn to start the fire on the Green Egg for his smoked turkey, but otherwise, it was a pretty relaxed day, and a big success if you ask us.  I even had time to set the table, arrange flowers, and spray paint some pears for our place cards.  Loved getting to use our wedding china and our shiny new rose gold flatware.   photo

We kept the appetizers pretty simple.  A few treats from Oakville Grocery that we picked up in Napa at my sister’s wedding, some caper berries because Ina said we needed them, and some parmesan-truffle popcorn for a little something special.  The celery sticks stuffed with cream cheese and cranberry sauce were a childhood favorite that my grandmother always used to make.

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For the main event, we decided on the following:

Green Egg Smoked Turkey
Oyster Dressing
Sweet Potato Casserole
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Balsamic Syrup
 Pop-overs with Fig Jam Compound Butter
Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake
Bourbon Pecan Pie
 
 
Michael was in charge of the turkey, so you’d have to ask him how that was done.  All I can say is that it was a VERY involved process and required hours of research, an overnight bath in a brine on our porch, and a very early morning wake-up call Thanksgiving morning.  The Oyster Dressing was something I’d always wanted to try, and since we were only having our parents over, they seemed like the right set of guinea pigs for the occassion.  And wouldn’t you know it, they loved it.  My mom said it was better than my dad’s, which was quite the compliment.  The recipe we used was adapted from John Besh’s My New Orleans cookbook.  It’s a favorite on our shelf and one we always turn to for southern favorites.  Following his advice we prepared the whole dish the day before, so all we had to do on turkey day was throw it in the oven.  Here it is on our pre-game day, all ready to go in the fridge to await its big moment.
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For the dressing:
8 tablespoons butter, plus one to grease the baking dish
4 oz bacon or pancetta (we used a combination of the two)
2 celery stalks, diced
small green bell pepper, diced
small yellow onion, diced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large day-old french baguette, cubed
1 large day-old cornbread loaf, cubed
3 dozen shucked oysters
1 cup chicken stock
2 green onions, minced
3 tablespoons parsely chopped
4 eggs
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon Salt
  1. Grease a 10 x 14 shallow baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.
  2. Cook the bacon and/or pancetta in a large non-stick skillet until crisp.  Add one full stick of butter, allow to melt, and then add in the celery, bell pepper, and onion.  Cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft.  Add in the garlic, cook for one minute more, and then add in the rest of the spices.  Stir to combine and cook for another couple of minutes.
  3. Pour the vegetable mixture over the cubed bread and mix to combine.  Add in the oysters and any remaining oyster liquor,  along with the parsely and green onions.
  4. Beat the eggs, Tabasco, and salt together in a small bowl.  Pour over the dressing and stir to combine.  At this point, if the mixture seems too dry, add in enough chicken stock to reach desired  consistency.  We added in about a cup.
  5. Add the dressing to the prepared baking dish.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  6. About an hour before dinner time, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake dressing until heated through and crispy on top.  We turned the broiler on for the last few minutes just to crisp up the bread (and the marshmellows sitting next to them on the sweet potatoes!)  Serve hot with a little extra Tabasco on the side.

The roasted brussels sprouts were sourced from the Barefoot Contessa.  You can find the recipe here.  Make sure you use “good” olive oil!  For the balsamic vinegar, reduce about a half a cup to two tablespoons and you’ll get the right syrup-y consistency.  They are really delicious and so easy.

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The pop-overs were by far the most entertaining part of the cooking process.  The batter comes together in a snap, and it’s pretty fun to watch them rise up and pop out of the pan.  We served ours with a simple compound butter that turned out to be the perfect compliment.  I looked at a bunch of recipes for the pop-overs and they are all essentially the same.  What follows is a combination culled from everyone from John Besh to the back of the pop-over pan label from Williams Sonoma.  (Yes, we bought pop-over pans, plural, just for the occassion.)

Pop-Overs with Fig Jam Compound Butter

For the butter: Cream together 1 stick of softened butter with 1/4 cup fig jam, a pinch of salt, a few cracks of pepper, and about a teaspoon of minced thyme leaves.  Add to a little ramekin or serving dish and refrigerate before you’re ready for dinner.
For the pop-overs:
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 eggs
2 cups whole milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Put the pop-over pans in the oven and allow them to heat up while you prepare the batter.
  2. Combine eggs, milk, flour, and salt in a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Melt the butter and add the olive oil.  Add two tablespoons to the batter and divide the remainder among the 12 pop-over cups.  Place the pans back in the oven for about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the pans from the oven and divide batter evenly among the cups.  Put the pans back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Turn the light on to watch them rise, because you cannot open the oven once they’ve started baking or they’ll fall.   After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes.
  5. Serve hot with the fig butter on the side.

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The Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake comes from one of my favorite blogs, the Smitten Kitchen.  And as it happens, it is something she made when she was a newlywed, so it fit the bill perfectly.  I was a little skeptical of the sour cream-based topping, but it was delicious.  The only thing I would change when I make it next time is to skip the water bath that was suggested in the comments.  The cake came out perfectly, but I thought the crust could have been a little more crisp.  It was great though, and a perfect addition to the Thanksgiving table.
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Michael’s pecan pie was another find from John Besh’s collection and his sweet potato casserole was his grandmother’s.  His turkey turned out perfect…

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Kaiser thought so too….

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And here’s our finished table, all ready for the feast!  It was great and such a fun treat to get to host in our new home.

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Happy Belated Turkey Day!

Amy

 

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