Cost Cutting Cuisine—Thanksgiving Day with friends

Well the “real” holiday season is upon us.  A few days from now is  Thanksgiving Day.   The celebration, orginally  between the early settlers of the New World and the Indians(subsequently referred to as Native Americans)–was a feast  and a symbol of peace between these two groups. The pioneers cooked up the bounty of their husbandry and farming and the Native Americans brought to the “table” their  catch from the forests and rivers and , of course, maize(corn).    It was a community event.  And today, with  the high cost of food everywhere and our desire to get together on this holiday, I believe we can emulate some of the early tradition by asking our guests to bring a dish or two.   Not only does it save on the food budget, but it reduces the time and effort the host needs to prepare. As well, while the stress levels are reduced, the pleasure of having several contributions makes for a better time……If you are the host, be sure to keep tabs on what each person is bringing……you surely don’t want 3 big  casseroles of sweet potato fluff!

If you’re making the turkey, fine.   This is not a high priced item at this time of year.  A 10-12 lb bird can cost as little as $8.00 to $10.00.  This will feed at least 10 people.   However, a word of caution:   DO NOT buy a frozen turkey with less than 5 days till cooking day.   It takes at least this long to defrost—-and you really don’t want to use your microwave to defrost a Turkey, now do you?  So here a few ideas for a tasty and inexpensive meal for 8-10 people:

One (1) 12 lb Turkey, preferably fresh but at least defrosted.  

4 lbs White Potatoes  — for mashed potatoes

3 Sweet Potatoes (for Fluff )or just sweet potatoes, baked at 375 degrees for an hour or until soft.

2 lbs Green Beans, cleaned and trimmed.  Ready to steam(5 minutes is all they need).

3 C cranberries(or 2 to 3 cans of cranberry sauce)if you do not make your own.  In a med saucepan, cover cranberries with 1 inch of water.  Add 1/2 c orange juice, zest of one lemon and one orange and 2TB of sugar.  Cook over low heat for approximately 30 minutes.  Check for doneness and when ready, remove sauce to a bowl and cool.  Serve.

For the stuffing:    3 C of bread crumbs,  1 med onion, minced,   2 stalks celery, chopped ,   2 oz butter, melted  2 TB each of fresh parsley and oregano,  S & P to taste. Mix all ingredients well in a bowl and fill cavity of bird.  If you have some leftover, wrap in aluminum foil and cook with the turkey for the last 1 1/2 hours. 

Turn the oven to 325 degrees while you are preparing the bird.  Usually the cavity comes with a package of the innards—-heart, liver, gizzard and neck.  I usually add these to a saucepan and cover with water and chopped onion and cook for an hour or so.   Later, when I am making the gravy , I use this liquid for flavoring and then nibble on the meats.    When the turkey is oven ready, put it in the roasting pan, cover the breast with either aluminum foil or parchment paper—to keep it from drying out–and put bird in oven.   Figure it should cook for about 15-20 minutes per pound……..a 12 lb bird will be finished in about 2 1/2 hours….But always keep checking during the cooking since you will be basting the top and sides  with the juices from the pan every 30 minutes or so….. To test for doneness, cut the joint where the thigh meets the body with a sharp knife .  If the juices run clear, it is ready. If not, put back in till done.  When finished, take out of the oven and let sit to cool for about 15 minutes or so.   In the meantime, put the roasting pan on top of the stove and turn heat on med high.   Add the broth you made earlier ( or white wine) and deglaze the pan…You can sift about a half cup of flour over the top to thicken the gravy but be sure to add just the right amount of S & P. 

And don’t be afraid to  ask guests to come up with some of their own ideas.  For me, when I am asked to bring something I  usually bring one of my simple but elegant dishes:    French Glazed  Onions.  I buy the fresh pearl onions and literally peel each one, but for most people, the frozen section carries them already cleaned and pan ready.   It’s usually a hit and so easy to make.

Two lbs of peeled pearl onions(boiling onions)

1 C chicken broth(I use chicken bouillion)

4 TB butter, unsalted.

1 TB granulated sugar

To a deep saucepan, add the onions and chicken broth and bring to a boil.   Turn heat down and simmer for 15 – 20  minutes or until onions are just cooked through but still a bit crunchy.   The broth should be just about evaporated by now, but if not let finish.  Then add the butter and sugar and let onions caramelize.  his should only take about 5-7 minutes.  When they get to  a golden to dark brown color, they’re ready to serve.   If you’re bringing them with you, put in a container and cover well.   They can be reheated in a microwave in a minute or two.   Enjoy.  

These are just some starter ideas.  Talk to your friends. And Happy Thanksgiving!

To your health,

Jim