A Thanksgiving menu inspired by the growing fascination with the local food movement in America’s heartland. Recipes by Beth Dooley author of IN WINTER’S KITCHEN: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland
Early European settlers chose turkey for Thanksgiving for reasons that still make sense today. These birds are big enough to satisfy a crowd; easier, and more economical, to slaughter than cows or hogs; and in line with British holiday customs imported to the new world. Fresh free-range turkeys are the best all-around choice for this meal.
Simply Roast Turkey
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Be sure to allow the turkey to rest at room temperature before carving; you’ll have a juicier, tastier bird. This is because the heat of the oven draws the juices up to the surface; those juices will be released if the turkey is cut while still hot. When the meat cools, the juices retract back into the turkey, so it remains juicy.
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 10- to 12-pound turkey
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 large bunch fresh parsley
1 whole lemon, halved
1 large white onion, quartered
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the lemon zest, juice, and thyme leaves.
Remove the turkey giblets and wash the turkey inside and out. Trim any excess fat and pinfeathers, and pat the inside and outside of the turkey dry with a paper towel. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan and sprinkle with generous amounts of salt and pepper, inside and out. Put the thyme, parsley, lemon, onion, and garlic into the cavity of the bird.
Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.
Roast the turkey until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh, for about 2 to 3 hours. Once the turkey is removed from the oven, the temperature will continue to rise to the FDA benchmark for food safety, 180 degrees. Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and set on a platter; let the turkey rest for about twenty minutes before carving, while you make the gravy.
MAKES ABOUT 4 ½ CUPS
4 cups homemade chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Leave the drippings from the turkey in the pan and place the pan over medium heat. Add the stock and wine and whisk together, scraping the bottom of the pan until all of the bits have come loose. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid has reduced by about one inch in the pan. Transfer the liquid to a fat separator and allow to separate, about five minutes. Scoop out about 2 ⁄ 3 cup of the fat and return to the roasting pan, discarding the rest. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium-low heat, until the mixture thickens and becomes smooth, about three minutes. Slowly add the stock mixture back into the pan and whisk until the gravy’s thickness is to your liking, about five to eight minutes. Stir in the herbs and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
You can serve turkey and mashed potatoes at any time of year, but it seems to me that cranberries make the Thanksgiving dinner. Colorful and tangy, they spark the blander dishes. I prefer organic cranberries when I can find them; they tend to be drier and more flavorful.
MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS
Do not add the sweetener until after the berries have popped open, as it will make them tough. This sauce keeps beautifully in a covered container in the refrigerator. Add a chopped apple or pear for variety.
3 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and sorted
½ cup apple cider or orange juice
½ cup sugar, honey, or maple syrup, to taste
In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries and cider or juice to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the berries have popped open, about three to five minutes. Stir in sugar, honey, or maple syrup to taste—about half a cup should be plenty.
Riverbend Farm in Delano, Minnesota, is the source of beautiful golden cornmeal, ground from organic flint corn. Opening the bag releases a milky, sweet scent that will take you right back to a hot summer in August. Because this is a little coarser and moister than most commercial cornmeal, the resulting cornbread or corn sticks tend to be denser and richer tasting.
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If you’re in possession of an old-fashioned cast iron corn-stick pan, by all means use it. A cast iron skillet works nicely as well.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup fresh cornmeal (any cornmeal will work)
¾ cup flour (either all-purpose or a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the butter into an eight to ten-inch dish or divide into twelve corn-stick or muffin pans and place in the oven to melt. Remove and pour most of the excess butter into a medium mixing bowl. (This way, the pan is actually greased while you’re melting the butter.)
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In the bowl with the melted butter, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and honey. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir lightly, until just smooth.
Pour the batter into the buttered skillet or the prepared pans and place in the oven. Bake until lightly browned and springy when touched, about fifteen minutes for the corn sticks and muffins and twenty-five minutes if using the large pan. Serve warm.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
“America’s Breadbasket” is home to an exploding local food movement that has foodies across the country taking notice. This movement is perfectly captured in Beth Dooley’s IN WINTER’S KITCHEN: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland (available now from Milkweed Editions). Called “essential reading” by the Wall Street Journal and a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, Dooley’s fascinating and deeply informative work hits bookshelves in paperback just in time for Thanksgiving – and winter cooking season.