You may be getting ready to cook the most labor intensive meal of the year, but these easy Thanksgiving tips can save you some effort. I’m not saying buy everything prepared from your local Whole Foods Market or Boston Market. What I’m saying is you can make a few complicated and impressive items, and take the easy (and still delicious) route with others. How about a few shortcuts and tricks to simplify the day.
One of my favorite ways to make sweet potatoes is also one of the easiest. Bake sweet potatoes (1 large per person) until they are starting to ooze a little and the sugar running out starts to caramelize. Don’t wrap them in foil; that is steaming not baking. Pull potatoes from the oven and pierce in a few spots with a paring knife to help them cool. When you can handle them, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Put scooped potato in a large bowl and add 1 TBL of butter and 1 TBL of maple syrup per potato. Season to taste; salt, cinnamon, a dash of ginger and if you have some oranges a bit of zest. You can do this a day ahead and reheat in the microwave.
Don’t stress over the gravy. People stress over gravy, a lot. Gravy is easy, and a strainer is your friend. If you’ve been scared of gravy and you buy it, try this, and keep that jar as backup (you won’t need it). Remove turkey from roasting pan, and set on your cutting board loosely covered and let it rest. Put the roasting pan on a burner on medium heat add 2 TBL butter, let it melt. Add 2 TBL flour and stir to combine, scraping the pan to get the fond that had collected. Add 1/2 cup red wine or fortified wine such as Sherry and continue scraping and stirring. If you have made turkey stock add that, if not add chicken stock (2 cups) and continue stirring until the gravy thickens. If you get lumps just strain the gravy before serving.
Carving the turkey can be a daunting task, and the way they do it in the movies isn’t how to do it. You can watch this video and see how Alton Brown does it. I once talked a friend through it on the phone. Trying to carve the bird in front of your company, while it’s on the platter is the most difficult way to do it. If you want everyone to oh and ah have them admire the bird when you remove it from the oven, then take it back to the kitchen and carve it without an audience.
If you don’t want to watch the video, here are the steps to successful turkey carving:
- With the turkey breast up on a large cutting board, cut down each side of the breast cartilage. Remove each breast lobe, and move to another cutting board. Slice it crosswise as thick or thin as you like
- Remove each leg by pulling it away from the carcass, then cutting away at the joint
- Turn the bird over and remove the wings and thighs. If you want to serve the wings cut off the third, tip section and save that with the carcass for soup
- Alton Brown removes the thigh bone and slices it, I generally take the easy way, and slice around the bone.
You can then reassemble the turkey on a platter in roughly the same configuration as it was on the bird.
Cranberry sauce gets better after a day or two. If you’re making yours and you have time, make it today or tomorrow. If you’ve never made it, it’s easy and so much better than the canned stuff. Use fresh or frozen cranberries. Take 1/2 cup out of a bag and set it aside. Put the remaining cranberries in a small pot with one cup of sugar, zest and juice from one orange and cook over medium heat until the cranberries burst (about ten minutes). While the cranberries are cooking chop the 1/2 cup you saved, in the food processor. Once the cranberries has burst stir in the chopped cranberries and remove from heat.
You’ve got plenty to do, so why not make things as easy as possible? Who doesn’t want an easy Thanksgiving?