Keeping It Simple This Thanksgiving

For those who are new to me and my brand, I lived in New York City for half a decade before I met my husband. While I was there, I kept a food blog. It was comprised of mainly restaurant reviews, but occasionally I would throw in recipes. With eating out being such a huge part of my life in the Big Apple, the write-ups became as much my life story as they were restaurant reviews.

While I still consider myself a bit of a foodie, my dining out has been slightly curtailed by kids, and of course this year, the coronavirus. I would love to start sharing my wins in the kitchen here with you in the hopes we might start to exchange recipes. I'm always looking for inspiration and new ideas on how to cook efficiently with little kids in the house, who demand so much of our time and energy. There was a time when I felt like impressing my husband with an elaborate recipe/meal, and those days are no longer. 

What are you doing for Thanksgiving? We will be in our home in Marin, I actually have to work a half-day (as is typical in the news industry) and it will just be the four of us. I can't remember the last time we didn't have Thanksgiving with at least one set of our parents. It has probably been over 10 years. I will definitely miss the family this week — we miss them all the time —but we will make the most of it and I think it will actually be really nice. 

I dug up some old family recipes to give you a clue of what our Thursday table will look like. It's the first time in 11 years (!!!) I'll be eating turkey. I recently began re-eating meat after an 11-year hiatus as a pescetarian (I blame being pregnant with Skylar). 

These are our tried-and-true recipes. We aren't doing anything fancy. With so much uncertainty in the world, I don't need it in the kitchen (we've tried to go fancy with stuffing so many times and it never tastes as good as... see below). Give me the old comforts of Thanksgivings past! 

Starting off with... 

Stuffed clams with garlic and herbs, a great appetizer for any occasion and a signature of my dad's cooking repertoire 

4 cans chopped clams, drained, keep the juice 
1 package prepared stuffing (you'll use a little more than half the bag)
1/4 lb melted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
1 tbl chopped parsley
3 tbl finely minced onion
6 tbl grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste, dash of paprika and oregano 

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine all ingredients and toss until well mixed. Slowly add the clam broth until the stuffing holds together and is moist.
  • Divide mixture between 12 clam shells and sprinkle with paprika and oregano. 
  • Place clam shells on cookie sheet and heat in oven until piping hot. Brown under the broiler for a few seconds until golden. 

Light & Silky Mashed Potatoes, courtesy of Gourmet Magazine

2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes
1 ½ tsp salt
2/3 cup whole milk
½ stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
¼ tsp white pepper

  • Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Transfer to a 3-quart heavy saucepan and add 5 cups cold water and 1 tsp salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer partially covered, until potatoes are tender.
  • Drain potatoes in a colander, then return to pan and cook over moderate heat. Transfer potatoes to a bowl and keep hot and covered.
  • Heat milk, butter, and white pepper and remaining ½ tsp of salt in saucepan over moderate heat until butter is melted.
  • Force potatoes through food mill into hot milk mixture in pan and gently stir with a large heat-proof rubber spatula just until combined.

If you're looking to bake a bread this year, consider this sweet and delicious loaf. It tastes great plain or toasted with butter, and even more amazing with turkey leftovers. 

Sally Lunn Bread, Thanksgiving recipes

Sally Lunn Bread, photo Taste of Home, recipe courtesy of "The Williamsburg Cookbook"

1 cup milk
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, divided
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 pkgs active dry yeast
3 eggs

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees 10 minutes before you’re ready to put the dough in the oven.
  • Grease 10- inch tube cake pan or bundt pan. Heat the milk shortening and 1/4 cup water until very warm-about 120 degrees. Shortening does not need to melt.
  • Blend 1 1/3 cups flour, the sugar, salt, and dry yeast in a large mixing bowl. Blend warm liquids into flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  • Gradually add 2/3 cup of the remaining flour and the eggs and beat at high speed for 2 minutes.
  • Add the remaining flour and mix well. Batter will be thick, but not stiff.
  • Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk-about an hour and 15 minutes.
  • Beat dough down with a spatula or at lowest speed on an electric mixer and turn into prepared pan.
  • Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until increased in bulk 1/3 to 1/2 about 30 minutes.
  • Bake 40 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Run knife around the center and outer edges of the bread and turn onto plate to cool.

Asparagus with Swiss Cheese, one of my most favorite side dishes ever 

2 lbs cooked asparagus (keep in mind they’ll be baking in an oven so better to undercook them, steaming for a hot minute works best)
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbl mayo
2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup parmesan
1/2 cup Swiss cheese
1/4 cup butter

  • Arrange cooked asparagus in oven-friendly dish with salt and pepper. Spread mayo over asparagus and sprinkle 1 tsp of lemon juice on top. Add parmesan and Swiss cheese together over asparagus. Pour melted butter and 1 tsp of lemon juice together over top.
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees until cheese is melted. Broil in oven for an additional 1-2 minutes until cheese is browned.

Pepperidge Farm stuffing

As I mentioned above, I have tried to be adventurous in the stuffing department and it was a big disappointment. So this year we’re sticking to the basic bag o’ stuffing. Pro tip: stuff cold stuffing in the turkey. And we are 100% team Pepperidge Farm over Stove Top.

My mom's gravy trick: 

For years, I’ve shadowed my mom at the gravy station. She did the same with her mom and I’m sharing their methods here. We make the gravy in the pan the turkey cooked in. First, we empty all but a thin layer of the drippings into a container and keep close by. Placing the pan with the thin layer of drippings over two burners on the stove, we then add a couple tablespoons of flour and slowly mix in with the drippings, a couple tablespoons at a time, until it bubbles and thickens each time. When you run out of drippings, we then alternate water (or turkey stock) with the flour, depending on how much gravy you want. We never have enough gravy for the amount of leftovers. It gets hot standing over the stove and people will likely grow impatient as you slowly add components, but I swear it’s worth it and this gravy is better than any store-bought, restaurant-made gravy.

Last but not least, the turkey

This is the first time we're making a turkey without the help of parents to coach us through. We did a test bird a couple of weeks ago and it came out great. We went with Ina Garten's recipe. She's the cooking authority/bible in our house (I own four of her books and my mom has the entire collection on both coasts), and she's typically my first check — WWID — when we're looking for ways to cook things.

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 fresh turkey (10 to 12 pounds)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 whole lemon, halved
1 Spanish onion, quartered
1 head garlic, halved crosswise

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the zest and juice of the lemon and 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves to the butter mixture. Set aside.
  • Take the giblets out of the turkey and wash the turkey inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry.
  • Place the turkey in a large roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey cavity. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, halved lemon, quartered onion, and the garlic. Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.
  • Roast the turkey about 2 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh.
  • Remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil; let rest for 20 minutes. Slice the turkey and serve.

Et voila. Would love to hear what y'all are up to this week. Please share in the comments! 

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