Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving here in The Tiny House. We have many things to be thankful for this year: our son Thomas, who came into our lives in May; the time I have been able to spend with Tom and our other two kids while on my paid maternity/parental leave; the trips we have been able to make as a family (Brussels, Paris, Holbaek/Copenhagen, Berlin…); our garden, which provided us with flowers, herbs and a perfect setting for many a BBQ this past Summer; our friends and families, both near and far.
And how did we celebrate? In time-honoured fashion, I spent most of yesterday either food shopping or cooking and then we indulged ourselves in a mild bit of gluttony! On the menu:
- Herb Stuffed, Bacon Wrapped Turkey Breast
- Maple-Butter Whipped Sweet Potatoes
- Cornbread & Sausagemeat Stuffing
- Cranberry & Red Wine Jelly
All of which was washed down with lemonade (for the kids, a special treat!) and several glasses of Californian red wine for us (Turning Leaf, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011).
As it was only going to be two adults and two children eating dinner, I decided against a whole turkey and went for a boneless, skinless turkey breast instead. Ok, I confess, I probably would have done this anyway as I cannot deal with whole turkeys (all that brining and stuffing and trying to make sure that the breast meat doesn’t dry out while the legs cook…ugh, life is too short…). And as everyone knows, it is the side dishes that really make the meal, so I turned to a few trusted sources for information: The Joy of Cooking (turkey cooking timing + cornbread recipe), Martha Stewart (sweet potato and stuffing recipes and Saveur Magazine (cranberry jelly recipe). The turkey recipe, I am proud to say, was all my own idea (based on a tried and tested method of cooking skinless poultry).
I will deal with each recipe in the order in which it was prepared.
Cranberry & Red Wine Jelly
- 1 (12 oz.) bag of fresh cranberries, picked over and washed (I used 2 x 200g punnets as this was the only size available in my local supermarket)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup red wine (water or cranberry juice work as well; I used the same wine as I served to accompany the meal)
1. Place the cranberries, wine and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil on a medium heat. Reduce heat and allow the berries to simmer until the sauce starts to get thick and syrup-like (about 20 minutes).
Maple-Butter Whipped Sweet Potatoes (serves 4)
- 4 large sweet potatoes
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- salt, pepper
1. Heat the oven to 250 degrees C. Prick the potatoes all over with a knife, wrap them in aluminum foil and place them on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 1 – 1.5 hours (or until thoroughly soft).
2. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly. Melt the butter in a cooking pot/large saucepan, scoop out the potato flesh and add this, with the maple syrup, to the butter. Use a handmixer to whip until smooth.
3. Set this dish aside. It can be gently reheated 10 minutes or so before serving.
While the potatoes were baking, I started preparing…
The Turkey (serves at least 4)
- 1kg skinless, boneless turkey breast
- 100g of thinly sliced bacon
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme, a couple of sticks of fresh rosemary
- salt, pepper
1. Season the turkey breast all over with salt and pepper. Place the herbs inside the breast (between the two halves if this is how it has been cut or you can roll the breast around the herbs and tie with cooking string) and cover the outside of the breast with the sliced bacon, slightly overlapping each slice and tucking the ends underneath.
2. Put the prepared turkey breast in a roasting pan and set to one side while you make the stuffing (see below). When the stuffing is ready to bake, put the turkey and the stuffing on the middle shelf of your oven and cook at around 230 degrees C for 45 – 60 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 71 degrees C when inserted into the thickest part of the breast. The stuffing is cooked when it is nicely golden brown on top.
Cornbread & Sausagemeat Stuffing
- 500g sausagemeat (either removed from sausages or you can just use ground pork and add some herbs/spices to it such as rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 sticks of celery, chopped
- 1kg of cornbread, cut into cubes (if you cannot buy ready-made cornbread, below is a recipe from the good old Joy of Cooking)
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1-2 cups of chicken broth
1. Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C. In a large non-stick frying pan, cook the sausagemeat, stirring often, until thoroughly cooked. Remove to a bowl.
2. Add the onions and the celery to the pan, plus 1/4 cup of water. Cook on medium until soft, about 10 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper and add the cooked sausagemeat.
3. At this point Martha says to add the other ingredients (except the broth) to the pan. My pan was not deep enough to contain everything, so I heated a little olive oil in a very large cooking pot and transferred everything to this instead. Toss everything together so that the egg is well distributed, then add 1 cup of the chicken broth and gently toss everything again. The stuffing should be moist, but not wet. However, as I was going to bake the stuffing, rather than stuff it inside a turkey, I took Martha’s advice and added both cups of broth, so that it would not dry out too much when baking.
4. Put the stuffing into an oven-proof baking dish and bake alongside the turkey breast. If it is ready before the turkey, remove and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Southern Cornbread Recipe
If, like me, you do not have cornbread readily available at a local bakery or supermarket, this is a super simple recipe. I used polenta as I could also not find stone-ground cornmeal…
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat, lard, shortening or butter
- 280g stone-ground cornmeal (preferably white; as mentioned, I used polenta as a substitute)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 500ml buttermilk
1. Put the fat into a cast-iron skillet (or a pyrex dish) and place in the oven to melt. Mix together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy and then whisk in the buttermilk.
2. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just blended. Remove the dish from the oven and pour the batter into it all in one go (careful not to get splattered with hot fat!). Return the dish to the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the top is browned and a knife poked in the center comes out clean.
All in all, this was not one of the simpler meals I have ever made. There was a lot of timing to take into consideration and as some ingredients needed to be made from scratch, it was quite time-consuming. But it was oh so worth it!
Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!