What’s the most essential part of any Thanksgiving feast? Well let’s see, you can play it safe and take the classics: turkey and mashed potatoes. No one’s going to argue with you there. Or, perhaps you’re one of those stuffing, or even cranberry sauce types . . . hey, they’re out there! And of course everyone knows you have to save room for pie: pumpkin, apple, pecan, and sweet potato. But if you’re asking me (and I know you’re not, but I’ll tell you anyway) there’s one thing, ONE thing that is absolutely essential to any holiday gathering. Why, the cocktails, of course. Ha! Weren’t expecting that one, were ya?! You know how I roll . . .
Last year for thanksgiving I spiced it up with a little vanilla-cardamon syrup. This year, however, I wanted to showcase another technique for spicing things up: making your own pumpkin pie spiced bourbon. It’s too easy, I repeat, too easy not to give it a try.
You might be wondering why we’re talking turkey so early in November. Well, it’s because I love Thanksgiving so so much, but mostly because we want you to be all set and ready to roast your bird come Thanksgiving day. We’re giving away this awesome Zwilling J.A. Henckels set: 1 stainless steel ceramic-coated roasting pan, 1 carving knife, 1 carving fork and 1 boning knife to a lucky reader!! To enter, simply (1) leave a comment on this post letting us know what you’d like to make for Thanksgiving and (2) like Zwilling J.A. Henckels on Facebook! A winner will be randomly chosen on November 17, 2014. (Limited to US & Canada residents only. Must be 18 and over. Winner will be contacted by email. Good luck!!!)
I’m going to start by saying: you have to make this turkey for Thanksgiving. Before you nix this smoked turkey as a contender, let me address a few concerns. Yes, it involves a bit more work and special equipment, but if you have a gas grill, you can easily turn your gas grill into smoker with just a little more effort than is required anyway for Thanksgiving dinner. The only essential tools you need are a digital meat thermometer (which I always recommend for roasting turkey), a disposable aluminum pan and wood chips (both very cheap). Second, I too was nervous that the smoke flavor would be overwhelming and that the turkey would taste like deli meat. But, the smoke flavor is very light and works perfectly with the turkey. So perfect. I also thought smoking would dry out the turkey meat, but with a long brine the night before, the meat was as juicy as any oven roast turkey. Smoking is actually very easy once you have all your ingredients in place– the key is to keep a stable grill temperature and use a thermometer to avoid overcooking the turkey. Okay, I hope I’ve convinced you to make this because I know this smoked turkey is going on my Thanksgiving table this year and the next year and the next . . .
One day before you plan on smoking your turkey (preferably in the morning), brine the turkey by boiling the salt, brown sugar (or honey), black peppercorns and four cups of water in a stock pot large enough to fit the whole turkey. Once the salt and sugar is dissolved turn the heat off and add ice into the stock pot. Add enough water so it fills half the pot. Submerge the turkey into the brine and add any more water needed to submerge the turkey entirely in the brine. Cover with the lid and refrigerate overnight.
Our favorite holiday of year has snuck up on us and once again, we’re faced with the utmost important question: what are we making for Thanksgiving?! We’ve already mastered the ultimate turkey recipe but let’s be honest, it’s all about the sides – isn’t it? We all have our best-loved traditions but for the next few weeks, we’ll be inspiring you with kitchen tested, fool proof recipes, as well as a few of tips and tricks. First up: tips for your tablescape.
As many of you know, in August my wife gave birth to a beautiful, happy, healthy baby girl. Her name is Fiona, she’s the cutest thing in the world, and I’m in love. She went to IKEA at 2-weeks (mistake!), attended her first A’s game at 4-weeks, sat at her first bar at 6-weeks, enjoyed her first spa day at 8-weeks, and danced at her first wedding at 10-weeks. We made the decision to not share her photos on social media, but trust me, she’s adorbs . . . wait, did I just say adorbs in public? As many of you also know, the lovely Jessica Merchant of How Sweet Eats is due to have a baby in a few weeks too!! Of course Bev and Ashley, being the awesome friends that they are, organized this little virtual baby shower. Not just any baby shower, but rather an over the top, trashed up, neon, larger than life spread of tacos, pizza, burgers, salads, dessert, and of course cocktails. So please join me in celebrating this wonderful moment . . . Jessica, this one’s for you!
I knew immediately that my cocktail of choice would have to include bacon. The next step in this logic was to use a technique that I’ve tried only once before: fat-washing! I mean, what could be more indulgent than that?!! The idea is to infuse the flavors of a tasty fat (in this case bacon) into an alcohol. The alcohol is then put into the freezer, where the fat will solidify and but alcohol will not. Gotta love science! The fat is skimmed and strained (think gravy) and you’re left with fat-washed booze, perfect for any virtual baby shower. It’s really that easy!! Let’s begin . . .
I love putting grains in my salad. It turns a light side dish into a hearty main course. For Thanksgiving, I’ve put together this salad highlighting one of my favorite vegetables: kabocha squash. I’m not typically a fan of squash, but kabocha squash is something else– it’s got this amazing flavor that puts butternut squash to shame! This salad is packed with wheatberries, crispy roast shiitakes, fragrant hazelnuts, peppery baby arugula and creamy French feta, and all comes together with a light tahini-honey dressing. Yup, it’s a whole lot going on in there, but it’ll be the highlight at your Thanksgiving dinner!
With kabocha squash, you only need to rinse the outside and no need to peel the skin. You can also serve the salad with cubed kabocha instead of wedges.