We take cheesecake very seriously in our family. There are many prerequisites to the perfect cheesecake – it must not be too sweet, it should have a light, fluffy texture and the crust is always just as important as the cake itself. So needless to say, cheesecake is a must have Thanksgiving menu item but this year, I wanted to change things up a bit by adding a fall inspired twist. “Twist” as in a pecan crust laced with pumpkin pie spices and a salty bourbon caramel sauce.
This is an oldie but goodie. Of course it is– it’s an Ina Garten recipe and she’s amazing. I’ve made this side dish for so many Thanksgivings I can’t keep track anymore, but it’s always a big hit. These caramelized shallots are packed with so much flavor: deeply developed sweet and savory flavors and a kick of sour from the vinegar. This year, I switched it up a little and added a bit of Roquefort cheese, which really complimented the sweet caramel flavors in dish, but of course, you could serve this with out it.
Start by peeling the papery skins off the shallots. To do this, bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil the shallots for just a minute and then drain them. The outside skin will slip off easily. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
I know “best mashed potatoes ever” is a bold claim, but these mashed potatoes really are the silkiest, smoothest and creamiest mashed potatoes ever. Like, lick-the-bowl-clean good. I’ve been making mashed potatoes for years (they’re quite possibly my favorite form of carb) and have learned that there are certain tricks to making mashed potatoes heavenly. And no, my trick is not a pound of butter. First, I like to use a waxier potato like a Yukon Gold rather than Russet. Second, I’ve found that using a potato ricer (or food mill) is a must. It’s the only way to get that ultra-smooth texture. Also, make sure your cream is hot when you add it into the potatoes. Finally, I think just a little tangy creme fraiche cuts through the richness of the cream and butter in a way that is so subtle you probably won’t even notice it. Trust me, you want a big heaping bowl of this on your Thanksgiving table.
Start by peeling your potatoes. Quarter the potatoes and add them to a medium pot of heavily-salted cold water. Bring the water to a boil and then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. In a small sauce pan, heat (don’t boil) the cream over medium low heat. Once the cream is hot, turn the heat down to low to keep the cream hot.
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.