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By Terri Hahn

Countdown to Thanksgiving


November 11, 2021

Courtesy Photo - Butterball

Turkey - the crowning glory of the Thanksgiving feast.

Turkey basics

If this is your first time preparing a turkey, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

These safety tips and recommendations come from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Before you start cooking:

Thaw the turkey, if frozen. If you haven't yet taken it out of the freezer, do it soon. Thaw it in its original package on a tray. Allow almost 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. A 12- to 16-pound turkey will take 3 to 4 days to thaw in the refrigerator.

If you forget to thaw your turkey in advance, place it in a sink in its original wrapper and fill the sink with cold water. Change water every 30 minutes. A 12- to 16-pound turkey will take 6 to 8 hours.

The USDA does not recommend rinsing or washing your turkey first, which is a step in many recipes. Why? The splashing water can contaminate nearby foods and utensils.

Several years ago, the USDA lowered the safe cooking temperature for the overall turkey to 165 degrees. Invest in an instant-read thermometer if you don't have one.

To roast your turkey, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan (big enough to hold the turkey and not TOO shallow - see above!). It's important to note, that stuffing a turkey isn't generally recommended because the center of the stuffing may not reach a safe temperature.

An 8- to 12-pound (unstuffed) turkey should take about 2-1/2 to 3 hours to roast; 12 to 14 pounds, 3 to 3-3/4 hours; and 14 to 18 pounds, 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours.

Many experts recommend that if you need more than 18 pounds, it might be better to go with two smaller ones. When planning your meal, allow for 1 pound per person or 1-1/2 pounds if you want leftovers.

Serving size guidelines

Here are amounts to consider per person when you planning your holiday meal:

Turkey: 1 pound per person or 1-1/2 pounds per person if you want generous leftovers. For 12 people, you will need either a 12- or 18-pound turkey.

Stuffing (or dressing): 1/2 to 3/4 cup per person. A 1-pound loaf of bread will yield 10 to 12 cups of bread cubes. But you will need to factor in your other stuffing ingredients: onions, celery, sausage, etc.

Mashed potatoes: 1/2 pound of potatoes, which is generous, per person.

Gravy: 1/3 cup gravy per person.

Casseroles: 3/4 to 1 cup person.

Vegetable side dishes: 1/2 to 3/4 cup per person.

Cranberry sauce: 1/2 cup per person

Looking for a new side dish to add to your traditional memory? I've put together a collection of vegetable side dishes from some of my favorite food writers and sources.

Not in the mood for mashed ? Try scalloped potatoes

These scalloped potatoes can be prepped up to a day ahead. Prepare them up to the point of adding the cheese, then refrigerate. Continue with the recipe when ready to bake and serve.

It may seem unusual to refrigerate the potatoes just before putting them in the oven. This allows the cheese to brown in the oven; if the cheese was sprinkled over hot potatoes it would melt into the milk before it had a chance to brown.

Scalloped Potatoes

Start to finish: 2 hours (30 minutes active)

8 large (about 3 pounds) russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick

6 cloves garlic

4 to 5 cups milk

1/2 bunch fresh thyme

1/4 bunch parsley

1/4 pound grated gruyere cheese

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, combine the potatoes and garlic. Add the milk and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.

Using kitchen twine, tie the thyme and parsley into a bundle and add to the milk. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are slightly tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Transfer the potatoes to a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Discard the herbs, then pour the milk over the potatoes. Refrigerate until cooled to lukewarm. Sprinkle the potatoes with the cheese, then bake until the milk is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

- The Associated Press

The trouble with creamed corn is that it so often isn't. But the addition of some rich dairy transforms what typically is a gloopy and forgettable side into a rich and appealing dish.

To get you there, this recipe uses a bearnaise sauce, a butter and egg yolk emulsion related to hollandaise. It is flavored with tarragon, shallots and a touch of white wine vinegar. For extra creaminess, it also uses sour cream as a base. Just be sure not to boil the corn, as the sour cream will separate. If fresh chervil is unavailable, use fresh parsley.

Bearnaise Creamed Corn

Start to finish: 20 minutes

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

3 large shallots, finely chopped

Three 1-pound bags frozen baby corn kernels

2 tablespoons tarragon white wine vinegar

Two 16-ounce containers sour cream (about 4 cups)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a large sauté pan over medium, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the corn and sauté until tender and just starting to brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the vinegar, deglazing the pan. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the sour cream, tarragon and chervil. Heat gently, stirring constantly, until just hot. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 10 servings.

- Alison Ladman, recipe developer

Golden chanterelle mushrooms, white wine and cream transformed these simple sprouts into a dish worthy of the fanciest Thanksgiving table.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Wild Mushrooms And Cream

1-1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise (5 cups)

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

3/4 pound wild mushrooms, such as chanterelle or hedgehogs, halved if small or cut into 1-inch wedges (about 4-1/2 cups)

1 large shallot, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream (see note)

Freshly ground black pepper

Note: Add half the cream to start, then add more to taste.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Put the Brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil; toss to coat. Spread the sprouts in an even layer and season generously with salt. Roast until tender and browned, but not quite done, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a 12-inch skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter has melted, add the mushrooms in an even layer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden brown and tender and the mushroom liquid (if any) has evaporated, 5 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and transfer to a plate. (The recipe may be prepared to this point up to 8 hours ahead.)

Set the skillet over medium-high heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When butter has melted, add the shallot, season with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute.

Return mushrooms to the pan and add Brussels sprouts and cream. Stir in a few grinds of pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cream thickens and coats vegetables, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or keep warm, covered, in a 200-degree oven for up to 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

- Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Green beans are a tradition at many Thanksgiving tables, so many grocers price them competitively during the holidays.

Here they are given a sophisticated twist with butter-toasted hazelnuts and melted Gorgonzola cheese. If you like, substitute any blue cheese you like.

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Gorgonzola

Start to finish: 30 minutes (15 minutes active)

2 pounds green beans, trimmed

1-1/2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans, return to a boil and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until bright green and crisp. Drain well and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high. Add the butter and hazelnuts and stir until the nuts are lightly toasted and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the green beans and stir until heated through.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the cheese and toss until melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 8 servings.

- The Associated Press

This Thanksgiving, make sure your carrots are dressed for the occasion. This simple maple glaze spiked with whiskey is thick enough to cling, but not so sweet to be cloying.

When cooking with maple syrup, look for Grade B, which is darker, more flavorful and less expensive than the Grade A sold for pancakes.

Maple Whiskey Glazed Carrots

Start to finish: 25 minutes

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup maple syrup (preferably Grade B)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves

1/4 cup whiskey

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into rounds or thin sticks

In a small saucepan over medium, combine the mustard, salt, black pepper, maple syrup, garlic and rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and slowly stir in the whiskey. Return the pan to the heat and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Set aside but keep in a warm place.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the carrots and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the carrots, then return them to the saucepan. Add the glaze and toss gently to coat.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

- The Associated Press

These mashed sweet potatoes are delicious - and slightly sweet - without the benefit of marshmallows. But if you must have marshmallows on them, transfer the mashed sweet potatoes to a casserole, top with small marshmallows and broil until just golden.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Start to finish: 30 minutes

4 to 5 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks

5 cinnamon sticks

15 whole cloves

1/4 cup heavy cream

6 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, combine the sweet potatoes, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Add enough cold water to cover, then set over medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

When the potatoes are tender, drain them. Discard the cinnamon sticks and cloves. Press the potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer into a large bowl. Add the cream, butter and nutmeg, then use an electric mixer to beat until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

- The Associated Press

To help you embrace this more savory side of sweet potatoes, we've created this recipe that tops them with fried sage, garlic and goat cheese.

In a nod to balance, we also give them a lightly - emphasis on lightly - sweet touch with an apple cider reduction. It's no bag of marshmallows, but it certainly is delicious.

Cider-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Fried Sage, Garlic and Goat Cheese

Start to finish: 1-1/2 hours (20 minutes active)

4 cups apple cider

4 large (about 4 pounds) sweet potatoes

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

12 fresh sage leaves

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Mist the foil with cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, bring the cider to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a strong simmer and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup.

Meanwhile, cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half into quarters lengthwise to produce 8 long wedges from each sweet potato.

Once the cider is reduced, add the potato wedges and toss to coat. Arrange the wedges, skin side down, in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake for 35 minutes, or until tender. If the glaze darkens too much before the wedges are cooked, drizzle 1/2 cup of water over them and stir lightly.

While the potatoes cook, fry the sage. In a medium skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the sage and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crisp, turning once or twice. Use a slotted spoon to remove the sage from the oil and place on paper towels to drain. Add the garlic to the oil, cooking for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside, leaving the garlic in the oil.

When the potatoes are cooked, transfer them to a serving platter. Drizzle with the garlic oil and garlic, as well as any pan drippings from the roasted potatoes. Top with the crumbled goat cheese and fried sage. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings.

- Alison Ladman/For the Associated Press

Terri Hahn of Osceola has worked in food media for more than 30 years and has won numerous state and national awards for her writing. Email her at [email protected]


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