A Thanksgiving Feast: Brined Turkey, Stuffing, Pudding, and Upside-Down Apple Cake

By on October 9, 2015


HAPPY THANKSGIVING! (shutterstock)
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! (shutterstock)

No matter what you serve for Thanksgiving, planning is key.

“If cooking stresses you out, then you gotta keep it simple or you’re just not going to have fun at your own Thanksgiving party. But some people really love planning those details,” says chef Anna Olson.

“I’m a big list maker so one of the tips I would offer at holiday time if you’re hosting the party, you gotta cook like a chef and write those prep lists” for ingredients and tasks.

You can make pie dough a week ahead and freeze it. Write down which day you need to remove the turkey from the freezer to give it enough time to thaw. Chop onions, celery and carrots for the stuffing or other dishes days ahead and refrigerate in resealable bags.

“So then you’re cooking like a TV host where you’d have everything chopped and you just dump and stir. Because really what takes the time and the cleanup is all the chopping and peeling and dicing.”

Chef Lynn Crawford suggests asking guests to contribute to the feast.

“Make Thanksgiving the wonderful potluck that it should be. Everybody bring a side…. You’re going to have so many different recipes and flavours and dishes that come to the table, and isn’t that what it’s all about, that you’re not in the kitchen cooking all day long but it’s a celebratory thing.”

Whether you’re hosting a harvest celebration or contributing a dish, here are some Thanksgiving recipes to try.

TURKEY!
TURKEY!

MAPLE AND STOUT BRINED TURKEY
Lora Kirk, chef at Ruby Watchco restaurant in Toronto with Lynn Crawford, brines turkey for flavour and to keep it moist.

1 turkey (6.5 to 7.25 kg/14 to 16 lb)

Brine:
6 l (24 cups) water
250 ml (1 cup) kosher salt
125 ml (1/2 cup) maple syrup
15 ml (1 tbsp) black peppercorns
15 ml (1 tbsp) mustard seeds
1 bunch fresh thyme
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) chili flakes
2 l (8 cups) ice cubes
2 cans (each 500 ml) stout beer

Aromatics:
1 Honeycrisp apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
250 ml (1 cup) water
4 sprigs rosemary
1/2 bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
Canola oil

In a large stockpot, combine 2 l (8 cups) of the water, salt, maple syrup, peppercorns, mustard seeds, thyme and chili flakes over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Remove brine from heat, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

Combine brine, remaining 4 l (16 cups) water, ice cubes and beer. Using a clean cooler or container, place turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh bird down to ensure it is fully immersed, cover and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning bird once halfway through brining.

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.

Place bird on a roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

In a small pot, combine apple, onion, cinnamon stick and water and bring to a boil. Add steeped aromatics to turkey’s cavity along with rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. Tuck wings underneath bird and coat skin liberally with oil.

Roast turkey on lowest rack of oven at 180 C (350 F) for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of breast (avoiding bone), looking for a internal temperature of 70 C (161 F). Let turkey rest, loosely covered with foil, for 15 minutes before carving.

Source: Chef Lora Kirk

A savoury bread pudding?! Yes, please!
A savoury bread pudding?! Yes, please!

HAM HOCK, APPLE, AND SAUERKRAUT BREAD PUDDING
Chef Lynn Crawford says this bread pudding is like a stuffing. She likes to cook stuffing separately from the turkey rather than in the bird’s cavity.

1 smoked ham hock
4 garlic cloves
2 sprigs rosemary
250 g (1/2 lb) bacon, cut into 1-cm (1/2-inch) pieces
1 large white onion, finely diced
4 stalks celery, diced
15 ml (1 tbsp) chopped fresh thyme
250 ml (1 cup) beer
1 apple, cored and finely diced
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) drained sauerkraut, squeezed dry
60 ml (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
500 ml (2 cups) turkey or chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 baguettes, cut into 2-cm (3/4-inch cubes), about 3 l (12 cups)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
250 ml (1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).

In a medium saucepan, place ham hock, garlic and rosemary and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours until meat is very tender. Remove hock from broth; let cool. Remove meat from bone. Shred meat and discard any fat. Strain broth and set aside meat and broth.

In a large saute pan, cook bacon over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes until browned. Add onion and celery and continue cooking for 5 minutes until onion is softened. Add thyme and beer and cook until beer is almost evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add apple, sauerkraut, reserved ham hock meat and broth. Add butter and turkey stock. Bring to a boil and season well with salt and pepper.

Add mixture to a large mixing bowl and combine with baguette, eggs and green onions. Toss together well. Place in a buttered baking dish. Cover with buttered foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with Parmesan and continue baking for 20 minutes or until centre is cooked through.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Source: Chef Lynn Crawford

Good stuff(ing)
Good stuff(ing)

TOASTED PECAN, CHORIZO, AND CORNBREAD STUFFING
The nuttiness of pecans, spice of chorizo and cornbread is a wonderful combination, says chef Lynn Crawford.

500 ml (2 cups) toasted pecans, chopped
2 cornbreads (rounds, squares or loaves, each 20 cm/8 inches across), coarsely broken into 5-cm (2-inch) pieces (4 l/16 cups)
45 ml (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for dish
250 g (8 oz) chorizo sausage, casing removed and crumbled
4 celery stalks, chopped into 1-cm (1/2-inch) pieces
4 leeks, rinsed well and chopped into 1-cm (1/2-inch) pieces
30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh thyme
6 ml (1 1/4 tsp) salt
Pepper, to taste
625 ml (2 1/2 cups) chicken stock or turkey stock
125 ml (1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Butter a 33-by-23-cm (13-by-9-inch) baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together pecans and cornbread.

In a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, cook chorizo until almost crisp, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add celery and leeks. Cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in thyme and salt; season with pepper. Transfer to a large bowl.

Return skillet to medium-high heat and add stock; bring to a simmer, scraping up brown bits and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add to bowl with chorizo-vegetable mixture. Stir in eggs. Gently mix in cornbread mixture. (Do not overmix.) Transfer to baking dish. Dot top with butter. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Source: Chef Lynn Crawford

Another side dish for the win
Another side dish for the win

SWEET POTATO WITH CARAMELIZED ONION AND PUMPKIN SEEDS
This delicious side dish offers all the expected flavours of autumn without being heavy. Finishing it with lemon juice adds sparkle and keeps it tasting light, says Anna Olson.
Serve with roasted turkey, chicken or pork or grilled or roasted salmon.
This recipe can be doubled to serve a larger group.

45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
500 ml (2 cups) sliced onion
5 ml (1 tsp) chopped fresh thyme
750 g (1 1/2 lb) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-cm (1/2-inch) dice
Salt and pepper, to taste
30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh lemon juice
75 ml (1/3 cup) unsalted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F).

In a medium saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion. Cook, stirring often, until onion is caramelized, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a casserole dish and toss with sweet potato. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Cover and roast for 30 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in lemon juice and pumpkin seeds and adjust seasoning if needed. The sweet potatoes can be served warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Chef Anna Olson

Caramel Upside-Down Apple Cake
Caramel Upside-Down Apple Cake

CARAMEL APPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
To Anna Olson, the comforting fragrance of this decadent cake wafting out of the kitchen is what Thanksgiving desserts are all about. “That sense of welcoming, that style of baking just creates such a sense of expectation for guests,” she says.
Apples make an ideal upside down cake, since they caramelize nicely and the juice melds with the sugar syrup, making for a shiny, saucy glaze when the cake is inverted.
When caramelizing sugar, Olson suggests putting the water in the pot before adding the sugar. It dissolves more evenly and is less likely to crystallize as it starts to boil.

Caramel Apple Layer:
3 apples (Granny Smith, Mutsu or Cortland), peeled, cored and each cut into 8 wedges
30 ml (2 tbsp) water
15 ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice
250 ml (1 cup) sugar
50 ml (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Cake:
50 ml (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar
125 ml (1/2 cup) packed dark brown sugar
4 eggs, room temperature, separated
75 ml (1/3 cup) sour cream
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground cinnamon
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Grease a 23-cm (9-inch) cake pan and place it on a parchment-lined baking tray.

Caramel Apple Layer: Arrange apples tightly together in bottom of prepared pan. Pour water and lemon juice into a small saucepot, then add sugar and butter. Bring mixture to a boil without stirring and continue to boil, occasionally brushing sides of pot down with water, until it is a rich caramel colour, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove pot from heat and pour caramel over apples, coating them as much as possible (but don’t worry if they are not completely coated). Set aside while preparing cake.

In a bowl, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar together. Add egg yolks, sour cream and vanilla and beat until blended.

In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and stir into butter mixture.

In another bowl, whip egg whites until they hold a soft peak. Fold into cake batter in 2 additions. Scrape batter over top of apples and spread evenly.

Bake cake for about 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cake cool for 30 minutes. Run a knife around inside edge of cake pan and place a serving plate over top of pan. Flip cake over and lift pan off, revealing caramel apple top.

Makes 12 servings.

Source: “Back to Baking” by Anna Olson (Whitecap Books, 2011)