We like short cuts. We like being kitchen-savvy. We like big holiday meals with interesting flavors but not if that means cooking all day (for three days straight).
I’m going to share with you here a few of my Thanksgiving cooking & entertaining tips & tricks as well as one beyond fabulous recipe…
But, first, my #1 piece of advice for this Thanksgiving- Skip the bird! Yes, I want you to forget about roasting the whole turkey (dry legs, partially cooked breast, hours basting a bird that is just never going to be juicy enough…) and to, instead, buy a turkey breast. Roast that baby perfectly- that means 60 minutes at 375 degrees for a 4 lb’ish breast- and turn your time and attentions elsewhere.
Where you ask?
To this totally fabulous, Italian-accented stuffing recipe. (The pancetta, apples and walnuts will give you enough deliciousness to discuss so that other topics can be avoided (thank you, The Onion, for getting family dynamics right once again!)
- 8 cups ½-inch cubes focaccia bread (about 1 lb)
- 8 oz pancetta, diced
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 cup diced celery
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 Gala apples, cored and cut into ½inch cubes (2 cups)
- 2 cups Progresso™ chicken stock (from 32-oz carton)
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
- Toppings (yummy but optional)
- ½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
- Heat oven to 325°F. Place cubed bread on ungreased cookie sheet; bake 10 to 15 minutes or until dry and crispy. Cool completely on cookie sheet.
- Meanwhile, spray 4-quart Dutch oven with cooking spray; place over medium-low heat. Add pancetta; cook about 13 minutes, stirring frequently, until rendered and lightly browned. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to large bowl; set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from Dutch oven; discard or reserve for another use.
- Melt butter with the 2 tablespoons pancetta fat in Dutch oven. Increase heat to medium-high; add onion, celery, salt and pepper. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add apples; cook 2 minutes longer.
- Add stock to Dutch oven; heat to simmering. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, using spoon to release browned bits from bottom. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes.
- Spray 13x9inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. Add eggs, thyme and sage to pancetta in bowl. Stir in bread. Pour stock mixture over ingredients in bowl. Stir to combine. Pour into baking dish.
- Bake uncovered 40 to 45 minutes or until center is hot and top is browned and crispy. Cool 5 minutes. In small bowl, stir together Topping ingredients. Sprinkle over stuffing in dish.
FORGET ABOUT FLOWERS– Decorating with fresh flowers (unless you have a garden) will cost more than your meal. Instead, create centerpieces from seasonal fruits and vegetables (apples, pears, quince, lemons, limes, pomegranates, artichokes, asparagus), fresh greenery and berries. After the party’s over, make a meal from your centerpiece!
NEW & OLD– Don’t be afraid to mix old traditions with new ones. Create a menu that reflects your past, but focuses on the present & future! Do you love your Mom’s pumpkin pie but hate her soupy green bean casserole? Keep the pie on the menu but trade out the casserole for a lighter green bean sauté that reflects your kitchen, your lifestyle and the great offerings at your neighborhood farmer’s market.
FRESH & FAST– It’s chilly out, we want creamy, cheesy, heavy dishes that make us happy. But also want a little balance. Do your favorite potato casserole but off-set it with a delicious & easy arugula-pomegranate salad or butternut squash and ricotta crostini. The fresh dishes are usually the fastest to prepare!
THANKS-GRIA– A delicious glass or two of wine is welcome at any holiday gathering! Even easier if it’s in a pitcher and ready for everyone to serve themselves. I lightly chill red wine and add a few spices as well as seasonal fruit to make my all-time favorite holiday libation– Thanks-gria!