A.O.K (trial) Gourmet - Thanksgiving extravaganza

Alright... I'm a day early with this post!

I'm not sure when it started, but at some point during my teen years, I took over our family's thanksgiving dinner preparation. I can still vaguely remember the first time I ever held an uncooked turkey and had the task of pulling out the little bag of "innards" and the neck stuffed inside the big bird. I learned how to make an aluminum "tent" to cover the turkey in a roasting pan, how to prepare stuffing and sweet potatoes... and bake pumpkin pie!

When Brandon and I got married, I decided to try and start a new tradition - where we would host the 2 sides of our families for thanksgiving dinner. The first year, I really wanted to go all out and start everything from scratch. No boxed stuffing. No canned cranberry sauce. If I was going to host, I was going to be the "hostess with the mostest" (well- I didn't actually think that, but I really wanted to do a good job and impress the family with my domestic skills!). I surfed the net for recipes and printed up a thanksgiving dinner menu from http://www.epicurious.com/.

Last year was the first year that I didn't host (we were in the middle of a big move and our kitchen was being torn apart by renovations) so when we invited everyone back this year - I was determined that everything would be yummy AND well-organized. I tapped into different resources (including the blogosphere) for ideas and recipes and tried a couple new things.

First things first (and unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of this one) - I was inspired for the pre-dinner "snack" by a Mediterranean platter that we shared when we were out for dinner with my SIL and her husband at Ottawa's Empire Grill. Not typically "thanksgiving" at all, but a giant platter with dips (tzatziki, roasted onion dip and red pepper hummus) fancy olives and sweet red peppers (a new favorite for sure!). I had to re-stock the dips and pita a couple times so I think it was a hit!

On the menu for dinner were much more traditional and typical thanksgiving dishes. Turkey (& ham), stuffing, potatoes, carrots, cranberries and rolls. This year's "new" recipes were the turkey (a turPIGon turkey done in the crock pot from Dinner with Julie and the rolls (sweet onion and buttermilk rolls from Under the High Chair).

What's a TurPIGon turkey? It's basically a turkey, stuffed with a ham (what?!?!?). I followed the instructions from dinnerwithjulie.com... where she suggests cooking your bird in a crock pot. So I rinsed and patted the turkey dry with paper towels and opted to stuff it with 1/2 a ham instead of the 1 kilo Julie suggests (since I knew I was already going to have gazillion leftovers to deal with). I proceeded to stuff my turkey into my crock pot. When I say stuff... it is an understatement. It didn't fit. At all. I didn't even try to use the actual cover and instead covered the turkey with aluminum foil and started up the crock pot on HIGH for the first 2 hours and then MEDIUM for the next 4 (to 6) hours. When I checked it at around the 4 hour mark, it was done. No need for 6 hours in my crock pot...

The result? I don't know if I would say it was the best turkey I've ever had but it definitely wasn't the worst (far from it). The cooking method was VERY EASY and left my oven free for other dishes (which I would say was the biggest pro). The ham was good, but as I kind of expected it was rather unnecessary and excessive. Would I do it again? Yeah I think I would - though next time I'll probably opt for just turkey with a little seasoning (like some garlic cloves and fresh herbs).

As for the Sweet onion and buttermilk roles. I actually took the time to prepare these in advance and freeze them as Aimée suggests at underthehighchair.com. This recipe was much more labour intensive than the turkey (see recipe at the end of this post). There were several steps to preparing the dough (mixing, kneading, rising,...). I think I have a thing for shortcuts because the recipe says to mix until a soft dough forms (approx 10 minutes) and I SWEAR I had soft dough in forming in less than 2 minutes! (This may have something to do with the fact that my end result not matching UTHC's... trust me, I've since tasted her rolls and they are better than mine!) The sweet onion mixture also took some time (30 minutes of stirring the cooking onions on the stove) - but the taste of the buttery golden brown onion spread was well worth the effort. I can easily picture myself with the onion mixture, some crusty bread, a glass of wine and some good cheese... yyyyyyymmmmmmmmmmm.

The result? Well... here's the real kicker. I made them ahead of time. I re-heated them in the still-hot oven right before we sat down for dinner. I lined a basket with a clean dish-towel and covered them up............ and left them on the counter until we were more than half way through dinner. RRRRR. With that said, here's what I'm thinking. Very tasty. Not so easy the first time around, but I don't think it would seem as laboursome a second time around. And though I just raved about the onion spread, I actually think the next time I make the dough I'm going to try cinnamon buns instead.

I won't go into the details for the rest of the meal but I will say that everything was delicious (if I do say so myself!). I added chopped mushrooms, cranberries and apples to my basic bread stuffing and was really happy with the result; my mashed potatoes had a ridiculous amount of butter and cream in them (this only happens at thanksgiving!); and I made cranberry "jelly" instead of sauce this year. Dinner culminated with a slice of pumpkin pie (which I need to specify was made with real pumpkin - Brandon seems to think this makes a huge difference in the taste... I'm not convinced but I guess I can still boast that it was made completely from scratch) and warm apple crisp (a favorite in my house...especially this time of year).

And that pretty much culminates my first recipe experiment(s) for my blog project "A.O.K (trial) Gourmet). What to make next week????



Buttermilk-Onion Pull-Apart Rolls
As posted at UTCH
(from Martha Stewart Living, November 2005)
Makes one dozen large rolls.

11 tablespoons unsalted butter (1-3/4 sticks), softened, plus more for bowl, plus 5 tablespoons melted
3 t. active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2-3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and pin
2 teaspoons salt
2 pounds sweet onions (1 1/2 pounds cut into 1/4-inch slices, 1/2 pound finely chopped)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  1. Butter a 9-inch cake pan using 1 tablespoon softened butter. Butter a large bowl; set aside. Stir together yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl; let mixture stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir until dissolved. Stir in buttermilk and egg.
  2. Mix 2-3/4 cups flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Make a well in center. Pour in buttermilk mixture; mix to combine. Add 6 tablespoons softened butter; mix on medium-high speed until a soft dough forms, about 10 minutes.
  3. Scrape dough onto a lightly floured work surface; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Transfer to buttered bowl. Cover dough with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  4. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons softened butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions; raise heat to high, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Stir in nutmeg. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let cool.
  5. Punch down dough, and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 17-by-10-inch rectangle, and brush with 3 tablespoons melted butter.
  6. Spread onions evenly over dough. Starting on 1 long side, roll dough into a log. Press seam to seal. Cut into about 12 slices, about 1 1/4 inches thick each. Arrange slices, cut sides up, in buttered pan, and brush with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 50 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Immediately invert and unmould rolls onto a wire rack. Serve warm.


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