With Thanksgiving only a week away, it’s time to talk turkey. Recipes, sure – but more importantly, a recounting of all we have to be thankful for. Where I live in New Jersey, The Storm is still at the forefront of all conversations. “Were you guys hit hard?” “Any tree damage?” And then the unifying, “How long were you without power?” So it’s no surprise that family safety, an intact home and the miracle of electricity top the “thankful for” list this year. We spent 10 days without power, and will never again (at least until next month) flick on a light switch or oven or dryer without a little bit of wonder and appreciation.
As for Thanksgiving dinner, I love to eat it, and I love to cook it. All. (Control issues.) However, since my parents are coming to visit this year, I will happily relinquish the pie-making to my dad. His chemistry and surgical background combined with a love of sweets make him a gifted pastry chef, and for that we are all thankful!
The rest of the menu, whenever I’m in charge, is always the same. As I mentioned in my first blog post (one year ago next week!), for me Thanksgiving is about tradition and comfort, not trying exotic new recipes.
So even though this picture was taken two years ago, it might as well be from next week (save for a few missing teeth and maybe a different centerpiece). On the menu:
- 2 bone-in turkey breasts, roasted at 425º for an hour or until done (we all like the white meat, so just doing the breasts ensures juicy white meat and enough leftovers for sandwiches)
- Dressing made with mushrooms, onions, celery, seasoned bread cubes and chicken stock (cooked in a big Dutch oven on the stove)
- White wine & turkey drippings gravy
- Mashed potatoes
- Candied sweet potatoes/yams
- Cranberry sauce – tart homemade and canned jellied
- Braised Brussels sprouts
- Butter-glazed green beans (for those who don’t like Brussels sprouts)
- Homemade yeast rolls with aniseed
- Pumpkin and apple pies
Because I love all of these Thanksgiving flavors so much, I created a Thanksgiving Loaf recipe to get my fix year-round. Same great tastes, but a lot less effort. The turkey loaf sneaks in plenty of vegetables, which contribute flavor as well as moisture (important with the extra lean turkey). You can serve it with as many Thanksgiving-y sides as you like. (For weeknight meals, I’m a fan of Ore-Ida Steam n’ Mash potatoes; frozen potato cubes that you microwave and then mash with milk or whatever you want.) This recipe serves 8, or 4 with plenty of leftovers for sandwiches the next day. The sandwiches might be my favorite part; microwave a few slices of loaf for 30 seconds (the loaf doesn’t get that funny taste that microwaved turkey gets), lightly toast a roll or baguette, and spread with cranberry sauce or a mixture of cranberry sauce and cream cheese (or mayo).
Thanksgiving Turkey Loaf
Serves 8, or 4 with leftovers for sandwiches
- 1 tablespoon butter and/or a drizzle of vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 10-16oz mushrooms (one package), finely chopped (the more finely you chop, the less visible they are in the loaf; chop as finely as you need to)
- 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 1 cup seasoned stuffing/bread cubes
- 2 packages ground turkey breast (approx. 2 lbs.)
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, or 1 tablespoon fresh minced sage
- Gravy and cranberry sauce for serving (optional)
Heat oven to 350º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. (This just aids with cleanup.)
In a large nonstick pan or Dutch oven, heat butter/oil. Add onion, mushrooms and celery and sauté until onions are translucent and mushrooms have started to brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl, add seasoned stuffing cubes. Crush into crumbs using a meat tenderizer or bottom of glass.
Add turkey, eggs, salt and poultry seasoning or sage. Add sautéd vegetable mixture. Using your hands, gently mix everything together. (You could also use a spoon, but your hands give you better control and prevent the loaf from getting too dense.)
Transfer mixture onto prepared baking sheet and shape into a flat, oblong-ish loaf about 1½ – 2” thick.
Bake at 350º for 30-40 minutes, until top is firm to the touch and beginning to brown.
Slice and serve with traditional gravy, cranberry sauce, or as shown here below with an apple cider reduction. (Boil 2 cups apple cider and 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar until reduced by half; swirl in 2 tablespoons of butter until incorporated; on the sweet side, but was a hit with the kids.)