It’s all gravy, baby!

This final Thanksgiving post goes out to my Facebook friend, Christina, who asked “hey chef, what about the gravy?!”  Well, Christina, this one’s for you.

In my post Thanksgiving Dinner Part I: The Bird I actually snuck in a quick and easy pan sauce with a twist – cranberries.  What I most like about this pan sauce is that you’re using the flavors from the turkey and taking them to the next level with the flavor of cranberry.  Here’s the full recipe:

Cranberry Pan Sauce

Add cranberry sauce to your deglazed pan for an amped pan sauce.

Add cranberry sauce to your deglazed pan for an amped pan sauce.

 Note: this sauce should be made in the same pan that you’ve used to sear your turkey.  Remove the turkey from the pan and place it on a sheet tray with a rack.  Leave whatever’s in the pan and anything that dripped onto the tray after it cooked.  Add that to the pan and get started on your pan sauce as follows…

 Ingredients:

1 Shallot, small dice

1 C White Wine

3 C Turkey Stock

1⁄2 cup Cranberry Puree

2T Butter

Salt and Pepper

Preparation:

Place the pan that you’ve seared your turkey in over medium-low heat, add extra oil to the pan if needed

Add shallot and sauté until tender, ~2-3 min

Take a sip of the wine, then add the rest to the pan to deglaze

Scrape bottom of pan to make sure all the bits come up off the bottom

Let wine reduce 2-3 min, then add stock. Lets reduce for 10 min

Add cranberry and butter. Swirl pan, possibly whisk to break up cranberry

Season to taste with salt and pepper

Serve and enjoy

What’s The Difference: Pan Sauce v. Gravy 

Gravy like your grandma's.

Gravy like your grandma’s.

Now some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering – is pan sauce and gravy the same thing?  Well, yes and no.  It’s true, gravy is a sauce, but pan sauce is not a gravy.  The basic difference is that with a pan sauce, you’re using the bits at the bottom of the pan where you’ve roasted your meat and then you’re deglazing the pan with a liquid, such as wine, to create a sauce.  

Deglaze your pan... get all the bits!

Deglaze your pan… get all the bits!

 

With gravy, you’re adding flour or cornstarch to the pan juices after the meat has been cooked.  This will thicken the sauce and add those lumps that we’re all use to when we think of traditional gravy. Pan sauce versus gravy is a personal preference, so just go with the sauce that you like the best.

Giblet gravy

Giblet gravy

 

Here are a few gravy recipes that you should consider this Thanksgiving.

Chicken Giblet Gravy

Traditional Gravy

Gluten-Free Gravy 

I’d love to see what you’re serving this Thanksgiving, so don’t forget to tag me in your Instagram photos @aramreed.  You can also ping me with your turkey day questions on Facebook and Twitter @chefaramreed.

Cheers!

Chef Aram

Thanksgiving Dinner Part II: The Sides

In my last blog post, I covered the ins and outs of the Thanksgiving turkey.  Now, let’s get into what’s arguably the most exciting part of Thanksgiving dinner – the sides.  Side dishes are the real stars of the table and many of us will happily make an entire meal out of them.  For this reason they deserve just as much attention as the turkey.

See The Kitchn's tips on organizing your buffet table.

See The Kitchn’s tips on organizing your buffet table.

Below are a few of the side dishes that’ll be gracing my table this Thanksgiving.  For those looking for vegetarian options, it’s important to note that variations of these recipes can easily be made by simply substituting the turkey stock with vegetable stock and by removing the bacon.

Of course, I haven’t forgotten about my gluten-free friends.  My Sweet Potato Puree is a great gluten-free side dish and the Brussels Sprout and Bacon Gratin can easily become gluten-free by substituting for GF breadcrumbs.  Here are some additional GF side dishes to check out.

Gluten-free side dishes abound.

Gluten-free side dishes abound.

Prepping and Serving Go ahead and make it easy on yourself by prepping some of your side dishes, such as the start of the stuffing, the night before.  Here are a few pointers on what can be prepped ahead of time.

Whether buffet-style, family-style or a combination of both, the manner in which you serve your Thanksgiving dinner is totally up to you.  Generally, a buffet is a great option, especially if you’ll be feeding a lot of people.  Here’s a nice guide on how to organize your buffet for ultimate enjoyment.

And lastly, without a doubt the most important thing that you should do this Thanksgiving is enjoy your time with loved ones. Have fun creating new memories.

Cheers!

Chef Aram

P.S. – Have a last minute Thanksgiving cooking question?  Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook @chefaramreed!

Enjoy your company

Enjoy your company!

Cranberry Pecan Cornbread Stuffing 

3 boxes, Cornbread Mix ( I love Jiffy)

3 Eggs

1 C Whole Milk

1 C Candied Pecans, rough chopped

1 C Dried Cranberries (Dried Cherries can be used as a substitute)

3-4 C Turkey Stock (see my Thanksgiving Part I post for an easy DIY turkey stock)

3 T Sage, minced

Preparation:

Bake off cornbread recipe following directions on the box

Once cornbread is done, using thongs, break up the cornbread

Add stock, cranberries, sage and pecans

Return mixture to cornbread pan until stuffing has absorbed and dried the stock

Return to 400 degree oven and bake for 10-15 min

Serve and enjoy

 

 

Sweet Potato Puree

4 lb of Sweet Potato, small dice

2 T butter

1⁄4 cup Makers Mark

2 T Brown Sugar

2T Sage, minced

Preparation:

Small dice sweet potatoes and place in pot of water

Bring to a boil and cook until tender, approx. 20 min

Drain water

Add remaining ingredients and puree with immersion blender until smooth

Season with salt and pepper to taste

Serve and enjoy

 

 

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Gratin 

1 lb Bacon, cooked until crispy, then rough chop with knife

1⁄2 C Reserved Bacon Fat

3 lb Brussels Sprouts, julienned

1 1⁄2 C Heavy Cream

1 Shallot, minced

8oz White Cheddar, grated

3 Rosemary Sprigs, minced

1C Breadcrumbs

1T Vegetable Oil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In large sauté, bring to medium heat. Add bacon fat

Sauté brussels sprouts until bright green, remove and place in bowl

Add 1T of oil and sauté rosemary and shallot until tender, 2 min

Add cream and leave on heat until bubbles appear.

Add to brussels sprouts and stir

Place brussels sprouts in casserole dish.  Add cheese, breadcrumbs and bacon

Place in oven and cook until cheese has melted and is golden brown, approx. 15-20 min

Serve and enjoy

Thanksgiving Dinner – Part I: The Bird

Let’s be honest, Thanksgiving is America’s favorite holiday because it’s the only day that’s all about the food.  We’ve waited the entire year for that big, golden bird with all the trimmings.  This is the day where foods that dare not meet during other months, now, happily rub shoulders with one another to form glorious food-collages on our plates.

Thanksgiving Dinner If you’re the person who’ll be preparing this year’s dinner – kudos!  I’ve got a few pro tips that’ll make this the easiest (and best-tasting) Thanksgiving dinner ever.

In this blog post, we’ll start with the turkey.  First, let’s decide which type of turkey you’ll buy.  This is really all about preference.  If you’re interested in purchasing a local bird, here’s a good list of places in Chicago where you can pre-order your bird.  There are several turkey variations available such as “natural”, “kosher” and  “heritage” all of which can be a little confusing, but Saveur has laid out the differences for us.

See Saveur's list of what's what in the world of turkeys.

See Saveur’s list of what’s what in the world of turkeys.

Now that we’ve selected our turkey, let’s get cooking. The first mistake that many make with the turkey begins with the cook’s picturesque vision of a whole bird cooked to perfection and served on a platter all ready to carve.  If you have that vision, dump it.

For the best turkey that you’ve ever had, I want you to deconstruct your turkey into two parts: leg/thigh quarters and breasts.  Why?  Well, we all know that white meat cooks faster than dark meat, so by breaking down your turkey, you’re allowing for a more even cooking process.  It’s called the cut-up-and-cook approach and in addition to a juicier turkey, you’ll also get a richer tasting gravy with this method.

Here’s a video on how to deconstruct your turkey at home with just a few simple cuts.  Make sure that you have a good, sharp knife.  And if you feel uncomfortable breaking it down yourself, just ask your butcher to do it for you. (Note: I recommend keeping the leg and thigh quarter together and this video separates them. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your preference.).  Once you’ve deconstructed your turkey, follow my Thanksgiving turkey recipe below.

Thanksgiving Turkey

1 Turkey, broken down into two parts, leg/thigh quarters and breasts, on separate sheet trays

4T Dried Herbs de Provence

Salt and Pepper

1 Shallot, small dice

1 C White Wine

3 C Turkey Stock

2T Butter

1⁄2 Cup Cranberry Puree

 Preparation:

• Season turkey with salt, pepper and dried herbs

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees

• In large sauté pan, medium-high heat, add olive oil

• Place turkey skin side down, sear until golden brown ~4-5 min

• Add 1-2T of butter to pan and swirl around

• Flip over, and sear the other side until golden brown

• Remove turkey from pan and place on sheet trays, then in the oven

• Cook until turkey reaches internal temp of 165 degrees.

• 1 hr for white meat, 1.5 hrs for dark meat quarters

• Turn the heat down to medium-low

• Add extra fat if needed to pan, then add shallot

• Sauté until tender, ~2-3 min

• Take a sip of the wine, then add the rest to the pan to deglaze

• Scrape bottom of pan to make sure all the bits come up off the bottom

• Let wine reduce 2-3 min, then add stock. Lets reduce for 10 min

• Add cranberry and butter. Swirl pan, possibly whisk to break up cranberry

• Season to taste with salt and pepper

 Turkey Stock

4 Carrots, rough chop

5 Celery Stalks, rough chop

4 Fresh Rosemary sprigs

Salt and Pepper

Turkey carcass

1 Lg Stock Pot

 Preparation:

• In large stock pot, add carrots, rosemary and celery along with turkey carcass

• Fill stock pot with water just short of the top

• Bring to boil, then down to a simmer for 2 hrs.

• Strain stock to remove all impurities

• Return stock pot to burner and reduce until desired color and flavor

• Season with salt and pepper to taste

Make sure the internal temp reaches 165 degrees!

Make sure the internal temp reaches 165 degrees!

Once the turkey is done, go ahead and grab that beautiful platter of yours and arrange the turkey for presentation.  Trust me, once you and your guests take a bite of this bird, they’ll be singing your praises.

 In my next blog post I’ll share a few side dishes that I like to add to my Thanksgiving spread.  Don’t forget to ping me @chefaramreed on Facebook and Twitter with any Thanksgiving cooking questions.

Cheers!

Chef Aram