I'm thankful for you

I get some of puzzling looks when I tell people that Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  But when I tell people why, I usually get a "ohhhh, you're right!".  Well yeah, I'm not kidding around guys.  It's the best holiday of the year because it centers around eating an excessive amount of good food, enjoying each others company, and watching football.  I don't even watch football, but I appreciate that aspect of it.  In this sense, it's an extremely simple holiday without any religion, obligations or gifts. Every year, I take the responsibility in my house of making a full traditional thanksgiving meal for a bunch of Chinese people who may or may not even enjoy it, but I selfishly do it anyways.  It's because most of the time, I enjoy the process more than the ending.

Turkey
I make turkey the same way every year and it has not failed me.  The bird starts off with a 24 hour brine followed by a roast in the oven stuffing free.  I start the brine the day before with about 1 gallon of water, a cup of salt, and a cup of sugar.  I boil this mixture and season with spices such as cloves, star anise, pepper, orange peels, cinnamon, and usually add vegetable broth if i have it on hand.  Once this reaches a boil I let it cool, add a bunch of ice and soak the turkey in a cooler in the garage overnight.  If the turkey isn't full covered, add water until it is.

Before roasting, fill the cavity with some herbs(such as rosemary and oregano), and large pieces of onions and celery.  Cover with butter,  salt, pepper, and italian seasoning.  Tie up the legs and wings with kitchen string.  And here it is... ready for the oven...
Bake at 500 degrees uncovered for 30 minutes, then cover and reduce to 350 for about 2 hours.  And lastly, make sure to let the turkey cool while still covered for about 30 minutes before serving.  What will you ever do while the turkey is resting?  Bake all of your casseroles! How convenient!

A really important step not to be missed is to take the giblets of the turkey and simmer in water with some vegetables.  I do this the night before and then I have perfectly fresh and flavorful turkey broth that I can use for the rest of the dishes.  I also like to add some cloves into the broth while simmering.  This is infinitely better than store bought broth, and saves a couple of pennies too, I mean.... it is still a recession?

Green Bean Casserole
When I discovered green bean casserole I was thought... whaaaaaat where has this been all my life?  Of course the bad news is that this discovery also introduced me to store bought fried onions, which is now basically a drug.  I think part of the reason I love to make this dish is because it gives me an excuse to buy fried onions, which I always end up eating half of... damn you Frenches.

The first step is to make the cream of mushroom soup.  Take diced garlic, onions and mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini and large portobello) and sautee in olive oil until really soft.  Add about a tbsp of butter, and 3 tbsp of flour.  Stir for about a minute and then add 2 cups of milk.  Stir until thickened and add some nutmeg, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Set aside. 
even better than campbells
Next, boil a large pot of water.  Wash and trim about 2 or 3 lbs of green beans.  Add a handful of salt to the water.  When the water reaches a boil, put the green beans in and let them cook about 3 minutes, make sure the beans don't get too soft.  Take out and put in an ice bath for a few minutes. 
clearly, our ice machine was not so much working...but it did the job
I like to cut each bean in half because it's easier to eat.  Combine with the cream of mushroom soup and pour into a baking dish.  And of course, the best part... cover with fried onions!!
 I bake this in the oven after the turkey for about 25 min on 375.

Stuffing
This has always been my favorite dish of thanksgiving, and every year I wonder why I only eat it once a year, it's just not acceptable.  But maybe that's why we all love thanksgiving food so much... because we never have it.  For the stuffing, I have staple ingredients, and then I have extra special things.  My staple ingredients are onions, celery, corn and water chestnuts.  My extras this year are regular chestnuts and cranberries.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter, sautee diced onions, celery, corn and garlic until all soft.  If available, add some fresh herbs here such as thyme.  Add salt and pepper and set aside in a large mixing bowl.  Then take about a cup or so of canned water chestnuts, chopped, and put in the bowl.  I love the crunchiness of water chestnuts.  I then put the rest of the stuff, chestnuts and dried cranberries (aka. Crasins!) in the bowl.  I love taking whole chestnuts and cooking them down because they also make perfect appetizers.  I prefer to boil chestnuts rather than roasting them, I think they come out softer and easier to peel.
Chestnuts, all ready and peeled for the stuffing

Everything that goes in the stuffing...basically a bowl of love
Next, I use store bought stuffing mix (this year it was pepperidge farm cornbread stuffing), and pour it in the bowl.  Now, all I need is that delicious turkey broth.  I use maybe 3 cups of so, but make sure to add it slowly to get the right consistency.  And lastly, my little secret...when the turkey comes out of the oven, I scoop out about a cup of the turkey drippings from the bottom and put it into the stuffing.  It's soooo savory.  Turkey drippings aren't super fattening either, it's mostly water/brine from the turkey.  Full of flavor and makes the stuffing taste aaaamazing.  After everything is mixed in the bowl, adjust seasonings and transfer to a baking dish.  I baked this alongside the greenbean casserole for about 30 minutes.  Deeeeelish!
i love the color the cranberries add to this

Butternut Squash Soup
By now you know I love butternut squash.  I almost made a lasagna, but knew that would be way too filling for a thanksgiving meal.  Instead, I made a really light and flavorful soup and can be served right out of a cup, easy breezy.
To start, cube 2 medium butternut squash.  Chop half a onion, a stalk of celery, a clove of garlic, and about a tbsp of ginger.  Sautee everything in some olive oil for a few minutes with salt, pepper, and fresh oregano.  Add about 2 cups of broth, cover and let simmer until soft, about 20 minutes.
Starting to smell delicious
When the squash is tender, use a hand blender or pour into a large blender and mix until smooth.  Pour back into the pot and adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper, and fresh nutmeg.  I add some more broth and about a 1/2 cup of milk into this for a little extra creaminess.  You can transfer the soup to a slow cooker to allow it to stay warm, and again it can be served out of cups or mugs to make life easier.  Mmmmmm warms my heart and soul.
staying warm in the slow cooker


A couple of other highlights from the feast include: 
a caprese salad - you know, because it makes you feel healthier

roasted garlic mashed potatoes
A ginger dressing courtesy of my mom
My parents make a ginger and scallion dressing that goes really well with turkey, or really....anything.  You take ginger, scallions, sesame oil and salt and put it on a food processor.  It's extremely fresh and slightly addicting.  Ok.  It's really ridiculously addicting.

What can I say, I heart Thanksgiving.  The best part is that I wake up on black friday morning and think...boy I can't wait to eat leftovers for breakfast... and I always do.  For anybody who enjoys a good turkey sandwich, I highly recommend adding a moist maker.  And if you don't know what that is...well then, I'm sorry.  And so, this year I'm extremely thankful for food, money to buy such food with, moist makers, the pilgrims, my health, the loving people in my life, and you, who cared enough to read this far into my blog post.  Thank you!

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