Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Thanksgiving Table

The Thanksgiving Table

      Plymouth Rock 1621: A grand feast brings together two dissimilar groups of people who are giving thanks to the plentiful harvest they have sown. What the pilgrims and Native Americans didn't realize is that fall Massachusetts day would forever be known as thanksgiving. Although our modern version of the seventeenth century turkey day has evolved into a much different occasion of gluttony, football and maybe just a little too much wine, the symbolism of giving thanks has not been misplaced. Our chef’s at RMR work diligently every November to make sure you are able to create a feast to be remembered for years to come.

      The most important meal of the year can be a stressful time for anyone but with a little preparation, simple techniques, and great recipe ideas your thanksgiving will be the one to remember. Here we are presenting some of our favorite thanksgiving dishes that you can customize and add to your feast.

     The Thanksgiving meal can takes hours to prepare and keeps you to in the kitchen while your guests are out in the dining room. Instead of having every family member pop their head into the kitchen and steal a nibble of turkey or stuffing, create a few simple cold appetizer platters to keep them occupied and offer a different flavor than the main course to come.

Cheese Platter

When creating a cheese plate it is important to remember a few simple guidelines:

  1. As an hors d'oeuvre plan on having 1 to 2 ounces of cheese per person
  2.  Cheese is made from different kinds of milk and in many styles, so offer a few choices to your guests, especially if you don't know what type of cheese they prefer.
  3.  The richness of cheese can quickly become overwhelming and the taste morph together so break up the platter with fresh or dried fruit, a sweet component such a honey, a brined element like olives, and even a few slices of cured meat.
  4. Cheese should always be served with bread or crackers of some kind, but be careful because flavored crackers can overpower the taste of the cheese. 
  5. Lastly, you should provide a separate utensil for each cheese and accompaniment as to not transfer flavor from one thing to the other.

We like to set up a few smaller platters to separate the cheese, the crackers, and the guests from crowding one singular plate. On our Thanksgiving table to serve 8-10 we have:
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced hot Soppressata
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced Serrano ham or Prosciutto 
  • 1 cup mixed cured olives
  • 1 cup Maple Nut Spread- combine 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 cup chopped walnuts, and 2 tbsp butter in saucepan, heat to melt butter then cool until thickened, serve
  • 1/4 lb Ubriaco- an Italian cows milk cheese that is coated in wine during aging, firm textured with hints of sweetness and complexity from the wine. 
  • 1 log of fresh cranberry goat cheese- the goats milk lends a tart flavor to the cheese, light and slightly crumbled texture, the dried cranberry adds a hint of sweetness and taste of the season
  • 1/4 lb Flor de Esgueva- a Spanish sheeps milk cheese, similar to Manchego it has a very firm texture with a nutty and salty taste. 
  • 1/4 lb Saint Andre- a soft ripened cows milk cheese from France, as a triple creme brie it has an unbelievably creamy texture and buttery taste 

Seafood isn't something that comes up on the Thanksgiving table very often but was very prevalent in the original feast. Since it can be prepared ahead of time and served cold it is an excellent addition to an appetizer menu. 
  1. It is important to serve your seafood chilled and on ice, this makes a great presentation, preserves freshness, and keeps it safe to eat.
  2. Serve a few sauces with the seafood like cocktail sauce for shrimp, a mignonette for oysters, and plenty of lemon wedges.
  3. Have a separate bowl for guests to discard the shells or pre-peel things like shrimp for easier eating
If your family likes seafood then splurge a little, after all it only comes once a year. On our table we serve
  • 1 dozen Oyster on the half shell
  • 1/2 cup mignonette sauce- combine 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 2 Tbsp minced shallot, 1 tsp cracked pepper
  • 2 lbs jumbo shrimp- with this size plan for 4 shrimp per guests
  • 1 cup spicy cocktail sauce- to control the heat level make yourself by combining classic cocktail sauce with as much or as little horseradish as your family likes.
  • 2 lemons cut into wedges
     No meal is complete without a side of warm bread, and since Thanksgiving is a carbohydrate overload anyway why not go out with  bang. Baking your own bread can be very simple and it allows you to flavor it with any ingredient you like. Our Focaccia requires no shaping and comes out great every time.

Caramelized Onion and Olive Focaccia
Yield: 8-10 servings
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 20 minutes

2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup water
1 Tbsp sugar
4 cups flour
2 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large onions-thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1.  In a small bowl bloom the yeast by combine the yeast with the warm water and sugar. Allow to sit and watch for the top to foam, this tells you it is ready. 
2. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer  fitted with the dough hook and turn on to low speed. Slowly pour the flour into the mixer along with the salt. Follow by drizzling in the olive oil until the dough starts to come together. Increase the speed to medium and mix for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and shiny. 
3. Pour out the dough onto a work surface and form into a ball. Place the dough in a large bowl and drizzle with oilive oil, rub the oil over the dough until the entire surface is well coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm area, allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
4. While the dough is resting prepare the topping by slicing the onions, garlic, and olives. IN a large saute pan heat a few tablespoons of butter and add the onions, cook over low heat for 20 minutes until they have softened and turned a deep brown. 
5. Coat a sheet pan with olive oil and a little cornmeal for the bottom crust. Take the dough out of the bowl and stretch it out into a rectangular shape about the size of your sheet pan. Lay the dough on the sheet tray and stretch to fit. Cover with plastic and allow to rest for another 15 minutes. 
6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and using your finger tips create a dimple pattern on the top of the dough. Coat the top of the dough with more oil and evenly spread out the caramelized onions, garlic, olives, and thyme. Bake for 20 minutes, allow to rest before cutting and enjoy.

     Some people like creating a plated dinner and others enjoy huge piles of food being attacked by every family member all at once. At RMR we like to combine both methods when producing a large meal like the Thanksgiving feast. Soup is a great course to serve as an individual plate and acts as an unofficial sit down starting point to the meal. 

Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Yield: 2 quarts
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 medium onion, 1 cup chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sprig sage
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1 cups heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the quash in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. Lay the halves cut side down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the flesh is soft and pulls away from the skin easily. Remove from oven and hold for later.
2. Add a few tablespoons of butter to the bottom of a medium sized pot and place over medium high heat. Once hot add the onions and garlic to the pot, saute for 5 minutes until softened and lightly golden.
3. Scoop out the squash flesh and add it to the pot along with the sage, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Lower the heat to medium and cook for another 5 minutes.
4. Pour in the chicken stock  and cream, simmer on low for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and pour the soup into a blender, puree o high speed until a smooth consistency is achieved.(this may have to be done in batches).
5. Serve immediately or allow to cool in the fridge then reheat in a pot on low. An excellent garnish is roasted pumpkin seeds tossed with a few teaspoons of salt and a pinch of cayenne, then bakes at 325 for 30 minutes.

     And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you have all been waiting for. It is the quintessential component to any holiday meal, the centerpiece, the mouthwatering protein you have been longing for all year: the turkey. With it's naturally lean qualities and deep flavor, the turkey just might be the most healthy item of your thanksgiving spread. So go ahead, indulge.

Citrus Brined Roast Turkey
Yield: 1 10-14 lb bird
Prep time: 24 hours
Cook time: 2 hours

1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 large onion, quartered
1 head garlic, smashed
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1/2 bunch thyme sprigs
1/2 bunch rosemary
1/2 gallon apple cider
2 oranges, halved
2 lemons, halved
4 oz (1 stick) butter, softened
2 Tbsp sage, minced
1 Tbsp thyme, minced
1 Tbsp rosemary, minced

1. Starting at least 24 hours before thanksgiving day, In a large sauce pot combine the salt, sugar, onion, garlic, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, and apple cider. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the salt and sugar have dissolved.Squeeze in the juice of the citrus and add the flesh to the brine.
2. Cool the brine down and store in the fridge until ready to use. We suggest brining for no less than six hours but overnight is preferred.
3. In a clean five gallon bucket pour the cooled brine, lay in the turkey breast side down, then add enough cold water to completely submerge the bird. Store in the refrigerator or a cool area.
4. Two hours before you cook the bird remove it from the brine and place on a roasting rack. Pat dry with paper towels and let sit uncovered in the fridge to draw out excess surface moisture.
5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a bowl combine the softened butter and all the minced herbs. Rub the butter underneath the skin of the turkey breast and then coat the entire outside of the bird liberally.
6. Place the roasting rack with the turkey inside a roasting pan or on a sheet tray and place on the middle rack of the oven. Cook the bird for 30 minutes at 450 F then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and cook until the breast meat registers 160 degrees F. A 10-14 pound bird should take a total of about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
7. When the turkey is cooked, lightly cover with foil and allow it to rest for a minimum of 15 minutes. Then carve and enjoy.    

     Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, or for that matter even stuff the bird at all, this savory bread pudding is a crucial element on all Thanksgiving tables. It can be made with any kind of bread your family likes but we prefer cornbread.

Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing
Yield: 1 9 x 12 casserole dish, 8-10 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

12 cups stale cornbread, cut into 1 inch cubes; or fresh bread cut into cubes and toasted
1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp rosemary, minced
1 tsp thyme, minced
1 Tbsp sage, minced
1 cup chestnuts, chopped
3 cups chicken stock

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If the bread is already very stale then cube it and then place it in a large bowl. If the bread is fresh then cube it and lay it out into a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until hard, then place in a large bowl.
2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the Italian sausage. Smash down the sausage int a single layer and break it into small pieces with a fork as it cooks. Once browned and crispy transfer the sausage to a plate using a slotted spoon.
3. Return the pan with the sausage fat to high heat and add the onions, celery, garlic, and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and saute for 5 to 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened and turned golden brown.
4. Pour the vegetable mixture over the bread cubes in the bowl. Then add all the herbs, chestnuts, and stock to the bowl. Combine the mixture thoroughly until all the bread is moistened. Season the entire mixture again with salt and pepper and pour into a 9 x 12 baking dish.
5. Bake in the oven until browned on top and hot in the center, about 45 minutes.

Cranberry Sauce
     While there is nothing wrong with canned cranberry sauce, it is so simple to make at home that anyone can create their own. Fresh cranberry sauce is a blank canvas for you to add whatever special flavor you want such as ginger, apple, or citrus. With all the other similar savory flavors on the table you will relish in those few tart bites.

Tangerine Cranberry Sauce
Yield: 4 cups
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup tangerine juice
1/4 cup apple cider
2 12oz bags fresh cranberries
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp tangerine zest

1.  In a medium sauce pot over high heat combine the ginger, sugar, maple syrup, tangerine juice, and cider. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, simmering the mixture for 5 minutes.
2. Add the cranberries and simmer for 15 minutes, until most of the berries have burst and the sauce thickens.
3. Finish by pouring in the lemon juice and zest, allow to cool and serve.

     If you are under the impression that stuffing is enough of a starch component you will hear an uproar from the entire guest list if you don't provide a heaping bowl of creamy mashed potatoes. These silky smooth potatoes will be good enough for even the pickiest of guests. It may not be the most glamorous item at the dinner table, but there is no doubt that our classic mashed potatoes will make it worth loosening a few notches in the belt.

Classic Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Yield: 10 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

3 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter

1. Peel and dice the potatoes then place into a large sauce pot and fill with enough water to cover the potatoes by one inch. Add the salt, place over high heat and bring to a boil, once boiling reduce heat slightly to prevent the pot from overflowing.
2. Cook until potatoes are tender and a fork can easily pierce through it, about 20 minutes. While cooking in a small sauce pot melt the butter over medium heat, then add the milk and cream and bring to a simmer.
3. Once tender drain the potatoes in a colander then pour back into the hot pot to draw out the excess moisture.
4.  Mash the potatoes using a a stand mixer or a ricer to achieve the smoothest consistency and slowly pour in the hot milk mixture. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Green Vegetable
     It's the inevitable moment of the meal that all of your guests under the age of 12 are dreading. And as if green vegetables weren't enough, we at RMR have decided to make the adorable little cabbage that has been the arch enemy of children for centuries: the Brussels Sprout. Now before you stop reading and go open a can of green beans, hear us out; Brussels Sprouts can be one of the most delicious vegetable side dishes if prepared the right way; and the right way is exactly what you are going to get if you follow our simple, yet simply divine recipe.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Yield: 8-10 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

5 slices bacon, diced
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
1 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. Starting with a large cold saute pan add the diced bacon and render out the fat over medium heat until browned and crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and hold for later use.
2. Return the pan of bacon fat to high heat and add the brussels sprouts. Cook for 5 minutes, tossing occasionally to achieve a browned exterior on all sides.
3. Add the onions and season with the salt, pepper, and sugar. Toss to coat evenly and cook for another 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
4. Add the vinegar and reduce the heat to low, simmering for 5 minutes or until the brussels sprouts are tender.Add the bacon back to the pan, taste for seasoning and serve.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone 

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