Thanksgiving Turkey, Side Dishes and Dessert

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Amelia Saltzman is a food writer and local cook. She offers her family's favorite Thanksgiving salad recipe.

Persimmon, Celery and Pecan Salad
Makes 8 servings.

  • 4 ribs celery
  • 2 small or 1 large Fuyu persimmon
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
  • 1/2 lb mixed baby greens
  • 1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Kosher salt or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Use a vegetable peeler to pare off strings from celery. Slice celery thinly on the diagonal and place in salad bowl. Cut away stem from persimmon. Cut persimmon vertically in quarters and cut quarters crosswise into thin slices. Add to bowl along with nuts, greens and cheese, if desired. Drizzle olive oil over salad, squeeze lemon juice to taste, add salt and pepper, and toss.

This sweet potato stuffing recipe appeared in the November 19 Dining-In section of the NY Times.

Mixed Mushroom and Sweet Potato Stuffing
Adapted from Charlie Trotter of Charlie Trotter's, Chicago
Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped sage leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 lb mixed mushrooms (Shiitake, Portobello or Cremini), cleaned, stemmed and cut into large dice (4 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 sprigs thyme, plus 1 Tablespoon minced thyme
  • 5 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 to 3 cups chicken broth
  • 8 cups day-old sourdough bread, in large dice (1 2-pound round loaf, trimmed of crust)
  • 1 Tablespoon rosemary, chopped fine
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat oven to 350 degrees. In a roasting pan, place sweet potatoes, olive oil and 1 tablespoon sage leaves, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Roast until golden brown and tender, tossing occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Saut- mushrooms and red onions with thyme sprigs, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are caramelized, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat, stir 4 tablespoons butter into hot mushrooms, and discard thyme. Set mushrooms aside.

3. Use remaining butter to coat a 3-quart baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, 1 cup cream and 2 cups chicken broth together. Add bread, and stir until coated evenly. Fold in sweet potatoes, mushroom mixture and remaining herbs. If bread cubes seem dry, add more cream and chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon stuffing into baking dish, and bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 45 minutes.

Industry expert Phil Lempert can be found at

The following recipes are from the November issue of Fine Cooking magazine. Abby Dodge is an editor of the magazine.

Turkey Roasting
There's a lot going on in the kitchen on Thanksgiving, so when it comes to cooking the turkey, I like to take a low-maintenance approach. My technique is fairly hands-off, except for an important step I take to make sure the turkey stays moist: I start the turkey off in the oven breast-side down. Other than basting occasionally (to give the skin a nice brown color), that's about all I do. These instructions are for a 14-pound turkey, which serves 12 to 14 people, but they can be used for larger or smaller birds; just adjust the roasting time accordingly. A fresh turkey is preferable to frozen.

1. Heat the oven to 325-F. Remove the neck, giblets, and tail (save these for the broth recipe at right) from the turkey, as well as any plastic parts, like leg connectors or pop-up timers. Rinse the turkey well inside and out and pat it dry thoroughly with paper towels. Truss the turkey, if you like (see directions below). Rub the turkey all over with olive oil or melted clarified butter; this helps the turkey brown evenly. (You can also use melted whole butter, but the milk solids might make the turkey a little spotted.) Sprinkle the turkey with kosher salt to help crisp the skin.

2. Put the turkey breast side down on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan, preferably a heavy-duty flameproof pan so that you can make the gravy in it later. Roast the turkey (with the legs pointing to the back of the oven if possible) for 1 hour.

3. With wads of paper towels in both hands, lift the turkey at the neck and tail ends and flip it breast side up. Continue roasting until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thighs reads 170-F, another 2 to 2 1/2hours. While the turkey roasts, baste it every 30 minutes or so with oil, butter, or pan drippings and rotate the pan occasionally for even browning. Transfer the turkey to a carving board or platter, tent it loosely with foil, and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes while you make the gravy. Remove the trussing strings before carving.

You don't have to truss, but the finished turkey will look better if you do. Starting under the legs, draw a length of butcher's twine up and over the legs. Cross the twine between the legs and pull the ends to draw the legs together. Keeping the twine taut to pull the legs in toward the body, run each end over the thighs and wings and tie securely at the neck.

For some folks, the gravy is the best part of Thanksgiving. Made by thickening the pan drippings and giblet broth with roux (a mixture of flour and fat), gravy is pure essence of turkey. It's easiest to make it right in the roasting pan, but if your pan isn't flameproof, use a saucepan instead. After you pour off the liquid drippings from the roasting pan, pour some of the broth into the hot roasting pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to capture any cooked-on drippings.

Quick Turkey Giblet Broth
Yields about 3 1/2cups. Don't throw away the neck and giblets that come with your turkey. They can be turned into a tasty broth that makes terrific gravy. There's no need to simmer the broth for hours, either. Sweating the meat and onion in a little oil before adding water jump-starts flavor extraction, so your broth is ready in just about an hour. You can make the broth up to three days ahead.

  • Turkey neck, gizzard, tail, and heart
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 rib celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large sprigs each fresh thyme and flat-leaf parsley
  • 8 to 10 black peppercorns
Chop the turkey neck into three to four pieces with a cleaver. Chop the gizzard in half. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the turkey neck, gizzard, tail, and heart (don't use the liver) along with the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to coat with oil, cover, and cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally; the meat will release lots of juice.

Add 4 cups cold water and the carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer until the broth is flavorful, 30 to 40 minutes. Strain the broth and use immediately or let cool. Pick the meat from the neck and tail to add to the gravy along with the chopped gizzard and heart, if you like.

Gravy formula:
You'll need about 1/3 cup gravy per person. For each cup of gravy, use 1 tablespoon fat and 1 1/2 tablespoons flour.

For example, to make 12 servings of gravy, use:

  • 4 cups liquid (giblet broth, above, plus degreased pan juices)
  • 4 Tablespoons fat
  • 6 Tablespoons flour
  • If you don't have enough broth and pan juices for the amount of gravy you need, add homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth to make up the difference.

    Gravy Method:
    1. Heat the giblet broth. Pour the juices from the roasting pan into a heatproof cup. Let the fat rise to the top and then spoon the fat you need for the gravy (see the formula at right) back into the roasting pan. Skim off and discard the remaining fat from the juices; add the juices to the giblet broth. Set the roasting pan over two burners on medium heat. Sprinkle the flour into the pan. Stir with a flat whisk or wooden spoon and cook for about 2 minutes.

    2. To keep lumps from forming in the gravy, slowly pour about a 1/2 cup of the broth into the pan while whisking vigorously to disperse the flour evenly into the liquid. The liquid should thicken quickly and get gluey. As soon as it thickens, add another 1/2 cup or so of broth while whisking. Repeat until the gravy starts looking more like a smooth sauce than glue.

    3. At this point, it's safe to whisk in the remaining broth and bring the gravy to a simmer. Add a few sprigs of thyme and simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain the gravy through a medium sieve, season with salt and pepper, and serve in a heated gravy boat or other vessel.

    Butternut Squash, Apple, Leek & Potato Gratin with a Cheddar Crust
    Serves eight as a side dish.

    For the topping:

    • 1 1/2 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs (from an airy, crusty loaf like Ciabatta)
    • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • Kosher salt
    • 3 ounces (3/4 cup) grated sharp Cheddar
    • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
    For the gratin:
    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus 1/2 tsp for the dish
    • 2 cups sliced leeks (white and light green parts of 3 medium leeks), thoroughly washed
    • Kosher salt
    • 2/3 cup plus 3 Tablespoons apple cider
    • 1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
    • 2 tsps chopped fresh thyme leaves
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 crisp, firm apples, such as Golden Delicious or Braeburn (about 14 ozs total), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
    • 12 ozs butternut squash from the neck
    • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (12 ounces total)
    To make the topping, combine the crumbs, melted butter, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Mix in the Cheddar and thyme.

    To prepare the gratin, heat the oven to 350F. Rub a shallow 2-quart gratin dish with 1/2 teaspoon of the butter.

    Cook the leeks by melting the 2 tablespoons butter in a small (preferably nonstick) saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until well softened and lightly browned (the pan will be dry), 10 to 15 minutes. Add 2/3 cup of the cider and simmer for 2 minutes to reduce it slightly. Add 1/2 cup of the cream, the chopped thyme, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper. Stir well and set aside.

    Cook the apples: In a large nonstick skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Turn the heat to medium high, add the apple slices, and cook, gently flipping and stirring, until most of the slices are browned and limp but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons cream and 3 tablespoons cider. Stir and let the liquids reduce slightly for a few seconds. Remove from the heat.

    Assemble and bake the gratin: Peel the squash neck, cut it into quarters lengthwise, and cut them across into thin slices. Peel the potatoes, cut them in half, and cut them across into thin slices. In a large bowl, combine the squash slices, the potato slices, the leek mixture, the apple mixture (scrape the pans well), and a scant 2 teaspoons salt. Mix gently, but thoroughly, using a rubber spatula. Scrape the mixture into the prepared gratin dish, smoothing and pressing until evenly distributed. Cover with the breadcrumb topping. Bake until the crust is deep golden brown, the juices around the edges have subsided, and the crust is dark brown around the edges, about 1 hour. Let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

    Classic Tarte Tatin
    Serves eight to ten.
    A good time to make your pastry is while the apples are cooking.

    • 5 to 6 pounds tart apples (I like Braeburns, Jonathans, Honeycrisps, Jonagolds, or Fujis)
    • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
    • P-te Bris-e (recipe below), chilled
    • Cr-me fra-che or vanilla ice cream for serving
    Peel, halve, and core the apples, being sure to get the stem and flower ends clean. In a heavy ovenproof 10-inch skillet or a Tarte Tatin pan. Melt the butter, add the sugar and salt, and cook over medium heat until the sugar begins to melt around the edges. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to help the sugar melt completely and then let the mixture cook over medium-low heat until it reaches a deep mahogany-colored caramel; if using a dark pan, be sure to lift some caramel out with a spoon to check the color. The butter will pool on the top-that's fine. As soon as the caramel is the right color, take the pan off the heat.

    Set aside four of the apple halves and arrange the remaining ones in the pan in concentric circles, standing them upright on their narrowest end and packing them in as tightly as possible. (They'll shrink as they cook). Try to make the rows look neat.

    Return the pan to medium heat, increasing to medium high as the apple juices begin to flow-the liquid should bubble gently. Rotate the pan occasionally in case there are any hot spots. Use your sense of smell: If you start to smell burnt sugar, immediately turn down the heat. When the bottom halves of the apples are caramelized and slightly tender, flip each one over with a fork and continue cooking.

    About this time, there should be a lot of juice in the pan and the apples will likely have shrunk and be slumping a bit. Carefully take the pan from the heat and, holding the apples back with a spatula, pour off 1/2 to 1 cup of caramel and juice into a small saucepan (pour off more if necessary; you should have about an inch of liquid left in the skillet). Return the skillet to the heat and continue cooking. Add the reserved apples to the caramel in the smaller pan and cook over medium-high heat until they're caramelized, about 10 minutes, turning them frequently as necessary.

    With a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, push the apples in the skillet so they're tightly packed and upright again; there will be gaps. Holding them in position, transfer an apple half from the small pan and slide it, wider end down, into a gap; repeat with as many apple halves as will fit nicely; reserve the juice in the pan. Continue cooking the apples in the skillet until they're tender and thoroughly caramelized, inserting another apple half if necessary. The total cooking time could take 35 minutes or more. Take the skillet off the heat and let cool to room temperature. If there's more than about 1/2 inch of liquid remaining in the pan, carefully pour off the excess into the small saucepan.

    Heat the oven to 375-F. Roll the chilled p-te bris-e dough into a round about 1 inch larger than the pan; the dough should be about 1/8 inch thick. Roll the round of dough onto the rolling pin and transfer it to the skillet, gently draping the dough over the apples. Tuck and fold the edge of the dough under to make a rim. Put the skillet in the middle of the oven. (Put a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any overflowing juices.) Bake until the crust is a rich brown and looks crisp, about 25 minutes.

    Take the tarte out of the oven and let it cool for about 15 minutes. If more juice accumulates, carefully pour off most of it into the saucepan and then invert a large plate on top of the pan, flip the pan and plate over in one quick move, and lift off the pan. Simmer the reserved caramel and juices until thick and syrupy and then spoon them over the finished tarte or serve alongside. Serve the tarte warm or at room temperature with cr-me fra-che or vanilla ice cream. Leftovers are best eaten within a day or so; don't refrigerate.

    P-te Bris-e
    Yields enough for one tarte tatin.

    • 6 3/4 ounces (1 1/2cups) all-purpose flour
    • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
    • 2 1/2 ozs (5 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
    • 1 large egg yolk
    • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
    Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and whirl to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal. In a cup or small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, the vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of the water. Add this to the flour and butter and pulse for a few seconds, just long enough to let the dough pull together; add a little more water if needed. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and work it with the heel of your hand, pushing it away from you and then gathering it up with a dough scraper, until the dough is very pliable. Press the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until firm, 15 to 30 minutes.

    Russ Parsons is the California Cook columnist for the LA Times and the author of How to Read a French Fry, published by Houghton Mifflin.

    Brussels Sprouts and Bacon
    Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes

    • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts
    • 3 strips bacon
    • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
    • Salt
    • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
    * Trim Brussels sprouts, removing any outer leaves that are too dark or are damaged. Trim dried-out base of sprouts and cut an "X" 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in base.

    * Steam sprouts over rapidly boiling water just until tender, about 5 minutes, no longer than 7 minutes. Cool and cut into lengthwise quarters. Set aside.

    * While sprouts steam, cut bacon into thin strips. Cook in skillet over medium-low heat until crisp. Raise heat to high and add red wine vinegar. Cook until vinegar loses raw smell, about 3 minutes.

    * Reduce heat and add sprouts. Heat through, season to taste with salt and 1 to 2 tablespoons additional red wine vinegar if necessary. Add pine nuts, stir and serve.

    Mom Parsons' Cranberries
    Makes 2 1/2 cups relish, about 10 servings.

    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 3/4 cup water
    • 3 whole cloves
    • 3 whole allspice
    • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
    • 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
    • Zest of 1 orange
    Combine sugar, water, cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks in 4-quart saucepan. Bring to boil. Cook, stirring, until syrup is clear, about 3 minutes. Add cranberries and cook just until they begin to pop, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add orange zest and cool. Keep in refrigerator at least 3 days before using.

    Roast Brined Turkey
    Makes 10 to 12 servings.

    • 2/3 cup salt
    • 1 gallon water
    • 1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey
    Combine salt and water and stir until salt dissolves. Pour brine over turkey in pot just large enough to hold both. If turkey is completely covered, don't worry about using all of brine. Cover with foil and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight, turning 2 or 3 times to make sure turkey is totally submerged.

    Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Refrigerate, unwrapped, 6 hours or overnight.

    Place turkey on its side on rack in shallow roasting pan. Roast at 450 degrees 15 minutes. Turn turkey to other side and roast another 15 minutes. Turn breast-side up and roast another 15 minutes.

    Reduce heat to 325 degrees and roast until meat thermometer inserted in center of thickest part of thigh registers 160 to 165 degrees, about 2 hours. Remove from oven and set aside 20 minutes before carving.

    Creamed Onions With Shiitake Mushrooms
    6 to 8 servings.

    Though I tend to be a little obsessive about fresh vegetables, pearl onions are one place I'm happy to compromise. Having spent countless holiday hours trimming, scoring and squeezing onions, I now have come to the conclusion that the small diminishment in flavor from freezing (onions actually freeze quite well) more than makes up for the tedium of cleaning them. If you disagree, there are instructions included here on how to take care of fresh ones.

    • 2 Tablespoons butter
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
    • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
    • 2 (10-ounce) bags frozen pearl onions or 2 pints fresh
    • Salt
    • 2 Tablespoons minced herbs (mainly chives, can also include parsley, rosemary and thyme)
    Combine butter and shallot in medium-heavy saucepan and melt over medium heat. When butter is completely melted, cook until shallot becomes soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Do not let shallot scorch or color.

    Remove stems from shiitake mushrooms, rinse caps briefly under running water and pat dry. Chop fine. When shallot is soft, add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are dry, about 3 minutes. Add cream and raise heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring until cream reduces by half, about 5 minutes.

    Place frozen onions in colander and run under warm water to defrost. Thoroughly pat dry. If using fresh onions, barely trim both ends (some of root and stem must remain to keep onion from falling apart. Cut deep 'X' in root end, to 1/4 length of onion. Place onions in large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand until room temperature and squeeze onions between thumb and forefinger to pop from skins. Thoroughly pat dry.

    Add onions to reduced cream. Cook briefly, enough to heat through and reduce cream, which may have become thinner from onion juice. Season to taste with salt. Just before serving, reheat, add minced herbs and stir to combine.

    Nicole Aloni is the author of Secrets from a Caterers Kitchen and Cooking for Company, published by HP Books.

    Five Sea Creature Stew (Cioppino)
    Makes 8 to 10 servings.

    • 18 small clams, scrubbed and rinsed well
    • 18 green-lipped mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
    • 1 bottle dry white wine
    • 1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 large onion, minced
    • 3/4 cup diced scallions (white and green parts)
    • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
    • 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
    • 1/4 cup tomato paste
    • 1/2 tsp red chile flakes
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 1/2 cups canned, crushed tomatoes, including juice
    • 1/4 cup finely shredded fresh basil
    • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
    • 1 1/2 Tablespoons minced fresh oregano
    • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
    • 1 tsp kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 lbs white fish fillets, cut in large chunks (sea bass, cod, rock cod, halibut; albacore is also excellent)
    • 1/2 lb lump crabmeat or lobster meat chunks or 2 freshly cooked Dungeness crabs, cleaned and roughly chopped
    • 3/4 lb medium shrimp, butterflied with shell and tell left on
    • 4 lemons quartered
    1. Put the clams and mussels in a saucepan with 1 cup of the wine and 1/4 cup of the parsley. Cover, bring to a boil, and steam until they are cooked and open, 5 to 6 minutes. Discard and that remain closed. Let cool, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth and reserve. Cover the shellfish and set aside.

    2. Heat the olive oil in a large (6 quart or larger) kettle over medium heat. Add the onion, scallions and bell pepper, and saute about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and saute 2 to 3 minutes.

    3. Add the tomato paste, chile flakes, bay leaves, tomatoes, basil, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds, 1/2 cup of the parsley, the reserved liquid from the clams and mussels, 1 tsp of salt and several grindings of black pepper. Simmer uncovered 5 minutes. Add remaining wine and simmer uncovered 35 minutes longer to develop the flavors.

    4. Add the white fish chunks to the pot and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the crabmeat and shrimp, submerging them in the broth. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and firm. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the clams and mussels and ladle broth over them to heat through, being careful not to break up the crab chunks. Remove from the heat, cover and let sit for 3 to 4 minutes before serving.

    5. To serve: Ladle the assorted seafood into each bowl, cover with broth and sprinkle generously with remaining 1/4 cup parsley. Each bowl should be served with lemon wedges.