Monday, October 13, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner using your Oven only


It's Thanksgiving time and a whole lot of people will be sitting down to have Turkey and all the trimmings.  I have already had 2 Turkey Dinners at this point at friends houses.  While my family doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving because it was never our tradition,  but I do enjoy the whole Turkey dinner and the classic meals that go with it.

This year I thought about all the dishes you could make using your oven besides roasting the Big Bird.

This is the Turkey we made at my friends house in Peterborough.  Notice the bed of vegetables underneath.  This is pretty standard to add a vegetable bed underneath the Turkey.  The reason is not just to cook everything in one pot but it serves 2 purposes.  The vegetables lift the Turkey so that the heat can circulate around the Turkey for more even cooking and also the juices will run off the rendering of the Turkey fat and baste the vegetables underneath.  It also prevents the Turkey from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  But the best part is that the vegetables roast and caramelize and baste in the Turkey juices and they develop flavour.   That flavour seeps into the juices that are left in the pan.  What do those juices turn into?  Great Gravy.   
For this Turkey I added some chopped garlic to the inside cavity of the Turkey and we added an onion to the inside and then underneath more onion, carrots and potatoes.

Once the Turkey and vegetables were cooked we removed the Turkey to let it rest and put the vegetables in a separate dish.   I should mention that the Turkey was only seasoned with Salt, Pepper and Paprika but you can add other things if you like to season it.  
We poured the drippings into a small saucepan and I added cornstarch dissolved in chicken stock and then added a little more stock to the saucepan and seasoned it with more salt and pepper.  I added the onion from the turkey to the gravy and cooked it to release more onion flavour and cooked the gravy while whisking until it thickened up.  If it works you have your basic Gravy.  You can experiment with other flavours from there if you like.

So if you have a big oven and like to make everything ahead and just stick it all in the oven to cook then what else can you make?

Here are a few ideas:

Mac and Cheese - I used Smoked Cheddar to kick up the flavour of this Mac and Cheese.

Fresh Baked Bread - I baked this bread by following along with Chef Michael Smith's Instagram recipe.  You start it the night before and let it rise.

Brussel Sprouts - This has become the only way I cook Brussel Sprouts now.  The roasting brings out the flavour and skips the boiling smell and mushy texture.  They become sweet and delicious.  You can add other things like bacon and walnuts to it after to dress it up.

Butternut Squash - For this Butternut Squash recipe I cut up the Squash the day before and added olive oil, maple syrup, smoked paprika and salt and pepper to season it and put it in a ziploc bag and left it in the fridge the day before and all I had to do is toss it onto a roasting pan and roast for about 30 min. at about 350F.

Sweet potato wedges -  I made this before Thanksgiving but I thought it could be a good alternative to butternut squash.  It's a lot easier to cut too.  Just peel and cut into wedges and season with salt and pepper and I added Turmeric and Cayenne pepper for a sweet and spicy kick.

Kale chips - If you want a little healthy crunch added to your table or something for people to nibble on when they arrive for dinner if you aren't ready to eat dinner yet then Kale chips are a good substitute for a bag of chips and add some healthy greens to the dinner meal.
I added a tiny bit of olive oil and then sprinkled smoked paprika on these ones.  Bake at 425F for about 20 min or until they are crispy but not burnt.

Now Let's talk DESSERT

Mini Pies - I made these mini Cherry Pies using frozen cherries that I had cooked down to a syrup consistency in advance but you can use any kind of pie filling or even some really great preserves and skip the fruit prep part.

Apple Crisp - One of my favourite Fall/Winter desserts is Apple Crisp.  It's semi healthy... There is a lot of sugar but you also get the health benefits from apples, cinnamon and oatmeal and combined it makes a super warm and comforting dessert that makes great breakfast leftovers the next day even.  You can even use other fruits instead of apples.   I like to add cranberries to apple crisp for the sweet and tart combination.  Berries make great crisps.  Can even use frozen berries but try and remove the liquid so that the crisp doesn't get too mushy.

These are some of my favourite ideas but there are a whole lot of fruits and vegetables that benefit from being roasted in the oven.   So if you don't like to be stuck watching a pot boil or trying to juggle multiple pots on the stove then try this if you like.  Prep all your food and just figure out the timing of when to put what in the oven.   Some things like the Kale chips can be put in the oven before making the rest of the dishes and some like the apple crisp can be made in advance and just heated up and the mini apple pies can be made the day before even.

Be creative and put your own spin on your oven meals.  These are some of my picks so try them if you like and let me know if they worked for you too.

Happy Thanksgiving or Happy Holidays because these foods can be eaten at any occasion.

Happy Baking.

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