I’ve passed along tips and ‘tricks’ one at a time before – small matters of technique or ingredients that make your favourite foods a little more special. Now, in honour of Canadian Thanksgiving (this weekend), I’m going to gather up some that I think truly make a Turkey Feast shine!
There are as many ‘recipes’ for Stuffing out there as there are cooks who make it. But there are a couple of things you can do that make any stuffing recipe look and taste better. First, be sure to use stale bread for your stuffing. It will maintain its shape and texture even soaked in stock, yet the topmost layer will be crispy and golden brown. Second, finely dice a small can of Smoked Oysters and distribute them evenly within the Stuffing. They’ll add a rich earthyness your family and friends will love. Just make sure none of your guests are allergic to seafood. I think that, by now most you are baking your Stuffing separately, rather than in the cavity of the Bird. It comes out moist but not wet. And, hey, everyone wants seconds but, if you just stuff the bird, there’s never enough to go around a second time!
I’ve always reserved Scalloped Potatoes for Feast Day meals. If I made them every week, they wouldn’t seem as special anymore. My secret for rich, creamy Scalloped Potatoes is simple. Most folks just pour Milk or Cream over the potatoes and bake. I make a Bechamel (White) Sauce and stir in some grated Cheese. The Sauce will help hold the casserole together for serving and, at the same time, it will bubble up and turn golden brown on top. Another tip for Scalloped Potatoes: Layer the Potato slices with slivered Onions to add flavour and a little zip!
Another dish I reserve mostly for Festive Feasts is Brussels Sprouts. But I don’t just boil or steam them. After removing the loose outer leaves, I cut the sprouts in half lengthwise and toss with Salt, Pepper and Olive Oil. Then, I arrange them in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and roast until they are nice and brown on top and fork tender. you haven’t really had Sprouts until you’ve had them like this!
Winter Squash of some kind is a classic for Fall and Winter Feast Day menus. I like Butternut, Acorn and Pepper Squashes. They are all prepared in the same way. Rather than peeling, cubing and boiling or steaming them, I always start by roasting my Squash until fork tender. I just wash them and cut them in half length to form a pair of Squash ‘boats’. Then I brush the flesh of each half with lots of Maple Syrup and add a good sprinkle of Salt and Pepper. Once the Squash is cooked, I let it cool before scooping out the flesh into a casserole and topping with Savoury Bread Crumbs mixed with Melted Butter. 45 minutes in the oven at Turkey temperature produces a wonderful, flavourful dish.
As a finale to this post, I’ll just mention my tips for perfect Gravy… I never add flour directly to my meat drippings. Chances are, the Gravy will come out lumpy. I always make up a slurry – equal amounts of cold water and thickener, stirred together until smooth – and add that to the pan drippings, stirring continuously. For the thickener, I like to kick my Feast Day Gravy up a notch by using Corn Starch rather than Flour. A Corn Starch Slurry will produce a rich, velvety, glossy Gravy everyone will admire…
~ Maggie J.