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Navigating Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving can sometimes leave you scrambling. Is everything ready? What did you forget? 

Do we have to have [insert oft-repeated dish here] again? In the interest of helping you navigate some of those final hurdles, here are a few suggestions:

chopping_onions-featured.jpgStock.  You’ll need plenty of it for cooking on Thanksgiving, and you may find yourself running out. Canned stock is frequently strong enough that you can dilute it (one cup of stock to one cup of water) without diminishing the flavor of whatever you’re using it in. A better alternative is to make it yourself. When you buy your turkey, also buy some turkey parts such as necks and wings, and use those for stock. Add 2 chopped onions, 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped ribs of celery, and a couple of bay leaves and enough water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes.

Cranberry sauce.  Do you really want to use the stuff from the can? Granted, it comes out in that neat tube shape, but homemade is easy to make and far more flavorful. All you need is one bag of cranberries, 1 cup of sugar or honey, 2 cups of orange juice, zest of one orange, 1 onion minced, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine everything in a sauce pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for about 15 or 20 minutes. You can serve it chunky or run it through the food processor for a smooth sauce.

Brine.  If you like to brine your turkey beforehand, try replacing some of the water with orange juice. For 2 gallons of brine, use 6 quarts of water and 2 quarts of orange juice, along with 1 cup of kosher salt and 1 cup of sugar.

Libby’s, the people who supply the majority of Americans with their canned pumpkin, announced last week they wouldn’t have enough to go around because of a particularly wet harvest season this year. If you find yourself without canned pumpkin puree for your pies, preparing fresh pumpkin is easy. You’ll need sugar pumpkins (don’t buy the larger ones used for Halloween). The typical sugar pumpkin weighs between one-and-a-half and three pounds and five pounds of pumpkin produces about four-and-a-half cups of pumpkin puree.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Scrub the pumpkin thoroughly on the outside and then slice it into halves, removing all the seeds and fibers.
  • Arrange halves face down on a baking sheet, and let roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the flesh of the squash is tender.
  • Scrape the meat of the pumpkin into a food processor or blender, and process until it’s a smooth puree. Actually, a fork or a potato masher does a good job, too. 
  • Follow your favorite pumpkin pie recipe from this point on.
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