Hello and welcome to the last week of November. What the heck just happened? I hope that we can all look forward to comparatively easier lives in 2022. Let’s talk about Thanksgiving and giving thanks. This has been my favorite holiday for my entire life. This probably stems from its proximity to my birthday, but Thanksgiving holds securely to the number one spot with the food & drink, the company, and the coziness. Last year, due to the pandemic, it was just my partner and I for the holiday, and I made every single dish as if we were 14 people. It was the first time I cooked the whole Thanksgiving feast. I drank Manhattans all day, and then after we ate and promptly fell asleep on the couch. It was the best Thanksgiving of my life, to be honest. That being said, this year I am very grateful to be reunited with both of our families for multiple turkey celebrations.
Last year for my turkey I used Samin Nosrat’s Buttermilk-Brine Roast Turkey recipe. I definitely recommend it. However, this year I did a very simple two-day dry brine of just kosher salt and roasted my spatchcocked turkey at around 425˚ F, and I will never be straying from this method. It was so flavorful. So juicy. The skin was so crispy and salty. I would roast another 23 pounder right now. Whatever your method of turkey cookery, I’m sure it’s going to be delicious, and everyone will love it. Just be sure to save your carcass for the holiest of Thanksgiving biproducts—turkey stock. And for the love of God, don’t let your pan drippings go to waste. Use them to make gravy—it’s very easy and 2,000 times better than gravy from a jar. Or throw the pan drippings in with your turkey stock.
Turkey carcass & scraps
2 onions (halved)
2 carrots (halved)
1 celery root end
2 heads of garlic (halved crossways)
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. whole peppercorn
2 tbsp. kosher salt
Handful of fresh herbs - thyme, sage, rosemary, dill, etc.
When it comes to the turkey scraps, I throw absolutely everything in my stock – the carcass, any other bones that come loose in carving, any fat, skin, drippings, etc. If you include the pan drippings, your stock will be dark and rich. Additionally, you can utilize all your vegetables scraps from cooking the dinner. Any brussels sprout or broccoli ends, celery roots and tips from stuffing, onion skins, etc.
Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and fill with cold water to the top three inches of the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 4 – 8 hours. Stock will reduce significantly. Place a lid on the pot and allow it to steep for an hour if you have time. Pass through a strainer and store in the fridge for one week or freezer for three months.
One of the best things about Thanksgiving is that the meal lasts for an entire week and the possibilities are endless. I love an open-faced turkey sandwich, mashed potato pancakes, cold green bean casserole. Last year I turned mashed potatoes, turkey, and stuffing into a pierogi filling and fried it with onions and gravy. I mean. . . . And of course, there is always a soup. I love a turkey dumpling or a turkey noodle. This year, it’s turkey and wild rice with brussels sprouts. Don’t let the flavor combination of deep turkey stock embracing the sprouts and rice pass you by. You could also use broccolini or broccoli rabe in addition to or in substitution of the sprouts
TURKEY & WILD RICE WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS
1 – 2 yellow onions, diced
6 large garlic cloves, diced
1 pound brussels sprouts, halved or sliced
8 ounces wild rice
4 quarts turkey stock
2 - 3 cups chopped leftover turkey
In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium/high heat. Add the onion and sauté onion until it starts to brown and char on the ends. Turn the heat down to medium and add garlic. Add brussels sprouts or broccolini and stir to coat the vegetables with the onion mixture. Sauté for one or two minutes until the sprouts are starting to steam. Salt the vegetables. Add wild rice and stir to coat rice with oil and vegetables. Add turkey stock and bring to a boil, then simmer until the wild rice begins to split and curl, indicating that it’s fully cooked. Turn off the heat and add in turkey. Salt to taste. Add a splash of white vinegar or lemon juice to finish.
For a more dynamic finished product – roast the brussels sprouts in a 400° oven until they are deeply browned and add them to the soup once the rice is almost fully cooked. This will add great flavor and texture to the soup.
Another Thanksgiving menu item that I would like to talk about is pie. I think that pie is the best dessert. On Thanksgiving, we are really screwing-over the pie by representing the worst versions of it. And for what reason? I have a hard stance on pumpkin pie, and that stance is that I will never eat it again in my life. I’m not saying that it’s gross but it’s not great. I can name eight pies right now that are far superior and I will—Lemon Meringue, Key Lime, Pecan, Apple, Cherry, Blackberry, Sweet Potato, Peanut Butter, Coconut Cream, Banana Cream. That was 10. On Thanksgiving Day, when pie time comes, there is about enough room in my stomach for a Hershey’s kiss. I’m not going to be wasting that space on a subpar specimen. Last year, when I made Thanksgiving, I decided to make the pie that I wanted to eat: Claire (the queen of my heart) Saffitz’s Coconut Cream Pie from Bon Appétit. I am telling you this because this is the best pie I have ever eaten. I made it again this year, and it’s still true. It’s the best pie I have ever eaten. If you are looking for something fun to add to the dessert table, I highly recommend it. It might seem like a lofty undertaking but it’s easier than it seems, and your guests, friends, or family members will lose their shit.
This year, I have so much to be thankful for. I am so grateful for my health, my home, my relationships with my partner, my family, and all my incredible friends except Derek. I am thankful to be able to buy food when I’m hungry and sleep in a warm bed and have two stable careers. I am a very fortunate person and so are many of you. I find it difficult to express gratitude when everything feels so hard most of the time. So, it’s nice to have a reminder right now to slow down and give thanks, and we should all try to do it more throughout the rest of the year. Tomorrow, I will be flying out to Las Vegas to celebrate the holiday and my sister’s 21st birthday, and I am very much looking forward to it. There won’t be any soup from me at Mayfly until next week. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday. Make sure your turkey is thawed and dry before you plunge it into hot oil.
I love you dearly