Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Newlywed Dinners: Thanksgiving for Two

Ok, I have to admit, this was really intimidating, and definitely a learning experience! First of all, I really never cooked until I got married.  I loved to bake, but left the cooking for my mom.  I think I called her about 7 times while attempting to make my own Thanksgiving dinner today.  

Call 1: ", how do you cook a turkey?? How do you make homemade gravy?  What should I stuff the turkey with?  How long do I cook it?"

Call 2: "Hey, I forgot, do I need to make a foil tent?"

Call 3: "All the recipe says is, "make a white sauce" for the cauliflower and carrots.  Where do I begin?"

Call 4: "My turkey has no now I can't make gravy"

Here's what I learned...

1. It's not as hard as it looks

2. You can't make gravy with a smoked turkey.  (oops).  I bought a smoked turkey

3. If you don't like the brown meat, just buy a turkey breast. Bonus: it's easier to cook

4. Don't be intimidated, you can do it!

I decided to make my Thanksgiving dinner favorites:

Mashed Potatoes
Cauliflower and Carrots
Turkey (of course)

Each of these are family recipes.  I come from a family of amazing cooks, which means that most of these recipes didn't have exact measurements or directions.  Apparently the cook inside of me was just supposed to know how!  My recipe posts tend to be long because I try to be very detailed- that's what my type A personality requires when it comes to cooking!  I'll do my best to be detailed, but if you have any questions just comment below. 

1. Mashed Potatoes

Peel your potatoes and place in a large pot. If you use large potatoes cut them in half and then lengthwise.  I chose not to cut my potatoes since they were pretty small.  Fill the pot so the potatoes are covered.  At the last second I decided to add three garlic gloves and some salt to the water to give my potatoes some flavor.  Definitely optional!  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.  

This turned out to be the perfect amount of potatoes (7 small).  We definitely have leftovers, but it was my intention to have leftover for this meal.  If you don't like leftovers you can easily half each of these dishes.  

Once tender carefully transfer your potatoes to a large mixing bowl.  This is where the measurements are up to you....add some butter (I started with 1/4 cup but added more later on) and a few dollops of sour cream.   

Mash those babies up!  You'll want to get all the clumps out (unless you prefer lumpy mashed potatoes).  Start adding milk little by little and beat the potatoes with a hand mixer on high speed.  I also decided to mince up one clove of garlic and add it in at this point (do not add three like I had in the water!). Also optional.  Keep beating, adding milk, sour cream, and butter until you get the consistency you want.  The key to this step is adding the mix ins little by little- you can always add more! Also, it helps to have your butter melted- at first while the potatoes are piping hot it won't matter- but I was beating and mashing for a while! 

2. Cauliflower and Carrots

1 head of cauliflower
5 long carrots
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour 
2 cups milk
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Bring water to a boil in a large pot.  Chop up your carrots and cauliflower into bite size pieces, then cook until tender but still slightly crispy. (maybe 3-5 minutes) I would recommend boiling the veggies separately, but you could certainly add them together.   

I actually added more carrots after taking this picture (from 4 to 5 long sticks).  But it will look something like this.  Next you will make your "white sauce". 

After calling my mom, I got some good directions on the mysterious sauce.  First melt the butter and add in the onions-let them get soft. Pour in the flour and be sure to whisk thoroughly.  Next, add in the milk very slowly, and whisk as you add, you don't want clumps!  I kept my burner at low-medium heat the whole time.  

Lastly, you can add your cheese.  It's ok if the mixture bubbles, but at this point you do not want it to be boiling.  Turn the heat on low, keep whisking and be patient while the cheese melts.  

I wish I had made a little bit more sauce.  You'll want the sauce to completely cover the veggies- that way it'll make everything "stick".  It still tasted great, but next time I would probably do 3/4 cup butter, 3/4 cup flour, 2 1/4 cups milk, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and probably still 1/2 cup onion.  

3. The Turkey

It's so much easier than it sounds!  After you've washed, and cleaned out the turkey (taken out the giblet, etc), rub olive oil, salt, and pepper all over. You can also add a little sage and thyme- whatever fresh herbs you prefer.  Confession: I used my hands.  Don't worry I washed them first!  

I chose to stuff the turkey with carrots, celery, and an onion.  After we ate Braedon requested that I also add a baked apple- it's his claim to culinary fame!  I'll have to try it next time just for him.  

Next, stuff your turkey.  I just did whatever I could fit, and put the rest on the outsides.  

You can use a pot like this, or a baking rack to cook your turkey.  The package will have instructions on how long to bake the turkey.  *Mom trick: if you buy a pop-up turkey be sure to still check the internal temperature with your own thermometer.  Sometimes it will reach 165 degrees F before the pop up "pops". 

Create a foil tent around the turkey and remove halfway through cooking.  My turkey cooked for about an hour and fifteen minutes, and weighed 3.87 pounds.  Personally, I didn't love the smoked turkey, it was a little too salty for me, but Braedon loved it!  I was really sad I couldn't make gravy after... my mom taught me how to make it homemade and I wouldn't settle for a packet.  I guess it just means I'll have to try again!

So there you have it! Since we were in Mexico for Thanksgiving and didn't get a "homemade" dinner, I jumped at the chance to try it on my own...with less pressure to have it be like "Mom's" Thanksgiving dinner. It was my first time making each of these recipes and I think they turned out pretty good.  I learned a lot and I figure it can only go up from here right??  

Any suggestions or family recipes are more than welcomed!  Please share with me!