This Christmas our family was going to join another family down in Brooklyn. So, for Christmas Eve, I figured I host my family, along with the Choi’s and Chow’s. 16 people fit into my little place, since half of us were doing hot pot, and the children and a few of us were mostly eating more Western fare, seating worked out perfectly!
I provided the Western Fare, and I aimed to make enough food for about 8 people. Since this was a lot more informal than my Thanksgiving Feast, and the age of my diners were under 17, I kept it simple. This is what I prepared (I apologize for a lack of pictures….I just did not have the time, or the clean hands to pick up a camera and document):
Roasted Vegetable Penne
Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Giblet Pan Gravy
I have never made a turkey before. I have roasted chicken, but never a turkey. I also decided to brine the turkey in a brine that has come highly recommended by many people. It was a lot of firsts for this dinner!
When it came to brining the turkey, I had a problem. My fridge was not going to fit a 12 pound turkey swimming in a 5 gallon bath of salt and herbs. I also did not have an outdoor area for me to leave a bucket to remain cool while it brined. The only thing I could think of was to use a cooler. So, I purchased a 28 quart cooler. At least this way, I know the plastic was a little more food friendly than a home depot paint bucket, the insulation would keep the solution cool without having to constantly add ice and further dilute the solution, and I could always use it over the summer. Multi-tasker!
On the day of the roast, I was all over the place. If you ever search on the inter-webs for instructions of how to roast a turkey, you will find everyone has their own preferred method and they all vary widely. After an hour of hemming and hawing and unable to decide on a method, I finally followed my brother’s advice, and went with the Alton Brown method. This meant I had to bump up my oven to 500degF. The one reason I didn’t want to follow his method was this very fact. 500degF is hot, and having just spilled half a tray of cookies into the oven that morning, I was really nervous that maybe I didn’t get all the crumbs, and my oven was going to be smoking as the crumbs started charring. It didn’t happen, my brother was here to help me out, thankfully.
I made a 5lb bag of Yukon Gold Potatoes. My fat additions included a third of a block of cream cheese, a couple of tablespoons of butter and a couple of very generous scoops of 0% fat greek yogurt (I like Fage for this because it is creamier). My liquid was whole milk. Seasoned with kosher salt and pepper.
Roasted Veggies and Penne
This was a kind of baked ziti, but not really. The roasted veggies included: red peppers, onion, carrot, eggplant, yellow and green squash. I roasted the veggies, then I put them in a very large bowl and tossed it with some freshly grated fontina cheese. I also made a five minute tomato sauce I love from 101cookbooks.com (super easy and minimal ingredients to remember) and tossed some of that in too. Then I put in the pasta, some chopped basil, and tossed that into the bowl too. I put the mix back into the pans and into the oven with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts
I have never eaten a Brussels Sprout, therefore cooking them is all new to me. I tried the Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts from Smitten Kitchen. It was pretty simple. I cut them in half and I browned the halved sprouts in batches before I poured in the stock and wine and shallots and did a very quick braise. Everyone was waiting at this point for dinner, and hot pot had started already, so I needed this dish done. The moment the sprouts were tender, I took them out and whisked in the Dijon mustard and cream and let the simmer for a few minutes before I poured it all on top of the sprouts and put them on the table.
This was a process. Based on the Giblet Pan Gravy recipe from cookingforengineers.com, it has three steps, which takes a half hour to an hour each. First, I had to make a broth from browned giblets and onions. I used chicken broth since that was what I had on hand. I also was not sure if I was supposed to cut up the giblets or leave them whole. I cut them up. I made the broth, then I reserved about a cup of the broth and whisked in the butter and flour roux to make the gravy. Once the turkey was taken out of the pan, I noticed that there were no browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Hmm, what should I do? I decided to just mix in some of the fatty juice at the bottom of the pan into the gravy. Done and done!
All in all it was pretty successful. The kids loved the gravy and mashed potatoes, and the turkey came out really well. The white meat was still moist and very flavorful. It was a touch on the salty side, but i figure that is what happens when you use a brine solution sized for up to a 20 pound turkey on a 12 pound turkey. The brussels sprouts were good. I could have used a little more Dijon, but I think the adults who were a little apprehensive about the sprouts (they said they were usually bitter) were turned and pleasantly surprised. Since I was rushing, not all of the alcohol cooked out so the white wine was present, but not overwhelming. Today was the only day I did not push those kids to eat the veggies. They won this battle!
I hope everyone had a very wonderful Christmas filled with a very delicious home made meal!