Since the ‘lection is over, we can now refocus our efforts on matters of vital importance, eating and drinking until we pass out being chief among them. During this run-up to our national day of gluttony, I thought I would highlight some time-honored recipes and receipts that are fixtures of my annual Thanksgiving table. Also, I’m throwing in a Kansas City inspired “thing for which to be thankful.” We’re going to start with a key dish that seems to be on the stove at the last minute at most celebrations. In the final hour before the big meal, I’d much rather check on a few things in the oven and enjoy a glass or four of wine with my guests than peel, chop, boil and mash potatoes.
About a year ago, I came across this fantastic recipe from Ree at Confessions of a Pioneer Woman and frankly I don’t want to contemplate the horrible times before its discovery. Ree is totally my cooking soul-mate and I would marry her in a heartbeat if she didn’t already have a hot cowboy husband and the thought of touching a woman on the down-there didn’t make me slightly queasy. So ours will be a Platonic love
For the mashed potatoes.
Some folks contend Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, but any true glutton knows it’s all about the starches. I will shortly be issuing my first AKCB Bull on the Baking of Macaroni and Cheese and will eventually share with you Some Thoughts and Observations Regarding Rolls, but even if you skip those, there’s no getting around setting a dish of mashed potatoes on your holiday table.
Instead of retyping the entire recipe here(yes I’m that lazy), click on over to Confessions and print off the handy PDF file already provided. The highlights of this recipe are 5 lbs of potatoes, 1.5 sticks of butter, 8oz cream cheese, ¾ cup half-and-half and salt and pepper. Man these are tasty AND you can make them up to two days in advance.
For the gravy.
No pan-drippings are required. This is key because at my house there aren’t any as will be revealed in my forthcoming Hardly-Ever-Fails Turkey recipe. Make three times as much broth as you think you’ll need, because people slop this on everything at Thanksgiving. You don’t have to add cornstarch to the entire batch at once. Start with half and hold the rest in reserve in case you need it. You can always freeze it later. Also, chopped hardboiled eggs in gravy are an abomination and make the baby Jeebus colicky.
- 3-4 turkey necks (these are readily available this time of year and nearly impossible to locate the rest of the year. If you fancy a Thanksgiving Day in July, buy extra and freeze)
- Any stray hearts or gizzards, but NOT livers, you happen to have lying around (optional)
- Low-sodium chicken broth
- Salt & pepper
The day before, in a large saucepan, cover your turkey necks and optional organs with a couple of inches of water, bring to a boil and simmer until you’re tired of checking on them, periodically skimming any foam or gunk that floats to the top. A couple of hours is good. If I’m feeling exceptionally “with it” I’ll sometimes roast or saute the necks for a bit first. Remove the necks and giblets from the broth and cool. Reduce the broth at least by half to concentrate the flavor. It’s at this point that I always realize I need to make more gravy than what’s left in the pan and decide to add some low-sodium chicken broth. Remove from heat. Pick as much meat from the cooked necks as you can. It’s quite tedious. Eventually you’ll end up saying screw it and dump the remaining necks in the trash. Finely chop the giblets if you bothered to include them. Up-end the giblets and whatever meat you were able to pick from the necks into the pan with your broth and put this into the fridge. You’re done for the day. Enjoy a bourbon and congratulate yourself on your awesome cooking skills.
On the big day. About 10 or 15 minutes before you need gravy, remove from fridge and put on stove. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. In a measuring cup or coffee mug, mix 2 or 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with a half-cup or so of cold broth to make a slurry. Pour about half in to your bubbling broth and stir with a wire whisk. Evaluate for gravy consistency. If it’s too thin, try cranking the heat a bit and see what that gets you. If it’s still to thin, add the rest of the cornstarch mixture. Revaluate. Mix more slurry if you need it. If you get the gravy too thick, add a bit of chicken broth to thin it out. Once you hit the gravy consistency you desire, season with a heavy hand with salt and pepper. Pour into gravy boat or bowl and dash it to the table.
Thing for which to be thankful: You’re not a KC Star employee (and if you are, you probably won’t be for long).