Thanksgiving, 2013.

I hope all my U.S. readers had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. I have a new piece up today for Insiders covering the Nolasco and Haren signings as well as the Pirates/Padres swap of minor leaguers.

I also want to take a moment to thank all of you who read my work here or on Your readership and loyalty make it possible for me to do something I love for a living, and write about all this other fun stuff on the side here at the dish. It’s an honor to write for you and I feel very fortunate to be able to do it.

My tweets this week describing my daily prep work leading up to Thursday (tagged frivolously with #gameplan) had a small point, that doing all of that stuff ahead of time could make the holiday itself a lot easier. I’ve tried to do the whole thing on Thursday, or just on Wednesday evening and Thursday, and it’s miserable. This year, I even slept in Thursday morning, since we weren’t eating the main meal till 5 pm. That alone made a huge difference, but it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t done so much cooking and prep work in advance.

The final menu for yesterday:

* Sweet potato gnocchi with kale and brown butter (recipe from Richard Blais’ Try This at Home)

* Turkey two ways: Roast turkey breast and turkey leg confit

* Gravy: brown turkey stock reduced by 75% plus drippings from pan deglazed with white wine, thickened with a flour-butter roux (2 Tbsp each)

* Basic bread stuffing with pain au levain (recipe from Joy of Cooking)

* Cranberry-port gelée (recipe from Canal House via food52)

* Roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet-and-sour sauce and sesame seeds (dressing based on one from The Whelk in Westport, CT, via Bon Appetit)

* Cucumber-pomegranate salad with lime-cilantro dressing (recipe from Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life)

* The awful green bean casserole (the less said about this, the better)

* Pumpkin pie (recipe from Baking Illustrated)

I probably would have pulled the turkey breast and the pie a little sooner from the oven, but otherwise it was a fairly smooth week. Doing so much prep ahead of time, like quartering, blanching, and shocking the sprouts on Wednesday, made a huge difference on Thursday; I was only actively cooking for about two and a half hours, which includes the standing-around-and-waiting parts. And when the day was over, I was tired, but not a wreck. I hope those of you who cooked had a similarly pleasant experience, and only set off the fire alarm once (par for the course in my kitchen) rather than, say, deep-frying your entire house to the ground.

For the sprouts, I made a few changes to the Whelk’s recipe linked above. I blanched them as mentioned above, and tossed them with canola oil rather than olive, because I roasted them about 25 minutes at 475 degrees, a temperature that will cause olive oil to smoke. (Any neutral oil, like soybean or safflower or even rice bran oil, would work.) I used rice wine vinegar rather than red, and honey rather than pure sugar (2.5 Tbsp instead of 3, as honey is sweeter than sugar). I only finished them with toasted sesame seeds, trying to stick with the Asian flavor theme without losing the crunch added by the Whelk’s pumpkin seeds; if I had had toasted sesame oil in the house, I would have used some of that in the vinaigrette as well. The idea is simple: Cook the sprouts through while browning as much of the exterior as you can, then toss in a vinaigrette that hits sweet, sour, salty, and umami flavors, as the sprouts themselves will provide a hint of bitterness. You can alter ingredients in the dressing at will as long as you maintain the balance across those four tastes.

Some final admin notes – my updated board game rankings for 2013 will go up Wednesday or Thursday of next week, most likely, and my top songs of 2013 list will go up two weeks later on the 19th, after the winter meetings. I’ll chat again at on the 5th and 19th, with the winter meetings week chat possibly pushed to the 13th due to travel. Thanks again for reading.


  1. Klaw, I did Brussels Sprouts too. What did you gain by blanching and shocking them? I just quartered them, tossed them in bacon fat, kosher salt, black pepper, and some chili flakes and then roasted them at 425 for 25-30 min until the outsides were crispy. Your meal sounded great. My sweet potato twist was making sweet potato biscuits that I brushed with a melted butter, brown sugar, and kosher salt. Recipe was from November’s Food and Wine magazine.

    • @Jeff: Blanching the sprouts removes some of their bitterness, and also helps preserve the color through the roasting process. I blanched them two minutes, might have been good for a little more, but I know from experimenting that four minutes is too long because it takes away too much texture. The biscuits idea sounds great!

  2. Sounds like a great menu Keith!

    I think I may have made the same pumpkin pie from one of the Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks. Did your version use candied yams and call for cooking the non-dairy ingredients on the stove top first?

  3. I have to ask: WHY the green bean casserole? Is there a family member who loves it? Do you at least respect yourself enough to make it from scratch or is it not even worth trying?

    • @Daphne: My wife insists on it, only the original version. I use ingredients from Trader Joes, but my influence ends there.

      @Chris: no, this one uses canned pumpkin and cooks it with everything but the eggs before adding to the shell.

  4. The key to a green bean casserole is to use freshly steamed green beans. Those canned things are an abomination before Great Cthulhu. We had a few people over who had never tried a green bean casserole before (they’re originally from Mexico, so they don’t do such an American dish) and they loved it so much that we sent them home with all the leftovers. I always do a green bean casserole because it’s cheap, simple, doesn’t take up much space in the oven, can cook along with other things, and always ends up a crowd pleaser.

  5. @Dr. Tom: I won’t use canned green beans or any vegetable other than … well, regular beans like cannellini or chickpeas. I’m fine using frozen beans; I just blanch them for about a minute, then toss with the other ingredients. It’s not that it’s lowbrow that bothers me, but that it relies on highly processed foods that are like elephants in the flavor-china shop. Green beans taste pretty good on their own, but this just covers them in cream and thickeners.

  6. Why are you always putting down deep-frying and saying you’ll burn your house down? I get it, people do it, but do you really not trust yourself to take the precautions necessary to ensure that doesn’t happen? Or do you personally know someone who has done it? It just seems like a weird drum to continue to beat.

    Either way your menu looks fantastic, the sweet potato gnocchi was a hit at our house too, although I haven’t seen the Blais recipe. Want to try that one. Do you have a gnocchi roller? Or do you use a fork or something similar?

  7. @Erich: It’s not just me – the NFPA “discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil.” They’re ridiculously dangerous, from the risk of fire to the risk of burning yourself or anyone nearby with 350 degree oil.

    I roll out my gnocchi by hand. They end up pretty “rustic,” but I don’t worry too much about it.

  8. Re: fire alarm issue- I just saw that Nest is moving beyond thermostats and now makes smoke alarms. One of the coolest features is that you can wave your hand to let it know that you’re just making dinner and not burning the house down.