Appetites: A Cookbook - Anthony Bourdain (2016)

11. THANKSGIVING

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Thanksgiving:A Tactical Primer

Preparing a holiday meal can be a stressful affair. It’s no mystery why murder rates spike between mid-November and late December, what with all those relatives convened awkwardly around a table, many of whom see each other only rarely, some with long-simmering resentments and grudges that festered all year. It takes only one ill-considered remark or unfairly apportioned drumstick to turn what should have been a festive gathering into a slaughterfest of senseless butchery. And when you look at the list of “must-have” dishes expected, the prep work seems daunting, a logistical nightmare.

No need.

The following recipes may look long and complicated, but they’re really not if you remember that the key to a relatively easy, smooth-running, violence-free Thanksgiving is to adopt the following three-day strategy, which calls for a stunt turkey, a business turkey, and an understanding, at all times, that the real point of Thanksgiving is the leftovers. That at the end of the whole ordeal, when all the guests have gone home and you are alone in the house, you can smoke a little weed, sit there in front of the TV in your underwear, and enjoy a nice roast turkey sandwich with some reheated stuffing and gravy.

Thanksgiving shopping, prep, and cooking should be broken down as follows:

DAY 1

imageIn the morning (or the weekend before Thanksgiving), buy all the shit you’ll need, store it in organized fashion, and cross-check it against your recipes to make sure there isn’t anything you’ve forgotten. If there is, you’ve still got plenty of time.

In addition to extra turkey parts (see next page), various aromatic vegetables, herbs, butter, oil, wine, bread, fruit, nuts, and seasonings, there’s the matter of the bird—or actually, birds. You’ll need both a small “stunt turkey” and a large “business turkey,” which, if frozen, you should start defrosting immediately.

imageMake your stock. This is where the extra turkey parts come in. By all means, reserve the necks and wing tips from your stunt and business turkeys, and make the most of the pan drippings and the “fond,” or scrapings, from the bottom of the roasting pan. But you’ll need a solid turkey stock before you start fucking around with any actual turkeys. This means buying a separate bag of wings and necks, about 5 to 7 pounds total, to make the stock that will give the stuffing its essential turkey flavor and provide the base for what you might call “gravy” but what is, in fact, a sauce.

imageLeave the bread out to get stale for stuffing.

Day 2

imageTurn your turkey stock into turkey sauce or, if you must, “gravy.” Don’t worry, you can still enhance it with pan drippings at the last minute.

imageAssemble and bake the stuffing, covered, so that it doesn’t yet brown at all. Tomorrow you can jack it with turkey grease and brown it a bit on top when you roast the birds.

imageMake your cranberry relish and store it in the fridge. It’ll be even better tomorrow.

imageKnock out your side-dish prep. Trim and halve your Brussels sprouts, trim your baby onions if you’re doing creamed onions, dice your slab bacon, and scrub your sweet potatoes. Label, group, and refrigerate everything, so that you can quickly finish side dishes tomorrow, while the birds roast.

DAY 3

imageRoast the (small) “stunt turkey.” This is the pretty one that you’ll display for your guests. Keep it moist and shiny—moist towels and a light brush of oil—as it cools out of the way of the action. Ready your garnishes and feel free to dress it up like a showgirl: such embellishments as chop frills, elaborate fruit garnishes, a bed of old-school curly parsley or kale, and a bit of stuffing to obscure the bony cavity entrance are all totally appropriate visual fireworks to be employed liberally here.

imageWhile the turkeys roast, finish your side dishes. Brussels sprouts and creamed onions have already been prepped, potatoes just need to be peeled, and the sweet potatoes can go straight into the water unpeeled. You can get everything done on the stovetop while the birds are cooking, and hold it for quick reheating just before dinner.

imageRoast (and dismantle) the business turkey. By the time your guests arrive, the business turkey should be ready, which is to say, just completely cooked, breasts removed from the bone and ready to slice, legs removed, drumsticks and thighs separated, wings good to go, moist towels on top.

imageJack your stuffing with turkey grease and brown it, uncovered, in a hot oven.

imageDisplay the intact, artfully garnished stunt turkey in all its glory, which should elicit much oohing and ahhing from your amazed guests. Then, whisk it into the kitchen, presumably to be carved.

imageIn the relative privacy of your kitchen, pull out your business turkey, which is ready to slice, and get busy. The whole process should take only a couple of minutes. Use a good serrated knife to ensure that each slice of breast comes with a strip of golden skin. To build the platter, I like to put a heap of stuffing in the center, cross the drumsticks decoratively, then slice and shingle first the dark thigh meat, then the breast meat, like a deck of cards around the stuffing. Throw on some parsley or watercress, if you like, and the effect is complete. No embarrassing and inept hacking at a whole turkey while your family looks on with horror: This bird is ready to serve.

Just be sure that you’ve stashed away some choice turkey bits. Later, after you’ve packed up thoughtful leftover kits for your guests to take home, you want to be certain that after all your hard work, you’ve got plenty of the good stuff for yourself.

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THANKSGIVING GRAVY, STUFFING, AND TURKEY

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Serves 10 to 12, with leftovers

1 small (8- to 10-pound) turkey (aka “the stunt turkey”)

1 large (18-pound) turkey (aka “the business turkey”)

5 pounds total turkey wings and necks, cut into 3 to 6 pieces each

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup dry white wine

2 large yellow onions, peeled and finely diced

4 ribs celery, finely diced

2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced

6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1 large loaf of white bread

2 cups dry red wine

2 shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped, plus 4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

⅔ cup all-purpose flour, or as needed

A few splashes of Thai fish sauce (optional)

Worcestershire sauce (optional)

1½ cups peeled chestnuts

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more as needed

¼ cup finely chopped fresh sage, plus 2 additional sprigs

1 pound mixed wild mushrooms, finely chopped

⅓ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

2 large eggs, beaten

Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or Kitchen Bouquet (a flavor and color enhancer; optional)

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Heavy chef’s knife

Poultry shears (optional)

2 (or more) roasting pans, at least 1 of which should be stovetop-ready, and at least 1 of which should have a rack

Serrated knife (or better yet, an offset serrated knife)

Bulb-top turkey baster

Instant-read thermometer

Large carving board, ideally with trenches to catch juice

DAY 1: DEFROSTING

If they’re frozen, start your turkeys defrosting in the fridge as soon as you get them home. If they’re fresh, use a heavy chef’s knife or poultry shears to remove the wing tips and wishbones from both turkeys, and remove the necks and giblets from the inside of the birds. Refrigerate the giblets, which will go into the gravy, and the turkeys themselves. (If the birds are frozen, you’ll deal with all of this later.)

Make the turkey stock. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Assemble the wings and necks, and anything you have harvested from your fresh turkeys, if applicable, on one or more stovetop-ready roasting pans and season them with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until nicely browned and fragrant, about 45 minutes, rotating the pans (and possibly the wings and parts themselves, if they’re looking very browned on one side) about 20 minutes in, for even roasting. Remove from the oven.

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Transfer the roasted wings and bones to a large, heavy-bottom stockpot. Pour the excess grease and juices from the pan into a small bowl or jar, and cover and refrigerate it. (You will use it later, to build the roux for your gravy.) Place the roasting pan over medium-high heat and stir in ½ cup of the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge the fond, or browned bits. Cook until the alcohol smell no longer remains. Transfer this liquid to the stockpot along with the bones, and add half of the onions and celery, the carrots, and 4 to 6 thyme sprigs. Cover with cold water and bring to a high simmer (not a boil). Use a ladle to skim off and discard any scum that floats to the top. Reduce to a medium simmer and cook for about 5 hours.

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Pour the stock into a wide bowl to cool down at room temperature for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to release steam and speed cooling. Transfer it into quart-sized plastic or glass containers or sturdy zip-sealed plastic bags and refrigerate. If you’ve done it right, the stock should be dark golden brown and have a definitively gelatinous quality. With 5 to 7 pounds of bones in a full 4-gallon stockpot, you can expect to get around 4 quarts of good-quality stock.

Prep your bread for stuffing. While the stock simmers, use a serrated knife to dice the bread for stuffing. You’re looking to yield about 10 to 12 cups of diced bread. Scatter the bread cubes in a single layer on sheet trays and leave them out to dry.

Day 2: Turn your stock into gravy

Pull 3 quarts of turkey stock from the fridge and pour it into a medium, heavy-bottom pot. Add the red wine and coarsely chopped shallots, and bring to a high simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 to 45 minutes, until reduced by half. Strain the mixture into a bowl, discard the shallots, and return it to the pot.

Retrieve the container of reserved turkey fat and drippings from yesterday and scrape off enough fat—it will self-separate from the drippings in the refrigerator—to equal ⅔ cup. (You may supplement, if necessary, with butter.) Place the fat in a medium, heavy-bottom pot. Measure out ⅔ cup flour and, with your whisk and wooden spoon handy, heat the fat over medium heat until hot. Sprinkle the flour into the fat, whisking the mixture together to make a roux. Swap your whisk for the wooden spoon and continue to cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring until the flour is lightly toasted and fragrant. Whisk in the stock and red wine mixture. Switch back to the wooden spoon and continue to stir and scrape to ensure that you pull up all the roux. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce to a high simmer, continuing to stir regularly until the gravy is thick enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon.

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Taste and season as desired with salt and pepper. Some people use a hit of fish sauce, which I endorse. If the emotional needs of your guests require a darker gravy, you can brown it up with some Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or Kitchen Bouquet. Tomorrow, you can further enhance the flavor with drippings from the turkey roasting pans.

Make stuffing. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the remaining quart of stock from the fridge and bring it to a high simmer in a medium saucepot. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the stock warm.

Arrange the chestnuts in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast in the oven until browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for about 5 minutes, then chop them to a medium-coarse consistency, as you would for chopped walnuts. Place the chestnuts in a large mixing bowl along with the bread cubes.

In a large sauté pan, heat 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until it foams and subsides. Add the finely chopped shallots and the remaining onions and celery and sauté until translucent and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the thyme leaves and chopped sage. Continue to cook for another minute or two, until the herbs are fragrant, then transfer the mixture to the mixing bowl with the chestnuts and bread cubes.

In the same pan, heat another 4 tablespoons butter until it foams and subsides. Add the mushrooms and sauté, seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring regularly until they release their juice and it sizzles away. Deglaze the pan with the remaining ½ cup white wine, scraping the bottom to gather browned bits of mushroom. Add the mushrooms and reduced wine to the mixing bowl.

Grease another roasting pan with 2 tablespoons butter.

Add the parsley, eggs, and warm stock to the mixing bowl and mix with a light touch to get everything incorporated without compressing it too much. Transfer this mixture to the greased roasting pan, cover with foil, and cook in the oven for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes without the foil, then re-cover it tightly and refrigerate until tomorrow, when you’ll jack it with drippings and brown the top.

Make your cranberry relish while the stuffing bakes, and do the prep for Brussels sprouts and creamed onions.

DAY 3

Roast the business turkey. Preheat the oven to 425°F. If you haven’t already, trim off the wing tips and remove the neck and the wishbone from the business turkey; these things can be saved in the freezer for your next round of stock-making. Set those giblets, and the ones from the stunt turkey, in a medium saucepot and fill it about halfway with cold water. Bring to a boil.

Rub the turkey all over with 2 to 3 tablespoons butter, and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place it in a roasting pan with a rack, pour 2 cups of water into the pan, and transfer to the oven to roast. Periodically rotate the pan and use the bulb-top baster to baste the turkey with the grease and juices from the pan. An 18-pound bird should take just under 4 hours to cook through; the thickest part of the thigh should register 165°F on the instant-read thermometer.

Are your giblets boiling yet? Good. Let them cook for about 5 minutes, then drain and discard the water. Wash out the pot, and return the giblets to it. Add the remaining thyme and sage sprigs, cover with cold water, then let cook at a low simmer as the roasting continues.

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About 15 minutes before you take the business turkey from the oven, remove the giblets from the pot, strain them, and discard the cooking liquid. In a medium sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat. Season the giblets with salt and pepper and sear them to golden brown in the butter. Remove from the pan, cut them into fine dice, and set aside.

Once your business turkey is done, take it out of the oven, transfer it to the carving board, and let it rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Reserve the juices and turkey grease from the pan in a bowl or jar.

Finish the creamed onions and Brussels sprouts while the business turkey roasts. Make the sweet potatoes and, if you have time, mashed potatoes.

Roast the (small) “stunt turkey.” Rub the outside of the stunt turkey with 2 tablespoons of the butter and season it inside and out with salt and pepper. Place it in a roasting pan with a rack, pour about 2 cups of water into the pan, and roast in the oven. As it roasts, periodically rotate the pan and use the bulb-top baster to baste the turkey with the grease and juices from the pan. A 10-pound bird should take about 2½ hours; the thickest part of the thigh should register 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes, then carefully transfer the turkey to your serving platter to be garnished at will. Add the turkey grease and juices from the roasting pan to those you collected from the business turkey.

Finish those side dishes that you haven’t yet finished. Pull the stuffing out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Increase the oven’s heat to 425°F.

Dismantle the business turkey. Remove each leg, at the thigh joint, from the carcass. Separate the thigh from the drumstick, and pull or cut the meat from the thigh bones. Run your knife down the center of the breast, just to the left and right of the bone that divides them, and continue to guide your knife to the ribs, gently cutting the intact breast muscle away on either side. Place all the meat on a sheet tray, cover with damp, clean towels, and stash it out of sight of nosy guests.

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Jack the stuffing with grease, drippings, and giblets. Fold the reserved cooked giblets into the stuffing, and add enough reserved grease and juices so that it glistens. Slide the stuffing, uncovered, into the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until it’s sizzling at the edges and browned on top.

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After you have received big praise and glory from your guests for the presented stunt turkey, return to the kitchen to finish the job. You may wish to enlist a trusted accomplice for this. Get all your side dishes and your gravy gently warmed in the oven or on the stovetop. Whisk some reserved turkey grease and drippings into the gravy as it simmers, if desired. Carefully slice the breast meat, making sure to leave a strip of skin intact on each piece. Mound the stuffing in the center of the serving platter. Arrange the thigh meat around the stuffing, then top the thigh meat with shingles of breast meat, attractively arranged. Serve the platter, with gravy and all side dishes.

CRANBERRY RELISH

This is delicious, and truly one of the easiest recipes in the world, as long as you use a food processor. It contains a shocking amount of sugar, which you should not balk at. It’s a holiday.

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Serves 8 to 12 as a side dish

1 large orange

12 ounces (3 cups) fresh cranberries

1 cup sugar

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Food processor

Wash the outside of the orange well under warm water, then dry well and coarsely chop it—skin, pith, flesh, and all. Place the orange pieces in the food processor along with the cranberries. Pulse the fruits until the mixture appears grainy, then transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Fold in the sugar with the spatula, taste, and add even more if necessary to keep your ears from ringing with the sour intensity of the cranberries. Cover and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors marry and the color intensify. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

MASHED POTATOES, KIND OF ROBUCHON STYLE

This is not how the great chef Joël Robuchon makes his mashed potatoes. I have heard how from cooks who’ve worked for him, but they swore me to secrecy. If I told you, I’d have to kill you. I’m not sure they were telling me the whole truth in any case, so terrifying is the man’s reputation. What I do know for sure is there’s a lot of butter in them—and that the way that Robuchon actually makes them is too hard and too complicated for you (or me) to do sensibly at home.

But this will approximate—roughly—the kind of buttery, ethereal suspension that dreams (and Joël Robuchon’s mashed potatoes) are made of.

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Serves 4 to 8 as a side dish

2¼ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6 to 8 large potatoes), peeled and cut in half

2 tablespoons salt, plus more to taste

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

⅓ cup heavy cream

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Ricer or food mill

Place the peeled potatoes in a medium pot and cover them with cold water. Stir in the salt and bring the water to a boil. Continue to cook until the potatoes are easily penetrated with a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Be vigilant; a waterlogged potato is a disaster.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and let cool for about 3 minutes. Pass the potatoes through the ricer, back into the hot pot. Place the pot over medium heat and stir the potatoes with a wooden spoon until you see steam being released. Add a quarter of the butter cubes at a time, stirring until most of the butter has been absorbed before adding the next batch.

Once the butter has been incorporated, add the cream, season with salt as necessary, then whisk the mixture vigorously to fluff it up. Serve immediately.

CREAMED PEARL ONIONS

This is a classic part of my Thanksgiving table. Yes, pearl onions are a pain in the ass to peel. Blanching them makes the job infinitely easier.

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Serves 6 to 8 as a Thanksgiving side

1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 pound pearl onions

2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1⅓ cups whole milk

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

3 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Ice-water bath (large bowl filled with ice and cold water)

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Place the salt, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a large saucepot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Add the onions, let boil for 1 to 2 minutes, remove the onions from the hot water using a slotted spoon or tongs (but do not dump the water, as you’re going to use it again), and transfer them to the ice-water bath so that they’re easy to handle. Slip off and discard the skins, and return the onions to the hot water. Cook at a simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes, until easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Remove them from the cooking liquid (which you may now discard, along with the aromatics) and transfer to a baking dish.

Make sure you have both a whisk and a wooden spoon nearby, and something to rest them on. You will be switching back and forth between the two utensils as you first make a roux and then build on that to make a béchamel.

In a medium saucepot, heat the butter over medium-low heat until it foams and subsides, then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon, making sure it is completely incorporated. Cook and stir regularly for about 3 minutes, then whisk in the milk, switching back to the wooden spoon to dislodge and break up any lumps of flour that might form and stick to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, add the thyme and sage, and continue to cook and stir until the mixture coats the back of the wooden spoon, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour this over the onions and transfer to the oven to cook until bubbling and browning at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes.

CANDIED SWEET POTATOES

Put those goddamn marshmallows away.

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Serves 8 as a side dish

3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6 to 8 large potatoes), more or less equally sized, cut into quarters

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

⅓ cup apple cider

Pinch of salt

¼ cup bourbon

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Place the sweet potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a high simmer, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, at which point the sweet potatoes should be cooked through but still offering a bit of resistance to a fork. Drain and, once they are cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch chunks.

Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease a roasting pan that’s large enough to hold the chunks in a single layer, and place the sweet potatoes in it.

In a small skillet, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter and the sugar together, then whisk in the cider, salt, and bourbon. Let bubble on the stovetop for 1 minute, then remove and drizzle the mixture over the sweet potatoes, tossing gently to coat. Roast in the oven, stirring the sweet potatoes with a wooden spoon and rotating the pan every 10 minutes, for about 40 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are very tender and the liquid is syrupy.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON

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Forget a salad on Thanksgiving; this is the only green thing you need on the table.

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Serves 8 as a side dish

¾ pound slab bacon, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed, cut in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Juice of ½ lemon (about 1 tablespoon), or to taste

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

Plate lined with newspaper

Place the bacon and ¼ cup water in a large, heavy-bottom sauté pan and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-high and continue to cook until the water evaporates completely and the bacon browns and renders its fat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to make sure that the bacon cooks evenly. Once the bacon is good and brown, remove the pieces from the pan with tongs and let drain on the lined plate.

Assess how much bacon grease is in the pan; you’ll need about 3 tablespoons to cook the Brussels sprouts. If there’s a lot more than that in the pan, discard the excess.

Add the sprouts to the pan along with ⅓ cup water. Turn and toss the sprouts to coat them evenly with the fat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until browned and tender. Add the butter and toss over the heat to coat the sprouts. Taste one and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add the reserved bacon and the lemon juice, toss once again over the heat, and serve.