Yeah, believe it or not, it’s the Saturday before Thanksgiving … ALREADY!!! Time just seems to fly by too quickly .. and it also appears to be accelerating each year. But, it’s time to start talking turkey! Especially if you are planning on cooking a big bird for your holiday feast. You have to get that baby defrosting NOW, particularly if you have a 20+ pounder that’s still frozen. Using the “Refrigerator Method”, the safest and best way to transform your turkey from it’s icy condition, you need to allow a day for each 5 pounds of poultry. Using my five-finger Caveman calculator, that means you have to get going on that hefty hen TODAY. Of course, for more tips and all the methods available for defrosting the centerpiece of your T-day meal, you can always check out our post Thawing Your Turkey. By the way, you’ll notice we did not include the “Microwave Method” of defrosting in that article. That’s because it is a real flavor and texture killer … we highly recommend using one of the other two methods we’ve detailed.
Once you have unlocked your turkey from it’s frozen state, you need to either cook it or brine it immediately. In the Cavehold, we would never do the former without first doing the latter. Years ago, when I was just a young Cavelad, the Cavemom developed a great brine that included wine and grapes. Since then, when the Cavewoman and I took over the duties of hosting this particular holiday, we took her brine and bumped it up a notch or two. This recipe was a closely held family secret until we spilled the beans two years ago with our post T-day Turkey Brine. If you want to ensure you serve a juicy, tender turkey full of great flavor, every time, I suggest you give this one a go. It’s easy, it’s foolproof, and as we say around here, “Once you brine, your turkey will be fine!”. By the way, I’ve been told by our Turkey Day faithful that I will be kicked to the curb if I ever try to deviate from this recipe on Thanksgiving … I think that says it all!
Of course, Caveman (or Cavewoman) does not live by turkey alone … even on Thanksgiving. So you might want to check out some of the side dishes and aperitifs we shared previously that have become holiday traditions in the Cavehold. For instance, no T-day meal is complete with out cranberry sauce. Many folks believe it’s just too hard to make their own and go with the canned versions available in the store. But, if you venture just a bit further down the aisle to the veggie and fruit section, and take an extra 20 minutes in your meal’s preparation, you will end up with a C-sauce that will forever have you shunning the pre-made type in the future. Our Cave’s Cranberry Sauce is really just the recipe on the package with some molasses and either wine, port, cognac or brandy added. Best of all, you can make it a day or two ahead of time and just refrigerate it until chow time – which actually also helps it to set up better, both flavor and consistency wise. The only problem with that, really, is keeping everyone away from it until the big meal … the Cavewoman is our biggest offender on that!
Yams or sweet potatoes are another must for this Fall harvest feast. While they take many forms in each family, I really have never tasted anything better than the Cavemom’s Orange Yam Turkeys. This unique, colorful, and tasty dish has become a real favorite of the Cavekids … not just to eat, but to make as well. They really look forward to working in the kitchen on these with their Cavenana, and this year is no different! They’ve already been asking us if their grandmother was “bringing all the stuff to make Yam Turkeys”. Put one of these on your guest’s plate, and I guarantee they will be ooing and cooing about how cute they are. That is, until they taste it and start oohing and awing about how delicious they are! Yams, orange, pineapple, nuts, marshmallows, butter … I mean, what could be bad about that, right?!?!
Another regular player on the Thanksgiving plate is the mashed potato. You’ve got to have something to to put the gravy on – besides turkey and stuffing, of course. You know that in the Cavehold we can’t simply serve a boiled tater mashed up with some butter and salt. We’ve got to give the spud a serious kick in the pants! (GRRRREAT! Visions of kicking Mr. Potato Head are now swirling around in my Neanderthal noggin!!). Which is why our Garlic Mashed Taters always make an appearance on our holiday menu. If you’re going to squish a potato beyond all recognition, why not take it to the next level with butter, milk, sour cream, cream cheese, green onion chives, and roasted “gah-lick”. True, it’s not the healthiest of dishes. But, oh my, is it goooooooooood! Best of all, this is also one of those recipes that you don’t need to save just for Turkey Day … we use this one just about every time we have a hankerin’ to do some mashin’. In fact, they are pictured here with Korean Pork Chops (Daeji Galbi) and Sauteed Asian Veggies.
Before getting to the real meal, we try to tempt our guests’ palates with some basic, yet delicious appetizers. And, shrimp cocktail is about as basic as it gets. However, a chilled shrimp is only as good as the sauce that accompanies it. You could make your own sauce from scratch. But, that is time consuming and, as you know, we like to make things as easy as possible around here. Thus, with necessity being the mother of invention, came the recipe for Cave’s Quick Cocktail Sauce. As the name suggests, it’s quick, it’s easy, and man is it goooooood! If there is any doubt about how good it really is, on a holiday known for leftovers, there are never any leftover shrimp!
As good as those little crustaceans bathed in that sauce are, we still have to make sure that the non-carnivorous crowd is well accounted for. So, we also whip up an incredible, veggie friendly, Baked Brie with Peach Sauce. When coupled with the dried cherries and pecans, this gooey plate of yum becomes a huge hit. Serve it up with some quality Lavosh or water crackers and let the feasting begin!
NOTE: Even though you will want to dig right in, be sure to let the baked brie cool for about 10 minutes after pulling it from the oven as the melted cheese inside the brie casing can get quite hot. Nothing worse than burning your tongue on that first bite and not be able to taste the full flavor of the rest of the meal. Yes, this is the voice of experience talking!
Lastly, while both apple pie and pumpkin pie are expected desserts amongst the Caveclan come Thanksgiving day, a new addition to the post-meal eats has made it’s way into our hearts and stomachs. The Cavewoman’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies are a unique and welcome change to the usual T-day sweet treats. Give these a try and I promise you will be smiling with delight as they melt in your mouth. Besides, these Whoopie Pies also garnered a Food Blogs “Post Of The Day” honor! So … what are you waiting for? Hit the link!!
Yes, we’ve given you a lot to contemplate here. However, this is the one holiday that truly centers around the food that is served. So, consider giving some, if not all, of these recipes a try and let us know how it goes. But, if you haven’t gotten that big bird out of the freezer yet, stop reading this and get a move on! The entire Caveclan wishes you and yours a safe, happy, and delicious Thanksgiving.
P.S. – We are less than two weeks from the premier of Caution: Caveman Cooking’s online cooking show, C3TV. Look for more info on the launch right after Turkey Day. In the meantime, you can get a sneak peek here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xw-uf78Tlzk
©2011 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.wordpress.com authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.