It comes every time this year, but it still surprises me. I live in Florida, so I'm a shorts/flip-flop girl year round. I hung clothes out in the sunshine just yesterday. And scarfed down two fat, juicy navel oranges. Snow shovels and mittens just aren't on my radar.
We have to manufacture Christmas down here. A couple of things that help Floridans get in the mood are blinking house lights and blow-up yard displays. One neighbor has a blow-up Santa holding a shot gun peering from a look-out tower. A reindeer is cowering behind a bush. That's how we do it in the South.
I learned a couple of tricks this Thanksgiving. The first one, thanks to Trisha Yearwood, is how to roast a perfect bird (her method was in the Sunday paper.) It's so easy - and nontraditional - you won't believe it. I tweaked a few things, and, I'm telling ya', we are never having dry turkey again. Here's the recipe; it's very short:
For a 12-pounder, stuff the cleaned bird with an apple, an onion, a stalk of celery, and an orange, all cut in chunks. Place the bird breast side down in a roasting pan with a lid. It will lean to one side - that's OK. Add 2 cups of boiling water to the pan, and put the lid on. Place the pan in a 500 degree oven for one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and go to bed. Really.
That's it. In the morning, the turkey is done, still warm, and delicious. No watching, or basting. No turkey hogging the oven when you later need it for the sweet potatoes, stuffing, and whatever else you're baking.
I cooked a 7-pound turkey breast this year, put the bird in about midnight, did not check it until 8 a.m. The meat fell off the bone. It was the most tender turkey we have ever had, fork tender. No knives needed.
Placing the bird breast side down enables all the juices to drain into the bulk of the meat. Covering the bird and adding water allows the meat to steam. If you want the golden-skinned Norman Rockwell bird that you present at your holiday table, you might not care for this method, as the turkey skin stays soft and unbrowned.
We didn't care. The moist meat was worth it. (I always slice the meat off the carcass for the table anyway. If that's the method you use, you will love this.) The flavorful water/juice remaining in the pan is the base for your gravy. This method makes such good sense to me, I don't know why, for generations, women have been roasting turkeys breast side up with no fluid and no cover. That's a recipe for dry meat.
I discovered another trick while wondering how to use up leftover mashed potatoes and stuffing. I came up with this.
I stirred the potatoes and stuffing together, added some Parmesan cheese, and rolled the mixture into balls that fit nicely into a muffin tin. I baked them for ten minutes until warmed though, then added a slice of cheese and some leftover spinach dip (Ranch dressing would be great too.)
Viola! A fancy, tasty new twist on "stuffed potatoes." I guess you could throw the green bean casserole in there too.
Here's another thing I threw together.
Our daughter makes the best whole wheat bread. We usually have rolls, but this year, she was out when the dough was ready to shape. I didn't want to spend time rolling balls, so I hastily made three uneven snakes and braided them together. The misshapen log looked small and goofy on the cookie sheet, but it puffed up beautifully. Sometimes I just get lucky.
My last item is from Pinterest. I saw these cutie-patooties and had to try them.
Keebler's Fudge Stripe cookies, peanut-butter cups, and frosting (canned or homemade.) You just assemble them. The cups are stuck to the cookies with a glob of frosting. Tint the last of the frosting yellow, and pipe a "buckle" onto the front with a fine tip. Miles Standish would be proud.
I wanted to share a few holiday cooking discoveries, because in four weeks, we get to do it all again. You might want an ugly, but succulent turkey, a stuffed potato muffin, or a bread braid. The Ballpark aims to please.