Each Thanksgiving for many years, when I lived in Greenwich Village, my family spent weeks preparing for the holiday dinner. We bought turkey from Balducci’s, sausage meat from Faicco’s Pork Store, bread from Zito’s Bakery on Bleecker Street, vegetables and herbs from the Greenmarket on Union Square and perfectly proportioned chestnuts from a market nearby.
Thanksgiving was a holiday I always looked forward to. Because there was advance planning and the end result was something special to be savored, it felt like the holiday was more than one day.
I have always felt that the two most important keys to a harmonious Thanksgiving where family is the focus, rather than slaving over a hot stove, are simplicity and preparation:
Simplicity in the dishes — using all natural ingredients — in straightforward recipes.
Commencing the stock, stuffing, cutting vegetables, even setting the table, days in advance is tolerable in smaller doses and enables the holiday to be as stress-free as possible.
Rustic Stuffing | Penelope Moore
(For a 13- to 15-pound turkey)
2 lbs. Italian bread cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup dried apricots
1/4 cup Cointreau or brandy
2 cups milk
1/3 cup olive oil
3/4 pound sausage meat
3/4 pound turkey or chicken giblets and hearts, from the stock, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
2 onions chopped fine
2 carrots, chopped medium fine
1 celery stalk chopped fine
4 cloves garlic chopped coarse
1 jar (12.7 oz.) peeled, ready to use, vacuum-packed chestnuts, chopped coarse
1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped coarse
1/4 cup fresh thyme
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups turkey or chicken broth
2 eggs, beaten
Set oven on 375 degrees, toast bread cubes until medium brown.
Add Cointreau to bowl and soak apricots until re-hydrated, set aside.
In large sauté pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat, then add sausage and brown. Add gizzards and hearts and combine. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic and cook until softened. Turn the heat down, then add apricots, chestnuts and herbs and combine.
In a separate bowl, add milk to the toasted bread, combining with hands and saturating until moist.
Combine the bread with the vegetable mixture. Add melted butter, broth and salt/pepper to taste. Add eggs and combine.
The cooked stuffing should reach 165 degrees.
Stock for Gravy | Penelope Moore
3 pounds chicken or turkey parts, cleaned, patted dry
1 pound chicken hearts
1 pound chicken gizzards
2 yellow onions, unpeeled, trimmed, scored
2 celery stalks cut into 3-inch sections
2 carrots cut into 3-inch sections
4 quarts water
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs parsley
6 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs sage
12 whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees, then add salt and pepper and roast the meat in the pan for approximately 1 hour.
Transfer the meat to a large stockpot.
Add vegetables to the pan and roast until golden brown, then add to the stockpot along with the meat.
De-glaze the roasting pan with water, scraping the sides, then add to the stockpot, along with the other ingredients.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 3 hours.
Strain the stock through a sieve or colander with cheesecloth. Use gizzards and hearts for the stuffing and discard the rest of the solids.
Pour through a gravy fat separator if using immediately or refrigerate the stock uncovered and skim the fat off the top.
Gravy | Penelope Moore
1/4 cup flour or Wondra
1/4 cup Madeira or sherry
2 1/2 cups stock
Pour the fat out of the roasting pan, leaving browned bits. Place the pan over medium high heat and stir flour into the drippings until completely combined — about 30 seconds. Whisk in the Madeira and stock, stirring constantly and scraping sides and bits until thick.
Reduce the heat, add more stock if desired, and season with salt and pepper.
Delegating to family members certain chores (peeling potatoes, chopping vegetables) not only helps the cook but also makes the dinner a team effort, which in many cases is in itself a reason to be thankful!