Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 - Sweet Potato Casserole

So, I LOVE sweet potatoes, but every year, really felt like my casserole fell flat. It was just too sweet to be enjoyable.

Usually, I mash my potatoes with some crushed pineapple, a little of the juice, and some brown sugar.  Once topped with marshmallows, it was too sweet to even be a pie! This year, it was perfect.

Make-Ahead Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potatoes
Sea Salt
Mini Marshmallows

Figure out how much sweet potato casserole you need. I had 30 people coming, and wanted a 9x13 pan full. Wash your sweet potatoes, and put them on a foil-lined baking sheet. (I used 10 Costco-sized sweet potatoes). Poke each one 2-3 times with the tip of a knife, and roast in the oven at 400 for about an hour, or until a knife can be easily inserted into the largest potato, ALL THE WAY TO THE CENTER. Nobody wants chunks in their casserole, right? (You might need to remove smaller potatoes as they finish. Burned isn't what we're going for, either.)

When the potatoes are done, turn off the oven, and let them cool in the oven.

Once everything is cool, peel the skins off the potatoes (this is really simple - just use your hands), then put the potato flesh into a big bowl. Add a liberal sprinkle of sea salt, and a splash of cream, and mash away. Adjust the seasoning to taste, then spoon the mixture into a 9x13 pan and smooth it out with a rubber scraper.

Cover the pan with tin foil, and put it into the oven.

About an hour before dinner time, throw the foil-covered pan into a 350 oven to warm up. 5 minutes before dinner, remove the pan from the oven, remove the foil, evenly spread a bag of mini marshmallows across the top, and broil to crisp up the marshmallows. They will burn QUICKLY, so don't take your eyes off of them! About 5 minutes should be plenty of time, depending on how close your casserole is to the element.

Enjoy! Not too sweet, perfect as a side.

Thanksgiving 2015 - Spatchcock Turkey

Spatchcocked Turkey

This might be my favorite Thanksgiving turkey to date. My first time cooking a turkey for the family, on the big day.

Turkey (we used an organic heritage #20 monster)
Montreal Steak Seasoning (a seasoning blend of salt, pepper, garlic, and some other spices)

The night before:
Cut out the backbone, spatchcock (open up) the bird. Set the neck, back, and giblets aside for tomorrow. Season the turkey liberally, skin side and inside, with Montreal Steak Seasoning. Put it on a rack in your pan, and put it in the fridge, uncovered.

The day of:
Try to calculate your cooking time. This is hard, honestly, and will take some finesse. How well do you know your oven? Some recipes work out to 6 minutes per pound, some advise 10 minutes per pound. My 20 pound bird was done in just under 2 hours, and was actually fairly OVERdone (about 20 degrees past what I was shooting for). (Your end-goal is 145 in the breast and 165 in the thigh).

So. In my GE Cafe oven, I cooked the bird for about two hours. Next time, I'd leave 90 minutes. 5 minutes per pound was perfect for me. If your oven is slower, or lets out a lot of steam while you cook, give yourself more time. Here's my time-line, with dinner at 4pm

11:30am - Get the turkey out, put it on the counter. Chop veggies - celery and onions - into big chunks. (Honestly, these were DROWNING in broth/drippings at the end of the cooking time, and completely unusable...but maybe they gave some flavor to the bird??). The veggies go into the bottom of the roasting pan, then the rack, then the bird. Tuck the wing tips in, like he's got his hands behind his head. Nice and chill. Season it a bit more- the salt has melted into the meat.

12:00 pm - Turn the oven to 450.

12:30 pm - Bird goes in the oven!

1:00pm - Turn the oven down to 400. Watch the skin, don't let it burn! Mine got as dark as I wanted it around 1:30, so I turned the oven down to 350.

1:45pm - Start checking the bird. You're looking for 145 in the breast, and 165 in the thigh. You can pull it a few degrees below that - it will continue to cook as you let it rest.

At 2, my bird was done, so I changed the oven setting to Warm (200 degrees) and just left it there.

3:30 - Take the bird out of the oven

4:00 - Carve the bird!

I used this recipe as my base, and followed their gravy recipe, substituting corn starch for flour. (If using corn starch, don't brown it. Just make a slurry of cornstarch and cooled broth, and mix it into boiling broth, then cook it down until it's nice and condensed. I used about 4 big scoops of cornstarch for 6 cups of broth to make gravy.)