Top Ten Ways to Not Lose Your Mind on Thanksgiving Day (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) (featuring Sausage and Sage Stuffing with Maple Cornbread)
10. Brine the bird. It’s easy to do and can metamorphosize your turkey from tasteless and dry to juicy and scrumptious. For an 18-20 pound bird, line very large (about 16-quart) bowl with two 30-gallon plastic bags, one inside the other. Place turkey in plastic-lined bowl or bucket.
Combine 7 quarts water, 2 cups coarse salt, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 cup mild molasses, 1 bunch thyme, and 1/2 bunch sage in large bowl or pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Mix in ice cubes to cool the brine quickly (because you don’t want to cook you bird, just season it.) Pour brine over turkey in plastic bags. Gather tops of bags together, eliminating air space above brine; seal bags. Refrigerate turkey in brine 18 to 20 hours.
But WAIT! Whatever you do, don’t brine a Kosher bird for he has already been brined and will become too salty if you do it again.
9. If your husband, father, brother, uncle or neighbor wants to fry the turkey, let him. Nothing makes a man happier than to wrestle a turkey into submission via hot oil. I couldn’t care less if the bird was fried or roasted as long as the turkey tastes good and stays moist. If it keeps them out of the kitchen for a while, they should absolutely be encouraged to fry, fry, fry.
8. Homemade cranberry sauce is easy to make and more delicious than any preservative filled B.S. you’ll find on a shelf in the store. But I know you love the sound of the jelly when it plops out of the can, so do as you will.
7. Mashed potatoes should contain so much butter and half and half that you become a little terrified you might kill your guests when you make it. I also believe that mashed potatoes should always contain a little bit of freshly ground nutmeg.
6. Granulated tapioca is the best thickening agent for apple pies and the best pies contain at least 3 different kinds of apples to ensure that bursts of sweetness, tartness, snappiness, and crunch all happen.
5. A little bit of port poured over the turkey in the earlier stage of the roast will boost both the flavor and color of your bird, but be careful not to overdo it. Your guests will be upset if all the port has gone to the birds.
4. If your kids want marshmallows on their sweet potatoes you should let them– even if your kids are in their 40’s.
3. If you can figure out a way to do it, get to the gym or go for a long walk the day before Thanksgiving. Your mind will thank you, your ass will thank you and your family won’t know why you’re so even-keeled.
2. The best bite on Thanksgiving Day is one that combines tidbits of everything on your plate.
And the number one way to not lose your mind on Thanksgiving day…
Is to make this stuffing.
Sausage and Sage Stuffing with Maple Cornbread
Makes 6 servings or enough for stuffing
Make it one day before you make the stuffing.
- 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3/4 cups buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 9x9x2-inch baking pan.
- Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in food processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Whisk buttermilk, eggs, and maple syrup in large bowl. Add cornmeal mixture; stir just until evenly moistened (do not overblend). Transfer to prepared pan.
- Bake bread 45 minutes or until golden and cracked on top. Cool bread in pan on rack, loosely cover, and leave on counter until the following day.
Sausage and Sage Stuffing
Makes 8 servings
- 1 1/2 pounds breakfast-style bulk sausage (I like to mix it up with 1 pound sweet Italian sausage and 1/2 pound maple breakfast sausage)
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced
- 3 large celery stalks, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
- 2 apples (I like to do one sweet and one tart apple), peeled, cored, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
- 5 cups coarsely crumbled day-old (recipe below)
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup homemade chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Heat a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat and then add the sausage. Saute, breaking the sausage up with back of fork and saute for about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl, but leave the rendered fat in the pan. Add the butter and melt on medium heat until bubbling subsides.
- Add onions and celery stalks, sprinkling with a pinch of salt, and saute until very tender and translucent over medium heat, about 15 minutes. Add apples and saute another 10 minutes. Add celery leaves and stir 30 seconds to wilt. Add mixture into the bowl with the sausage. Stir the crumbled corn bread into sausage mixture. Whisk eggs with the chicken broth, herbs and spices in another bowl, and then combine with corn bread and sausage.
- Generously butter a large casserole or baking dish and fill with stuffing. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake until heated through, about 40 minutes.
- Uncover and bake until top is slightly crisp and golden, about 20 minutes longer.