Friday, November 19, 2021

Adult Cranberry Sauce

If you're a fan of adult beverages, you will be a fan of this adult cranberry sauce. This recipe packs a bit of a punch, for we are not boiling out the alcohol. We are leaving all of the alcohol in the mix for your eating and imbibing enjoyment. So make sure this gets placed only at the adult table. The kids can get their sauce straight from the can.  [NOTE: This dish can be made and refrigerated up to one week in advance.]

1, 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vodka
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier

  1. In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, combine cranberries, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring often to dissolve sugar. Then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, stirring often, until thickened and reduced to approximately 3 cups (about 15 minutes).
  2. Transfer to a medium bowl and cool, stirring often, until tepid (about 30 minutes). Stir in vodka and Grand Marnier. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and and refrigerate until chilled and set (at least 2 hours). Serve chilled or at room temperature. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Slow Cooker Garlic Mashed Potatoes


The frenetic pace and challenge of getting turkey and side dishes to be served together at precisely 6pm on Thanksgiving day is exhausting. So over the years, I've been working in "make-ahead" recipes that makes serving the meal a whole lot easier. Make-ahead gravy. Make-ahead stuffing.

Back in 2018, I added make-ahead, garlic mashed potatoes. And I'm here to tell you they were the best mashed potatoes ever. First off, I avoided all of the chemistry class theatrics required of boiling potatoes from scratch with cold water. And that method requires great precision in order to serve piping hot potatoes with piping hot turkey at the same time.

And this method is foolproof. You cannot screw it up. Anyone who can read can make perfect mashed potatoes. While the recipe calls for peeled potatoes, I really like the skins, so I don't peel mine. As a bonus, the skin is the tastiest and most nutrient-rich part of the potato. This recipe makes 20 servings. My experience is that the majority of folks come back for seconds.
My sons and their cousins always clock in for thirds. 

5 pounds of russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, each potato peeled (optional) and quartered
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1-1/2 cups whole milk

8 tablespoons butter
2 cups of half & half
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Chopped chives, for garnish


  1. Peel (or not) and quarter potatoes and place in slow cooker with garlic and 1-1/2 cups of milk. Set slow cooker to high and cover. Cook for 5 hours.
  2. After 5 hours, turn slow cooker to warm. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the slow cooker.
  3. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. When melted, add half & half to the pan and heat to warm (do not boil). When warm, add mixture to slow cooker. Using masher, blend potatoes with butter/half & half mixture.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste....a half of a teaspoon at a time for the uninitiated.
  5. Cover potatoes in slow cooker (still set to warm) and serve whenever you want.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

How Long to Thaw my Bird?


If you bought a frozen turkey to cook on Thanksgiving, you need to plan ahead because a bird that size takes a lot of time to shed it's icicles in the refrigerator. In order for you to slide your fully thawed turkey into the oven on Thanksgiving, Thursday November 25th...use this guide as to when to take it out of the freezer and start the thawing process in your fridge.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Hot Italian Sausage Stuffing


If you are cooking a spatchcocked turkey for Thanksgiving, you'll want to bake your stuffing in the oven. If you are roasting a whole turkey for Thanksgiving, you'll want to bake your stuffing in the oven. You don't ever want to bake your stuffing in the turkey's body cavity. Let me explain why.

If your turkey is cooked to perfection, the stuffing in the cavity is going to be undercooked. That sort of error leads to salmonella, in which case your guests will suffer horrific gastrointestinal pain and/or death. If your stuffing in the cavity is cooked to 165º perfection, the meat on your turkey will be overcooked and taste like a spoonful of the Sahara desert.

So do the right thing. Bake your stuffing by itself in the oven. It will taste fantastic with no chance of flat-lining your guests. This recipe is incredibly easy. It uses simple, store-bought ingredients and comes together very quickly. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds hot Italian sausage
2 yellow onions, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
16 ounces mushrooms, chopped

10 tablespoons butter
4 cups chicken broth
2, 12-ounce bags Pepperidge Farm Sage & Onion Cubed Stuffing

  1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat olive oil until it is shimmering. Then add sausage, onions, celery and mushrooms. Cook until there is no pink in the sausage and all of the vegetables have softened (about 8 minutes).
  2. In a large saucepan, heat butter and chicken broth over medium heat until all of the butter has melted into the broth.
  3. Preheat oven to 350º.
  4. In a large casserole, add the two bags of cubed stuffing. Add sausage, onions, celery and mushrooms then stir thoroughly to mix. Then add broth/butter mixture and stir again to thoroughly mix.
  5. Cover casserole and bake for 60 minutes. Serve.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy


When the turkey is ready for carving, all of the sides and gravy have to be ready to go. So I've been been using this recipe for years to make my gravy ahead of time. I make it the morning of Thanksgiving. Then when I take the turkey out of the oven, I just add some of the turkey drippings to the gravy and reheat it.


1 stick of butter 
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper
4  cups warm turkey or chicken stock 
Turkey drippings


  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on the onions, stirring constantly, and cook until flour is golden to brown. Adjust heat so mixture does not burn.
  2. Gradually whisk in 4 cups stock until mixture thickens and is smooth. If it is too thick, add more stock. Cool, cover and chill.
  3. When ready to serve, reheat mixture over low heat, stirring. Scrape bottom of turkey pan and add drippings or to gravy. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Spatchcocked Turkey


A turkey is an enormous bird with enormous organs. Once those organs are removed, we are left with an enormous bird with an enormous cavity. Essentially a basketball with white meat on the top and sides and dark meat on the bottom...which just so happen to cook differently from each other.

I have used three different methods to solve this problem. The first involved starting the cook with the bird upside down. While it worked, getting a piping hot, 24-pound turkey to perform a somersault inside a blazing oven is a gigantic hassle. I also used a cooking bag, which resulted in perfectly cooked and incredibly moist meat. But alas, there was no golden, crisp skin that is the reward for roasting.

The method I've used the most is to preheat a gigantic cast iron pan in the oven. Then I set the bird right on the pan. The dark meat is in contact with the cast iron, which heats it more quickly while the white meat enjoys a leisurely roast. This method requires an expensive, oversized pan that only gets used once a year. But behold, there is a much simpler method. Brighter folks than me have discovered that the easiest way to cook a turkey is to remove the cavity.

It is genius. It is simpler. And it enables you to cook that enormous bird much faster. Start with setting the bird on the counter, breast side down. Using kitchen shears, cut down the right side of the bird's spine. Then do the same on the left side of the spine. Then remove the spine from the bird and save it to make turkey broth for your gravy.


Now flip the turkey over, breast side up. Press down hard in between the two breasts to crack the breast bone. Voila! There you have it. The cavity is gone and you only have to contend with a large, flat slab of turkey. Place the bird on a cooking pan and rub it thoroughly with olive oil. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Skip adding any spices or herbs as they will just burn at the higher temperatures you will be cooking at.

Your turkey is now ready for your preferred method of cooking. You can oven-roast it, grill it or go low and slow in your smoker. I am a fanatic for the crisp, golden skin, so I always choose to oven-roast it. To accomplish that, I preheat my oven to 400º (that flat slab of protein means I can do a hotter and much faster cook). Slide that spatchcocked beauty into the oven and cook for 12 minutes per pound (e.g., a 10-pound bird would cook for just 2 hours). If the skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent bird with foil.

When your bird is done, remove it from the oven and loosely cover it with foil. Do not encase it in foil, otherwise you will steam the skin and lose the crispness that everyone craves. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes and then carve it up, serving with your favorite sides. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Perfect turkey pairing: Let your guests choose between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Brats in a Blanket


I am eternally grateful to the Germans for all of the wonderful things they have engineered. Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Leica, Sennheiser, Bosch, Zwilling J. A. name a few. I am especially grateful to the unknown butcher in Nuremberg who blended beef, veal, pork and spices to engineer the first bratwurst sausage in 1313 AD. Fast forward to 2021 and there are 1500+ different types of bratwurst available around the world. But I find that even those ubiquitous Johnsonville brats can put a big, huge honkin' smile on my face.

This Christine Gallary recipe requires that the brats be pre-cooked. So you can grill them, smoke them or simmer them in beer. You can even take the lazy way out by buying them from your grocery store pre-cooked. Any way works as long as the brats are pre-cooked and at room temperature (so give them 30-60 minutes of kitchen countertop time before you start). "Everything Bagel Spice" is readily available at Costco and Amazon.

1 large egg
1, 8-ounce can of refrigerated crescent roll dough
4 tablespoons whole-grain mustard, divided
4 fully cooked bratwurst sausages, at room temperature 
2 teaspoons Everything Bagel Spice

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
  2. Crack egg in a small bowl and whisk until no streaks of white remain.
  3. Unroll crescent roll dough and separate into 4 rectangles (2 triangles each). Press on the seams in each rectangle to seal. Spread 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard on each rectangle.
  4. Place one bratwurst sausage on the short end of each rectangle. Starting at the end with the bratwurst, roll up tightly. Place seam-side down on the baking sheet. Brush the top and sides of each one with the egg wash. Sprinkle each one with Everything Bagel Spice.
  5. Bake until deep golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Pairing: An Ice Cold German Pilsner