Sunday, December 26, 2010

traditional family turkey dinner

I cooked dinner for 7 yesterday. Only 6 of us ate, T ran around and played with his new trucks. I think I finally have this down. Of course, when I think about it, I've been doing it (turkey dinner plus fixings) for a good many years now. I did manage to do it on my own a couple of times (small turkey, 1 type of stuffing, 1 veg, etc) for roommates and siblings prior to the first time I stood in for my mum. The first time she ceded the reins for preparing the turkey dinner (thanksgiving), she reclined in noble splendour, as only she could, on her lawn chair in the living room, keeping a close eye on my work in the kitchen. (At this point, she was undergoing treatment for cancer so she didn't have the energy to cook dinner.) So I made turkey and her 2 dressings, bread sauce, lumpy gravy, mashed potatoes (I think), brussel sprouts and mashed turnips, all the way she wanted it to be done. Since she died, I've kept the recipes I liked - sausage stuffing, bread sauce and tweaked all the others to the way I like them. Being the cook gives you much more say in how things get presented. This year's Christmas dinner didn't stray too far from my roots - I still had a roast turkey with 2 dressings (sausage and vegetable), gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce (for D's family), braised brussel sprouts, roasted turnip and carrot, creamy potatoes plus a sweet potato and carrot dish my sister-in-law brought. I got cranberry sauce from both my sisters-in-law!

 Sausage and Sage Stuffing
3 500g tubes sausage meat
1 large onion, diced
2 tbsp sage

In a large saucepan, brown the sausage meat. Drain off the fat once the meat is no longer pink in colour. Keep cooking the meat, breaking it up into fine chunks. Add the onion and sage and cook until the onion is cooked. Taste and add pepper and more sage to taste. Add enough breadcrumbs to bind the mixture together. Refrigerate and stuff into the cavity of a turkey or bake for 1 hour at 350 deg F.

Vegetable Stuffing
(this is vastly different from my mother's stuffing)
~ 1 lb bread cubes (I used white sandwich loaf)
1 can condensed mushroom soup
1 can creamed corn
1 c sliced mushrooms
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/4 c diced dried apricots
1/4 c diced apple
1 tsp dried oregano

Mix all the ingredients together and pour into a greased baking dish. Bake for 1 hour at 350 deg F.

Bread Sauce
(this is a traditional English side for roast turkey - at least from where my mum's family is from - this is the way she taught me to make it and I still love it with turkey and in turkey sandwiches)
1 onion
handful of whole cloves
2 c bread crumbs or bread cubes
2 c milk (or more)
grating of nutmeg

Peel the onion and cut off the root end. Leave whole and push the whole cloves all around the onion. Put the onion into a saucepan and cover with breadcrumbs. Cover the breadcrumbs with milk and put on very low heat for at least an hour. Stir. Add the pepper and nutmeg. Add milk if the mixture looks dry (it should resemble wet porridge). Serve hot with roast turkey.

My gravy still isn't stellar and I have a little secret about it. I used canned turkey gravy as a base and add wine, dijon mustard, pepper and turkey drippings to it. Cheater gravy but it make me stress way less and I figure it's better for my sanity.

Yesterday for dessert I took a departure from tradition. Mum used to make the traditional English Christmas pudding. She had three pudding bowls so once every three years she would make three and at Christmas one would be steamed, set alight with brandy and holly and eaten with hard sauce (brandy butter). I never was overly fond of it - it was a wonderful excuse to eat brandy butter. So yesterday I served this peach pie. There weren't any leftovers.

And to make dinner preparations easier, I made both stuffings and the peach pie the day before. And I used Nigella Lawson's Christmas timetable to keep me on track (sort of) during the cooking. And thanks to K for providing the delicious free range turkey for me to roast.

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