Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, thanks to the Voltaggio Brothers

I'm thankful to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family for the first time in the past 5 years. When I was still at Northwestern, it was way too expensive to fly from Chicago to LA for a few days, so I either stayed with a friend's parents or had people over for a Thanksgiving potluck. But my current residence in DC is only a 2 hour flight from my parent's new house in Alabama, so it became much more feasible.


I called my mom a couple of weeks before my flight and she sounded like she wanted to make Chinese food instead of cook a turkey... so I volunteered to make Thanksgiving dinner. She was elated by the idea (obviously) and I was suddenly terrified by the burden of responsibility. I spent a few days scouring the internet to brainstorm recipes and one of my favorite blogs, Tang and Bolster, pointed me to the Voltaggio Brothers' Best Thanksgiving Recipes. I figured that I couldn't really go wrong with recipes from the Voltaggio brothers of Top Chef fame. I picked and chose several dishes to attempt rather than the whole set (since there's only four of us who would be eating). On Wednesday night, I made the cheesecake, the stock for the gravy, and the cranberry sauce, and everything else was made the day of. Here are the results, counting back from worst to best:

6. Classic Gravy - This turned out way too soupy :( I was a little surprised when I was reading the steps since it didn't say anything about using turkey drippings which is what many gravy recipes call for, but I went with it anyways. The first part of the recipe didn't say to pressure cook the gizzard and heart with the chicken wings, but later on it calls for both of these pieces to be mixed into the gravy, so I just skipped on adding the organs since I didn't have any cooked ones on hand. The flavors were good but the texture was a disappointment, so perhaps it's the missing organs that would've made this recipe a success.

5. Cranberry Orange Compote - This is the best cranberry sauce that I've ever had, since I've only had prepackaged/canned ones in the past. Cooking fresh cranberries makes such an immense difference, and the orange makes it pop. Unfortunately, I'm not a big cranberry sauce fan because I think the sweetness does not go well with turkey so I could only stomach a little bit. I didn't make stuffing because I hate stuffing, and it might be time to give up making cranberry sauce too for future Thanksgivings.

 4. Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette - This was a good recipe, but I realized once and for all that I hate brussels sprouts and nothing can change that. The flavors went very well together and I loved the bacon, apple, and onion pieces. I just wanted a veggie side dish, but in retrospect, a chopped salad would've been tastier.

3. Traditional Mashed Potatoes - Delicious! It's a very simple and traditional recipe that is impossible to mess up, especially considering the sheer amount of cream and butter that I stirred in. I cut the suggested amount of cream down by half after reading some comments because it seemed like it would be too soupy, and that turned out to be an excellent decision.

2. Traditional Roasted Turkey - I was caught off guard by how good this was. The turkey is stuffed with onions and apples, then covered with a homemade herb mayo. The mayo took a lot of effort to make and in retrospect, it would've been the same thing if I bought some store bought mayo and added herbs. Nonetheless, the mayo added an incredible moistness to the turkey. It was cooked just right throughout so I'm pretty pleased with the results. My only qualm is that most turkeys come injected with a saline solution (the labels say 8% saline) whereas my mom purchased a Butterball fresh (which only has 4% saline). I realized this the day of so I didn't have time to brine it and it was a tad undersalted, although nothing a good dousing of gravy couldn't fix. Everything I had control over (the moistness and the flavors) came out perfectly.

1. Caramelized White Chocolate and Pumpkin Cheesecake - This is the best cheesecake in the world. Really, you should believe me. I'm a cheesecake fanatic so I a) order it everywhere and b) make it all the time. This is definitely the best one I've ever made personally, and possibly the best one I've ever eaten. Even my mom agrees; she hates sweets and detests desserts, yet even she had a second slice after tasting a small sliver. I made one earlier this week for work because the recipe is complicated so I wanted to taste test it first (plus it was for someone's birthday) and everyone raved and asked for the recipe. I'll make a more detailed post about this later on.

This is my plate. I had a second helping of everything, plus cheesecake :DD I'll have plenty of energy for Black Friday shopping tomorrow. 


Would I make this again?
Gravy: no
Cranberry sauce: no, due to personal bias against cranberry sauce in general
Brussels sprouts: no, due to personal bias against brussels sprouts in general
Mashed potatoes: maybe, I'd like a healthier recipe
Turkey: maybe, it's great but I rearely use the same turkey recipe twice
Pumpkin cheesecake: definitely, my family practically inhaled it

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