Thanksgiving discoveries

Happy Thanksgiving! This year, we invited American university students from the University of Manitoba to join us. Since we intended to feast on turkey anyway, we wanted to extend our invitation to homesick college kids who don't have family around.

Years ago, when Tim was still a student in Japan, the US Ambassador at that time invited him and other college students to join him and his wife for Thanksgiving. That became a turning point in Tim's decision to join the foreign service several years after. And so in keeping with that tradition, we wanted to do the same gesture here in Winnipeg. What a wonderful experience to spend time with the students, who told us countless stories about their university life. It kind of made me miss being a student again.

I didn't know what Thanksgiving was until I met Tim. I didn't know how big a deal it was. And I have much respect for the holiday now that I want to make it a point to celebrate it with my multi-cultural family.

I learned how to make a proper meal through my mom-in-law who graciously and patiently imparted her delicious recipes to me over the years. And I'd like to share them with you too. Plus a new discovery for the turkey : BRINING! Thanks to a youtube video I saw with Martha Stewart teaching Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family how to brine a turkey. Our turkey will never be the same again.

Here's how I made my thanksgiving spread. First the table setting. I made place cards using Martha Stewart's chocolate bar templates (well, it was her idea, but I totally designed it from scratch because all of the templates out there are for weddings).

I got these square vases on sale from Marshall's. I placed pinecones and cinnamon sticks, and put these ornaments I got from Joanne's.

I had to go online to learn to properly set a table.

On with the turkey. First, I made the brining liquid. Here's the recipe :

Makes enough brine for one 18- to 20-pound turkey

7 quarts (28 cups) water
1 1/2 cups coarse salt
6 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 fresh whole turkey (18 to 20 pounds), patted dry, neck and giblets reserved for stock, liver reserved for stuffing
1 bottle dry Riesling
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch fresh thyme

I didn't follow the recipe to the letter, but estimated just enough liquid to submerge the turkey in. We left it in our garage for a day.

 I rinsed the turkey the next day, pat it dry, then coated it with olive oil, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. I slipped in a couple of rosemary leaves inside the skin of the bird.

I made the corn bread stuffing beforehand, and put some inside the bird. I don't have a photo! But here's a photo when we've served it. I just sauteed some garlic, onions, celery, carrots and diced apples. I added in crumbled stale corn bread (that I made 2 days before), some boxed stuffing mix (it does add a lot to the flavor), and some chicken stock till I reached the right consistency. I put it some Italian seasoning, and some fresh thyme. 

I preheated the oven to 400 F. When I was ready to put the bird in, I turned down the heat to 350F. I basted it every hour for around 4 hours. Photo courtesy of Kevin who was experimenting on a little camera. Also, when I found that some parts of the turkey were turning golden brown (like the drumsticks and some parts of the breast), I covered it with aluminum foil. The turkey was done in around 4.5 hours. It was a 17 lb turkey. I let it rest for 30 minutes (heated some of the other side dishes), then Tim did a wonderful job of carving it. 

 Here are some of the side dishes I made courtesy of Tim's mom.

Cranberry Crack (sort of a cranberry relish) 

Cook 1 pack of cranberries (12oz) with about 5 diced unpeeled apples and 1 cup of sugar. When it is quite sticky and all incorporated, it is done.

To make the crumble topping, melt 2 T of butter, 1/2 c of brown sugar, 1 c oats, 1/3 c flour.

Bake uncovered, 350 F for 1 hour.

Sweet Potatoes

Peel, quarter and boil 3 extra large sweet potatoes. When it is tender, mash it with a pastry cutter. Mix in 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 t black pepper, 4 T butter melted and 2 eggs. Transfer to a 9x13 dish.

In a small pan, melt 4 T butter, mix in 1/2 c brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 c pecans. Cook until pecans are toasted. Pour and spread on top of mashed sweet potatoes. Bake 375 F, covered for 15 mins.

I cannot believe I wasn't able to take photos of the desserts! I made some pumpkin and pecan pie. Maybe next year, I can post the recipes here.

Very thankful to have had a wonderful year of blessings once again. This is our last Thanksgiving dinner in Winnipeg. Here's hoping that next year, we will be in a much warmer climate. But then again, we are thankful for the beautiful snow outside our window.

Tim with Neil, Sarah and Emmanuela.