I come from one of those families where the Thanksgiving menu is essentially written on stone tablets. Many years ago, it was declared that there shall be turkey with stuffing (some cooked inside the bird and some cooked outside). Mashed potatoes are compulsory, as are sautéed Brussels sprouts, homemade gravy and cranberry jelly in the shape of a can.
When I was 12 years old, my cousin Jeremy brought an unscripted dish to our Thanksgiving table, but it was so wonderful that it was added to the holiday canon. It was a very large bowl of steamed and mashed butternut squash, enriched with a bit of powdered ginger and plenty of butter.
The only issue with this squash dish is that we somehow always manage to make so much of it that it ends up being totally out of proportion with the rest of the leftovers. The only thing that ends up outlasting is the gravy. (My father has trouble making less than a gallon of gravy.) Thankfully, I’ve discovered just the thing to transform all that squash and make it the most sought-after leftover around (though, if you make something else out of it, can it still be called a leftover?).
Before you start layering, read these tips »
After all the excitement of Thanksgiving has ended, the big feast has come to a close, all dishes have been washed and the last of the family heads home, there are always the leftovers. Sometimes I think the leftovers are more exciting than the actual Thanksgiving dinner itself. I mean, what’s better than a few days of mixing and matching foods to create a meal, adding a few things here and there and being able to call it dinner? Pretty fabulous, huh?
The best leftover in my opinion has to be the mashed potatoes. Whether you use regular mashed potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes, they are always excellent for a few days post-Thanksgiving. And what better way to use them up than by turning them into little croquettes and inviting some friends over for nibbles and drinks.
Get one of Gaby’s favorite croquette recipes »
One of the perks of hosting Thanksgiving dinner is that you get to keep most of the leftovers. But how are you ever going to use up the remains of that 20-pound bird and what can you do with all of those extra vegetables? Food Network’s five best leftover recipes below offer creative suggestions to rid your fridge of those Turkey Day remnants and more by repurposing them in easy ways that won’t slow you down on Black Friday.
5. Turkey Bolognese — To save time, Giada uses pre-made marinara sauce to make this simple but satisfying pasta dish, featuring dark-meat turkey and chopped vegetables.
4. Potato Croquettes — Paula coats leftover mashed potatoes in breadcrumbs and pan-fries them until golden brown with a crispy coating.
Get the top three recipes »
Leftovers are practically guaranteed after a meal as large as Thanksgiving dinner. In my house, we ensure them by making a small, extra turkey and several batches of stuffing, so that everyone can take some home. But beyond making turkey sandwiches and soup, what can you do with all of that extra meat and how should you use up those spare potatoes and vegetables? We have the answers, plus helpful tips on how to safely store leftovers and inventive recipes for next-day dishes.
Shelf Life: Though there’s no reason to rush through Thanksgiving dinner in order to get the leftovers in the fridge, it is best to start packaging them within two hours of the meal. In general, most leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days. Frozen leftovers, however, are best within 2-3 months, though they’ll remain safe to eat forever, so long as they are kept at 0 degrees F.
Unstuff the Stuffing: If you chose to stuff your turkey, remember to unstuff it before storing. Scoop it out of the cavity of the bird and keep it in one container, and put the carved meat and each of your side dishes in their own separate containers.
Follow these easy food safety tips »
Happy Thanksgiving! It’s time to sit back and relax — well, aside from some cooking — and make room for the big feast. Having prepared well ahead of time, you’ll impress your family and friends as the cool, calm and collected host. As much as we love the Thanksgiving meal, our favorite time of day is always the morning of, alternating between preparing the final dishes in the kitchen and sitting down to watch the parade with family and early guests. Not to mention, nothing beats the smells of a kitchen in full-on Thanksgiving mode.
• The Grand Finale: The moment you’ve been waiting for: time to roast the turkey. Unstuffed turkeys take hours to roast (anywhere from 3 to 5 hours depending on the size and the method), and you’ll want to give the bird at least 30 minutes to rest before carving, so start nice and early. One technique we like is to roast the bird at moderate heat, around 350 degrees F, only opening the oven door to baste occasionally so the heat stays inside. If the breast is getting too dark, you can cover it with foil. The turkey is done when the internal temperature of the breast is 165 degrees F and the legs are about 175 degrees F. Here’s where you get to use that meat thermometer.
Make the mashed potatoes fresh »
Every year, I pull out my giant roasting pan (with fitted rack) and thus begins the annual ritual of cooking a giant turkey for Thanksgiving. What kind of turkey did I make last year? How did I cook it? Though I consider myself a fairly well-seasoned cook, learning how to cook the perfect turkey is something I take care to re-learn every year.
So, where to begin?
A few preliminary questions I always ask:
1. How big does my turkey need to be? I usually estimate about 1 pound of turkey (factoring in the carcass as part of that weight) per person.
2. What kind of turkey? Like a lot of poultry these days, there is quite a variety of turkeys (all raised in different ways, fed different foods) to choose from. You know, this is a difficult question to answer. I don’t think I have ever cooked the same turkey two years in a row. I love Heritage brand the most, but those types of birds are raised in such a way that the meat is leaner and can be slightly tough. I also love a good ol’ supermarket turkey. I say, whatever suits your personal taste.
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Add a pop of color to your Thanksgiving spread with an easy carrot side. Whether you steam, boil or roast these bright root vegetables, they’re a perfect last-minute addition — done in 20 minutes or less.
For Middle Eastern flair, make Food Network Magazine’s Roasted Carrots With Za’atar (pictured above). Start by roasting the carrots in salt and pepper, then toss them with za’atar (a spice blend available at Middle Eastern markets), parsley and a splash of lemon.
Sunny’s Honey Glazed Carrots let the vegetable’s natural flavor shine through. Cook until a light honey glaze coats the carrots. We guarantee you won’t be able to eat just one.
More carrot recipes from family and friends »
Take a deep breath — the finish line is in sight. You’ve made it this far, and will be happily sitting down to eat in about 36 short hours or so. The day before is a great opportunity to cross off a hefty portion of your to-do list. You only have one more trip to the store ahead of you for the flowers and then you’re home-free to hunker down in the kitchen.
• Brine Time: To ensure a moist and flavorful turkey, we highly recommend brining the bird the day before. A simple salt-and-sugar water bath will easily safeguard you from the perils of a dried-out turkey that even gravy can’t fix.
• Easy As Pie: If you’ve made or bought your pie crusts ahead of time, most Thanksgiving desserts can be a piece of cake. But if you’re looking to cross some cooking off your list the day before, make your pies ahead of time. In fact, we even prefer pies that have had a day to sit, especially pumpkin and pecan. Just remember to take them out of the fridge 2 to 3 hours before serving on the big day — and tell your family no early taste-testing.
Soup’s on and snack attacks »
With Thanksgiving and the holidays right around the corner, it’s important to remember to donate to those in need, especially children.
Last week, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign celebrated its one year anniversary with Food Network and campaign spokesperson Jeff Bridges. The No Kid Hungry Pledge is a daunting task, but with a committed army of supporters, Share Our Strength is confronting childhood hunger head-on with a goal of ending it by 2015.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to work with Share Our Strength. They do such incredible work and they inspire us as a company to try and be better. We’re excited to use the power of Food Network to help them raise awareness on this issue — our employees are excited, our chefs are excited,” said Brooke Johnson, President of Food Network.
During the celebration, guests also got a sneak peek of a documentary Food Network is producing around the issue of childhood hunger in America, which will release in 2012.
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‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving and the cook was stressing. How am I going to cook a 20-pound turkey and warm up four casseroles with one oven and promise to eat at a reasonable hour? Should I stuff the bird or not? How will I know when the potatoes are done? Don’t forget to make sure that Aunt Sally doesn’t sit near Aunt Mary — there’s tension.
Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet and there is still so much to think about. So it’s no wonder that for many families, the dinner before Thanksgiving involves one thing: ordering takeout. In fact, USA Today reports that the day before Thanksgiving is among the five most popular days of the year for pizza delivery. But there’s no need to spend extra money in the name of convenience. With our five pre-Turkey Day dinner recipes below, you can have a meal on the table in 20 minutes or fewer, less than the amount of time it would take to order and deliver takeout.
Simple recipes, delicious results »