At this year’s New York City Wine & Food Festival, Rachael Ray was all about Thanksgiving — but not the huge blowout meal you might be thinking of. Instead, she took this meal of all meals off its anxiety-inducing pedestal, revealing tricks for a no-sweat day of and day after. Whether it’s nixing the giant bird altogether or going big with leftovers, her tips make it easy to keep your Turkey Day celebrations budget-friendly and meltdown-free. Here are the takeaways, which can be used on the big day itself or any day of the year:
On a day that is all about turkey, you can still find yourself quite stuffed from a meal made entirely vegetarian-friendly or, if you’re hosting vegetarian friends, serve an option beyond green bean casserole. Here are five flavor-packed recipes that can stand up to the big bird competition.
1. Dinner Spanakopitas (pictured above) Spanakopitas are a classic Greek recipe that features crispy phyllo dough wrapped around spinach and feta cheese. You’d need a huge pot of fresh spinach to make this recipe, so use frozen instead. Ina Garten’s dish is versatile enough to add or subtract ingredients according to your taste.
Dark meat — but just the turkey legs. Sweet potatoes, only they must be in casserole form. Biscuits, never rolls. Pumpkin pie or apple? Both. If there’s one meal where we can get away with being a bit picky, it’s Thanksgiving; after all, everyone has their favorites when it comes to dinner trimmings. Just in time for this morning’s all-new turkey day-themed episode of The Kitchen, FN Dish checked in with each of the five co-hosts to find out what their Thanksgiving plates will look like. Read on below to hear from all five cast members and learn what they’ll be eating and drinking on Thanksgiving.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’d like to give a little shout out to the mashed potato. While the internet will likely now be debating the best way to ensure a juicy turkey (easy: Alton Brown’s brined turkey recipe), or whether stuffing should be cooked inside the bird (I say no), I want to send a little love to the one that really brings it all together; the one item on the Thanksgiving plate that gives gravy its own little well, clearly recognizing that it is far too delicious to be merely drizzled over things. Thank you, mashed potatoes.
Mashed potatoes are the perfect comfort food. Eaten alone, they are rich, creamy and earthy. And paired with roasted meats or stews, they become the supporting player, letting the meat shine. At Thanksgiving, mashed potatoes share their space on the plate with an interloping carb, stuffing. And still, the meal seems somehow to make sense. All this, and they are cheap, too! (A tip: Potatoes are usually a much better deal in the 5-pound bag than loose.)
Homemade broth is one of those culinary magic tricks, up there with whipping egg whites into fluffy meringue and frizzing sugar into fluffy clouds of cotton candy. Throw some meat and bones and vegetables into a pot, cover with water and witness it transform into its alter ego, a curative, steaming and savory liquid. Flavored with salt and other seasonings, broth — especially the homemade kind — paves the way for some of the most-comforting dishes, as a soup and stew starter, braising liquid and more. It’s typically seen as a means to an end — well, until now.
This year Cynopsis Media nominated three Food Network Web series for best host in food: Alton Brown for Alton’s After-Show, Bobby Flay for Bobby Flay Fit and Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off, Season 1 winner Brandon Scawthorn for Cooking in the Fast Lane. Also nominated in the same category was William Shatner for Brown Bag Wine Tasting. Earlier today the Digital Model D Awards were handed out, and our youngest host, Brandon, was announced the winner of the category.
Congratulations, Brandon! And congratulations to the other nominees as well. If you haven’t had a chance to see Brandon’s series, watch the first episode above and get more episodes of Cooking in the Fast Lane. And if you like Brandon’s series, also watch Season 2 winner Gibson Borelli in The Jersey Shore Kid.
Sweet potatoes are good, and good for you. Most comfort-food recipes absolutely drown them in butter and sugar. I haven’t always been fond of sweet potatoes. Then, I realized it wasn’t the sweet potato I didn’t like; it was the insane amounts of granulated sugar, brown sugar, marshmallows, maple syrup, vanilla extract and butter Southerners traditionally heap on top of them. With all that added flavor, it’s impossible to taste the naturally sweet and earthy essence of the actual sweet potato! In regard to marshmallows, frankly, I prefer them in a steaming cup of cocoa or sandwiched with a piece of chocolate between two graham crackers! This down-home-comfort fall dish is certainly sweet enough and is topped with a seasonally appropriate partner of chopped pecans. Read more
Long-hailed as the queen of American baking, Rose Levy Beranbaum is back in the spotlight with her new book, The Baking Bible. Beranbaum’s steady voice and seasoned hand is the perfect guide for any home cook, regardless of skill level. In fact, what you’ll find in the pages of The Baking Bible far exceed standard recipes. Beranbaum intentionally loaded as much information as she could into each recipe, telling FN Dish: “Some people at first glance perceive my recipes as intimidating because they are long, but on the contrary, they have all the information needed to achieve success. Guidance is given for each step of the recipe so that they work for beginners as well as advanced bakers.”
The book covers every type of baked good imaginable, from rugelach to cupcakes to cheese course pairings. It starts with Cakes, then covers Pies, Tarts and Other Pastries; Cookies and Candy; and ends with Breads and Yeast Pastries. Each section has numerous subcategories, all clearly identified and simple to follow. It makes finding the exact recipe you’re looking for easy as pie. It also contains Beranbaum’s Golden Rules, perfect baking mantras to bring into the kitchen at any skill level. Beranbaum offers two crucial tips that home cooks tend to overlook: “Weighing is not only more precise, it is faster and easier. Many affordable scales are available that switch back and forth from ounces to grams. Beginning bakers should know that they need to use the exact ingredients specified in the recipe and not try to substitute unless substitutions or equivalencies are offered in the book. Oven temperature is critical to the success of baking, so if recipes are taking longer or less time than the range indicated, the oven needs to be adjusted either by turning up or down the heat or calling in a professional to calibrate the oven.”
But don’t mistake the book’s heft and content for a collection of complicated recipes. Beranbaum wrote these dishes up with the busy home baker in mind. Some of her favorite low-fuss recipes include the Chocolate Sweetheart Madeleines, the Cadillac Milk Chocolate Bread Pudding, the Stilton Baby Blue Cheesecakes and the Rose Red Velvet Cake, which Beranbaum says “has a major wow factor because it looks like it was sculpted by hand but is actually formed by the pan itself and easy as can be.”
Thanksgiving preppers, the time has come. Holiday episode hysteria has taken over Food Network. Get your pens, pencils and paper — or, if you’re technologically savvy, your tablet — ready, because you’re going to want to write this all down. The Food Network chefs are intent on you making your best, most sophisticated spread yet.
The Pioneer Woman, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen. The Kitchen, Barefoot Contessa, Giada at Home, Guy’s Big Bite, Southern at Heart, Farmhouse Rules, Cutthroat Kitchen and the Food Network special Outrageous Thanksgiving are all featuring Thanksgiving-themed episodes, providing you with a surplus of recipe ideas. If you feel like you need a break from the turkey day festivities, tune in to a fun extra episode of Guy’s Grocery Games and a Christmas-inspired Holiday Baking Championship.