Thanksgiving Traditions – Stuffing

This year, I set out to cook a “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner – stuffing, squash, rolls, cranberry, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, turkey, and gravy. Here’s our menu:

My cooking schedule for the week was as follows:

  • Monday: make the apple butter and pickle the celery and green beans
  • Tuesday: make chicken stock (needed for the soup and gravy) and cranberry pate
  • Wednesday: make the brioche dough and the sweet/potato paves
  • Thursday: make the soup, bake the brioche, smoke the turkey, make the gravy, finish the potato paves, plus assemble and plate all the dishes.

Everybody got into the spirit on Wednesday afternoon when Carolyn and Hope made the custard for dessert.

I can post up recipes for individual components as needed. A lot of of the recipes came from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook, which is probably my favorite source of inspiration these days. There are lots of great recipes – like slow cooker apple butter and pickled green beans – that can become components in a composed dish.

1. Stuffing

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I polled family members about what their favorite T-day dish was. The most common response was stuffing (N = 2, response rate = 100%), so I knew I had to include it. I began to think about what was in the stuffing we ate growing up as inspiration for the components to include in a deconstructed stuffing: bread, sausage, celery, and apple. It seemed natural to also include gravy on the plate as one always seems to have stuffing on the plate that makes its way – intentionally or otherwise – into the stuffing on your plate. Since stuffing cooked inside the turkey also takes on a lovely poultry flavor from the juices of the bird, I needed a way to incorporate those flavors as well.

What I settled on: grilled brioche topped with apple butter, pickled celery, breakfast sausage, and crispy chicken skin with a bit of gravy on the side.

The dish turned out well and we enjoyed it. If I was going to make any changes, I would include more sauce – both apple butter and gravy – and take the chicken skins out of the oven a bit sooner. They were just a tad overcooked – wonderfully crispy but a little bitter. Of course, Hope needed to participate in the first course as well, so here’s her version:

For me, the trickiest part of the dish was the brioche. I’d never made it before, and it took way longer to rise – both on Wednesday, when I made the dough, and on Thursday, when I put in the loaf pan before baking – than TK’s recipe indicated. I’m not sure if I did something wrong with the dough, or if the kitchen wasn’t warm enough, or if there was some other factor I’m not aware of that influenced how long the dough took to rise. Also, I’m not sure if was because of the long rising time, but the brioche itself came out a bit dry for me. It definitely wasn’t the best brioche I’ve ever had, but that just means I have lots of room for improvement.

I’ll have more to say about our other courses later. Cheers!

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