Thanksgiving can be a daunting day to take on, let’s not make light of it, because it is a lot of hard work to cook for numerous people. It’s tough in a restaurant kitchen but I mean we have more space, more ovens, and likely someone else who is washing dishes if we’re lucky.
I’ve come up with a short list of MUST HAVE items to have in our pantry when hosting Thanksgiving, this can really save your meal, and it has been proven time and time again that you can save almost any dish with these items. Also, if you’re going over to a close relatives house and going to help them cook, bring these along, I promise they will come in handy.
Brining Kit: if you haven’t been brining your turkey, then you are missing out on the most delicious turkey you’ll ever have. It sounds like it’s complicated but this little chef’s secret has become mainstream now, look in your local grocery store and ask for a brining kit. It will usually be a large plastic bag and some seasonings. The directions will ask you to add water to the bag with the seasonings and put your turkey in there for 24-48 hours usually. Brining is just a method of seasoning from the inside out, the turkey is absorbing all of that flavorful liquid and going to help it stay juicy.
Chicken Stock: or turkey stock if you like buy chicken stock does the trick. This is actually one of my all time pantry staples, it can rescue a dish really fast. Anything that turns out too dry can be fixed with stock usually. If you over cooked your dressing or say you want to make it a day or two days ahead add chicken stock to your crumbled already made dressing, put it back in the baking dish and reheat, also add it to your mashed potatoes for a little bit of extra flavor. You can also make your gravy ahead of time if you use chicken and or turkey stock, I’ll give that recipe soon.
Herbed Butter: I know this is a little decadent but it’s always nice to have a little herbed butter in your freezer or refrigerator, Some grocery stores sell it, but you can actually make it pretty easily, soften 1-2 lbs of unsalted butter, chop sage, rosemary, and thyme, add salt and even roasted garlic for flavor, you can roll it in parchment paper and freeze in ziploc bags and thaw the day before using it. Herbed butter is like chicken stock, you can serve it with the rolls, you NEED to put it under the turkey skin, add a little to the mashed potatoes, definitely melt some on top of your stuffing. It will be a life saver to have on hand.
Poultry Herbs: Typically, fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage are known as poultry herbs, some grocery stores will sell them in a group all together especially around thanksgiving. You can always buy them separately, but ways to use these are in the herbed butter, in the Turkey itself, I also toss them in the gravy to make it absorb that thanksgiving flavor, you won’t regret having too many herbs, and like I said, if you have too much at the end of this you can always chop them up and fold them in to a butter or even into an olive oil and make an infused olive oil.
Corn Starch: this really only has two purposes but it always nice not to forget it. So there are two main ways to thicken your gravy, you can start with flour and butter, add the stock and herbs, and simmer until it becomes thick, this is called a roux. I personally like using the cornstarch slurry method. You will add water to the cornstarch stir until the color looks like heavy cream, and once your stock and herbs come to a boil, then add the slurry to the mixture, it will guarantee a nice creamy thick gravy. If you don’t know how much to add, start with about 1 fl oz of slurry per quart of stock, let it come to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, if you want it to be thicker, then just add another 1 fl oz until you achieve desired viscosity.
I hope these little tips and tricks help save everyone’s thanksgiving or maybe just add a little more flavor to a stressful holiday, and most importantly, DON’T forget the wine!