A Very Fergie Thanksgiving: My Menu Picks

I am tickled pink by the number of people who have emailed and called me this past week wondering when I would post my Thanksgiving menu! I’m usually all over posting my menu plans, but this past week had me up to my ears in PTA events, Girl Scouts activities and well, work.  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been plotting my feast in my head though – I’ve been stealing moments here and there, scouring magazines and surfing the web for inspiration.  Here are my picks for Thanksgiving 2011 ~ I hope that they inspire some of you to knock your Turkey Day out of the park.

The Bird

While I am decent home cook, I am not a turkey specialist.  My first attempt at roasting a turkey was in 2002, the first year hubby and I spent Thanksgiving by ourselves in our apartment.  It wasn’t bad, but I distinctly recall it being a little more roasted (i.e. charred) than I had hoped.  He was a doll and ate it with a smile anyway.  The following years were a mix of my mom taking over turkey duty and me ordering one from various restaurants, such as La Madeleine or a deep fried turkey breast from a Cajun hole-in-the-wall.  This year, I am tackling a turkey head-on.  We ordered a fresh, cage-free, vegetable-fed one from our dairy farm and I am planning to brine it.  Here is the recipe than I have in mind (although I don’t own a Traeger Grill):

Maple & Bourbon Brined Turkey
courtesy of Traeger Wood Pellet Grills

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 10- to 12-pound turkey, thawed if frozen
  • 5 quarts hot water
  • 1-1/2 cups kosher salt (if using table salt, cut the amount down to 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered through the root end
  • 3 to 4 strips of orange peel
  • 3 bay leaves, broken into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 3 quarts ice
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • Traeger Pork/Poultry Shake, or salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Sprigs of fresh sage and thyme for garnish
  • Orange wedges, lady apples, or kumquats for garnish
  • Prepared turkey gravy for serving
  • You’ll also need:Butcher’s twine (sometimes called kitchen twine)

PREPARATION

In a large stockpot or container combine the hot water, kosher salt, bourbon, 3/4 cup of the maple syrup, brown sugar, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and cloves and stir until well mixed. Add the ice.

Rinse the turkey, inside and out, under cold running water. Remove giblets and discard or save for another use. (Some turkeys come with a gravy packet as well; remove it before roasting the bird.) Add the turkey to the brine and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours, or overnight. Weight with a a bag of ice to keep the bird submerged. Drain and pat dry with paper towels; discard the brine. Fold the wingtips behind the back and tie the legs together with butcher’s twine. Combine the melted butter and the remaining 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Brush on the bird and sprinkle lightly with Pork/Poultry Shake or salt and black pepper.

When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Set the temperature to 350 degrees F and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Roast the turkey for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, or until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh is 165 degrees F. (Use an instant-read meat thermometer.) Brush with the remaining butter/maple syrup mixture the last 30 minutes of cooking. Let the turkey rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Garnish, if desired, with fresh herbs and/or kumquats.

Note: Do not use a kosher turkey or a self-basting turkey for this recipe as they have already been enhanced with a salt-solution.

The Sides

I think these are everyone’s favorite part of the meal.  Sure the turkey typically gets all the glory, but really, if there aren’t mouthwatering sides to accompany the turkey, then the meal doesn’t sing.  I tend to like to try sides with a gourmet or exotic flair, but my husband is a true-blue Southern boy and likes his staple side items.  So I try to slip in tweaks here are there to keep us both happy.

Pancetta and Sage Stuffing Muffins
courtesy of A Cozy Kitchen


Aren’t these darling? I stumbled across Adrianna’s blog a few weeks ago and immediately subscribed so I wouldn’t miss a post.  This stuffing recipe looks delicious – and if I am feeling a bit brave, I just may substitute the white bread for cornbread to satisfy Hubby’s Southern cravings…

INGREDIENTS

6 1/2 cups of white bread, cubed (about 1 loaf)
1/2 pound pancetta, diced
1 cup yellow onion, diced (about 1 medium yellow onion)
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 leak, cleaned and thinly sliced
5 large fresh sage leaves, chopped
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 tablespoon salt* (See note below about salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
2 eggs, lightly beaten

PREPARATION

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

1. Thoroughly butter the muffin tin and set aside.

2. In a single layer, place the bread cubes on two sheet pans and bake for 10 minutes, or until barely toasted. Remove and set aside.

3. In a large saute pan, cook the pancetta over medium-high heat, being sure to stir regularly, for about 7 minutes, or until slightly browned and crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain. The pancetta should release a few tablespoons of grease. This is good! We’ll use this to cook the vegetables. If for some reason your pancetta is super lean, you might want to add a teaspoon of unsalted butter. Bring heat down to medium, and add the diced onion, sliced celery, sliced leek, salt and pepper, and cook until all is softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the sage and thyme and cook just until fragrant.

*Note about salt: If your pancetta is super salty and you’re not using low-sodium broth, I’d recommend halving the salt and doing a “salt to taste” BEFORE you put in the egg (which is the last step). These two variables will affect the salt measurement tremendously. :)

4. Turn off the heat and add pancetta, toasted bread crumbs and chicken broth to the vegetable mixture and toss. Do a taste test. Does it need a bit more salt? If you’re all good then add the slightly beaten eggs and mix once more.

5. Using a tablespoon, transfer mounds of the stuffing mixture to each muffin tin. Be sure to tightly pack the stuffing in each of the muffin cups. This will make sure the mixture adheres to itself and the muffins don’t fall apart.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top is browned. To remove, take a butter knife and go around each of the stuffing muffins’ outer edge. Using your knife, gently lift it up out of the muffin tins. Serve warm.

The All-New Green Bean Casserole
courtesy of Williams-Sonoma


This is not my usual green bean casserole recipe.  I typically go heavy with sour cream, buttery crackers, French’s onions AND cheese; that dish is a consistent hit but I like that this version is more sophisticated and lighter than the usual.

The traditional version of this casserole, made with cans of cream of mushroom soup and French-fried onions, is a celebration of American convenience foods and a standard offering on countless holiday menus. This updated recipe, made with fresh ingredients, is guaranteed to push that old formula aside.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 lbs. green beans
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 10 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 large shallots, plus 3 Tbs. minced
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce, preferably mushroom soy sauce
  • Canola oil for deep-frying

PREPARATION

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a deep 2 1/2-quart baking dish. Trim the green beans and halve crosswise. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes.

Drain and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they give off their juices and are browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the 3 Tbs. minced shallots and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the 3 Tbs. flour and stir well. Slowly stir in the half-and-half, stock and soy sauce and then bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring, until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the green beans, season with salt and pepper and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. (The casserole can be prepared to this point up to 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated.) Bake until the liquid is bubbling, about 20 minutes (30 minutes if it has been refrigerated).

While the casserole is baking, pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a heavy saucepan and heat over high heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and place near the stove. Cut the remaining 3 shallots crosswise into slices 1/8 inch thick and separate into rings. Place the remaining 1/3 cup flour in a small bowl. Toss the shallot rings in the flour to coat evenly, shaking off the excess. In batches to avoid crowding, add the shallots to the hot oil and deep-fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Transfer to the paper towels to drain.

Remove the casserole from the oven, scatter the fried shallots on top and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

Variation: Substitute 1 head broccoli (about 1 1/2 lbs.) cut into florets, for the green beans. If you don’t feel like frying the shallots, sprinkle 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds over the casserole before serving.

Martha’s Macaroni and Cheese
courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

Martha Stewart’s Creamy Mac-and-Cheese
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics

Serves 12

INGREDIENTS

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
PREPARATION

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère (or 1 cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyère (or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano), and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes (though we needed a bit more time to get it brown, but your oven may vary). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

Ruth’s Chris Sweet Potato Casserole
courtesy of Nola.com

Sweet Potato Casserole is fairly straightforward and so most of the recipes are very similar.  The difference comes in how you season yours! To this recipe I’d add some nutmeg and cinnamon for those earthy flavors. And because we’re not big fans of nuts in foods, I’ll swap out the pecans for marshmallows and brown the tops.

Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS

Crust

1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred)
1/3 stick butter, melted
Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and butter in mixing bowl. Set aside.

Sweet Potato Mixture

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a medium-size casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and butter in a large mixing bowl in the order listed. Beat thoroughly with a hand mixer to increase the fluffiness of the sweet potato mixture.

Pour mixture into the baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. (At this point, dish can be covered and refrigerated.)

Sprinkle the surface of the sweet potato mixture evenly with the crust mixture and return to oven for 10 minutes. Allow to set at least 30 minutes before serving.

The brown sugar and pecan crust should be slightly browned and crunchy.

Parker House Rolls
courtesy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks


I’m a sucker for a good roll. Parker House rolls are my favorite because of the yeast-y flavor, crusty exterior and fluffy middle. Have mercy I want one right now.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups Whole Milk
  • 2 sticks 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 8 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
  • 1 cup (additional) All-purpose Flour
  • 2 sticks Melted Butter (additional)

PREPARATION

Combine 4 cups milk, 2 sticks butter, and sugar in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, and when the mixture is hot (but not boiling) turn off heat and allow to cool to warmer than lukewarm, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Sprinkle in the yeast and 8 cups of flour. Stir to combine, then cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, add baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 additional cup of flour. Stir to combine. Divide dough in half, then turn out onto floured surface. Knead dough for 8 to 10 minutes, then form into a ball and cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place. for 30 to 45 minutes. (Repeat with other half of dough, or store it for a later use.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt 2 sticks of butter in a saucepan.

Roll out dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut circles with a 2 1/2 inch cutter. Dunk each circle in melted butter, then immediately fold in half and place on a cookie sheet, flat side down. Press lightly to encourage sealing. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover with a towel and allow rolls to rise 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately!

The Sweets

It’s confession time. While I love baking sweets, I really don’t love eating them. I’m definitely more of a ‘savory’ than ‘sweet’ gal.  In fact, I’d take a plate of Parker House Rolls over pie any day.  That said, dessert is a must at the holidays! Oh. Confession No. 2: I also don’t like pumpkin…anything. Nevertheless, it’s what the people want. Here are my picks for this year:

Sweet Potato Pecan Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
courtesy of Southern Living

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (16-oz.) can mashed sweet potatoes
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Garnish: coarsely chopped pecans

PREPARATION

1. Place pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan.

2. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted, stirring once after 4 minutes.

3. Beat sugar and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

4. Whisk together mashed sweet potatoes, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sweet potato mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Fold in toasted pecans. Place foil baking cups in muffin pans, and coat with vegetable cooking spray; spoon batter into cups, filling two-thirds full.

5. Bake at 350° for 28 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove immediately from pans, and cool 50 minutes to 1 hour or until completely cool. Spread cupcakes evenly with Cream Cheese Frosting. Garnish, if desired.

Not Yo’ Mama’s Banana Pudding
courtesy of Paula Deen


INGREDIENTS

1   12-ounce container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whip
1   14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1   8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 cup milk
1   5-ounce box instant French vanilla pudding
6-8   bananas, sliced
2   bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch dish with 1 bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.

PREPARATION

In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*********
No matter what your menu looks like, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, rest, reflection and laughter. And rolls. Lots of rolls.

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Comments

  1. says

    This looks like a great menu! I also love those little stuffing cups. I may try to make them after Thanksgiving is over.

  2. Justice Fergie says

    Thanks Amy! I am goner for anything “mini” :-) If you make them, let me know how they turn out.

  3. says

    OMG! I’ve gained two pounds just reading this post!!! I had to take a break from reading it, my mouth was watering so! My daughter and I are making rolls as well, and looking forward to it.

    I’ve made Paula Deen’s ‘Not Yo Mama’s Banana Pudding,’ and my family loves it! I’m not a banana person, but Chessman cookies are my favorite, and dessert with them is a winner in my book!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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