I wish I had some old handwritten recipe card box with recipes passed down to me from generations past, which I lovingly recreated each year for holidays like Thanksgiving. Well, I do sort of have one – my mother painstakingly typed up all of her recipes a few years ago and gave them to the kids in a 3 ring binder so we’d stop calling her and asking her how to make stuffing. 😀 However, when you move to a foreign country – a lot of things have to be made from scratch or ordered through expensive import shops. Which means a lot of notes in the margins about all the changes I made to her recipe! 😛 And since I gave up a lot of packaged foods about 7 years ago, I prefer the taste of the natural, from-scratch recipes I use, and I don’t bother importing cans of soup or pumpkin or boxed mixes.
So in my search for delicious and healthy recipes – I found a few I loved, and I’ve stuck with these solid performers over the years!
How to get started: Turkey
What size to buy (weights assume with leftovers)
3.5kg serves 4-6
4-4.5kg serves 7-8
5-5.5kg serves 8-10
6-6.5kg serves 10-12
Thawing your turkey
- Weight: 2.25kg – Thaw in fridge 27 hrs – Thaw in cool room 9 hrs
- Weight: 3-3.5kg – Thaw in fridge 42 hrs – Thaw in cool room 12-14 hrs
- Weight: 4.5-5.5kg – Thaw in fridge 66 hrs – Thaw in cool room 18-22 hrs
- Weight: 6.75-7.5kg – Thaw in fridge 90 hrs – Thaw in cool room 27-30 hrs
I prefer to brine my turkey, now that I realize what an easy way it is to be sure you have a moist and flavorful bird. Because we have such tiny ovens in Switzerland, the turkey takes up most of the space in the oven and the heat is more concentrated, leading to dry meat. One good tip to help avoid dry white meat is to start the turkey upside-down, and turn it over just toward the end to brown the skin. This depends on how big of a bird you are cooking – because for the largest ones, flipping a steaming hot bird over is not exactly easy or mess-free. Your call with that one. However, basting is essential. I like to baste in a broth-butter-white wine concoction. You want to just use a bit of wine though, since you’ll be making gravy with that liquid, and you don’t want it to taste heavily of wine (ask me how I know!). Baste every 20 minutes. I take the turkey out, baste, then put it back in. My oven is too small to try to do inside without making a huge mess. (errr, again, ask me how I know…)
(Need to know where to buy a turkey? Download my Cheat Sheet!)
Basic Roasted Turkey Recipe
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Dry the turkey with paper towels, then season inside and out with salt and pepper. Fill the turkey with aromatics like chopped onions, carrots, apples and herbs, then place breast-side up in a roasting pan and brush with melted butter. Tent with foil and roast (As a rough guide, you want to cook the turkey for about 35 to 40 minutes per kilogram – use this handy roast calculator). Remove the foil, baste, and crank the oven to 200 degrees C. Roast for another hour or until the meat at the thigh registers 75-80C (165F).
It’s particularly important that poultry is cooked through. If using a digital thermometer always double check the reading by sticking the probe in several different spots within the thigh or breast, to find the lowest reading. If returning to the oven allow 10-15 mins then test again until the correct temperature is reached.
Without a thermometer, the classic way to test is to push a spoon under the leg of the bird so that it pierces the skin (or use a skewer), and inspect the juices that collect in the spoon. The juices should be pale gold and clear; if there are traces of blood return to the oven allow 10-15 mins then test again.
When the turkey is properly cooked through, cover it tightly with a couple layers of foil. Let rest (from 30 mins-1 hour) while you make the gravy. (This is when I start warming up my side dishes and bake the rolls)
Gravy is one of this simple-yet-difficult things to make. Like, it’s so easy, but yet the potential to screw it up is so high. But don’t be nervous! I’ve got you covered! Here’s a good blog post:
Recipe and tips: Make Foolproof Gravy
Delicious Oven Baked Stuffing
For food safety reasons, I always cook my stuffing the morning of Thanksgiving and then warm it up in the oven while I’m letting the turkey rest. Stuffing baked inside of a turkey collects the uncooked turkey juices in it and if it doesn’t reach a proper internal temperature, can be a source of food borne illness.
I also make a Cornbread Dressing, which is traditional in Texas and the South. I make my cornbread from scratch, using half regular flour and half “Mais Mehl” which is a fine flour made from corn (much finer than polenta). I buy mine at Alnatura. Want to give it a try? Recipe: Southern Cornbread Dressing
From-Scratch Green Bean Casserole
I have been making this recipe for several years now, and I absolutely love it. The sauce functions stand-alone as a condensed mushroom soup and can be applied to other recipes that call for a can of soup. The onions can be a bit tricky the first time you make them, but definitely worth it. It’s a bit difficult for me to save enough for the actual casserole as I pick at them constantly – so I tend to double the onions called for!
Recipe: Best Ever Green Bean Casserole
I must admit, I’m sort of a “one slice and done” gal when it comes to pumpkin pie. I didn’t grow up eating it, and I just don’t love it. I have had some very good ones though, so I always put my friends in charge of this because I love to see what they come up with! No need to spend money on expensive cans of condensed pumpkin though, with all the amazing fresh pumpkins available at stores and roadside stands, it’s a great idea to make your own. To make pureed pumpkin, you can take your pumpkin (I prefer Knirps/Hokkaido) and roast or steam it. Then puree it, and if it’s quite watery – place a couple cups worth in a cheesecloths and suspend it over a large bowl. Leave in the fridge or a cold area overnight to drain, and boom – you got yourself some condensed pumpkin. Here are some funny and informational step-by-step photos 😉
I use the classic “Pâte brisée” that I learned a decade ago from good ‘ol Martha Stewart. Can’t miss.
Pecan Pie – no Corn Syrup
I stopped using corn syrup about 5 years ago. I’d seen far too many food documentaries and I began to feel icky using products that contained genetically modified corn. I love the taste of maple syrup, so I began using a recipe that substituted maple syrup and I’ve stuck with it ever since. (If you need to make light brown sugar for this recipe, check out my tutorial here!)
Recipe: Maple Pecan Pie
Migros sells fresh cranberries this time of year, and if you boil them down with some sugar and orange zest, it makes a pretty tasty little jam! It’s not a log of stiff jelly like the canned kind, but it’s lovely on the plate and in sandwiches the next day. Plus there’s a ton of ways to use up leftover cranberry sauce 😉
Recipe: Easy Cranberry Sauce
I like to use my sweet potatoes in a Sweet Potato Pie, but some of you might want to do whipped sweet potatoes instead of regular mashed potatoes. Whipped Sweet Potatoes are a healthier take on the Southern casserole that involves marshmallows (which my tastebuds find far too sweet nowadays).
The key to making delicious potatoes is to not over-mash them until they become gluey. To do this – you need to start off with the right kind of potatoes. They need to be mealy potatoes (German: mehlig) which fall apart and become starchy… unlike waxy potatoes, which stay hard and keep their shape.
The other key is to add the butter and milk correctly. You want to add the butter to the hot pot and let it melt, then add back in your potatoes, and begin to carefully mash, adding warmed whole milk as you go. Don’t skimp on the butter, and definitely use whole milk. It’s once a year, babe. Do it right!
I like to use a “ricer” which pushes the potato through medium size holes, eliminating any lumps. I bought mine in one of the supermarkets, or possibly in Ikea. I think it has different attachments and was possibly sold as a Spätzli press 😉
Need More Tips and Info on Thanksgiving in Switzerland? Such as where to buy Turkey, what is Crisco called, and more?
Enjoy your Thanksgiving abroad and let me know in the comments if you have additional questions and I will do my best to answer them!