Serve Your Turkey with a Side of Sanity: Two Make-Ahead Secrets from One Who Knows

border_02Professional chefs are great when you want ideas for dishes you could only hope to make on your own someday. For those of us without culinary school or restaurant ownership experience (or an army of sous chefs, for that matter), sometimes Thanksgiving dinner is equal parts culinary inspiration and practicality, sprinkled with what little sanity we have left. To find that kind of recipe, frankly, I prefer the time-tested advice of a fellow home cook who has a highly demanding career to offer the most trustworthy tips for shaving precious hours off preparing the most important menu of the year. I want to serve my beloved guests a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner, but I’d also like to join them in the festivities. Luckily, Ketchum’s Global Food Practice Director, Linda Eatherton, shares two of her tried-and-true recipes for people like us. I can’t think of anyone on Earth who has better credentials than she does. Read on!

For many, many years I worked media all day at the Butterball Turkey Talk Line. My husband and kids made our Thanksgiving dinner and I would come home just in time to make the BBTL-inspired cranberry compote (recipe below). However, I never needed to worry about the gravy because, thanks to the BBTL chefs who coached me, I learned how to make Mark Bittman’s heavenly homemade turkey gravy ahead of time. At the critical moment, all I had to do was warm it up, add a splash of sherry just before serving, and pour it into a pre-warmed gravy boat. It was always a highlight of our Thanksgiving dinners!

On behalf of everyone at Ketchum, I wish you and yours a love-filled Thanksgiving.

Make-Ahead Gravy

Make gravy in advance to contribute to dinner, even with your busy Holiday schedule!

Mark Bittman’s Make-Ahead Gravy (featured in The New York Times, October, 1997)

1 stick butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper
4 to 5 cups rich stock, warmed
Turkey drippings and giblets (optional)

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on the onions, stirring constantly, and cook until flour is golden to brown. Adjust heat so mixture does not burn.

2. Gradually whisk in 4 cups stock until mixture thickens and is smooth. If it is too thick, add more stock. Cool, cover and chill.

3. When ready to serve, reheat mixture over low heat, stirring. Scrape bottom of turkey pan and add drippings or giblets to gravy. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.

Here’s my family’s favorite side for turkey, a feature of our Thanksgiving dinner. It comes from the 1987 Butterball Turkey Talkline Thanksgiving Recipe Collection which I worked with others to develop. This is an incredibly simple-to-make crowd pleaser that can be made ahead of the big meal. And, it lasts for days as a terrific topping for leftovers.

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Easy crowd pleaser! A great side that goes well with everything and comes together in moments.

Easy crowd pleaser! A great side that goes well with everything and comes together in moments.

Cranberry Fruit Chutney

2 cups cranberries, fresh
1 pear, peeled, cored and chopped
1 6-ounce package dried mixed fruit pieces
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan combine all ingredients and bring mixture just to boiling, then reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve hot or cold. Can be spooned into poached pears for added impact. Store remaining chutney in the refrigerator.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.