Monday, 14 December 2009

Dinner At Eight Was Okay Before The Toast Full Of Gleams

Last week in a fit of "I hate family drama, we're getting the fuck out of here for Christmas"-induced rage, I went online and looked up plane tickets. I didn't know where we were going to go, I just knew that I couldn't stay here (and yes, I do realize that I am a bit of a hypocrite for hating my family's drama when I so clearly embrace drama as a way of life.)

It didn't take long for me to realize that Shawn's work schedule plus two rambunctious puppies means that we have to stay in town. My furious searching did lead me to a cheap flight from Montreal to Vancouver, though, proving that rage isn't always unproductive. Shawn called his dad and a few clicks later, his flight was booked. Shawn's dad will be here from December 19th to the 28th.

Which leads me to my next bit of crazy: I decided that I would have my parents over for dinner so they could spend time with Shawn's dad (well, my dad wants to spend time with Shawn's dad, my mom wants to spend time with the puppies.) Due to family drama, my parents aren't having a turkey dinner this year and because Shawn's dad is in Vancouver instead of Montreal, he isn't having a turkey dinner. You can see where this is headed, right? I decided (because I am insane) that I would make a turkey dinner. On Sunday. Six days from now. I have never cooked a turkey before. I need help, peeps, and I'm hoping you will all share your wisdom.

How big should my turkey be? There will be 6 adults eating it.

I don't have a roasting pan so I was just going to buy a disposable aluminum pan. Is this a bad idea?

How long and at what temperature does the turkey need to cook? I have a meat thermometer but I never know where to stick it so I'm not sure that it's completely accurate.

Does anyone have a good stuffing recipe? I've never really eaten stuffing before because it creeps me out that it's cooked inside the turkey but it has recently come to my attention that you can make stuffing outside of the turkey. So I need a recipe for cooked-outside-the-bird stuffing. Also, what is the difference between stuffing and dressing?

I am making garlic smashed potatoes but I need a few more side dishes - what is your favourite Christmas dinner side dish? (Shawn is allergic to carrots and I hate mushrooms. Bonus points if it's a beet recipe!) I was thinking of doing sweet potato mash smothered in mini marshmallows and a green salad but I'm not sure. Is it okay to serve sweet potatoes and regular potatoes? Is green salad lame? I feel like I need a green vegetable and I'm kind of bored of broccoli. Does anyone have a kickass brussel sprout recipe?

For dessert I'm planning to do a bourbon pecan pie and my grandma's pumpkin chiffon pie. I don't have any questions about dessert, I'm just bragging.


  1. garlic mashed potatos? MY FAVORITE THING EVER.

  2. Here is the secret - you do the turkey and dressing (which is stuffing made NOT in the bird). Make other people bring the sides. I've never made a turkey before (Bryan is allergic) and I hate stuffing/dresing (mushy bread=yuck), so I'm no help there. I have a kick ass brussel sprout receipe. I'll see if I can dig it up and I'll email it to you.

  3. P.S. Do you have Trader Joe's in Vancouver?

  4. It's all about the gravy. That;s all I have to offer, sorry.

  5. Damn, that sounds delicious! I have no advice for you, as I've never cooked a turkey meal all by myself before - I've always assisted my mom.

    If I was going to be in town for the holiday, I'd beg to come over for eats. ;)

    Tia - unfortunately we don't have TJ's in Vancouver. It's a travesty. :(

  6. I haven't cooked a turkey in about 13 years, and I made my older brother do all the work.
    We lived in a single-parent house, so we had to make do.

    Brussel's Sprouts:
    Steam or boil til tender. When to desired consistency, saute some pecans in a LOT of butter and brown sugar. Add sprouts and make sure they get a quick warm up with the butter/brown sugar/pecan mix.
    Serve as close to hot as possible.
    Also delicious as leftovers.

    Baked yams with apples, raisins, rum, and apple juice are tasty too. Throw a bit of nutmeg on top. They're the tastiest when everything is a little mushy and all mixed together.

  7. I would buy a 12-15 pound turkey. Most of them come with a little button on them that pops out when they're done. It's not always accurate, but it's close. So have a meat thermometer on hand as well and stick it deep into the breast. The turkey should have directions on it. If not, look up a basic recipe online. They're pretty much all the same. It's a certain number of minutes/hours per pound.

    I love a good spinach salad with turkey dinner. You could also do brussel sprouts with hollandaise sauce. YUM! Or just steam them and crumble proscioutto and drizzle olive oil and parmesean cheese over them.

    I have a wonderful recipe for yams, too. (You can also use sweet potatoes, whichever you prefer)

    Cook about 8 good sized yams until soft, mash them in a kitchenaid or other type of mixer. Stir in rosemary, thyme and a bit of olive oil or butter. Then mix in 6 oz of goat cheese. SOOOO yummy.

  8. Hey, found you through Kyla's blog, and am a (former) Vancouver-ite myself. Anyway, I've done quite a few (3? 4?) Turkeys and here are some tips...

    1. Aluminium pan is fine. But stick a rack of some sort in it to keep the turkey from sitting on the bottom. (Or make one with a bunch of celery!)

    2. From what I understand "dressing" is the English term and "Stuffing" is more American. Maybe?? But yes, totally easy to do outside the bird, just use a lot more moisture. I have only ever made my Grandma's very traditional recipe (bread, sauteed onions, butter, sage) but there's tons online for some very different flavours.

    3. Green vegetable? Steamed green beans with almonds? Sauteed or roasted brussel sprouts with bacon?

    4. I'd go with one type of roasted potatoes, one mashed, not two mashed. But that's just my opinion (and I always vote for mashed potatoes!!!)

    5. Ummm anything else? OH. Don't baste the turkey in red wine. Because otherwise it still looks pink 6 hours later. Yes I know from experience. Use white... or chicken stock. :-)

  9. stuffing = what its called when it's in the bird.

    dressing = when its served in a dish.

    I just use the instant stuff, tasts great, takes five minutes, whatever.

  10. My secret when I had to cook my first turkey this Thanksgiving was just to give up on the idea of cooking and buy one of those pre-cooked microwave ones in a bag of gravy - well two of them, and just "take it out of the oven just in time"...

    if you can get Paxo it will take care of all your stuffing needs - but I've only ever seen it in a) the UK and b) specialty import stores. I hope you can find some!!

    As for sides - I would do a mash of sweet potatoes and parsnips (om nom nom!!) or what we always used to make on Christmas, corn fritters - basically just pancake mix/Yorkie mix with some sweetcorn thrown in, they're lovely!!

    Oh and potatoes - don't discount those ones in the box you can get for $1, they come in garlic flavour and they're pretty awesome, we have them all the time.

    Can you see why my last blog was on why I need to make a REAL cooking effort yet?? lol :)

  11. I make this dressing recipe all the time and it's always a hit.

    Good luck!

  12. hey lady. you can borrow my roaster if you need to. it can fit a really large bird (we made thanksgiving turkey for 16 one year....) although stuffing the bird with stuffing does sound gross and salmonella-y, the butterball turkeys that are pre-stuffed are a life and time saver and i highly recommend them. they have a little list on them that tells you how big a bird to get for the amount of people you are cooking for. i have an electric carving knife (for s, not you) if you want to borrow that too. come shopping in my kitchen one day and take what you need.

    sweet potatoes = make them just like you would mash potatoes and then put a thin layer of brown sugar on top - brown and serve. yummy.

    another really yummy dish is to 3/4 steam a whole head of cauliflower; then blend mayo and mustard together and coat the hot head of cauliflower. add cheese and nuke or bake until cheese is melty and starting to go brown (not too brown or the cf will be mushy if it cooks too long).

  13. I second the unstuffing recipe that D Sharp posted. It's delish.

    I'll email you the cheat sheet I got from a co-worker for making my first turkey last year. It turned out fantastically!

    You could do roasted root veggies? Whichever you like, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of Thyme. Roast at 350 til done - 30-45 min?

    You can do it! Too bad you already have dessert - I'm good at dessert! :)

  14. Check out smitten kitchen. She has never steered me wrong:

    And I will take two pieces of bourbon pecan pie now, thanks.

  15. Oh!! I have a great stuffing recipe at home, I will get it for you- it's a total no brainer and is really tasty.

    For a non-traditional side dish, I love doing up yam fries instead of candied yams. It's more fun and with a spicy mayo sauce to dip they're really tasty and brighten up the meal!

  16. It all sounds delicious!

    I've never made a turkey myself, but I've always assisted my mom with the cooking. Get a turkey between 10-12 pounds - smaller if you don't want left overs, larger if you do.

    I always make fresh green beans for a side. Just boil them for about 10 minutes in salted water, drain and add butter and salt and pepper. They're always so tasty.

    Gravy is always key. I love gravy! If you like the giblets, you can always cook them and add them to the gravy. It tastes amazing!

    Good luck!

  17. My parents always use the aluminum pans for baking the turkey, and aside from some occasional leakage, it works every time.

    (Stuffing cooked inside the bird is moist and delicious! Shame on you!)

    Also, good luck. OX

  18. Do you like bacon? If so, you should make Green Bean Bundles. The boys will thank you.

    Buy 2-3 cans whole green beans, 1 package bacon, 1 bottle french catalina dressing (the orange stuff).

    Cut bacon strips into thirds. Wrap 5-6 green beans in a piece of bacon and place in baking pan, seam side down. Continue until you run out of beans/bacon - make sure you put your bundles in nice and snuggly, don't spread them out. Pour the dressing over the bundles. Cook at 350 for around an hour - until the bacon looks cooked.

    I've never had leftovers of these. They are that good.

  19. Looks like everyone beat me to the advice.

    I, however, need to know how to make these garlic smashed potatoes.

  20. i know.. well, nothing. except that in our house we COAT the bird in butter and use just the turkey juices themselves to baste.

    i have a brussel sprouts with BACON recipe. it's divine. let me know if you want it and i'll send it over once i'm at home!

  21. HA HA HA. I've never cooked a turkey!! I always buy the butterball turkey breast that's already stuffed!! So easy!

    I've given you an award on my blog!

  22. Wow! All I know is that my mom said the turkey is done when the temp is about 180F.

    Also - you can totally have regular potatoes and sweet potatoes! And my mom made KICK ASS brussel sprouts a few weeks ago - basically you cut them in half or cubes and roast them in the oven smothered in balsamic and some other things, then cover them in Parmesan cheese. I'll try to find the recipe for you and email you...

    Good luck!

  23. you are a brave woman for taking that whole meal on, but i know you can do it! and sweet potatoes and regular potatoes is totally acceptable, we did that at thanksgiving. also you could add in corn perhaps?

  24. I have cooked many a turkey dinner. I never stuff my turkey for a couple of reasons. One, it can increase the cooking time and dry out the bird. Two, the stuffing can get contaminated with turkey juices and never heat up enough to kill the bacteria.

    Brining a turkey before you cook it can be key. It will help lock in the moisture to the turkey. Also, you can sear the turkey early in cooking and help lock in the moisture by cooking it at an extra high temperature early on and then reducing the temperature.

    This recipe is *great*

    Also, if you like bacon and maple syrup you can make a maple glazed turkey that is absolutely amazing. This recipe is similar to the one I have used.

    The hardest part I have had is getting frozen birds to thaw out in time. I highly recommend getting a non-frozen bird if you can.

  25. Balsamic Roasted Brussel Sprouts!

    I just get them frozen, drizzle them with balsamic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and cracked black pepper and then roast them off in a 425 oven (that's F not C) until they are tender and cooked all the way through. SOOOOOO GOOD.

  26. I have the most amazing stuffing/dressing - not cooking in bird stuff by Paula Deen. If you can ignore, for one day, the MOUNDS of butter in it - it is AMAZING. It is torn out of a magazine, and old and I can't find it - but if you really think you'll use it, shoot me msg and I'll send it type it up and send it back your way. IT IS THAT GOOD.

    My husband requests my grandmother's sweet potato casserole every year, and we also serve regular ole' potatoes - so I don't think it's lame at all.

    Sides? Green bean casserole (though my husband is now reminding me that you don't eat that in Canada - he's from Toronto). Ambrosia, stewed artichockes, roasted parsnips.

    Sorry, can't help you out with the beets. =(

  27. I can't help you on the turkey as I am equally clueless, but I'm going to embarass myself and my family by admitting that we make Uncle Ben's stuffing. You know, from a box mix. It's super easy to make and honestly, I think stuffing made from scratch pales in comparison!! We always serve our turkey & stuffing with gravy, cranberry sauce (just make the recipe on the back of the plastic bag), little sausages wrapped in bacon, steamed veggies, and roast potatoes.

  28. Check out this website. This woman is an awesome cook and her recipes are always easy to follow and have always turned out great for me.

    Her stuffing recipe looks awesome and it has sausage in it so you know it will rock.

  29. I'm thinking you got some good advice here. Unfortunately I'm of no help since I've never cooked a turkey dinner before (only eaten, a lot).

    BUT I do know having a green salad is very, very yummy and not boring at all. You can also make a side of mixed veggies (minus the carrots).

    Cranberry is a must. Probably even gravy.

    That's about it! Best of luck hon!

  30. You guys have a grill, right? Why not go for a smoked turkey? We had one at Thanksgiving and it took half the time to cook as the other we did in the oven. That way, you'll open up the oven for other cooking delights - stuffing, pie, etc.

    Also, no matter where you cook the turkey, you'll want to get a meat thermometer, so you know exactly when the turkey is done. (The inside has to be a certain temperature - you can probably go to to find out the exact degree.)

  31. Totally random but today I ran across a beet recipe when i was researching my own Christmas dinner.

    Uh, do I still get bonus points?

  32. This sounds very much like the Brussels sprouts we had at Thanksgiving: They were fantastic.

    As for the rest, I have no idea. I've never cooked a turkey, am not huge on stuffing or mashed potatoes, and don't like gravy (yes, I suck at this kind of holiday dinner). BUT since most things are so heavy, I do love it when there's lots of greens to balance it out. I wonder if you'd be interested in cooking beet greens?

  33. I thought of you the other day, I bought a peppermint pig. You whack the crap out of it with a little silver hammer and then you get eat the tasty shards.

    Since I have my son this holiday and can't drink my way through the family hell, this is going to be my therapy. Peppermint pigicide with a hammer. Yup.