Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...
If you’re looking to really impress your holiday guests this year, plan a celebrity chef Thanksgiving menu. We turned to Chef Todd English, renowned restaurateur and author of Cooking in Everyday English, The ABCs of Great Flavor at Home (Oxmoor, 2011), for gourmet-caliber Thanksgiving recipes that will create a memorable holiday menu.
The grill for Thanksgiving turkey? You bet! I can attest that brining and grilling the holiday bird not only results in knee-weakening juicy meat, it also gives the turkey that distinctive smoky flavor that roasting will never deliver.
Chef English agrees: "This is a fantastic technique for cooking your holiday turkey because so often with turkey, the breast dries out before the dark meat finishes cooking, but butterflying the bird allows it to cook more evenly. Ask your butcher to do the work and flatten for you. Always buy organic turkey -- in order to avoid those injected with salt solutions -- so that you can safely brine the bird at home. The technique adds flavor and moisture, and I promise, it will be the moistest, most delicious turkey you've ever cooked!"
Grilled maple-brined turkey with rosemary-maple butter sauce
Serves 8 to 10
2-1/2 cups kosher salt
2-1/2 cups maple syrup
1/2 cup whole peppercorns
16 cups cold water, divided
8 bay leaves
6 fresh rosemary sprigs
10 fresh thyme sprigs
1 (14 pound) organic turkey, butterflied
Rosemary-maple butter sauce (see below)
Garnish: fresh rosemary sprigs
To prepare the brine, cook salt, syrup, peppercorns and eight cups cold water in a 16-quart stockpot over high heat, stirring occasionally, for two minutes or until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and remaining eight cups cold water. Cool to room temperature. Add turkey; cover and chill 12 hours, weighing the turkey down, if needed, to keep it submerged.
Lightly grease one side of the grill, and heat grill to 400 to 500 degrees F., leaving other side unlit. Remove turkey from the brine, and discard brine. Pat turkey dry and place breast side down over unlit side of grill.
Grill over indirect heat, covered, two to two and a half hours or until skin is well browned and a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of thigh registers 165 degrees F. Flip turkey halfway through cook time. Shield with aluminum foil during last 30 minutes of grilling.
Remove turkey from the grill, and let stand 20 minutes before carving. Serve turkey with Rosemary-maple butter sauce. Garnish with rosemary, if desired.
Cook syrup, butter and rosemary in a small saucepan over low heat, whisking often, for two minutes or until butter is melted. Season with salt to taste. Serve with turkey.
Celebrity chef Thanksgiving side dish
Instead of the usual bread stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey, give spoon bread a try. "I grew up in Georgia, and this spoon bread takes me right back to my childhood," Chef English excitedly says. "This is an incredible side dish that pairs perfectly on the table with your holiday meal, and it's always a crowd pleaser -- especially with the kids!"
Corn spoon bread
4 cups milk
2 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 large egg whites
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine milk and cornmeal in a medium saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat, and stir in corn kernels.
Combine sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add cornmeal mixture, stirring with a whisk.
Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add eggs to cornmeal batter, stirring with a whisk, and then fold in egg whites.
Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1⁄4 cup butter to pan, tilting to coat bottom. Cook over medium-low heat for three minutes or until butter begins to brown. Pour batter into pan then place pan in the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until set.
While spoon bread bakes, combine remaining 1⁄4 cup butter and honey in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for two minutes or until butter melts.
When bread is done, drizzle with honey butter. Serve immediately.
Celebrity chef Thanksgiving dessert
Panna cotta is a more stunning and elegant dessert than the traditional pumpkin pie. This panna cotta recipe is made with soy milk, in case you have dairy-free holiday guests. "I'm constantly driving my team crazy by 'Todd-izing' classic recipes, but I love finding one unique twist on classics," says Chef English. "Soy milk has never tasted as good as it does in this version of panna cotta. The creamy texture of the soy milk is complemented by the bright, clean flavor of the blackberries. I love this dessert because it's so balanced in its sweet and fresh flavors, and it just leaves you with that feel-good, satisfied feeling at the end of your meal."
Soy milk panna cotta with crushed blackberries
1 vanilla bean, split
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup water
2 cups unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 cups plain soy yogurt
1 pint fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons sugar
Garnish: crushed amaretti cookies
Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean and set aside.
Stir together gelatin and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl. Bring milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium then whisk in gelatin mixture until well blended.
Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, and cook for one minute. Remove pan from heat and discard vanilla bean. Stir in yogurt until blended. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl and discard solids.
Divide mixture among six (6 ounce) ramekins. Cover and chill for three hours or until set.
Stir together blackberries, two tablespoons sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Gently crush blackberries against sides of bowl until berries release their juices, using a fork. Let stand 10 minutes.
Cook berry mixture in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for three minutes or until liquid begins to thicken. Let cool five minutes.
Hold each ramekin in warm water for five seconds to loosen panna cotta from the cup then invert onto serving plates. Top with blackberry sauce. Garnish, if desired.
Celebrity chef Thanksgiving cocktail
Love figs? So does Chef English. "I absolutely love figs and this combo with rosemary lends an autumnal flavor to this feisty little libation," says the celebrity chef. "Lillet is a fantastic citrusy spirit that adds even more character to the pronounced flavor medley. Sip on this awhile, and you may break into a rap as the name suggests. You can also substitute the rum for gin like we do at my Olives restaurant, which gives it a bit more of a wintery flavor."
6 dried Turkish figs
7 tablespoons Lillet, divided
3 tablespoons light rum
1 tablespoon rosemary simple syrup
1 cup ice cubes
Garnish: dried fig, fresh rosemary sprig
Process figs and one tablespoon Lillet in a food processor for 30 seconds or until figs are pureed.
Combine one tablespoon fig puree (reserve remaining puree for another use), remaining six tablespoons Lillet, rum, rosemary simple syrup and ice in a martini shaker.
Cover shaker with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled. Pour into an old-fashioned glass and garnish with fig and rosemary.