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Ideas, advice, and what to make now from Chowhound editors.

On the Gravy Train

Here are some Chowhounds’ secrets for flavorful, foolproof gravy. Val simmers the turkey neck and giblets in water while the bird roasts. After it’s out of the pan, she pours off the juices and separates the fat. She places the roasting pan across two stove burners and makes a roux by cooking flour in some reserved turkey fat. Then she whisks in the simmering broth and adds the defatted pan juices and finely chopped giblets to the gravy.

swsidejim likes to deglaze the roasting pan with dry sherry before proceeding, and adds a bit of unsalted butter to the finished gravy. coll deglazes with dry vermouth or white wine, and adds a splash of milk.

Several hounds start ahead, and say the payoff is less work on Thanksgiving, and enough gravy for all the leftovers. pikawicca roasts turkey legs, carrots, onion, and celery and uses them to make turkey stock, which she freezes. After thawing the stock, she makes her gravy while the bird is roasting: Make a roux from 1 1/2 tablespoons each butter and flour per cup of stock, then slowly whisk in the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thick. Adjust seasoning. After the turkey comes out of the oven, pour off all the fat and deglaze the pan with a little bit of water, and pour the resulting “brown deliciousness” into the gravy.

gardencub uses a similar method, but saves and freezes the fat skimmed from her turkey stock and uses it to make the roux. JoanN makes her gravy completely ahead of time, and says it freezes well. Heat and add pan juices when your turkey’s done.

Board Link: How do you make your gravy?

Fresh Ideas for Brussels Sprouts

Hounds are bursting with ideas for what to do with Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving. girlwonder88 braises sprouts in heavy cream: “Simmer your sprouts in cream until they are tender all the way through. Add a little nutmeg. Eat. Die of ecstasy.”

scubadoo97 shreds them and sautées with butter and shallots. gailr42 sautées the shreds in bacon fat, then tops with crumbled bacon and chopped hazelnuts.

CocoaNut roasts them with olive oil, salt, and pepper until they’re crisp outside and tender inside, 35 to 40 minutes at 400°F. “These will come out almost blackened. That’s OK! They’re NOT burned. Eat and enjoy!” maisonbistro tosses them with olive oil, honey, and soy sauce, and roasts. These get nice and caramelized.

And rezpeni is willing to share a secret: Heat olive oil in a pan to near smoking, and add the sprouts, and leave them alone. Turn them once and when they are browned, add aromatics like garlic, pancetta, or shallots. Then a little stock until they are cooked through: “They will be caramelized nicely on the outside and cooked perfectly through on the inside. If you do it right you might end up with a lovely syrup at the bottom of the pan you can add a little butter to off the heat and spoon over the sprouts.”

Also check out these CHOW recipes:
Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Fried Capers
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Double-Smoked Bacon
Braised Brussels Sprouts

Board Links: Share Your Favorite Brussels Sprouts Recipe
ISO: Brussel Sprouts recipes

Sweet Potato Alternatives

Chowhounds have some great alternatives to the over-the-top sweetness of sweet potatoes with marshmallows or streusel. foodslut keeps it extra-simple, parboiling them, then roasting with a bit of butter and salt. itryalot makes a simple casserole by first roasting sweet potatoes skin-on, then scooping out the insides and mixing with an egg and heated milk in which she’s steeped garlic cloves, then baking in a casserole dish at 375°F until bubbly.

greenstate cubes them and tosses them with olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cloves and roasts with maple syrup or brown sugar. btnfood likes this sweet potato casserole with ginger (link leads to a PDF file) and says “the slightly bitter molasses and spicy sharpness of the fresh ginger and cayenne really enhance the sweet potatoes without drowning them in sugar.”

Board Link: ISO Sweet Potato Casserole recipe: not too savory, not too sweet

Can I Buy a Mini Turkey?

A turkey is often too much to swallow for a small gathering, and not everyone hosts meals for a huge crowd.

MMRuth suggests Cornish game hens. Some hounds opt for whole or half turkey breasts; anni roasts turkey legs for dark meat lovers. gibson roasts a capon, saying it’s enough for two with plenty of leftovers. Others have duck or pheasant.

CHOW has a Thanksgiving menu for six that includes a turkey breast recipe. And while swsidejim is happy doing a “20+ pound turducken” for his six-person gathering, most people suggest one pound per person, plus extra for leftovers.

Board Links: How big a turkey for 6 people?
Thanksgiving for two?

Thanksgiving Leftovers Transformed

Using up Thanksgiving leftovers is a high point of the holiday for some hounds, and they certainly do it creatively. Several make turkey “hash” with stuffing, chopped turkey, and gravy. Will Owen loves it for breakfast the next day, piled into a baking dish with eggs broken into depressions made with a spoon and baked until the eggs are set to your taste. Serve with griddled mashed potato cakes, more hot gravy on the side, and cranberry sauce.

SSqwerty loves to add leftover turkey to a Waldorf salad made with dried cranberries. MsMaryMc says these turkey enchiladas are great made with a roasted bird, but even better with smoked turkey. Turkey chowder with wild rice, cremini, and pancetta is very easy and very elegant, according to don515.

Pampatz’s husband makes fried potato balls from leftover mashed potatoes: Form thick, well-chilled mashed potatoes into balls about three inches in diameter. Push a cube of cream cheese coated with cayenne into the center of each and cover the hole. Roll each ball in beaten egg and milk, then in a mixture of seasoned flour and breadcrumbs and fry in about one inch of oil. Serve hot.

Board Links: Thanksgiving leftovers? What’s your fave?
Day after Thanksgiving breakfast?

Ultimate Brownies

Chowhounds are crazy for Ina Garten’s super-rich outrageous brownies, made with a pound of butter and a pound and a half of chocolate. Funwithfood recommends cutting them into half-inch squares and freezing extras.

cleopatra999 calls these triple-chocolate fudge brownies fantastic and really fudgy. The brownies from Bouchon bakery are not too sweet, super dark, and really moist, says sweet ginger

chowser recommends thick, fudgy man-catcher brownies, chewy supernatural brownies, and for a bittersweet, adult flavor, CHOW’s Intense Brownies, in which she uses a teaspoon of finely ground coffee instead of a teaspoon of brewed espresso.

Several hounds say their favorites are made from Trader Joe’s Truffle Brownie Mix. “That box mix makes some of the best brownies I’ve ever had,” confesses jencounter. coll adds a spoonful each Kahlua and instant espresso powder to the mix. Querencia glazes them: Combine 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup milk, and 1/3 cup butter in a saucepan, bring to a boil, boil for a minute, stirring, then take off the heat and stir in 1 cup chocolate chips until melted. Pour over hot brownies—it’ll set as they cool.

Board Link: In need of a brownie recipe

Beans Without Soaking

Despite the many bean recipes that call for dried beans to be soaked for a few hours or overnight before cooking, Chowhounds say there’s no need. Following a method from Rick Bayless, dexters covers the beans with water, brings them to a boil, reduces the heat to a simmer, and cooks for around two hours or until the beans are tender, adding more water if necessary. Don’t throw out the water, says dexters—it has a lot of flavor.

Pressure cookers are a good way to cook beans in a hurry. sarah galvin uses a pressure cooker, and says unsoaked beans take only about 15 minutes. lgss uses a pressure cooker too, and says that presoaked beans only take 3–6 minutes.

scubadoo97, another nonsoaker, adds that it’s fine to salt bean cooking water—it does not prevent beans from cooking, as some cooks say. “ACID will in fact keep beans from cooking,” scubadoo97 counsels Sallie, who was annoyed that a French bean soup recipe with wine took six hours to cook. “Add acid at or near the end,” says scubadoo97.

Board Links: How long should you soak black beans?
Red Beans and Rice—Presoak or no?

When to Sift Flour

There is no need to sift flour unless a recipe specifically instructs you to, say Chowhounds with professional baking experience. Scoop the flour, level it off, and pour it into the bowl, says todao, who adds that you should whisk or otherwise stir the flour and other dry ingredients together before combining them with wet ingredients. “Sifting flour, when the recipe calls for it, helps adjust for the compaction that the flour has experienced during processing and shipping. A recipe that doesn’t include sifting instructions has usually taken that into account in specifying the amount of flour to be used,” says todao.

If a recipe calls for “sifted flour,” the flour is sifted before measuring. On the other hand if the recipe calls for a cup of flour sifted, measure and then sift.

Board Link: when to sift

Creative Cranberry Sauces

Cranberry sauces made with wine are popular with Chowhounds. Val is devoted to cabernet cranberries. Nyleve says you needn’t use cabernet—any red wine works well. DaisyM says cranberry sauce with cherries, Marsala, and rosemary is “AMAZING. I couldn’t stop eating it.” SSqwerty loves spiced cranberry sauce with zinfandel, but cuts the sugar to a cup; she says it can be made and frozen up to a month ahead.

Kate is always hungry uses the recipe on the cranberry bag but add chunks of a tart green apple, a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, and the zest of one orange. Claudette throws clean, raw cranberries, orange or tangerine, a few slices of candied ginger, and sugar to taste into a food processor and purées it until chunky-smooth. She says it’s very simple and refreshing, especially if you don’t add too much sugar. valerie made triple cranberry sauce last year, and says it’s “so good that I have been thinking about it all year.”

Board Link: Your best cranberry sauce recipe please

Beyond Fried Green Tomatoes

There are lots of delicious ways to use up green tomatoes beyond frying them. melly thinks they’re good raw on sandwiches, where they give a nice, crunchy texture. alanbarnes makes green tomato pilaf with a little bacon, onion, and garlic. cimui simply sautées them with onion, garlic, salt, and pepper, and says leftovers are good in quiche. alliedawn_98 says Emeril Lagasse’s hot ’n’ spicy green tomato soup with crispy pancetta is delicious.

paprkutr likes pickling green onions as you would good kosher dills, with lots of garlic. pondrat pickles them with vinegar, kosher salt, garlic, fresh dill, and dill seeds, and adds a variety of fresh chiles to the canning jars.

Green tomatoes might seem an unlikely ingredient for desserts, but Hanky calls this green tomato cake with brown butter icing delicious and easy, and alanbarnes suggests green tomato and apple pie.

Board Link: Green tomato ideas?