Chincoteague oysters on the half shell Lemon halves Caraway rye bread for oysters Roast turkey with chestnut, prune and sausage stuffing Turnip gratin Artichoke bottoms filled with green pea-artichoke puree Clear gravy Cranberry sauce Cold lemon souffle'
TURKEY IS authorized twice a year at our house (although it is sneaked in at other times, but heavily disguised). At Thanksgiving we have it roasted with a wonderful chestnut, prune and sausage stuffing. Some meat is kept out for those of us who believe the point of turkey is to have turkey, stuffing and cranberry sandwiches the next day. Then in February, preferably for lunch with good friends on a snowy Sunday, the frozen leftovers reappear in a turkey pie.
Thanksgiving dinner starts with an enormous glut of oysters on the half shell, which, in this normally egalitarian household, are opened by the men. The oysters are served with lemon halves clothed in little cheesecloth mittens that are available in kitchen stores. Later the mittens, which keep the seeds from falling into the oysters, are retrieved, washed and reused. We eat the oysters with thin slices of buttered dense rye bread which I make because it is so like the pain de mie served with oysters in France.
The turkey, ordered fresh from a neighborhood market, is accompanied by the dressing, unthickened gravy, a turnip gratin which many people mistake for a superior form of potato, and a lovely green-on-green dish of fresh artichoke bottoms filled with green pea and artichoke pure'e. Cranberry sauce is extraneous with such a menu, but we have it anyhow, and in two versions, because turkey isn't turkey without it. I divide a pound of cranberries and cook half as plain old cranberry sauce, which I like. The other half gets ground, uncooked, with oranges.
In some years, when we have been 16 and more at our table, I have made five or six different pies; but unless there are little children around who love pie, a most delicious cold lemon souffle' leaves us all feeling better about all those second helpings.
I buy the oysters -- Chincoteagues -- at Maine Avenue a couple of days before Thanksgiving so that we can scrub the mud off them in advance. The cleaned oysters get packed round-side-down in layers in a plastic dishpan or two, covered with a damp dish towel and refrigerated until they are to be opened. Any unopened oysters will keep for at least a week in the refrigerator.
The bread, an adaptation of a Bernard Clayton recipe, is made the day before. Having a mixer with a dough hook makes breadmaking much more accessible. I use either a pain de mie pan, which is a loaf pan with a lid that slides on securely to keep the bread dense and flat on top, or a couple of long, thin cylindrical covered bread pans, which produce small, round slices. But a regular loaf pan weighted with a cake pan and a brick works equally well. The bread should be cut into super-thin slices, which is much easier to do when it is a day old, and spread lightly with softened unsalted butter.
The turkey gets cleaned the day before but I make the stuffing on Thanksgiving day. Of course, the stuffing is never put into the bird until just before it is cooked, to discourage bacterial contamination. The first time I encountered prunes soaked in hot tea I was skeptical, but this old French trick does bring out more flavor in the prunes, and of course the soaking plumps them. I do not allow myself many indulgences when it comes to cooking, but not having to peel chestnuts, a time-consuming, finger-breaking job which I detest, is an exception. I buy a brand of chestnuts called Minerva. These come in jars, are imported from France and can be found in many specialty food and kitchen shops.
If you suspect that anyone at your table will turn up a nose at turnips, don't tell. We have converted many turnip-haters with this turnip gratin, which looks exactly like a potato gratin but is lighter and less starchy. Many turnip gratin recipes call for swiss cheese and some form of ham, but I like the flavor straight, buttery and creamy.
I am sorry to say that canned artichoke bottoms are not a wonderful substitute for fresh. I tried saute'eing three brands of canned bottoms in butter and/or sprinkling them with lemon juice, and they all tasted of butter and/or lemon, but not artichokes. I parboil large artichokes until the leaves but not the bottoms are tender. The leaves can then be removed easily and the flesh scraped off to be added to the processor bowl with the peas. The chokes are then discarded and the bottoms trimmed. The cooking of the bottoms is finished in bouillon.
The pure'e can be spooned into the bottoms, but is much prettier when piped into them with a pastry bag. I use a flexible, easily washable nylon bag, fitted with an open star tube that makes a crinkly design. To fill the bag, insert the tube, twist the bag above the tube and tuck the twisted section inside the tube. Place the bag in a bowl and spoon in the pure'e. If the bag feels too hot for your hands, wear a pair of washable fabric gloves. Pick the bag up from the top and ease the pure'e down. This will free the twist from the tube. Use one hand to push the pure'e out and the other to guide the tube.
The cold lemon souffle' is my slightly modified version of a spectacularly successful recipe given to me years ago and until now shared with very few friends.. It can be presented rising majestically over the top of the dish, as though it were a hot souffle', by pouring the mixture into a too-small souffle' dish fitted with a foil collar. Or more modestly but no less deliciously, it can be served like a pudding, out of a pretty glass bowl.
CARAWAY RYE BREAD FOR OYSTERS (Makes 1 loaf) Softened butter for greasing the bread pan, its lid and a mixing bowl, plus 1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled 1 package dry yeast 1 cup lukewarm water 1 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon caraway seeds 1 cup medium rye flour 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups bread flour, more if needed
Grease an 8 1/2-inch-long loaf pan or pain de mie pan with some of the softened butter. Add the yeast to the water in the bowl of a mixer with a dough hook, stir and add the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add the salt, caraway seeds and melted butter, then stir in the rye flour. Beat in the bread flour a cup at a time until 2 cups have been incorporated. Add up to another 1/2 cup more flour if the dough is sticky. Knead with a dough hook for 5 minutes and add more flour if the dough is still sticky.
Grease a clean mixing bowl with softened butter. Place the kneaded dough in the bowl and turn it over to coat it with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Remove the plastic, punch down the dough and knead for about a minute to get rid of the air bubbles. Turn the empty bowl over the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Form the dough into a loaf and place in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes, or until the dough has reached the top of the pan. Grease the bottom of a cake pan large enough to cover the loaf pan, or grease the inside of the pain de mie pan lid. Place the cake pan on the bread pan and put a brick in it, or close the cover of the pain de mie pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the bread out of the pan. If it sounds hollow when tapped, it is done. If not, return it to the oven, without the lid, for another 10 minutes. Cool on a rack. The next day, slice very thin and spread with softened unsalted butter. Serve with oysters.
ROAST TURKEY WITH CHESTNUT, PRUNE AND SAUSAGE STUFFING (8 servings, plus leftovers) 16- to 18-pound fresh turkey, cavity cleaned of lungs and other organs, ready for stuffing, wing tips removed Stock: Wing tips and turkey giblets except liver 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 carrots, cleaned and cut into chunks 2 stalks celery, cleaned and cut into chunks 2 onions, cut into chunks 1/2 teaspoon thyme 1 bay leaf 2 14 1/2-ounce cans chicken broth 10 1/2-ounce can beef bouillon Stuffing: 2 pounds prunes, soaked overnight in strong hot tea 1 cup chopped celery 1 cup minced onions 4 tablespoons butter 2 pounds sausage meat 1/2 cup turkey stock 1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and quartered 16-ounce jar imported French chestnuts, halved 2 cups bread crumbs made in a food processor from french bread 1/2 cup minced parsley 1 teaspoon dried thyme Salt and pepper to taste 1/4 cup cognac 1/4 cup medium-sweet madeira wine For roasting: 2 tablespoons softened butter, plus 1/2 cup melted butter
Clean the turkey the day before and make a stock by browning the wing tips and giblets in the oil. Then add the chunks of carrots, celery and onion plus the half teaspoon of thyme and the bay leaf. Add the chicken broth and bouillon, bring to the simmer and cook, cover slightly ajar, for 3 hours. Strain into a bowl and press down on the vegetables. Cool the stock and refrigerate. When cold, degrease it.
Reserve 3 cups for the gravy and 1/2 cup for the stuffing and freeze the rest.
Do not remove the turkey from the refrigerator until the stuffing is prepared, and stuff only just before cooking.
Drain the prunes, cut them in half, discarding the pits, and place the prune halves in a large bowl. Saute' the celery and onions in the butter for 8 minutes or until they are transparent and add to the bowl. In the same pan, break up the sausage meat with a fork and stir, over medium heat, until all the pink has gone. Drain off the fat and discard it. Add the sausage meat to the bowl. Deglaze the frying pan with the 1/2 cup of turkey stock and add the juices to the bowl. Add remaining stuffing ingredients, mix lightly and taste for seasonings.
Stuff the turkey's body and neck cavities and sew up the neck. Place any excess stuffing in a casserole, cover with foil and put the lid on. Place the casserole in the oven an hour before the turkey is done. Turn the heat up to 350 degrees when the turkey is removed and bake for another hour.
Smear the turkey with the softened butter and roast in a 325-degree oven for 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours, depending on the turkey's size. Baste every 20 minutes or so with a brush dipped into the melted butter. Cover with foil if the skin is browning too quickly. The turkey is cooked when the juices run clear or when a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 to 185 degrees. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to rest under a loose tent of foil for 30 to 45 minutes before carving.
Degrease the pan juices, add 3 cups of the stock and bring to a boil, scraping the brown bits off the pan with a wooden spoon. Pour into a gravy boat.
Remove 3 pounds of leftover meat from the bone and freeze the meat for turkey pie. Freeze any leftover stuffing and serve with turkey pie.
TURNIP GRATIN (8 servings) 3 pounds turnips, about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter 1/4 pound butter 1 clove garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon thyme Salt and pepper to taste 3/4 cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
Peel the turnips and slice with the thick slicing blade of a food processor. Smear some of the butter on the bottom and sides of a 12-inch ovenproof gratin dish and distribute the crushed garlic over the bottom of the dish. Add the turnips and on each layer dot some more of the butter, a little thyme and salt and pepper. When the pan is filled, pour cream over the turnips, sprinkle with the bread crumbs and dot with remaining butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.
ARTICHOKE BOTTOMS FILLED WITH GREEN PEA-ARTICHOKE PUREE (8 servings) 8 large artichokes 1 can bouillon 6 boston lettuce leaves 1 1/2 pounds frozen peas 1 small onion, minced 1 tablespoon minced parsley 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme Pinch of sugar Salt and freshly ground white pepper 1/3 cup heavy cream 3 tablespoons butter
Wash the artichokes, trim the stems and boil in salted water for 15 minutes. The flesh on the leaves will be tender and the bottoms not quite cooked. Drain and remove leaves. Scrape the flesh from the insides of the leaves with a teaspoon and reserve. Discard the chokes and trim the bottoms. Heat the bouillon and poach the bottoms, a couple at a time, until tender but not mushy. Drain, but set the bouillon aside.
Make a chiffonade of the lettuce by rolling the leaves and slicing the roll. Add the lettuce, peas and minced onion to a large pot of boiling water and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the peas are soft but not mushy. Drain thoroughly and place in a processor bowl. Add the reserved artichoke flesh plus the parsley, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. Process in short bursts until smooth and scrape down the sides of the bowl once. Do not overprocess.
Turn into a heavy saucepan and beat the pure'e over low heat to dry it out a bit. Still beating, add the cream a little at a time and then the tablespoon of butter. Taste for seasoning and keep warm. The pure'e will be soft but stiff enough to hold some shape. It can be made ahead to this point and reheated before serving.
Heat the artichoke bottoms in the reserved bouillon, drain and pat dry. Place on a warm serving patter. Turn the pure'e into a pastry bag fitted with a No. 2 or No. 3B open star tube. Pipe the pure'e into the artichoke bottoms and serve. Turn any leftover pure'e into a small, heated serving dish.
COLD LEMON SOUFFLE (8 servings) 1 tablespoon (1 envelope) plain gelatin 4 tablespoons cold water 3 eggs, separated 1 cup sugar Juice and grated rind of 2 lemons 1 3/4 cups heavy cream 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3 tablespoons shaved or grated semisweet chocolate
In a metal measuring cup, soften the gelatin in the water. Then dissolve the gelatin by putting the cup in a small frying pan with simmering water. Set aside to cool.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and light. Beat in the lemon juice, grated rind, vanilla and finally the gelatin mixture.
In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Whip the cream, preferably in a cold metal bowl and with cold beaters, and fold it into the mixture. Turn into a glass bowl or, if desired, into a 1-quart souffle' dish fitted with a 3-inch high foil collar that has been oiled lightly on the inside. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight. Remove collar carefully. Garnish with the grated or shaved chocolate.
This recipe can be doubled.