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Thanksgiving menu: Make-ahead recipes

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You probably don’t have enough kitchen space to do all of your Thanksgiving cooking on Thursday, so it’s important to cross at least a few dishes off the list before Turkey Day arrives. 

More Thanksgiving menus: Last minute | Simple | With a twist | Americana | Cooking for two | Vegetarian | Vegan | Calorie conscious | WaPo Favorites

Sherried Pumpkin Apple Soup

The finished soup may be stored in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

  • 1/4 stick (1 ounce) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock or turkey stock
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup light cream (may substitute low-fat milk)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and shredded
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (do not use nonfat) or creme fraiche, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives, for garnish

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring, until fragrant and soft. Add the chicken or turkey stock, sherry, apple cider, pumpkin puree and cream, stirring to combine until warmed through. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At this point, the soup may be stored in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

To serve, add the shredded apples and nutmeg to taste, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among wide, shallow soup bowls and garnish each with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche. Sprinkle with snipped chives.

Cranberry and Fig Sauce

The sauce must be made at least 1 day before serving, and it can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week in advance.

SERVINGS: 10 – 12
  • 7 ounces dried Calimyrna figs, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Very hot water, plus 1 tablespoon cool water
  • 12 ounces cranberries, rinsed and stemmed
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard, such as Colman’s brand

Place the figs in a small heatproof bowl and cover with very hot (not boiling) water; let rest for 15 minutes, then drain.

Combine the cranberries, sugar, rehydrated figs, mustard seeds and crushed red pepper flakes, if using, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat to medium-low or low and cook for about 10 minutes or until most of the cranberries have burst.

Combine the 1 tablespoon cool water and the dry mustard in a small cup, stirring to mix well, then add to the saucepan and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and transfer to a container to cool completely. Serve at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Jumbled Greens

The greens can be cooked, cooled, covered and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. Reheat in a pot (with any collected juices) on the stove over low heat, covered, until warmed through.

SERVINGS: 8 – 12
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds collard greens, stemmed, washed and torn into 3-to-4-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable seasoning, preferably chef Paul Prudhomme’s Vegetable Magic, or more to taste
  • 1 bunch (18 ounces) mustard greens, stemmed, washed and torn into 3-to-4-inch pieces
  • Leaves from 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth, preferably low-sodium
  • 10 ounces spinach, stemmed, washed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste

Heat a heavy 4-quart pot, preferably cast-iron, over high heat for about 4 minutes (to about 350 degrees, if measuring with an instant-read thermometer).

Add the oil; once it starts to shimmer, add the onions and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn golden.

Add the collard greens and vegetable seasoning; mix to coat evenly. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, using a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot as needed to keep the greens from burning or sticking. Add the mustard greens and cilantro (in batches, as needed); once incorporated, cook for 1 minute, then add 1/2 cup of the broth, stirring to keep the greens from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, during which time the onions will have darkened and the greens will have cooked down. Then add the remaining 1/2 cup of broth.

Scrape the bottom of the pot, then add the spinach (in batches, as needed) and stir to incorporate. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the sugar and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl; or let cool, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Turkey Breast Stuffed With Pears, Fennel and Hazelnuts

The stuffing can be prepared and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance. The turkey can be stuffed, tied, wrapped and refrigerated a day in advance; bring to a cool room temperature before roasting. Refrigerate leftovers wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for up to 4 days.

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery (from 2 ribs)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced fennel (from 1 large cored bulb)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs (from 2 to 3 pieces crust-on whole-wheat bread)
  • 1 cup skinned hazelnuts, toasted (may substitute pecan halves; see NOTE)
  • 1 to 2 medium, firm Bosc pears or Anjou pears, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup pitted, chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup no-salt-added chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened apple cider
  • One 7-pound bone-in, skin-on turkey breast
  • Pomegranate molasses, for drizzling
  • Olive oil, for coating

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and fennel, stirring to coat. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Season with the dried thyme and a good pinch each of salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, combine the bread crumbs, toasted and chopped hazelnuts, pears, dates and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion mixture and stir to incorporate. Taste, and add salt and/or pepper as needed.

Combine the broth, wine, cider and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a heatproof cup; microwave on LOW until the butter has melted. Let cool for a few minutes, then pour half of the broth mixture over the stuffing mixture; stir until thoroughly incorporated.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a rack inside a turkey roasting pan.

Line a work surface with two large pieces of plastic wrap. Place the turkey breast on top, breast side up. Feel where the breastbone is at the top, then use a sharp, flexible knife to begin making increasingly deeper cuts as close to the bone as possible on one side of it, down as far as you can go toward the backbone without detaching the flesh and skin completely. Repeat on the other side; at this point, the breastbone and most of the ribs will be exposed. Cut away/discard any excess skin on the sides; you should leave just enough to cover the meat.

Lift the bone carcass up so you can see underneath, where the flesh/skin is still attached; make shallow cuts around to release it, as needed. The bones should come free in one piece. Reserve for making stock.

The turkey breast should be open and flat on the plastic wrap, skin side down. Find the tenderloins; there will be one on either side of the center, with white tendons running through them. Detach and reserve them for another use. Make shallow cuts in any large sections of turkey flesh that remain attached to the skin; this will help promote even cooking.

Cut about 8 pieces of twine, each about 2 feet long. Run one of them vertically under the center of the breast, and arrange the others horizontally, spaced evenly a few inches apart; you are making a grid that you’ll use to tie up the stuffed breast.

Drizzle the flesh with pomegranate molasses; you’ll use about 1 1/2 tablespoons total.

Cover the breast with the stuffing; you should be able to fit all of it over the flesh. Roll and tuck each side toward the center. You’ll want to end up with the split/opening on the underside. (The neatness of this maneuver depends on whether there is plenty of skin attached to the flesh.) Tie tightly to secure the stuffed breast; transfer to the roasting pan. if some stuffing comes out either end, just tuck it back in after you’ve placed the stuffed breast in the pan. Rub the skin with oil, then season all over with salt and pepper.

Roast (on the middle rack) for about 75 minutes, using the remaining broth-cider mixture to baste the breast every 15 to 20 minutes; you might not use all of it. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat (not all the way into the center, where the stuffing is) registers 160 degrees, and the skin is golden brown.

Let the breast rest for at least 20 minutes before discarding the twine and cutting into 1/2-to-3/4-inch slices. Serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTE: Toast the hazelnuts for a few minutes in a small, dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan to avoid scorching. Cool, then coarsely chop.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cups defatted turkey stock, warmed
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups turkey pan drippings

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, watching carefully so it does not burn. Add the flour slowly, whisking briskly until bubbles form and the mixture thickens and turns golden brown. Add the stock and wine, whisking until the flour-butter roux is well blended. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until no flour taste remains. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (At this point, the mixture can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

To finish the gravy, strain the pan juices/drippings from a roasted turkey into a fat separator and pour the defatted drippings into the gravy mixture, stirring to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings; if the gravy is too thin, increase the heat and reduce the gravy for several minutes to the desired thickness. Transfer to a warmed gravy boat and serve.

Chocolate Cranberry Torte

SERVINGS: 12 – 16
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons black raspberry-flavored liqueur, such as Chambord
  • 3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries, plus 1/4 cup for garnish
  • 1/3 cup black raspberry-flavored liqueur
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature, slightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup black raspberry-flavored liqueur
  • Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

For the sauce: Combine the cranberries, water and sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium; cook about 5 minutes or until the cranberries burst. Cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Strain into a bowl; discard the pulp. Add the liqueur, stirring to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight (the sauce will thicken).

For the torte: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9-inch round springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 3/4 cup of the dried cranberries and the liqueur. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring, or until the liqueur starts to bubble at the edges. Cool to room temperature. Drain the cranberries; reserve the liqueur and macerated cranberries separately.

Melt the butter in large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until it begins to bubble at the edges. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and let stand 1 minute, then whisk together until the mixture is smooth. Add the sugar, then the eggs in several increments (the batter may look grainy). Add the reserved liqueur, stirring to combine. Add the flour, salt and macerated cranberries, stirring gently until blended. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until the top of the torte has puffed and cracked and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with moist (not wet) batter attached. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. (At this point, the torte can be covered and stored at room temperature for 1 day.)

While the cake is baking, make the glaze: Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbles start to form around the edges. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate; let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth and melted. Add the liqueur, stirring to combine. Let stand until glaze is thick but still pourable, whisking occasionally, about 2 hours. (This should yield about 2 1/2 cups.)

To assemble: Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil. Using a knife, loosen the inside edge of the torte from the pan; remove the pan sides. Place an 8-inch cardboard round or an 8-inch tart pan bottom on top of the torte. Holding the cardboard and springform pan bottom, invert onto the rack. Remove the pan bottom; discard the parchment paper cake liner. Pour 1 1/2 cups glaze over the torte. Using an offset spatula, smooth the glaze over top and sides (re-apply any glaze that has dripped onto the baking sheet, if necessary). Freeze the torte for about 10 minutes, or until the glaze has set. Pour the remaining 1 cup of glaze over the torte and smooth evenly. Place the reserved 1/4 cup dried cranberries in small groups around the top edge of the torte. Freeze for 15 minutes, or until the glaze is firm.

Transfer to a serving plate; cover with a cake dome and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving. Arrange the mint leaves between cranberries at the top edge of the torte. Serve individual slices with a drizzle of sauce on each plate.