My Mom, Dinah Shore and the Upside Down Turkey

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought I’d share how my mother came to roast her turkey breast-side down. I must say, there are a number of ways to roast a turkey and have it come out nice and juicy.

I have no objection to any way you like to cook your bird including, but not limited to, frying, wrapped in bacon, cheesecloth wrapped, spatchcocked, sous vide etc. Stuffed, un-stuffed, brined are all OK by me, if that works for you. I have found over the years that cooking a turkey is a very personal decision, and folks get pretty passionate about how they cook their bird.

Many years ago a singer named Dinah Shore had a TV show, which my Mother really liked. Dinah, besides being a singer, liked to cook. She gave her turkey cooking tip one time on her show. She said she roasted her turkey breast side down for most of the time. The theory is that if the bird is breast side down the juices will flow into the breast- which eliminates the need to baste. It also slows down the cooking time for the breast- so it comes out cooked at the same time as the dark meat.

My Mother was intrigued, to say the least. She talked about it, a lot, leading up to Thanksgiving. We used to get a really big turkey and my Dad has his doubts about how easy turning over a hot, partially cooked turkey, would be. Mom was adamant. So it was that that Thanksgiving my Mom put her bird in the pan, on the rack, breast side down. She was excited and nervous at the same time.

Let’s face it- the turkey is the star of the meal and if it didn’t work it would be a disaster. But Mom trusted Dinah and they went ahead with this radical new plan. After about 3 hours of cooking, maybe a bit less, they managed to get the turkey turned over and returned it to the oven. Mom would look pensively through he oven window. I think giving birth was easier on her.

Well, in the end it worked out great. The bird was juicy and evenly cooked. No basting, so less work. She was delighted that she had held to her plan and had not been persuaded to cook it like before.

So every time I cook a turkey I cook it breast side down. How long I roast it that way depends on the size of the bird. Normally about 2 hours- because I am roasting a smaller turkey. I always remember my Mother when I cook it that way. I remember that first breast side down Thanksgiving and every one after that. Mom always was delighted- like the first time- and she always mentioned Dinah Shore.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. May your turkey be juicy and most importantly, may you get to spend time with the people you love. I’ll be with family and I’ll think about my Mother and Father – and Dinah.

Honey and Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Honey Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes

I will admit it – I am not a fan of really sweet,  sweet potato dishes. Not unless it is a dessert. My Mom never served sweet potatoes with marshmallows, but they were still served “candied”. Sweet potatoes, sometimes canned, cooked in a glaze of brown sugar and butter. It was just what we did.

Then, one year,  I grew my own sweet potatoes. Everything changed after that. I can still remember the joy of digging that first plant up.  There they were, a cluster of beautiful sweet potatoes. I grew a lot of them that first year. I steamed them, baked them, made soup with them. Even had them for breakfast a few times.

My Mom was so pleased when I told her I was supplying them for her Thanksgiving dinner that year. I suggested we just cook them with a little butter, salt and pepper. They were so naturally sweet, that they surely, did not need to be candied.

Not everyone was so pleased with that choice. Clearly, how to prepare sweet potatoes evokes some of the same passion as how to cook the turkey. So for awhile, there were two competing dishes of sweet potatoes on the Thanksgiving table. As if there weren’t enough dishes to worry about- we now had to have 2 types of sweet potatoes.

I hope this dish might just bridge the gap between the two camps. A little sweet, but not overly sweet. The orange juice and honey enhance the sweet potatoes nicely. The sugared nuts are a fun addition, too.

Honey Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes

4 T. butter
4-5 c. peeled and sliced sweet potatoes
1 c. fresh orange juice
Zest of 2 oranges
¼ c. honey
2 t. hot sauce, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh grated nutmeg
Sugared nuts- optional* recipe follows

Melt butter in large skillet. Add sweet potatoes and cook over medium heat, for 5- 8 minutes. Potatoes should start to turn a little golden. Add orange juice, honey and seasonings and turn heat down to low. Cook, uncovered,  until potatoes are tender and liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes. If you want more color on the sweet potatoes, turn the heat up a little once they are tender, and liquid is mostly gone. Serve with sugared nuts sprinkled on top, if you like. These can be made a day ahead and reheated.

*Sugared Nuts

4-5 c. nuts, I like walnuts or pecans
2 c. sugar
1 c. water
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. orange peel
1 t. salt, optional
Place all ingredients in heavy skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until all the water disappears. Whatever liquid in the pan will be clinging to the nuts and syrupy. Dump nuts onto a large cookie sheet and break apart with a wooden spoon to prevent clumping. As nuts cool, stir once or twice to remove any remaining clumps, and to cool faster. Nuts will lose their glossy appearance and attain a sugary crust. If it looks like nut soup, you didn’t cook them long enough, and you must return all to the skillet and cook longer. As the nuts start to get drier during cooking, you can turn down the heat a little to prevent burning. Once you’ve made a few batches, though, you will get good at judging when to stop cooking. You can also make a spicy version by adding a teaspoon of cayenne pepper along with the other ingredients. Store in cool, dry place to keep nuts fresh longer.

Pumpkin Pancakes

“Pumpkin” Pancakes

These pancakes make a wonderful breakfast for Thanksgiving morning- or any morning for that matter.

I want to be honest with you from the start. I made these pancakes with cooked butternut squash and not pumpkin. They were terrific.

Many winter squash can be used just like pumpkin in cooking. The problem is that when I post a recipe as “squash” instead of pumpkin, people get confused. Perhaps they are thinking summer squash, like zucchini.  Maybe the word pumpkin just conjures up a clearer image.

The pancakes were really good, and isn’t that what matters?

I make my own baking mix, and that is what I used as the base for the pancakes. You can just buy a mix, like Jiffy or Bisquick, if you prefer. The pancakes are light and fluffy, with a nice “pumpkin” flavor. We had them with warmed maple syrup, but they would also be nice served with powdered sugar or perhaps a fresh berry syrup. They would make a nice Thanksgiving Day breakfast, too.

“Pumpkin” Pancakes

2 c. baking mix – like Bisquick or Jiffy Mix – I make my own*
3 T. brown sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 1/2 c. evaporated milk
1 c. pureed pumpkin or winter squash
2 eggs, beaten
2 t. vanilla

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl and set aside. Whisk together wet ingredients and stir into dry ingredients. Lightly grease a skillet and cook over moderate heat. Use about 1/3 c. of batter per pancake. Turn when edges appear dry. Makes 16.

*Chef Pastry Mix/ Biscuit Mix

8 cups sifted, all-purpose flour
1 c. powdered milk
1 c. powdered buttermilk
¼ c. baking powder
1 T. salt
2 c. shortening, butter or coconut oil*
Sift dry ingredients together 3 times. Cut in shortening, butter or coconut oil  to resemble cornmeal. Keep in an airtight container. Store in a cool dry place and use within six months.

* I use coconut oil and store in the fridge. If you use butter or coconut oil- you have to keep in the fridge.

Hazel’s Sweet Potato Pie

Hazel’s Sweet Potato Pie

I love sweet potato pie. I am always surprised when someone tells me they  have never had it. Maybe it is a north/south thing? I have made it for friends several times, and there is always someone who says they never had a sweet potato pie before.

Once they taste it, they love it.  Some people say that they prefer sweet potato pie over pumpkin pie. I like both, but it gives you another pie option for Thanksgiving.

I used to work with a wonderful woman named Hazel Pruitt. She grew up in Alabama and taught me so much about southern cooking. I first made collard greens with Hazel. She also taught me how to make sweet potato pie. This is her recipe and I want to share it with you. I think of her every time I make it.

I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for the crust, but use whatever crust you like. Her recipe makes two crusts, so I will use the other half of the dough for another pie.

Hazel’s Sweet Potato Pie

½ c. sugar

1 t. cinnamon

½ t. allspice

½ t. salt

¼ t. cloves

1 ½ c. cooked, mashed sweet potato

2 eggs, beaten

1 c. milk or almond milk

2 T. melted butter or 2 T. olive oil

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

Combine sugar with seasonings. Stir in remaining ingredients and combine until smooth. Pour into pie crust and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until filling is set.

Martha Stewart’s Pie Crust Recipe

2½ c. flour

1 t. salt

1 t. sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, very cold

About 6 T. ice water

Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Using a fork to mix the dough start to add the ice water a tablespoon or 2 at a time until mixture just holds together. Wrap and chill until ready to use. Makes 2.

Cranberry- Raspberry Sauce

Cranberry-Raspberry Sauce

If you are looking for a fun and tasty variation for the usual cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, I might suggest this cranberry and raspberry version.

The raspberries add a great flavor to the dish along with the cranberries and orange juice. My family has enjoyed versions of this sauce every Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember.

The real secret however, is the dressing. It is a creamy, slightly sweet topping, made with a fruit juice custard and whipped cream. It really changes the whole dish into something special.

This might be the first time people ask for seconds on cranberry sauce.

Cranberry-Raspberry Sauce

12 oz. cranberries, rinsed and picked over

1 c. orange juice

1 T. grated orange peel

½ c. sugar, or to taste

12 oz. raspberries, fresh or frozen ( thawed, if frozen)

Combine all ingredients, (except the raspberries)  in a saucepan and cook, stirring often, over medium heat. Cook until the cranberries burst and mixture thickens, about 25 minutes, stirring more often as mixture thickens. Reduce heat as mixture thickens, to prevent scorching. Stir in the raspberries. Cool and chill. Makes about 3 cups. Serve with the dressing on the side.

Dressing

2 eggs
½ c. sugar
½ c orange juice
½ c. pineapple juice
2 T. flour
juice of half a lemon
1 c. whipping cream, whipped

Combine all ingredients, except whipped cream, in a saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Mixture should coat a spoon. Cool and chill. Fold cooled mixture into whipped cream.  Serves 6-8.

Cindy’s Rich Squash Rolls

Cindy’s Squash Rolls

I love these dinner rolls.  I think you will, too. The addition of squash is what makes them so special. The squash adds beautiful color to the rolls. It also creates a soft texture and an earthy sweetness.

These rolls are wonderful for any fall or winter dinner or holiday. They are especially nice for Thanksgiving.

We have them every Thanksgiving. My sister Cindy always makes them, and has been making them for years. They are rich, soft and sweet and make a perfect addition to the dinner table. Even with all the other foods at Thanksgiving dinner- you always save room for these dinner rolls.

While I use cooked butternut squash in mine, pumpkin could be used, as well as other winter squashes.

The recipe makes a pretty big batch. You can bake them, then freeze some for later use.

I love slicing them in half, and making mini turkey sandwiches with them the day after Thanksgiving.

Cindy’s Squash Rolls

1 c. milk

4 T. butter

½ c. sugar

¼ c. brown sugar

1 t. salt

1 pkt. Yeast

4-5 c. flour

1 ½ c. cooked butternut squash, strained, or 1 (16oz.) can squash or pumpkin

2 eggs, room temperature

Scald milk and butter. Place sugar and salt in large bowl and pour in milk mixture. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and 2 cups of flour. Beat at medium speed with mixer for 2 minutes. Add squash and eggs and mix until smooth. Add flour gradually to form a stiff dough. Knead on floured board for 7-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning dough to coat evenly. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled. Punch dough down and shape into rolls. Dough can be placed in a greased cake pan where they will touch each other as they rise making softer rolls. You can also place them in muffin tins, or shape into rolls and place on greased baking sheet for crispier rolls. Cover and let rise until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Butter tops while warm. Makes 2 ½ -3 dozen.

Variation: you can also add ½ t. ground nutmeg, 1-2 T. chopped chives or 1 T. parsley flakes for a little different flavor.

Classic Pecan Pie

Classic Pecan Pie

I love all sorts of pies. I would never want to pick just one favorite. If I had to pick, pecan would probably be it. The nuts, the sweet filling and the crispy crust all work so well together.

Served plain, or with a dollop of whipped cream, pecan pie just works for me. It is not a pie I make very often, so I think pecan pie always makes me thinks of the holidays. It was also a favorite of my Mom’s.

Here is the recipe. The crust recipe follows.

Classic Pecan Pie

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 c. light or dark corn syrup

1 c. sugar

2 T. Butter, melted

1 t. vanilla

1½ c. pecans

1 unbaked 9-inch pastry crust

In medium mixing bowl beat together all ingredients, except the pecans until well mixed. Stir in nuts and pour into crust. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted off center comes out clean. Makes 1.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Variation: The same recipe as above, but reduce sugar to 1/3 cup and add 4 oz. of German sweet chocolate or semi sweet chocolate, melted and cooled along with the eggs. This pie sometimes needs a little more time to bake-5 minutes or so.

Variations: You can experiment with other nuts. Try toasted, skinned hazelnuts, chopped coarsely or walnuts, slivered almonds or a combo.

You can use a store bought crust, but I prefer homemade. This is the crust recipe I normally use when I make pecan pie. It makes two crusts, so you can cut the recipe in half, freeze half of the dough, or just make 2 pies!!!

Half and Half Dough

This is a great crust for liquid fillings like custard type pies, pecan and pumpkin. For a sweet pie like pecan you can reduce the sugar in the crust by half.

¼ c. butter, room temp

½ c. shortening, room temp, or lard

¼ c. sugar

½ t. salt

2½ c. pastry or all purpose flour

1/8 t. baking powder

¼ c. milk

1 t. lemon juice

Cream together the first 4 ingredients until smooth. Mix together the flour and baking powder. Set aside. Combine milk with the juice and set aside. Stir ½ c. of the flour into butter mixture. Stir until smooth. Add a little of the milk, stirring until smooth. Add remaining ingredients alternately until finished. Dough will firm up once chilled. Chill at least 4 hours before using. Makes 2 crusts.

Cindy’s Butternut Squash Pie

Cindy’s Butternut Squash Pie

At first glance you would think my sister made a pumpkin pie. It looks like pumpkin pie. It also tastes a lot like pumpkin pie. When I was a kid, and tasted this pie for the first time,  it was the first time I liked “pumpkin” pie

My sister has been making this squash pie recipe for years. I love it. It is part of our Thanksgiving tradition. Cindy made it clear, from the beginning,  that she used cooked butternut squash for her pie and not pumpkin. She liked the flavor better. I can’t argue with her success. The pie is yummy.

Of course, you could use pumpkin or other winter squash, if you like. I use Hubbard sometimes. The recipe has the right mix of spices and just enough sugar without being too sweet. What ever squash you use, I am sure this pie will be a hit with your family, too.

Cindy’s Butternut Squash Pie

1 (9″) unbaked pie shell brushed with 1 egg white
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups (1 lb.) cooked, butternut squash (mashed or pureed)
3 Tbsp molasses
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz can)

Combine filling ingredients and pour into shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 55-60 min., or until custard tests done.

Cindy added: I find this to be a very generous recipe; could make 2 smaller pies or just bake the extra custard in a baking cup. I suppose it could be frozen and used in another recipe, but I’ve never tried to freeze the raw filling, so I don’t know.
This can be used with pumpkin, too.

Sweet Potato and Herb Biscuits

Sweet Potato and Herb Biscuits

These biscuits are a favorite of mine. They go great with a bowl of chili. They also would make a nice addition to your Thanksgiving table.

I like sweet potatoes any number of ways. Steamed, roasted, mashed. In this biscuit recipe, raw sweet potatoes are grated and added to the dough, along with some herbs. The biscuits come out tender, with great flavor and texture.

I enjoy them with a bit of butter, warm from the oven.

When you mix the dough, don’t be worried if it seems too dry. It takes a little bit of kneading to get the moisture out of the potatoes. The extra effort is worth it.

I cut them into triangles, but you can just form the dough into a log shape. Then, slice the dough for round biscuits. They taste wonderful, no matter the shape.

 Sweet Potato and Herb Biscuits

2 1/4 c. flour

1 T. baking powder

1/2 t. grated lemon peel

1/4 t. each baking soda, dried basil and dried thyme

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 c. shredded sweet potato, about 1 large

1/2 c. fine chopped green onions

1/2 c. sour cream

2T. butter, melted or olive oil

Stir together dry ingredients in large bowl and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients and add to flour mixture mixing until just blended. Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead a few times until dough just stays together. Dough will look too dry- but it will come together after you knead it. Press into an 8-inch square and cut into four squares.* Cross cut each square into four triangles. Place on greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Makes 16.

* I press the dough into a lightly floured 8×8-inch baking pan and then flip it out onto the work surface, before cutting. That way you’ll get nice, even edges.

Sweet Potato Puffs

Sweet Potato Puffs

If you are looking for a new way to serve sweet potatoes, you might just want to try this recipe. Sweet potatoes are mashed, mixed with butter, eggs and spices, rolled in bread crumbs and fried. The end result is a delicate morsel that has a crunch on the outside- and creamy mashed sweet potatoes on the inside. They are addictive!!!

They make a great side dish, or can be served as an appetizer. While they are good hot, they maintain their crunch even after cooling down.

I first had a version of this recipe many years a go when a coworker made them and brought them to work. I recently found her original recipe, and added more seasonings to it. I love them as much now, as I did then.

The mixture, even after chilling, is soft. I placed spoonfuls of the mix in the breadcrumbs and rolled them gently into balls. The puffs are soft, even after frying, so remove carefully from the oil. You can fry up a batch in a few minutes, and serve right away. You can also cook them ahead of time, then reheat them before serving. I made my puffs into balls, but you could also flatten them a bit, more like the shape of a scallop.

This is a nice way to use up leftover cooked sweet potatoes, too.

So here is the recipe.

Sweet Potato Puffs

2 c. mashed, cooked sweet potatoes

3 T. softened butter

1 egg

3 T. chopped parsley, or 1 T. dried

½ t. salt

½ t. paprika

½ t. cumin

½ t. nutmeg

Hot sauce to taste

Dash of fresh ground pepper

Bread crumbs for rolling

Oil for frying

Combine sweet potatoes with butter and egg, stirring to mix well. Add seasonings and stir well. Chill mixture at least a couple of hours. Heat oil to 350 degrees. You should have at least a couple of inches of oil in the pan.  Shape sweet potato mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll in crumbs and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve. You can make a head of time, then just warm in the oven when ready to serve. They can also be fried and frozen for later use. These make a nice side dish or even can be served as an appetizer. They are very soft, even after frying, so remove from hot oil carefully.

Crunchy outside, soft and creamy inside

Crunchy outside, soft and creamy inside