Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Kitchen Gardener Cook

The Menu

Maple Roast Turkey

Emeril and Tommy Leggett’s Chesapeake Bay Baked Oyster Dressing

Spinach-Wild Rice Casserole

Baked Acorn Squash

Braised Wild Greens

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Pears and Cranberries

Countdown to the big Thanksgiving Meal...Leave it to Williams-Sonoma to get us completely organized for the really big meal. I found their timeline and know it’s a great tool to pass on whether the big meal is a first for you or a fiftieth. I always think that once the list is made, I don’t have to worry (re:obsess) about it. The planner has been adapted to the menu we're suggesting or you may want to alter it to specific dishes you will be serving.

The Annapolis Waterside Thanksgiving blogs will be running for 2 weeks. This week you get the planning strategy, the menu and some of the side dish recipes. Next week we'll talk about table decor, centerpieces, hors d'oeuvres from Homestead Gardens and give the turkey and Oyster Dressing recipes.

For planning the menu, I wanted to include some of the ingredients from our fellow Native Americans-because after all-that's where it started  and it just feels good to incorporate those ingredients in a special holiday feast.

1 to 2 Weeks Before Thanksgiving

  • Confirm the number of guests and plan your menu.
  • Order the appropriate-size turkey. There is a chart below to help.
  • Plan your table setting, serving dishes and decorations.
  • Read through all the recipes and make your preliminary
  • shopping lists and to-do lists.
  • Shop for any essential cooks' tools, cooking equipment
  • and tableware you will need.
  • Take table linens to the dry cleaner for cleaning and pressing.

A Few Days Before Thanksgiving

  • Finalize your shopping lists.
  • Shop for staples, produce and other fresh foods.
  • Prepare any food that can be made in advance, such as pie pastry and cranberry sauce.
  • If you purchased a frozen turkey, begin thawing it out in the refrigerator.
  • If you plan to brine the turkey, prepare the brine but do not add the turkey; cover and refrigerate.

The Day Before Thanksgiving

  • If you ordered a fresh turkey, pick it up or have it delivered.
  • If you are going to brine the turkey, place it in the brine and refrigerate.
  • Complete your food shopping.
  • Make turkey stock for gravy and dressing. OR have lots of chicken stock on hand-no MSG please.
  • Chop ingredients for the dressing, such as onions and celery; refrigerate in covered bowls or plastic bags.
  • Chop the herbs for various dishes; refrigerate in covered bowls or plastic bags.
  • Prepare and cook the dishes which just need reheating-such as our Wild Rice Casserole, Baked Acorn Squash and Sautéed Wild Greens.
  • Bake the pies and tarts or other desserts.
  • Chill the wines and water.

The Evening Before Thanksgiving

  • Cut fresh bread into chunks for the dressing; leave out overnight to dry.
  • Set the table.
  • Organize the before-dinner drinks.
  • Organize the tea and coffee service.
  • Determine what time the turkey will go into the oven.
  • Organize the serving dishes.
  • Get a good night's sleep!
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Early Morning
  • Have breakfast and organize your day.
  • Confirm the time to remove the turkey from the refrigerator and the time to put it in the oven.

4 to 5 Hours Before Dinner

  • While the oven preheats, prepare the turkey for roasting.
  • Place the turkey in the oven at the determined time.
  • Prepare the dressing.
  • Check the table setting to make sure all is in order.

1 to 2 Hours Before Dinner

  • Put an relishes or cranberry sauce on the table.
  • Serve drinks and hors d'oeuvres to guests.
  • 45 Minutes to 1 Hour Before Dinner
  • When the turkey is done, transfer to a warmed platter and cover with aluminum foil.
  • Finish preparing the dressing, then bake the dressing and cook or reheat side dishes.
  • Make the gravy.
  • Place the dinner plates in the warm oven.
  • Seat your guests, carve the turkey and serve dinner.

The following  proportions come from a free-range turkey farmer but  no is always useful because you need to consider the weight of the bones and skin per serving.

Number of Guests-Turkey Size Needed

  • 8            12-14#
  • 10          15-16#
  • 12          18-20#
  • 14           21-22#
  • 16           24#
  • 18          25#
  • 20          26#
  • larger gatherings      Estimate 1 1/4# per person

Spinach-Wild Rice Casserole

Serves 12-14

This is one of those nice and easy make ahead dishes that can be reheated quickly just before proceeding to the table. I even froze my version which you see pictured. The wild rice goes well with sweet-baked squash, pumpkin or candied sweet potatoes.

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup leeks, (mostly white part), washed and chopped
  • 2 pounds washed fresh spinach, stems removed and coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium high. When hot add the leeks and saute for 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just lightly wilted.

Add the cooked wild rice to this mixture and then stir in the sunflower seeds, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning.

Place in 1 or 2 greased heavy casseroles. Top with parmesan cheese and drizzle the remaining melted butter over the top.

Bake for 35 minutes, uncovered.

Baked Acorn Squash

Serves 16

Native American vegetables are abundant this time of year so it's a 'given' to include them in the Thanksgiving feast.

  • 4  medium-sized acorn squash
  • 16 teaspoons honey
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Fresh chopped sage leaves for garnish

Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp and seeds. Cut each squash into fourths. Trim the bottoms, if necessary, so that the squash will stand hollow side up.

Place 1 teaspoon honey in the hollow of each squash, then add 1/2 tablespoon butter to each, a twist of fresh ground pepper and a dash of nutmeg.

Place squash in a large, shallow baking pan and bake, uncovered, in a moderate oven, 350 degrees, for about 2 1/2 hours or until the squash are tender. Add the pecans or walnuts during the last 20 minutes of baking. Sprinkle with the fresh sage leaves just before serving.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Pears and Cranberries

Serves 12-14

  • 1 1⁄2 pounds of egg or potato bread, raisin bread or brioche
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup fresh or dried cranberries, if fresh coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 4-quart baking dish with butter.

Cut bread into 2-inch cubes and place in prepared 4-quart baking dish.

Place cream and milk in a saucepan; bring just to a boil. Remove from heat.

Place all remaining ingredients in large bowl; stir to blend. Stir in milk mixture and pour over bread.

Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until top is golden brown and custard is firm. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Note: The bread pudding can be baked one day in advance, just don't overcook it. Cook it just until eggs are set.

For reheating:To keep it very moist, poke holes in the pudding with a fork and then drizzle about 1/2 cup of cream over it. Bake about 20 minutes in a 300-degree oven. Serve warm.

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