(Oct. 1996)
This fall my husband and I travelled to Indiana and Ohio in search of leaves, pumpkins, crisp air and log fires. We got everything we came for and more! The last stop on our journey was Brown County, Indiana were we visited two old friends who recently moved to Brown Country from California. (I should say moved "back" to Brown County as they had previously lived in Indiana growing up and in college).

With their permission, our gracious hosts let me document our meal for this web site. It seemed appropriate since I was in the presense of 3 of the finest cooks I know, each making their favorite recipe for our feast. What follows is turkey, great instructions for gravy, an old-fashioned recipe for stuffing, the best green beans I have ever had, special yams and more! Last but not least, I should mention our festive drink of the evening was a Side Car, prepared beautifully in Martini glasses complete with sugar around the rim. You'll see the instructions below!

Have a great holiday season!

The Meal
Our meal consisted of a tender, fresh turkey, stuffing, cranberries, sweet yams, potatoes, green beans and more. A fresh turkey is well worth reserving.

The Turkey-Initial Preparation
It is important to prepare your turkey with the idea of sterilizing the area afterward with cleanser and even disinfectant for proper sanitation.

The rule of thumb for roasting a turkey is 20 minutes per pound in a hot oven. Some people like to wrap the turkey in cheesecloth or top the turkey with thick bacon slices. Both methods help to seal in moisture and promote tenderness. Other people simply like to baste the turkey often. A combination of all methods may be applied. The wonderful golden brown color of a turkey is a result of careful basting and cooking.

In our case, we dabbed a little butter on the turkey and layered 4 sage leaves on top. In the pan we placed large chunks of celery, potatoes and onions.

The giblets (the neck, heart and liver often packed inside the cavity of the turkey) may be used for the stuffing or may be discarded.

The Stuffing
A general rule of thumb is to use 1/4-1/2 cup of stuffing for each pound of turkey. The stuffing is put in the cavity of the bird and remaining stuffing may be cooked in a lightly greased small pan. My favorite stuffing recipe dates back to my childhood. My father would prepare the bread for the stuffing days before thanksgiving. Leaving the bread out, the bread gradually dries and can then be gently broken down into small pieces. We used different kinds of breads for an unusual stuffing. The smaller the pieces, the faster juice and liquids are absorbed, making the difference between a moister or dryer stuffing. The kind of bread may also affect the moistness of the dressing. Boxed cubed stuffings are more convenient and can certainly be used with additional ingredients that add individuality to the stuffing.

Stuffing recipe:
4 cups dry bread crumbs (prepared from dried bread or boxed)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/4 cup parsley
chicken or turkey stock may be used to add moisture

1 tsp nutmeg
dash of paprika
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp sage
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt

Optional Ingredients:
Giblets (if you'd like to use them-particularly the liver adds taste to stuffing)
Nuts (a variety may be used-coarsely chopped)
Apples or pears (finely chopped-not too many just a few for flavor)

Melt the butter, add the vegetables (and or fruits) and saute until fairly soft. Add the bread crumbs and seasonings and mix until desired consistency.
Note: Amounts will vary based on size of turkey.

The Green Beans
A simple recipe for great flavored green beans is to boil the beans gently in a ham based stock. To make the stock use a ham hock or ham bone or other inexpensive piece of meat. Add a little salt. Drain. Cook the beans in the stock to desire crispness.

Yams/Sweet Potatoes
4-5 large yams
2 oranges
brown sugar (1/2 cup)
maple syrup

Peel yams and slice into 1" slices.
Put in a microwave safe dish and microwave until barely soft (10-15 min).
Remove slices and move to an oven safe casserole dish. In the dish layer yams, sugar and syrup much like a layered lasagna.
Squeeze the juice of 1 orange over layered dish.
Lay sliced oranges on top of layers.
Cover with foil. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Remove orange slices and mash.

Turkey Gravy
The big question here is lumpy or not. The purists at our feast felt that lumpy was best because lumpy meant including all the great ingredients found in the bottom of the pan after the turkey has been removed.

I probably would lean to the other side. Make the gravy the same, but drain it of the lumpy ingredients which also will drain it of some of the fat left over from the cooking. The choice is yours.

To make gravy take about 3 tbsp of pan drippings and mix well with 1 tbsp of flour. The mixture should be thick and creamy. Then, add this mixture back to the pan slowly while adding a little milk, water or broth. The mixture will thicken the gravy. Thicken to desired consistency. Season the gravy accordingly with salt, pepper and other seasonings you may desire.

Canned cranberries are convenient. If you'd like to cook them from scratch it's pretty simple. Just find the whole berries in your produce department (usually found whole in bags). Add 1 bag to 1/2 cup water and boil down. Add sugar to taste. For a different flavor add the juice of a fresh squeezed orange.

Other things to add to the menu
A light soup to start the meal can be a good idea. But nothing too heavy. This is a big meal. We would recommend a light broth based soup such as a mushroom or squash soup.

Fresh baked breads are a must at holiday meals.

Great pies include mince, pumpkin and pecan with a dab of vanilla ice-cream.

Holiday Cocktail
Our holiday cocktail of choice was a Sidecar. This was an interesting drink I had never had before. Very lemony but sweet to the lips as the glass rim is coated with sugar-much like a margarita is with salt.

1 shot Cointreau
2 shots cognac
1.5 shots lemon juice
Shake with ice.
Coat the rim of a martini glass with lemon and dip in sugar.
Pour and serve.

Great White Wines:
Some great Chardonnay wines include:

Robert Mondavi Reserve
Cakebread Cellars
Grgich Hills
Edna Valley
Murphy Goode
Hess Select