• Recipe for a foolproof Thanksgiving
    November 16,2012
    Quentin Bacon Photo

    Green beans with a lively lemony topping are a delicious addition to the Thanksgiving table. The recipe and photo are from “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust” by Ina Garten.

    Thanksgiving is, perhaps, the most tradition-bound of holidays. Many of us, for example, had a fairly good idea in, say, the year 2002 what we’d be eating on the fourth Thursday in November 2012. And if the culinary exigencies of this holiday are stressful for the cook, well, that’s tradition, too.

    It’s time to mess with the stress and take a tip (or two) from Ina Garten, aka “The Barefoot Contessa.” In her new book, “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust” (Clarkson Potter, 2012), Garten describes a “foolproof” recipe as one that not only works (“that goes without saying”) but also results in “a dish that’s deeply satisfying to eat.” Her chapter on a “Foolproof Thanksgiving” offers a number of tips, including:

    Choose a menu that fits your oven space. Pick recipes for side dishes (such as those below) that can be made ahead and kept warm on top of the stove or reheated in the oven while the turkey rests.

    Use a meat thermometer. The turkey is done when you get a reading of 165 degrees in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh. Remove the turkey from the oven, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and let it rest 25 to 30 minutes. Carve and serve drizzled with pan juices (no need for last-minute gravy making).

    A stuffed turkey takes longer to cook, which in turn means the turkey will be drier. Instead, throw a quartered onion and lemon into the cavity and make the stuffing on the side.

    Don’t serve appetizers. Offer a glass of wine or Champagne, plus some salted cashews and good olives.

    Ask each friend to bring a dessert. They’ll feel that you trusted them to bring something special, and then everyone gets to enjoy his or her favorite.

    Go ahead, mess with the stress. Consider it the beginning of a new tradition.

    Green beans Gremolata

    Yield: 4 servings

    1 pound French green beans (haricots vert), trimmed (see note)

    2 teaspoons minced garlic

    1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)

    3 tablespoons minced fresh flatleaf parsley

    3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

    2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

    2½ tablespoons good olive oil

    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with water and ice. Add beans to the boiling water and blanch 2 to 3 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Drain beans in a colander and immediately put them in the ice-water bath to stop the cooking and preserve their bright green color.

    Toss together garlic, lemon zest, parsley, parmesan and pine nuts in a small bowl and set aside.

    When ready to serve, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Drain beans and pat dry. Add beans to skillet and saute, turning frequently, 2 minutes, until coated with oil and heated through. Remove from heat, add gremolata and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

    Note: Haricots vert are thin, tender green beans and are worth seeking out (and paying for). You can substitute regular (fatter) green beans. Cook them at least 2 minutes longer.

    Recipe slightly adapted and reprinted from “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, 2012).

    Sweet Potato Puree

    3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

    ½ cup half-and-half

    1½ teaspoons grated orange zest

    ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

    ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

    1 tablespoon kosher salt

    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

    Place a steamer insert or mesh colander in a large pot and add enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer. Place sweet potato chunks in the steamer and bring water to a boil. Cover the pot, lower heat and cook over simmering water about 25 minutes, until very tender. Check occasionally to be sure the water doesn’t boil away.

    Transfer sweet potatoes to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, slowly add half-and-half, orange zest, orange juice, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Taste for seasonings and adjust if desired. Mix until smooth. Serve hot.

    Note: You can make this several hours in advance. Reheat in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.

    Recipe slightly adapted and reprinted from “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, 2012).

    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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