Few will admit this, but preparing Thanksgiving dinner stresses people out. We are living with non-stop information overload and everywhere online, on television, and on billboards we see pictures of that annoying perfect turkey with all the flawless trimming and a relaxed happy host just waiting for their guests to arrive. Nope! We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, but it’s hard not to feel a little judged because, well, you probably are being judged kind of a little, or maybe even a lot depending who is coming. It’s like going to the hairdresser. Why we care what people think of our hair I’ll never know, but we often do!
So when WTIC Fox News Connecticut asked me to do a Thanksgiving cooking extravaganza for the next eight weekdays in a row starting today, I jumped at the chance to show viewers and our blog friends just how satisfying and easy it can be to host Thanksgiving (Ironically, I’m not hosting this year, but that’s okay because after this series my family will have had about a dozen trial turkey day dinners!). Each day, I will share the recipes and the videos with you, and give you clever ideas meant take the stress out of the day (don’t carve the turkey where people can see you).
We’ll start with appetizers, starters, side dishes and dessert, and work our way up to taking the fear out of carving and what to do with all that turkey meat come day three of leftovers when major boredom sets in.
Yesterday, we made Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Shallots and Fig Goat Cheese Caramelized Shallot Squares made with puff pastry. These recipes are both huge crowd pleasers and don’t require a ton of time or skill. Watch today’s video to learn how to make these winner recipes as well (http://foxct.com/2013/11/18/try-a-new-thanksgiving-side-dish/)
Also, we’d also love to hear about your Thanksgiving success and disasters (especially if they’re funny. What are your favorite and worst Thanksgiving memories?
Fig Goat, Cheese, and Caramelized Shallot Squares
- 1 ready-made defrosted puff pastry sheet
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
- 2 ½ cups of thinly sliced shallots (4 large shallots, or 6 small ones)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 12-14 whole dried figs (3 ounces)
- 3 teaspoons honey
- 5-6 ounces crumbled goat cheese
- ¼ cup coarsely ground walnuts (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Roll out the puff pastry to a 10 X 13 rectangle. Poke a few holes in pastry with a fork (so it doesn’t puff up while baking.)
- Pre-bake the puff pastry until it is just slightly browned, about 5-7 minutes.
- In the meantime, melt the butter with oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the shallots.
- Cook the shallots on medium heat until they are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently, especially if you are not using a non-stick pan.
- Add the salt, and season to taste with pepper. Set aside.
- Place dried figs in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and dry figs.
- Slice figs 1/8 inch thick, and then coarsely chop them (you should have ½ cup of sliced figs). Mix with honey and set aside
- Spread the shallot mixture evenly over the pre-baked pastry.
- Sprinkle the goat cheese, followed by the figs and the walnuts.
- Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese starts to bubble, about 15-20 minutes.
- Let cool and cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- 3/4 cup olive or canola oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ½ cups sliced shallots (6-12 shallots, depending on size)
- Heat oil and butter in a 12-inch saucepan over medium heat until it starts to bubble.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the shallots.
- Cook until golden brown, about 30 minutes (add more oil if the shallots start to burn) stirring frequently.
- Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Pat down to remove excess oil. Once the excess oil is absorbed, place the shallots in an airtight container and use to garnish soups, vegetables, potatoes, and sandwiches.
Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Shallots
- 4 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 cups leeks, chopped
- 1/3 cup shallots, chopped
- 2 1/2 cups fresh butternut squash cut in 1-inch cubes
- 1 can pure organic pumpkin puree (no sugar added)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon cane sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger finely minced
- ¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 Bartlett pear, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
- 5-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/3 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
- 4-5 tablespoons crispy shallots (see recipe below)
- 1/3 pound pancetta, sliced thin (optional)
- Heat canola oil in a 6-8 quart pot. Sautee shallots and leeks over medium heat until they are soft and glassy, but not yet brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add the butternut squash and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add the pumpkin puree and stir well.
- Add salt, pepper, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cayenne pepper. Stir and cook over medium heat for one minute.
- Add the pear and broth and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is hot, turn down the heat to a steady simmer on a low-medium flame. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the pears and squash are soft.
- Puree in a food processor, or with an immersion blender (you may also use a blender, but be sure to let the soup cool to lukewarm first).
- Add sour cream and mix well.
- Fry pancetta (optional) in a small frying pan over medium-high heat, until crisp, and pat between two towels to absorb grease.
- Serve with crispy shallots and/or crumbled pancetta on top.