We’re celebrating Thanksgiving early, with the help of Heinen’s Grocery and photographer Sally Roeckell of Table and Dish. One of the things most evident from Sally’s stunning food photography is that her seasoned culinary skills are matched by her gift for impeccable presentation. Sally makes each dish look like a work of art and – when it comes to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner this week – I want what Sally’s having! Or at least I’d love to bring one dish to the table inspired by Sally’s signature savvy for celebrating the elegance of simple ingredients.
A Table and Dish Thanksgiving
by Sally Roeckell, Barrington photographer and creator of TableAndDish.com
Thanksgiving will be a bit different in our house this year. On Thanksgiving Day my son Mark will be recuperating from kidney surgery at Lurie Children’s Hospital. We have so much to be thankful for. We live in a community with some of the country’s best doctors and we are blessed to be able to choose them. Mark will be well cared for but will miss the big dinner, gathered friends and crazy board games usually associated with Thanksgiving. So this past week, Mark helped me prepare our family’s Thanksgiving meal early so we could enjoy the feast in advance.
As Mark and I made our Thanksgiving dishes, we photographed a few of our favorite parts of the meal. I understand from some of my friends that preparing a Turkey is still a mystery or a daunting task. The truth is that it couldn’t be easier. We have one large oven so, in order to fit all the dishes that accompany the bird on the table, we cook the Turkey outside on our 19-year-old Weber grill. It’s been the most reliable purchase of our 20 year marriage and it never fails us. (Unless my oldest son leaves the gas on after the last time he used it and the tank is empty when you need it…I’m just sayin.)
Let me back up…
One of our favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner is the cranberries. There’s always been a debate over which cranberry sauce is the best. My husband loves, not “likes”, LOVES the gelatinous cylinder shaped mass from a can. I prefer good old fashioned homemade cranberry sauce.
With only 4 ingredients and 15 minutes of cook time it’s worth giving it a try.
1 bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
the zest of one orange
one orange sliced thinly about 10 thin slices
Add all to a sauce pan. On medium heat simmer stirring occasionally. When the mixture starts to bubble and froth stir constantly as it begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Pour into glass jar with air tight lid. Keeps in the refrigerator for weeks.
Now back to the turkey.
Some say fresh vs. frozen turkeys taste better but I won’t buy my fresh turkey just anywhere because I want to make sure it’s been handled properly. I only buy them at Heinen’s. Over the years, I’ve gotten used to bringing home frozen turkeys for our family’s feast. I usually thaw the bird for 24 to 36 hours in the refrigerator in its original wrapper. Then, I remove the packets of turkey parts from inside the cavity. There are usually two, the neck and the organs. I simmer these with a few cups of water to make stock for my dressing so don’t toss them. Place the turkey it a large plastic container with a lid.
I use a brine to soak the turkey until it is completely thawed. Everyone has their own method and opinions on this subject but, after almost 30 years of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I believe this makes the most juicy and tender bird.
Preparing the Turkey with Brine
Ingredients & Directions:
I add about half a gallon of apple cider
two oranges cut up
a 1” piece of peeled fresh ginger
1 cup of Kosher salt
enough water to cover the bird.
It will float to use a heavy dish to weigh it down.
Cover and refrigerate for another 24 hours.
Yes, this requires a great deal of refrigerator space. We have an extra one in our garage. If you don’t you can use a cooler packed with ice just as easily.
When you are ready to cook your turkey, remove it from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Some years we stuff it and others we don’t. This year, because we wanted to photograph the finished bird, we cooked it unstuffed.
I make a mixture of dried parsley, dried sage, sea salt and pepper. and rub all the skin of the bird with seasoning. I cut an orange in half and put it inside the cavity with few sprigs of fresh herbs, parsley sage and thyme. Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together.
This year I wanted to show you how you can present your bird three different ways from simple to fancy. So I chose to cook the turkey on a bed of chopped root vegetables. You can choose the ones you like. I used onion, tri-colored carrots, turnips, parsnips, whole baby portobello mushrooms, purple potatoes, redskin potatoes and acorn squash.
Just chop your vegetables into large pieces and season with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. I added a bit of turmeric and cumin too.
Place the bird on top of the veggies and cook at 325 for the allotted time for your birds weight. I use a thermometer and cook until the temp reads 170. I baste the bird with turkey stock and apple cider about every half hour. About, 2/3 of the way through the cooking time I remove as many of the nicely cooked browned vegetables as possible. If left there the entire time they will over cook and burn.
Once your turkey is finished, remove it from the heat and let it rest at least ten minutes before cutting. Use this time to prepare your platter for its presentation. Here are three simple options for a beautifully presented bird.
Simple and rustic on a cutting board.
Served on the root vegetables in a vintage pan.
A platter decorated with decorative leaves from the florist and fresh fruits.
Any way you present your turkey, it’s going to taste great!
And you can always find inspiration in favorite food magazines, like Bon Appetit.
Inspired by Bon Appetite’s Thanksgiving issue, Mark and his Dad styled this plate for the table just to see if they could do it like the cover shot. Not bad.
When it comes to Thanksgiving Sides, in our family, we opt for unexpected dishes inspired by traditional Thanksgiving ingredients.
I grew up with green bean casserole, my sister Catherine’s favorite and a staple on thanksgiving tables across the country. We tend to like Brussels sprouts better so the green beans get ditched at our house. But…we love mushrooms, most often found in the green bean casserole in the form of soup. So I have added mushrooms to our holiday tables for years.
This dish comes from an appetizer served in a restaurant I worked in during college call Palio in Ann Arbor MI. It’s still there and I think, still on the menu. There it was called crostini alfungi. The Mushrooms were served over small pieces of crostini which soaked up the delicious sauce. It calls for assorted mushrooms which I can always find at Heinen’s. I’m not a fan of reconstituting dried mushrooms so I always seek out fresh, but mushrooms have a really short shelf life. It’s a comfort to know that, at Heinen’s, they won’t even display mushrooms unless they’re completely fresh.
Ingredients & Directions:
2 tsp olive oil
one shallot chopped
about two pounds assorted mushrooms
shiitake, chantrelle, cremini, portobello, oyster, white button your choice.
add to saute pan start to reduce mushrooms
2 Tbs herb butter *recipe below
2 cloves fresh garlic chopped
1/2 cup sherry wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tsp fresh Thyme
1 cup of white wine
1 Tbs minced garlic and you puree that in the blender with white wine and set it aside
1 Tbs of chopped parsley
1/2 of small red pepper, finely diced
1/2 of a small green pepper, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs chopped oregano
1 Tbs chopped thyme
1 Tsp dried sage
2 & 1/2 pounds of unsalted butter
Mix all together in your food processor, then slowly add in the pureed mixture of white wine and garlic. When it’s blended to a smooth consistency, put it in small airtight containers or roll into tubes with saran wrap to refrigerate or freeze and use as desired.
The best thing about the herb butter is that, once you’ve made it, you can keep it in your fridge or freeze it and put it in anything, from steaks right off the grill to Sautéed vegetables to pasta.
We normally serve this mushroom dish on crostini but, for Holidays they go great on the turkey or mashed potatoes. As a leftover, they are fantastic mixed with fresh pasta!
And our Thanksgiving table wouldn’t be complete without a Table and Dish twist on another American holiday classic, sweet potatoes!
Sometimes they’re mixed with butter and cream and topped with toasted marshmallows. OH my goodness just saying it makes my teeth hurt. I like actually tasting the sweet potato. Some years I cut the potatoes into chunks, toss them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them at 400 for about 20 minutes until they’re golden and have dark edges. The natural sugars in the potatoes caramelizes and tastes fantastic.
This year I tried to compromise. The result, sweet potato flan. A bit sweet, but we lightened it up just a bit and served in individual serving jars. The cool thing is that this can be a side dish on your holiday table, dessert or even breakfast.
This is a recipe I found on one of my favorite sites Food52 It was adapted twice from the original. That’s the beauty of cooking. You can take inspiration from recipes and adapt them to suit your taste.
Sweet Potato Flan
1 cup mashed sweet potato (I used left over baked sweet potato)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Carmel Pecans or Walnuts and Maple Yogurt
1 tsp butter
1/2 cup nuts broken or whole
1 tsp sugar
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1Tbs real Maple syrup
Heat the oven to 325F. In a blender, combing all flan ingredients and purée until smooth. divide the purée into among six custard dishes.
Put the custard dishes in a large baking pan and pour hot water into the pan until it reaches 1 inch up the outside of the custard dish. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. (tip, put the pan into place in the oven, then carefully pour the water into the pan. This avoids splashing water into the custard cups when moving) The flan should be set and barely quiver when shaken. Let cool.
While the flan is cooling, melt the butter in a small pan over low heat. Then add nuts, and sprinkle with sugar, stir to coat evenly. Cook stirring frequently, until the sugar coats and caramelizes the nuts. Remove to a plate and sprinkle with salt. Chop if desired.
In a small bowl combine the yogurt and maple syrup. Taste and add maple syrup if desired. Serve the flan topped with a spoonful of the yogurt then topped with caramelized nuts.
We used the extra baked sweet potatoes to make one of our favorite leftover dishes. My son loves to make fresh pasta so he made a quick batch.
Leftover Sweet Potato Pasta
We melted 3-4 TBS butter in a sauté pan. When just about melted add 12 fresh sage leaves. Cook on low until the butter browns and the sage leaves start to get crisp at the edges. At the very last minute toss in about 1 Cup cut up chunks of the baked sweet potato. Pour mixture over fresh cooked hot pasta. Add a bit of sea salt and enjoy!
Thank you for following our latest recipes at TableAndDish.com and happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours!
Heinen’s Grocery is located at 500 N. Hough Street, between E. Main Street and Route 14 (next to Meathead’s) in Barrington, Illinois. They’re open 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit Heinens.com.
About the Author
Sally Roeckell is a professional photographer in Barrington and a regular contributor at 365Barrington.com. She’s a mother-of-4 who loves to cook and create beautiful photographs of elegant dishes prepared with simple ingredients.
Sally is also the creator of TableAndDish.com, a personal blog highlighting her love for family, food and photography. You’ll love following Sally’s latest photos on her wildly popular and addicting Instagram page at Instagram.com/tableanddish.
Also specializing in commercial, contemporary lifestyle and portrait photography of children, babies, newborns, maternity and families, you’ll find the range of Sally’s work at SallyRoeckellPhotography.com.
Editors Note: The hardest part about comleting this post was choosing which of Sally’s Thanksgiving images to highlight. One photo is more beautiful than the other! So I leave you with this gallery of all of Sally’s images for additional inspiration this Thanksgiving.