Thursday, October 14, 2010

Go Big or Go Home!

This past weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada. Although it's not really something we particularly celebrate in the UK, in Canada it is big business....just like in the States. Canadians celebrate it in October while in America it is the last Thursday in November. I have to admit I'm always quite happy that here it is celebrated in October cause as it turns out it's pretty much Christmas dinner with pumpkin pie!! Ok, so that is maybe not 100% accurate but it is roast turkey with most of the trimmings.

This year was our turn to host Thanksgiving so I went all out. One of my husband's favourite expressions (like a lot of Canadians) is “Go big or go home”. I have heard it many times since moving to Canada so I decided on this occasion to show him that I have more than adapted to his Canadian lifestyle and opted to go big which resulted in roasting a turkey that was 25lbs!!! Yes I know – as my brother suggested it sounded more like I was serving Ostrich than a turkey, and my mum worried about how I would get it in the oven, but thankfully I have both a Canadian sized oven and roasting tray!

I have to admit the turkey was a beast of an animal and I am very glad I didn't come across it when it was alive as I imagine it to have had a bit of an attitude. However it did turn out to be a very tasty beast which is just as well as we have more than enough leftovers for the whole family to be feasting on for the rest of the week (as was requested!!).

The whole meal was delicious and I made things easier for myself this year by roasting the vegetables and sausages the night before so that all they needed was a little finishing off while the turkey was resting and being carved. This decision was based not purely on trying to make things easier for me on the day, but also on the fact that with the beast in the oven there wasn't much room for anything else! Mr. Vanilla's sister made some light-as-air fresh rolls and his mum made dessert which was her traditional pumpkin pie which is absolutely delicious. Everything turned out perfectly and it was a lovely day spent with family and eating more than just a little turkey! So here it is, my “Go Big or Go Home Thanksgiving 2010 Menu”.

Roast turkey with bread stuffing & Gravy
Roasted carrots & parsnips with parsley
Roasted squash with cinnamon & chilli
Brussel sprouts with bacon and red onion
Mashed potatoes
Sausages wrapped in bacon ('Pigs in pigs'!)
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Pie

* Click here for the Smoked Salmon on Spring Onion Pancakes with creme fraiche & dill which is on the previous post. Unfortunately I have no recipe (yet!) for the Pumpkin Pie.

Since I don't have precise quantities for all of the dishes (and because I don't expect many of you to be making a roast turkey that is 25lbs) I have just given rough guidelines for what I did – adjust the quantities based on how many people you are cooking for.

Roast Turkey

The Beast!
1 turkey (your choice of size)
Unsalted butter
Zest of 1 lemon plus a squeeze of juice
Good couple of handfuls of mixed herbs of your choice
Maldon sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Drizzle of olive oil

Whenever I am roasting chicken or turkey I always make up a herb and lemon butter to slather under the skin and all over the rest of the bird. It works well and every time I end up with a delicious, moist roast. Use herbs of your choice – this time I added thyme, parsley and sage along with the zest of 1 large lemon and a squeeze of juice. I finished it off by adding a good pinch of Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Once the turkey is covered with the herb butter I drizzled over a little olive oil. We then stuffed the turkey (see below) and covered it in foil.

To cook the turkey allow 20 minutes per pound. We as always also used our meat thermometer and if you are doing so you want it to have an internal temperature of 180F. I roasted my turkey at 350F/ 180C and doing it as this temperature for 20 minutes a pound worked perfectly.

When the turkey is fully cooked through and the juices are running clear, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.

Bread Stuffing

This is Mr. Vanilla's mum and sister's recipe for bread stuffing which is their traditional way to make stuffing. This is definitely a Canadian recipe/ tradition for me as usually at home we have oatmeal stuffing as well as a sausage meat stuffing. That being said though, this stuffing is delicious and is easy to make. The amount I made this year was plenty to stuff our turkey (though don't cram it in!) and then filled a loaf tin. For a 'normal' sized turkey, you could probably half the quantities.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 onions, finely diced
4 stalks of celery, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
700g dried bread cubes* (I used 2 x 350g bags)
1 tbsp Poultry seasoning
1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
Good handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1000ml/ 4 cups chicken stock
Salt & pepper

Melt the butter with the oil in a frying pan and saute the onion and celery for roughly 8 minutes until softened but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or two then remove from the heat. In a large bowl (probably the biggest bowl you have!) combine the bread cubes, onion mix, poultry seasoning and herbs and mix well. Add the stock and seasoning and mix until everything is evenly combined then taste to check the seasoning. Stuff inside the turkey and put any leftovers into a separate dish. If you remember when you take the turkey out of the oven add a couple of spoonfuls of the juices from the turkey to the stuffing to keep it nice and moist and full of flavour. Cook the additional stuffing at 350F/ 180C for roughly 30 - 40 minutes.

*The dried bread cubes I use can be bought at my local supermarket. When you first look at them they look horrible – just cubes of dry white bread that is hard and stale, however as soon as you add the stock and rehydrate them they taste just like fresh bread cubes. If you can't find them (as has happened to me before) just use fresh bread – simply cut into cubes and spread out on a couple of baking trays then leave overnight to dry out. If you don't have that much time to dry them out, stick them in the oven for a little bit.


Due to the size of turkey we had LOTS of gravy this year but you can't beat having plenty of good quality tasty gravy. The amount of flour and water or stock you need will depend solely on how much juices came out of the turkey. Once you have let the turkey rest add any additional juices back to the gravy.

Juices from the turkey
Plain or all-purpose flour
Good splash of white or red wine
Water from mashed potatoes or chicken stock (see below)
Salt & pepper

Put the roasting tray above 2 burners on your oven and keep the heat fairly low. All I do to make gravy is remove as much fat from the juices as possible (I find the easiest way is just to gently put a spoon on top and take it off. Towards the end I tip the pan to make it a bit easier, but don't worry about getting it all), then add a good few spoonfuls of plain or all-purpose flour and whisk it to get all of the yummy pieces stuck to the bottom. I then add a good splash of white wine and whisk it all together. After that I either use the water that I cooked the potatoes in (a little hint my mother-in-law taught me) or failing that I use chicken stock. Whatever you decide to use whisk away and keep it simmering so that it thickens properly. I always find that you can either add more flour or liquid as needed but always bring to a simmer after you add things and continue to simmer for a couple of minutes. Season with some salt and pepper and taste to check it is to your liking. Keep warm then when ready to serve transfer to a gravy boat or other serving dish.

Roasted Carrots & Parsnips with Parsley

4 Carrots
3-4 Parsnips
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Fresh parsley, finely chopped

Peel the carrots and parsnips and cut into bite-sized pieces (I cut them into slices at an angle then cut each slice in half). Toss with a little olive oil then roast at 400F/200C for 30-40 minutes, turning half way through cooking. Just before serving sprinkle over the parsley.

Roasted Squash with Cinnamon & Chilli

Variety of squash – I used butternut squash, acorn squash and carnival squash
Good pinch of cinnamon
Good pinch of chilli flakes
Fresh thyme leaves
Fresh rosemary leaves
Salt & pepper
Olive oil

Cut up each squash into manageable pieces, remove the seeds then peel. Cut into bite-sized pieces then put into a large bowl. Sprinkle over some cinnamon, chilli, fresh thyme leaves and finely chopped fresh rosemary. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper then drizzle over some olives oil. Toss everything together so all of the squash is evenly coated in the spices and herbs. Roast for 30-40 minutes at 400F/ 200C until golden.

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon & Red Onion

I allow 3 brussel sprouts per person with an additional handful thrown in for good luck! The addition of bacon and red onion makes them absolutely delicious – even a brussel sprout hater will be converted. If you want you could also add some toasted pecans or chestnuts and a squeeze of fresh orange juice.

Brussel sprouts
Drizzle of olive oil
Streaky bacon
½ red onion, thinly sliced
Salt & pepper

Drizzle a very small amount of olives oil into a frying pan then once hot snip pieces of bacon into the pan and cook until they are just starting to turn crispy. Add the onion and continue to cook for another few minutes until the onion has softened. While the bacon and onion is cooking prepare the brussel sprouts. Remove the outer leaves from the brussel sprouts and any that are marked. Trim the very bottom off then mark a 'x' on the base of each sprout. Put into a large pan and boil for 5 minutes until just tender. Drain and toss through the bacon and onion. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Mashed potatoes

I recently bought myself a potato ricer – perhaps not a necessity but definitely a gadget I wish I'd had for a while! I recommend using one if you like the ultimate in super smooth, creamy mashed potatoes. Whenever I make mashed potatoes I just boil as many potatoes as I think I need depending on how many people I'm cooking for then add a good knob of butter and enough warm milk until I get the perfect creamy, buttery mashed potatoes. For precise quantities for 4 people see sausages with red wine, onion and thyme sauce & mashed potatoes.

Potatoes, peeled & cut into even sized pieces
Warm milk (I warm it in the microwave)
Salt & pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pan of salted water (cold water). Bring to a boil and continue to gently boil away for roughly 20 minutes or until they are tender. Drain (reserving the water for your gravy if you like) then mash or put through a ricer. Add a good knob of butter and some warm milk and continue mashing until you have perfect mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with an extra little knob of butter on top.

Pigs in Pigs
(Sausages wrapped in bacon)

Again I allow 3 per person plus a few extra just to make sure (and so we have some leftovers!!). I precooked these the night before as well and then just popped them back in for 15 minutes while the turkey was resting and being carved.

Pork chipolata sausages
Streaky bacon

Using the back of your knife slightly stretch the bacon. With the bacon I have I usually cut each slice into 3 pieces but if your bacon is slightly smaller just cut each slice in half. Wrap a piece of bacon around a sausage and repeat until all of the sausages are wrapped. Cook at 400F/ 200C for approximately 40 minutes until properly cooked through.

And don't forget the cranberry sauce!


  1. As a Canadian living in Britain, I've got to say I'm totally envious of the spread you put on! I did make a token pumpkin dessert this week, but it wasn't on Thanksgiving and there wasn't a turkey in sight! I would bet that your husband was impressed with your efforts. Go big indeed!

  2. Looks Fantastic Lyndsey....although isn't it 'pigs in blankets'? :-)


  3. Thanks 5am Foodie - it's hard when you have traditions that aren't celebrated in the country that you are in. Sorry you missed out but I guess it means you get to look forward to Christmas dinner even more!
    Jill - Thanks - did you do anything? I'm actually a bit confused re. the name....!! I thought pigs in blankets with sausages wrapped in pastry but it looks like it maybe applies to both. I think we just always called them Sausages wrapped in bacon but once I introduced them to my Canadian family they were named pigs in pigs! Anyway it's now just stuck but not sure the correct name!!!

  4. Surely they're called Pigs in Blankets or, to us Scots, Kilted Sausages!

  5. Haha I think Kilted Sausages is brilliant!! I might have to rename them that....still unsure as to the whole pigs in blankets though.. : )

  6. Totally impressed and want to come for dinner.

  7. What a feast! I think the guys in the family would be huge fans of your pigs in pigs...and I'm going to take a cue from you and add Brussels sprouts to my Thanksgiving table even if I'm the only one who will eat them :)

  8. I am thrilled to see this! Happy Thanksgiving to you guys after-the-fact. With that spread I'm sure everyone passed out for a few hours and then came back for more.

    I love the pig wrapped in pig. That's awesome.

  9. Thanks everyone!
    It was certainly a Feast with lots of great food, wine and of course kind of holiday! : )

    To all of you, I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving, whenever you celebrate it! {And if you haven't tried pigs in pigs - give them a go, before you know they will become a tradition for you too!}


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...