Ask Chef Lynn – Thanksgiving

| November 9, 2016


This time of year can bring out the best and bring out the melancholy in all of us. For me, it is usually a time to evaluate my past year. How did I do? The reflection of my being and who I am, I hopefully added a bit of Joy to someone’s life. If so, then I consider the year a good one and give thanks for my good fortune.

Thanksgiving—the gateway to holiday craziness.

Yes, we all know what happens to ALL of us these upcoming 6 weeks.

Lots of parties, lots of shopping, lots of cooking, lots of eating- basically a scheduled trip into over-indulgence riding on that accepted Holi-Daze traditional road.

So, stock up on Alka-Seltzer, pick which credit card can handle the holiday budget, break out Mom’s favorite pumpkin pie recipe, and probably buy some more Alka-Seltzer.

Hopefully, by this time, we all know that baking a turkey is probably the simplest thing in the culinary world. Throughout the years, I must have cooked a flock or two. Probably you have done your fair share, too. Now that we are helped with the instant button that pops right up when Tom Turkey is done. Who knew this could be such a breeze? For those that are not fortunate to have the instant button then here are a few pointers to help you a bit…

Remember the rule of thumb is for every pound of turkey you add 13 minutes of cooking time, usually baked at 350 degrees. However, some factors like brining the bird, cooking with an empty (un-stuffed) cavity, and leaving the legs un-trussed will contribute to much faster cooking.

So a 12 pound turkey would take approximately two and a half hours. Remember the turkey’s temperature would be 165 degrees when done (check temperature at three places: the breast, outer thigh, and inside thigh).

While waiting on the bird to cook is when the mayhem begins … the side dishes.

Everyone has their traditional favorites and not so traditional. I like a basic Tortellini Alfredo offered as a side dish along with all the tried and true sides. Admit it, sometimes mashed potatoes can be boring. Instead of mashed you could offer scalloped, au gratin, garlic herb, or twice baked.

There will always be the stuffing with gravy to quench that basic Thanksgiving fix.

Cranberry sauce could be jazzed up by simply adding orange zest to it.

Here are a few easy side dish recipes to try…these can be prepared 24 hours ahead to help lighten the Thanksgiving day frenzy of cooking activity…

Smashed Potato Casserole

3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
8 ounces sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup whole or 2% milk, plus more as needed
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 large shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Add potatoes to a large stock pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through and a knife pierces easily to the center. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Add the sour cream and milk to the pot and, using a potato masher, smash until desired texture is reached. (For light and creamy potatoes you can use an electric hand mixer.) Fold in the cheddar cheese, shallots, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Transfer the potato mixture to a medium gratin or baking dish (approximately 2 1/2 quart). Bake for 30 minutes, or until warmed through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and finish under the broiler until golden, about 2 minutes.

This casserole can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Bring to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Serves 6 to 8

Easy Gravy (make ahead)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups Easy Chicken Stock
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 to 6 Tbsp. Easy Chicken Stock (optional)

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat; whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture is light brown and smooth. Slowly whisk in 4 cups stock. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium; stir in sage and next 4 ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes or until desired thickness.

To make ahead, cool gravy completely. Cover and chill up to 3 days. Cook gravy and, if desired, 5 to 6 Tbsp. stock in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes or until hot.

Gravy Options…

Mushroom Gravy: Heat 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 (8-oz.) package sliced cremini mushrooms; sauté 6 minutes or until tender and browned. Stir in 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. minced shallot; sauté 2 minutes. Add salt and ground black pepper to taste. Prepare recipe as directed through Step 1 or 2. Add mushrooms. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Hands-on 35 min., Total 45 min.

Fresh Herb Gravy: Prepare recipe as directed through Step 1 or 2. Stir in 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 tsp. thinly sliced fresh chives, 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon, and 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Hands-on 25 min., Total 35 min.

Sherry Gravy: Prepare recipe as directed through Step 1 or 2. Remove pan from heat; stir in 1/4 cup sherry, bourbon, or brandy. Return to medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Hands-on 25 min., Total 35 min.

Southern Style Candied Yams with Gingersnap Crunch


8 medium yams or sweet potatoes (about 4 pounds), peeled, halved crosswise and cut into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg


4 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 16)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

For the yams: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the yams with the oil in a medium bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a simmer and the sugar dissolves, 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, add to the yams and toss to coat.

Spread the yams and all the sauce evenly into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake until beginning to become tender, 30 minutes.For the crunch: Meanwhile, pulse the gingersnaps in a food processor until they are fine crumbs with a few larger pieces. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the sugar, butter and flour to combine. Form crumbles in several sizes using your hands and chill in the refrigerator.

Remove the foil from the yams and stir to coat with the sauce. Continue baking uncovered until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Top with gingersnap crumbles and bake until the yams are very tender and the topping is nicely browned, about 10 minutes longer. Serve.

Cranberry-Pecan Chutney

1 cup apple cider
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 (12-oz.) package fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 teaspoon loosely packed orange zest
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Bring first 8 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Remove cloves with a slotted spoon, and discard.

Add cranberries; increase heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes or just until cranberries begin to pop. Discard cinnamon stick and ginger. Stir in apricots and orange zest; remove from heat. Cool completely. Serve immediately, or chill up to 2 days. Stir in pecans just before serving.

Sausage, Apple and Pear Stuffing with Cranberries

Butter, for buttering baking dish
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
4 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
3 small leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
1 Bosc pear, cored and chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
One 12-ounce bag cubed country-style stuffing
1 cup dried cranberries
4 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up with the back of a spoon, until browned through, about 5 minutes.

Add the celery, leeks, apples and pears and cook, stirring, until fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley, sage, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the chicken broth and scrape up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the skillet, cooking for an additional minute.

Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the stuffing and cooled sausage mixture. Add the cranberries and eggs and mix well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.

Bake until golden brown on top, 30 to 35 minutes.

Let cool 5 to 10 minutes.

Top with additional parsley and serve.

Green Bean Casserole

1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup brandy or cognac
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
can Cream of Mushroom Soup
Durkee Fried Onions

Cook green beans in boiling salted water until tender, about 3 or 4 minutes. Drain well.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the garlic and thyme. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add brandy or cognac, red wine and chicken broth, mushroom soup and bring to a boil.

Simmer to blend flavors and reduce sauce, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add green beans to mushroom sauce and toss to coat.

Place on a large serving dish, season again with salt and pepper, to taste.

Top with fried onions before serving.

Sweet Pumpkin Strudel

One 15-ounce can pumpkin
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 sheets frozen phyllo dough (18- by 14-inch rectangles), thawed
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar, or other coarse sugar
2 tablespoons honey, for serving
Whipped cream, for serving, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

For the filling: Combine the pumpkin, cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and nutmeg in a small bowl.

Mix until nearly uniform and set aside.

Place 2 sheets of the phyllo on top of one another and brush the top sheet with some of the butter. (Keep the remaining phyllo dough covered with plastic wrap to prevent it from becoming dry and brittle.)

Cut the 2 layered sheets of phyllo lengthwise to create 2 long strips. Place a well-rounded tablespoon of the filling about 2 inches from the end of the dough strip.

To shape, fold the bottom edge of the phyllo up and over the filling.

Fold in the sides and roll up to encase the filling, brushing the exposed dry phyllo with some of the butter as you roll.

Place the rolled phyllo on a baking sheet, seam-side-down. Brush the top of the phyllo with some of the butter.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Sprinkle the tops of the phyllo with pecans and turbinado sugar.

Bake until the phyllo is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Serve the phyllos warm drizzled with the honey and topped with whipped cream .



3 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
3 apples (peeled and sliced)
1 cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the eggs, vanilla, apple cider, and oil.

Combine the dry ingredients.

Mix the cider mixture with the dry ingredients.

Add the sliced apples.

Add walnuts (optional, if desired).

Pour the batter into a greased bundt pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.



2 cups unfiltered apple cider
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons heavy cream
8 tablespoons butter, cut into pats


Pumpkin Corn Bread

3 cups sugar
11 eggs
5 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 pounds pumpkin (canned is fine)
2 tablespoons baking soda
5 1/2 cups cornmeal (yellow or white)
5 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 pound unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 7 standard muffin tins.

Mix the sugar, eggs, buttermilk and pumpkin until blended and set aside.

Blend all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly.

Stir in the melted butter.

Pour 3 ounces batter in each muffin cup of the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.


Here’s hoping that your feast turns out good and all your supper dishes will be washed by an amiable volunteer…

Remember all the leftover turkey sandwiches coming up…My favorite is the basic T-Day sandwich…Nutty bread w/mayonnaise, Sliced turkey, Swiss cheese, Stuffing, Cranberry sauce … beautifully simple and delicious!

Also, when you think you are starting to sprout a BEAK from all the leftover turkey then here’s a simple leftover Turkey Tetrazzini Casserole recipe for you.

Turkey Tetrazzini

1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped red bell peppers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound white button mushrooms, ends trimmed, sliced
1 can cream of celery soup
3 chopped carrots
3 chopped celery stalks
1 tablespoon dry Italian seasoning mix
1 teaspoon dry Basil leaves
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
2 quarts turkey stock or low-sodium canned turkey broth
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
12 ounces wide egg noodles
1 pound cubed or bite-size shredded roast turkey
1 tablespoon dry or fresh chopped parsley leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs or smashed potato chips


Add the onions, carrots, celery, celery soup, and bell peppers in 2+ quarts of boiling turkey broth..

Add the garlic Add the mushrooms, Dry herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are soft… about 10 minutes..

Mix the wine with the flour stirring, until smooth and thick,

Add to boiling mixture, stirring about 2 minutes until mixture starts to thicken..

Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and very flavorful,

Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the egg noodles until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch casserole or baking dish and set aside.

When the sauce has thickened, add the noodles, turkey, parsley, salt, black pepper, and Parmesan to the stir until thoroughly combined. Transfer to the prepared casserole and top with seasoned bread crumbs or potato chips. Bake uncovered until bubbly and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.


Bon appetit’

Chef Lynn


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