Thanksgiving dinner

We decided to be antisocial this year and are doing Thanksgiving at home. Since there are only three of us, a whole bird is too much, so I went for a Sous Vide turkey breast with some sides to be determined.

Classic Cranberry-Orange Relish

before -pecans

The first thing I’m going to make is the cranberry relish, so the flavors can mature while other things are going on.  This is also the most ridiculously easy recipe of the day: mix cranberries, unpeeled orange pieces, and sugar in the food processor and blast it to the appropriate texture. After doing this, Debby reminded me that we add nuts sometimes, so we added pecans

  • I bag cranberries
  • 1 orange cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar (less than the traditional recipe, which calls for 3/4-1 c)
  • 1 cup pecans

Processed, transferred to a stainless bowl and into the fridge.

Sous-vide turkey breast

After we decided yesterday to be antisocial, Debby went out and looked for a small turkey. She bought a turkey breast by mistake: the label said “Fresh young turkey” but the tag showed that it was a bone-in breast. So I went with a Serious Eats recipe for Sous Vide Turkey breast.


IMG_1236.JPGStarted with a 6.13 lb bone-in turkey breast from HEB.

  • IMG_1239.JPGFirst you remove the skin.  Turkey skin is harder to just rip off the flesh than chicken skin, but with some coaxing with a knife I got it all off and set it aside.
  • The recipe at Serious Eats talks about using a boning knife, which we don’t own, to debone the breast. When getting boneless breast filets off of a chicken, my friend Tad Simons showed me many decades ago to use the wings as handles to pull the breast meat off the ribcage. There aren’t any wings on the bone-in breast we bought, so I used a combination of fingers and a chef’s knife to get the breast filets off the carcass. The top picture shows the nice side of the filets. The other side is a lot messier, and I also ended up with chunks of meat that I cut off the carcass. I set these aside  to cook separately.
  • To get a more or less cylindrical piece of breast meat, you put season the inner surfaces with salt and pepper, align them head to tail, and then tie it up with twine. This got transferred to a 1 gal ziploc bag and put away for later.
  • I browned the carcass a bit and made stock. I omitted carrots, onions, and celery for now so I could give some scraps to the very attentive audience:


Sous vide

IMG_1245.JPGMoved the bag to a 145F water bath at 2:10. Actually the water bath was set to 145F at 2:10. Put the extra meat in a smaller bag and added it to the water bath later (4:30). This is how the turkey breast looked when it was pulled and sliced at about 6PM

 Turkey skin

Detail from Michaelangelo’s Last Judgement

Cut parchment to fit a rimmed baking sheet and spread the skin onto it. Doing that reminded me of Michaelangelo’s Last Judgement.

Turned the oven to 400F. Covered the skin with a second piece of parchment and then a second matching cookie sheet.

Looked at it about 20 minutes later. I think I should have been more aggressive about removing the blobs of fat attached to the skin. There was a bunch of rendered turkey fat in the lower pan… poured this off to use for the gravy.

I put the skin back uncovered after pouring off the fat.  The skin comes out like a crackling. I liked it, but it’s different from the well-roasted skin on a whole bird.



Sautee’d a mirepoix of celery and onions (discovering on the way that we are out of carrots). Added the turkey stock from above with a bay leaf and a dash of soy. Meanwhile, used the turkey fat and some butter to make a roux by browning some flour. Strained the stock and then added it to the roux to make gravy.

Roasted purple sweet potatoes with yellow bell peppers

IMG_1240.JPG IMG_1241.JPGI had impulsively bought some Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes at HEB, and the Ags are playing LSU tonight. So I decided to adapt this recipe to use purple potatoes and red peppers.

  • Preheat oven to 450
  • Peel and cut potatoes into chunks. These were smaller than the regular sweet potatoes, so I used  smaller chunks
  • Add strips of yellow bell pepper
  • Toss with cumin, red pepper flakes, a few cloves of minced garlic, and olive oil.
  • Transfer to a baking dish, add a some water

I think the idea is to get the water to do some initial steaming and then have the dry heat roast the potatoes and peppers. Got this into the oven at 2:40.  I figure I can reheat this later if necessary after making the dressing.

After 30 minutes, the sweet potatoes were nowhere near done and the liquid was not evaporated; if anything more had rendered from the veggies. Transferred to a cake pan to spread them out more and put it back in. Out about 15 minutes later and transferred back.

The dish tastes good, but the bright purple color is muted by the cumin and/or the cooking.

Corn bread dressing.

IMG_1243.JPGBased on scanning various recipes (plan ahead? Ha!), I think this will need 350F for about an hour. Using premade cornbread stuffing, I’m going to add:

  • Celery, onions. Sauteed and moved to a bowl
  • Mushrooms, Sage. Sliced mushrooms and cut the sage leaves as sort of a chiffonade. Sauteed in butter and added to the bowl
  • Granny smith apples. Chopped two into chunks
  • Tossed with cornbread stuffing from the bag. Added some thyme.

Some recipes call for adding eggs. Others don’t. So I tried both ways on two different aliquots. Into a 350F oven at 3:50 PM. Out at 3:45 to allow room for the  turkey skin. Should have been earlier and I should have used more stock. Ended up adding more afterward, so the experiment to see whether eggs matter was uninterpretable.

 Final result

IMG_1246.JPGThis is the third time I’ve done some kind of sous vide poultry, and while it was good, it’s still more like poached turkey than roasted turkey… which makes sense given how the meat is in a bag of its own juices by the end of the cooking time. With red meats the final sear and the fact that conventional braises are at higher temperatures obscures the difference, but with poultry and fish I think it’s more apparent. Some of the difference has to be the lack how the meat bastes itself with that fat that rendered from the skin.

As long as you are OK with that, Sous Vide for the turkey does have two big advantages:

  • Flexibility in the cook time. I ended up leaving the meat in the water bath longer than planned when Debby and her father took the dog for a pre-dinner walk.
  • Oven space. Instead of tying up the oven for several hours, the turkey only needed about half an hour for the crispy skin.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving meal, whatever you had.