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Turkey Tracks: Thanksgiving Highlights

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Turkey Tracks:  December 3, 2011

Well, here we are–past Thanksgiving and moving toward Christmas.  I’ve had some trouble with posting pictures to this blog–Wordpress made some technical changes that have flummoxed me, so I’m a bit behind.  Or, it’s that I’m away from home…  But, I did promise to post several of the family’s recipes and a few pics.  So, here goes.  You’ll find below the Bryan family’s famous Chocolate Chess Pie–updated and perfected by Bryan Enright–with a crust I love for all my pies–and recipes for our poultry dressing and gravy.

Mike and Tami hosted the gathering.  They have a long table and a long room that will fit the 20+ people gathering to celebrate.  Bryan and I cooked for two days at his house, while Mike cooked in his kitchen.  Prior to any cooking, however, there is the gathering up phase–which starts with collecting/finding recipes, planning menus, assigning cooking tasks, and gathering food.

Corinne and I always hit the Charleston Farmers’ Market (5th best in the nation) the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  We picked up one of the two turkeys there, pie apples, and Brussel sprouts.  Corinne also bought a flat of kiwis, which grow abundantly in the Charleston area.

Part of the Farmers’ Market trip involves getting a big cup of coffee or tea at the market and chocolate croissants from a nearby bakery–called Macaroon something or other .  Here’s Kelly waiting for the croissants to be bagged.  He had never had them before, and he really liked them.  It was REALLY cold this morning, and Kelly, who spent the night with us at Bryan and Corinne’s, didn’t have a jacket, so we improvised.  Kelly was appalled that he had to wear a sweatshirt with Micky Mouse on it, but he went along, however reluctantly because he’s that kind of a kid.

Bryan and I made 5 pies, the stuffing, cranberry relish, and the Brussel sprouts.  Here’s a picture of the finished pies–two chocolate chess (recipe below), two pumpkin (recipe given in an earlier blog post), and an apple.  We will serve them with MOUNDS of REAL whipped cream:


My favorite recipe for pie crust comes from Deborah Madison’s LOCAL FLAVORS (387).  You can mix it by hand, but it is so very easy in a food processor.  It makes enough for two 9-inch pies, or one 10-inch double with crust, or one large galette.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. sea salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vinegar (I usually use apple cider)

scant 1/2 cup of ice water

Put the flour, salt, and butter into the food processor and pulse 4-5 times to break everything up.

Combine vinegar and egg yolk in a measuring cup, mix, and add iced water to make a SCANT 1/2 up.  You may not use all the liquid.

While pulsing, add water mixture in a slow stream until dough crumbs start to come together.  Don’t let them come into a full ball, but combine them into a ball with your hands, wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  These crusts freeze well, too.  Think of future quiches…

Divide into two equal parts for 2 pie bottoms, or cut one large and one smaller piece for the bottom and top of a covered pie.

I roll out pie pastry on a silicon mat.  Often, I use a piece of waxed paper for the top.  Without the mat, I use two sheets of wax paper.


“Chess” pies are a big dessert feature in the south.  There are chocolate ones, lemon ones, and so forth.  All of them are delicious!  I think our family pecan pie is also a version as it’s made with brown sugar rather than corn syrup.

Bryan Enright took the family recipe that we had been trying to double as pie pans have gotten bigger and modified it to perfection.  Here’s what he does for TWO 9-inch pies.  Believe me, you will want TWO pies.  You can always give one to a good friend.

Use GOOD butter and eggs and REALLY GOOD chocolate.  This year we used Schaffen Berger, and we could really tell the difference.

2 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 1/2 cups white sugar

dash salt

2 1/2 sticks of butter

5 eggs

1/2 egg shell filled with milk–TWICE

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

4 ounces chocolate

Melt the butter and the chocolate together on very low heat.

Mix dry ingredients together.

Add chocolate/butter and mix in well.  Add vanilla.

Add eggs and milk and mix.

Pour mixture into two shells and cook at 325 degrees fir 35 to 45 minutes.  The middle will puff slightly.  Don’t overbake; the pie should be a little shaky in the middle when done.

Serve with mounds of REAL WHIPPED CREAM.


This dressing has evolved over the years.  The cornbread and sage came from my grandmother Philpott; the sausage came from John’s mother in Boston; and the celery and onion came from lots of places.

There are FOUR tricks to making good stuffing:  a good stock, really dry bread/cornbread, lots of eggs, and fresh sage.

We start drying the wheat bread and cornbread at least four days before Thanksgiving day.  Tear a small loaf of really good wheat bread into small pieces and lay them on a flat pan to dry out.  I start the wheat bread first and the next day bake two pans of cornbread (no sugar please)–using a plain recipe on any cornmeal bag.  Don’t add too much baking powder–this year a batch called for 4 teaspoons–that’s too much.  Don’t add more than two.  If the wheat bread is slow drying, put it into the oven for the night with the oven light on.  If you can preheat a cast iron skillet in your oven for the cornbread, with some butter in the bottom, that makes really good crunchy cornbread for stuffing.

Here’s the torn wheat bread drying out:

Here are the rough ingredients–and this makes a HUGE pan of stuffing–plenty for our 20+ guests–with leftovers.  If I don’t have a huge crowd, I freeze a few large squares for later meals.

1 wheat bread

2 cornbread mixtures baked

Fresh sage to taste–yes, taste the stuffing as you go along when you’re mixing it, and a whole bunch of fresh Italian parsley chopped fine

Sea salt

2 pounds of fresh sausage

18 eggs

2 bunches of celery chopped fairly fine

1 BIG onion chopped fairly fine–1/4-inch pieces or less.  Two if you like onion.  You can tell if you’ve got enough in the mixture.

2 sticks of butter

2 quarts of really good homemade turkey/chicken bone broth–we start this broth a few days ahead as well.  Use whatever organs, wings, etc., you can take from the turkey.  This year, Mike cut the turkey into parts to cook it, so I got some lovely bones for the stuffing and gravy stock.  Buy extra turkey or chicken parts if you need to in order to make a good stock.  You need lots of bones.  You can read how to make a good bone broth elsewhere on this blog.  Here’s a picture of the bones we used to make a BIG pot of stock for the dressing and the gravy:

DO NOT MIX dressing up ahead.  It will kill you.  Do not cook it hours ahead.  It will kill you if you leave it out for too long.  It takes about 45-6- minutes to cook a flat of stuffing–so mix it up and put it into the oven as the turkey comes out.

To mix, add all the eggs to all the above ingredients in a VERY BIG BOWL and start adding broth and mixing until everything begins to stick together a bit.  But, don’t get it too wet or it will be gummy.  Put it into pans with 2 to 3-inch sides–the shallower the pan the quicker the dressing cooks, which is not necessarily a good thing–put pats of butter over the top every few inches and cook at 350 degrees until it’s clearly done.


Turkey Gravy

You need a really good bone broth!  Use can cut off the wings, use the neck, and the organs.  And, you can add extra turkey or chicken parts purchased separately.  Take out the organs (liver and gizzard) after about 30 minutes and chop them fine if you want giblet gravy.  Or, add them about 30 minutes before you want to strain the stock.  Add them back into the gravy at the last.  John’s mother also used the stringy meat from the long-cooked neck, which I love in the gravy.

The proportions are 5 cups of liquid to 1/2 cup each of butter and/or fat and flour.


The secret is to put the fat and flour in a heavy bottom pan and heat them slowly while stirring and stirring until the flour turns a lovely bisque/tan color.  Add the warmed stock slowly, whisking as you add so you don’t get lumps.  Cook gently until the gravy thickens to where you like it.  You can always thin it if you get it too thick.

The Turkey

Cooking a turkey is really tricky.  It’s hard to get the legs/thighs done without overcooking the breast.  Mike has evolved a recipe where he removes the legs/thighs in one piece, bones them, and rolls and stuffs them with amazing stuffings that vary from year to year.  This year I tasted pate and chestnuts.  These boned, stuffed legs cook sitting in a rich vegetable broth that we later use for soup.

Mike cuts the breasts free and cooks them on his grill, which can heat like an oven.

I didn’t get a picture of the cooked rolled legs, but here are the turkey breasts about to be carved.  The meat was very tender and moist:

And, here’s the food starting to be lined up for serving:

I was having too much fun to slow down and take a picture of Tami’s beautiful table–which I now regret.  I should have gotten a shot of everyone seated too, but you know how that goes.  Food needs help getting to the line-up, and children need help with plates, and before you know it, the moment is missed.

But, here’s one end of the table with Bryan, Corinne, and Ailey (who LOVES to sit in her high chair and eat), with Talula and Wilhelmina:

TURKEY LOVE to all, as Tami says!

Written by louisaenright

December 7, 2011 at 11:55 am

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