thanksgiving is absolutely, positively my favorite holiday of the year. it brings together my love of cooking, spending time with my family, and eating ridiculously delicious foods. over the years, my family and i have created what we think is the perfect thanksgiving spread (i know many people think the same about theirs!). we have a secret binder with reams of recipes, and we start planning weeks in advance for our huge array of dishes–from stuffing to sprouts to our spectacular pumpkin pie. not to mention the turkey, of course.
last year, during the intense run-up to this headiest of holidays, i couldn’t bear the anticipation any longer. i needed some turkey, stat! i thought carefully about how to make a small thanksgiving dinner for my husband and me, one that wouldn’t take a whole day (or more) of cooking but would provide the deep, satisfying flavors everyone craves. i settled on turkey cutlets since they’re convenient and quick to cook. (i enjoyed them so much this year, in fact, that i decided to make more, in a spicy southern style, later in the week. stay tuned this weekend for the recipe!). i also had to include stuffing and gravy, because otherwise it’s just not thanksgiving, and i decided to throw some squash into the oven for a sweet and savory side (check out the recipe below).
putting all this together, i decided to make roulades–stuffed cutlets rolled and tied into perfect little packages. a classic technique suitable for any thin cut of meat, roulades make an elegant way to wrap up all your favorite flavors, including, of course, my family’s fantastic cornbread stuffing. they may take a little practice, but they come out delicious even when rough around the edges. the pan drippings also make a rich gravy in no time. altogether, these express roulades deliver the gratifying goodness of thanksgiving anytime the irresistible urge strikes!
express turkey and stuffing roulades
2 tsp + 2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter, melted + 1 tbsp butter, cold
10 pieces turkey bacon (or pork or duck if you prefer)
1/2 medium onion, cut into small dice
1 tbsp thinly sliced fresh sage
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme, rosemary, and savory (or any combination thereof)
1/3 cup minced curly parsley
3/4 cup roughly chopped roasted chestnuts (minerve chestnuts are delicious and hassle-free)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 cups cubed cornbread
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade
4 large turkey cutlets, pounded thin
1 cup verjus or apple cider
1 tbsp flour
1. heat 2 tsp olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat. once it ripples, add the diced onion and sauté until just beginning to soften, about 6 minutes. remove to a large bowl.
2. while the onion is cooking, cook 2 pieces of the bacon in a large dutch oven until crispy. turn off the heat and slice the bacon into thin strips, then place in the bowl with the onion.
3. add to the bowl the sage, mixed herbs, parsley, cranberries, chestnuts, and cornbread. add the melted butter and the 1/4 cup of stock and stir gently to combine all the ingredients.
4. to assemble the roulades, first cut four 18″ lengths of kitchen twine. lay each turkey cutlet flat on a board and top with about 1/2-3/4 cup of the stuffing. gently press the stuffing with your hand to spread it evenly over the cutlet, and be careful not to overstuff. roll the cutlet the long way, taking care not to lose too much stuffing out the sides (just stuff it back in if any falls out). place two pieces of raw bacon on the board so they overlap like a plus sign, then place the rolled-up cutlet in the middle. bring the four sides of the bacon over the top of the roulade. finally, place one length of twine on the board and place the roulade on top, so the twine goes along the long side of the roulade. wrap the two ends of the twine over the top of the roulade, then twist them 90° and wrap them down the short way (think of this as practice for future present wrapping). flip the roulade, cinch the twine tightly, and tie a double knot against the bottom of the roulade. cut the excess twine. then assemble the rest of the roulades.
5. heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in the dutch oven over medium-low heat. once it ripples, add the roulades and cook until well-browned on the bottom, about 10 minutes. flip and repeat on the top. then flip the roulades onto their sides and cook until each is well-browned, about 5 minutes per side.
6. while the roulades are cooking, make a buerre manié by combining the flour and 1 tbsp butter with a fork in a small bowl. set aside.
7. once all sides are brown, return the roulades to their original position, add the verjus and the 1/2 cup of stock, cover, and let simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes. remove the roulades to a platter and let rest.
8. in the dutch oven, still over medium heat, add the buerre manié to the pan juices while whisking constantly to avoid lumps. continue whisking while simmering the gravy until it thickens enough to coat a spoon.
9. place each roulade on a plate, top with a generous pour of the gravy, and enjoy your express thanksgiving!
for a delicious, healthy, and easy to make side dish, winter squash is the way to go. there are so many varieties and each offers a slightly different flavor, so you won’t get bored. also, while they are excellent in soups, sautés, and other preparations, they are equally tasty simply roasted in their skins, then mashed with a little butter or olive oil and some salt and pepper. with this method the sweet and intricate flavors of the squash are really allowed to shine.
buttercup squash mash
1 small buttercup squash (my other favorite varieties are butternut, orange hokkaido, kabocha, and delicata)
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
salt and white pepper to taste
1. preheat the oven to 350°f.
2. wash the outside of the squash so it is free of dirt or debris. cut the squash in half from top to bottom and scoop out the seeds* with a spoon.
3. place the two halves open side down on lightly oiled aluminum foil on a baking sheet. roast for about 1 hour, or until the flesh is soft all the way through (test with a fork).
4. allow the squash to cool for about 10 minutes, then scoop the flesh into a metal bowl. stir in the butter or olive oil and salt and pepper until the mixture is mostly smooth. then serve!
*some squash seeds can be cooked like pumpkin seeds, and they make a delicious snack. just do a little “googling” to find out which squash seeds work the best.
and as you know, every family has their own cherished thanksgiving traditions. for more ideas to add to your holiday feast, check out the following blogs:
Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:
Sweet Life Bake: Pumpkin Margarita
Easy Peasy Organic: Thanksgiving Ginger Cocktail
Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bruschetta With Sage Pesto
Mooshu Jenne: Green Salad
Two Peas and Their Pod: Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Salad
Jones is Hungry: Roasted Vegetable Salad
Purple Cook: Pasta and Bean Stew With Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe
From My Corner of Saratoga: Curried Pumpkin Soup
FN Dish: Alton Brown’s Good Eats Roast Turkey
My Angel’s Allergies: Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens
Cafe Terra Blog: Cranberry Pumpkin Stuffing
Virtually Homemade: Twice-Baked Cheddar and Chive Potatoes
Easy Eats Magazine: Sausage and Dried Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing
The Sensitive Epicure: Oyster Dressing and Gravy
Daily*Dishin: Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes Supreme
What’s Gaby Cooking: Rustic Herb Skillet Stuffing
Family Fresh Cooking: Coconut Brown-Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Silvana’s Kitchen: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Mushroom-Rye Stuffing
The Cultural Dish: Cranberry Sauce
I Am Baker: Pumpkin Cake
Heather Christo: Pumpkin Vanilla Ice Cream Pie
And Love It Too: Pumpkin Custard (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Haute Apple Pie Girls: Double Pumpkin Mini Pies With Candied Pecans
Ladles and Jelly Spoons: Not Your Same Old Pumpkin Pie
Daydreamer Desserts: Cuban Diplomatic Pudding
Thursday Night Dinner: Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Caramel Apple Pie