Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving!
I know, I know. Being based in the UK we ought not to celebrate it. But we’ll take any excuse to pig out on delicious food. Plus, Thanksgiving dinner is a good way for us to get together with our mates & celebrate the anniversary of our coast-to-coast road trip across the States.
There were 7 of us for dinner, 5 pitching in with cooking (what we hope are) traditional American Thanksgiving dishes, adapted from Heston recipes.
This didn’t go quite according to plan. The assumption was Lee would buy a turkey crown to feed the 7 of us. Instead he produced a full bird that would feed 12.
Without a vessel big enough to brine the thing, or enough time to low-temperature cook it, Lee had to deal with this the old-fashioned way. The butter and herbs gave us fantastic crispy skin and great flavour in the meat. Don’t think the dry breast was quite what Heston intended though.
Look at that ingredient list! Heston’s Sage and Onion and Parsley and Celery and Brandy and Chestnut and Cranberry and Caraway stuffing recipe.
Actually quite easy make. You just need some scales, big mixing bowl and a pan.
Weight your dry and fresh breadcrumbs, and put them in the big mixing bowl. Then add the measured / weighed ingredients that don’t need cooking: caraway, chestnut etc.
Next, start frying the other ingredients one at a time, then add to the bowl. As one finishes just tip it in then start on the next. Simple & efficient.
I thought it’d be quicker to flame off the brandy rather than just boil it. This led to what I can only describe as “Four Solid Minutes of Pure Fear” as 3 foot flames errupted into the air. You can’t use the extractor fan, it’ll pull more air in, feeding the fire. All I could do was hold the pan in mid-air until the flames died down.
As delicious and crowd-pleasing as they were when we made them last Christmas. But, on account of the rectangular shape Heston has you serve them in, still dubbed “the flapjacks”.
Despite a complicated list of ingredients, (and cornmeal polenta rather than actual corn) these turned out to be delicious. In lieu of jalapenos Declan used diced fresh chillies, which gave a warming kick. These would be exceptional with a classic Chilli Con Carne.
My only regret was that this didn’t come as a loaf so we could make leftovers sandwiches.
Declan’s verdict after making this this was a “posh version of green beans in chicken soup” (A recipe he’d cooked the previous year). There’s no denying the similarities, but this was a far, far superior dish to that.
Heston’s Christmas Gravy recipe uses chicken stock, and Heston’s Chicken Stock recipe uses a pressure cooker. Our plan was to bypass additional hassle by just slinging everything into a pressure cooker.
We used the technique from Heston’s Channel 4 Chicken Stock recipe: adding skimmed milk powder. It looks so, so wrong.
The results spent an hour in a pressure cooker with a lot of softened onion, mushroom and carrot. The whole lot was then sieved, reduced, strained through muslin and infused with thyme and rosemary.
There was a really strong carrot flavour, which we think had also led to some overpowering bitter notes. Taking a trick from Heston’s chocolate recipes we lessened the bitterness with a touch of salt. Turns out the fault lay with reducing the sauce with a fast, aggressive boil. You want no more than a simmer. Lesson learned.
At serving we added the veg from the turkey roasting tray plus the roasting juices, mashed everything together, and strained again. The gravy lost a lot of it’s smooth refinement but gained a whole lot of body and flavour. I’ll go with the Jamie method of a masher and a sieve over the complex pressure cooker work in future.
The first ominous aspect of this recipe is holding the potatoes at an exact 72°C for 30 minutes. Not all that bad if you’re at the stove anyway (and actually less effort than making a risotto).
This was no problem for us as, to paraphrase Hans Grüber, “Now I have a Sous Vide Cooker. Ho, ho, ho.” I just dumped the spuds into the main vessel and set a timer. After that more boiling and then running them bit-by-bit through the ricer.
No short-cuts for the next brutal step though: pushing the potatoes through a sieve. This might’ve been more difficult as we’d used “less” butter (still a full 250g block, but to 1.5kg of spuds, rather than a “mere” 1kg).
It’s a gruelling task that took over half an hour. The result is impressive though: a smooth, refined purée. We compared the sieved and unsieved potatoes and there’s a noticeable difference. Although it does have end up like a very posh instant mash. Refined or not, I am never doing 1.5kg of this ever again.
The potato skin-infused milk really does add a lot of extra flavour. That’s worth repeating for any future mash recipes.
This is a simple business of attacking a mandolin with potatoes (and the tip of my right ring finger) until you’ve enough to fill a dish. Don’t try to be clever by adding garlic to the onions as you sauté them, it’s flavour will overpower the rest of the dish. Whoops.
The sweet potatoes had a tendency to curl at the edges while cooking. You can remedy this by placing a similarly sized dish on top with some weights in (cereal bowls worked for us).
The least popular of the dishes, but one of the easiest to make. We’d love to try this properly with actual potatoes one day soon.
“Wow! You can actually buy real cranberries! I thought they were a myth in the UK”. When shopping for the ingredients Dan was impressed at even being able to find the necessary ingredients in somewhere as humble as Leigh Asda.
It’s a super-simple recipe (Put cranberries, orange juice, sugar and vodka in a pan, heat for ten minutes). Dan was certain the 15ml of vodka wouldn’t be noticeable enough in the finished dish so doubled the quantity.
We dubbed this “Vodka Jam” thanks to its hefty kick. Regardless, it was a brilliant and traditional Thanksgiving addition.
Felicity Cloake’s take on perfection often means being able to produce a dish with much less fuss and faff than Heston (though her pumpkin pie filling isn’t quite so simple). Butternut squash is roasted, blended and strained before being blended with lots of maple syrup, condensed milk and few seasonings then baked until just set.
Our pastry was a variant on that used for Heston’s Lemon Tart recipe. We just replaced the lemon zest for orange. We also strayed from the instructions when blending the egg yolks and icing sugar. Heston says to do this with a hand blender in a tall vessel, but we found this leaves a quarter of your mixture stuck behind the blender’s blades. It’s much easier to just whisk them together with a fork.
Our pastry came out a bit thick though. It was harder to roll than we expected after a full night in the fridge. Too many coins used as baking beans
This made a great dessert. Not too heavy, warmly spiced.
Thanksgiving recipes are significantly different to Christmas recipes. At least that’s how it seems to us Brits. Turkey, gravy and stuffing are a common starting point, but the various side dishes really make the difference.
We didn’t know if adapting Heston’s existing recipes to make American classics would work, but it did. This was a fantastic meal, a great excuse to get together and a lot of fun to make and eat.
Would any of our American readers tell us if this was accurate or not, and would you try these Heston’s Thanksgiving recipes for your next Thanksgiving? We’d love to hear your thoughts.