Tossed and Found: Put a twist on tradition; find new ways to try Thanksgiving staples

Tossed and Found: Put a twist on tradition; find new ways to try Thanksgiving staples

November 13th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

Traditional Thanksgiving dishes prepared in a new way might include, clockwise from top, Cranberry Relish, Slow Cooker Turkey and Dressing and As Good As Mashed Potatoes.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Count me as one of those cooks who has never prepared a turkey.

I'm talking about the whole bird process - the buying, the thawing, the stuffing, the roasting and the timing in order to get a Thanksgiving meal on a table at a specified time.

And maybe I never will.

Because for this month's Tossed & Found segment, I pulled out a recipe for Slow Cooker Turkey and Dressing that I clipped from Jane Henegar's weekly "Fare Exchange" in the Times Free Press last November.

It's a world changer.

Henegar was right when she said, "You may never go back to roasting the bird after you try this easy slow cooker version."

For the first 20 years of my married life, we ate a Thanksgiving meal with my large family the weekend before the holiday and one with my wife's smaller family on the actual day. For both family meals, we prepared various side dishes. And in the two years we hosted my large family, we purchased turkey and ham from HoneyBaked Ham.

But this slow cooker recipe was intriguing. I'm a sucker for slow cooker recipes, and I wanted to do a turkey. It proved to be the perfect combination.

The turkey and the dressing cook together, with the turkey flavoring the dressing and perhaps vice versa. Now, I like a good dressing, and members of my family, my mother years ago and my late mother-in-law in recent years have done them well. But this was the best I have ever had.

With stuffing mix, together with onions, celery and cranberries - which I've never had in my stuffing before - the flavor was wonderful. After I took the turkey out, I just wanted to stand in front of the slow cooker and eat the warm dressing with a spoon.

Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple, but one I can take or leave. The recipe I pulled for today, As Good As Mashed Potatoes, I would never leave. Because I could eat every last bit of them. And, over time, that wouldn't be so bad because the recipe says they have zero grams of fat.

The secret is garlic, hot pepper sauce, mustards, horseradish sauce and fat-free sour cream instead of gobs of butter, regular sour cream and perhaps cheese. If the recipe sounds too spicy, it really isn't. I left the peels on the potatoes, too, for extra nutrition.

The third recipe is Cranberry Relish. I'm not a fan of gelatin-based cranberry salads or the can of cranberry sauce that slooshes out of the can onto a plate every year. But I'm not cranberry-phobic like my late preacher friend Ray Robinson, who would have nothing to do with the fruit.

Earlier this year, East Ridge resident Alice Stevenson responded to our call for cooks who'd be willing to let us come to their house and observe them putting together their favorite recipe. She didn't want to be the subject of a story necessarily, but she wanted to describe the cranberry dish she made.

Interested but not fast enough to write down everything she said, I hastily jotted down the ingredients and some instructions I can hardly read. So any mistakes are mine, not hers. Six months or so later, I thought Cranberry Relish would work well with this segment.

My hastily scribbled instructions seemed to indicate I should combine a package of whole cranberries with nuts and sugar and put it in the refrigerator overnight. My memory was that Stevenson said the sugar would break down the cranberries to the point that you could drain a lot of the water and sugar the next morning. When I checked the bowl, though, there was no liquid. So, I pulsed the mixture in the Cuisinart and put it back in the refrigerator. In time, I did drain off some liquid.

To that, you add a can of crushed pineapple, drained. Do you know how hard it is to drain crushed pineapple? It's mostly liquid already.

Anyway, with the final in-folding of real whipped cream, it turned into a lovely, tasty, light dish. But whether or not it resembles the one Stevenson made, I don't know.

So if you want to prepare some traditional Thanksgiving dishes in a new way, give these a try.

As Good As Mashed Potatoes

4 medium potatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds), scrubbed

1-1/4 cups water

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons parsley, chopped

3 dashes hot pepper sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

2 teaspoon grainy mustard

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1/4 cup fat-free sour cream

Pare the potatoes or leave skin on, according to taste. Cut into 1-inch cubes and place in a heavy medium saucepan. Add water, garlic, parsley, hot pepper sauce and salt; bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat, cover and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring and breaking up the potatoes with a fork, adding more hot water if potatoes seem too dry. Continue stirring and mashing the potatoes for about 5 minutes until the water is absorbed and the potatoes are soft and lumpy. Remove from heat, stir in the mustards, horseradish and sour cream. Makes 6 servings.

• Cook's changes: I couldn't find 4 potatoes that were anywhere near as light as 1-1/2 pounds, so be aware of that when adding ingredients. With more potatoes, you definitely need more water. I think eventually I added at least a cup more. I'm big on flavor, so I think I added a couple more small cloves of garlic than what was called for and used tablespoons instead of teaspoons when adding the mustards and horseradish.

• Result: These potatoes are so good, they remind me of freshly made - pre-refrigerated - potato salad. Although I added more mustards and horseradish, the flavors don't overwhelm you. And as you're eating, think of the calories you're saving by not adding butter, regular sour cream or cheese.

Cranberry Relish

1 package (16 ounces) whole cranberries

1 cup walnuts/pecans combination

2 cups sugar

1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained

1/2 pint whipping cream

Pulse cranberries in food processor or blender enough to break them up into small chunks. Add pecans/walnuts mix and sugar. Refrigerate overnight. Drain liquid from cranberry mix. Add drained pineapple. Whisk whipping cream until stiff. Add gently to cranberry/pineapple mix. Chill until serving.

• Cook's changes: None.

• Result: Light, fruity and delicious. I'm not a huge gelatin-type cranberry salad fan, but this is something entirely different.

- With apologies to Alice Stevenson

Slow Cooker Turkey And Dressing

1 (8-ounce) package herb-seasoned stuffing mix

1 onion, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 cup dried cranberries

3/4 cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

1 (3-pound) frozen boneless turkey breast, thawed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 (1-ounce) package turkey gravy mix

Coat inside of a 4-quart electric slow cooker with cooking spray. Add stuffing mix, onion, celery and cranberries. Combine broth and melted butter. Pour over stuffing and stir gently. Remove string from turkey breast, rinse it. Place turkey in slow cooker on top of stuffing. Combine salt, pepper and thyme; sprinkle over turkey. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce to low and cook 5 to 6 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted in turkey registers 170 degrees. Remove turkey to a serving platter. Stir stuffing gently in slow cooker; cover and let stand 3 to 4 minutes. Prepare gravy. Spoon stuffing around turkey on platter.

• Cook's changes: I used a chicken-flavored stuffing I already had.

• Result: The dressing is out-of-this-world wonderful, mixing nicely with the juices of the turkey. The turkey, too, is nicely done and ready to serve at the end of cooking time.

- Southern Living

Contact Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/Clint CooperCTFP.