The Perfect Holiday Meal
While cooking a delicious turkey is certainly an important component of your holiday meal, it’s how you prepare the rest of the meal that will leave your guests talking about your holiday soiree for seasons to come. Below are some shopping tips below to help you get started in creating your perfect get-together.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, it’s the main meal that does all the heavy lifting. Anything served before the main course should be a simple affair. Rather than filling up your guests with heavy appetizers, keep snacks light and simple, just enough to provide an ice breaker that gets people mingling.
Suggestions: A few bowls of spiced nuts or a cheese platter are a great way to kick off the holiday meal. Easy in preparation, these simple snacks are tasty and perfectly sized so that guests won’t get too full to enjoy the main event.
Need help? A recipe for spiced nuts from Magee’s House of Nuts and a cheese selection guide from Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market are both available in our cookbook, L.A.’s Original Farmers Market Cookbook or drop by the merchants to get first-hand advice.
When it comes to preparing the turkey, we think the easier the better. Rather than hide the flavor of your turkey in heavy seasonings or worse—deep frying the life out of it—the best turkeys are the ones where the natural flavors shine through. The Classic Herb Roasted Turkey recipe, from Sur La Table, which is simply basted with a little butter and some seasonal herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme, is the perfect way to show off your culinary skills. Or use Diestel Turkey Ranch’s roasting suggestion, which includes a truly fabulous secret to making a conversation-stopping gravy. Or for a turkey with a little kick, add some Gardell’s Chimichurri sauce , which you can purchase at Marconda’s Puritan Poultry. Click here to see Marconda’s Grilled Turkey recipe.
Shopping Tip: Thanksgiving dinner is arguably one of the most important meals of the year. It is a time when families come together and give thanks for all that is right in their life. Why not make the meal extra-special with a custom-ordered Willie Bird or Diestel Family Ranch Turkey? These free-range turkeys, carefully raised in Northern California, have won a variety of best-of-the-best awards and are the preferred turkeys for top chefs around the world. Willie Birds can be ordered fresh at Marconda’s Puritan Poultry and Diestel turkeys, including the Heritage variety can be ordered at Farmers Market Poultry.
Making a flavorful gravy is not that difficult; unfortunately most recipes make it a lot more complicated than it needs to be.
Once your turkey has finished cooking, remove it from the pan and pour all your turkey drippings into a measuring cup. Let the cup sit for a few minutes, then remove all (or most) of the liquid that floats to the top. That’s all fat. Add just enough chicken broth to the drippings to measure two cups. Pour the entire mixture into a sauce pan and heat it up and flavor the mixture with a little salt and pepper and a bouillon soup cube.
While the broth is heating, measure about ¼ cup of chicken broth (or water) and ¼ cup of flour and blend with a whisk until you have a smooth paste. When the cooking liquid reaches a brisk boil, pour in the flour mixture, reduce the heat, and whisk the entire stock until it thickens. Voilà, homemade gravy.
The hardest decision you’ll have to make for your entire Thanksgiving meal might just be which stuffing to serve. When it comes to stuffing, only one thing is certain—if you’re still using a box mix, stop immediately. Beyond that the choices are infinite. Cook it inside the bird, cook it separately from the bird. Use white bread, wheat bread, French bread or cornbread. Add meat, keep it vegetarian. So many decisions….
At its most basic, stuffing is a mixture of fresh veggies like onions and celery, some cubed bread and a few select herbs and seasonings. Diestel Turkeys, who’ve been helping families create fantastic Thanksgiving meals since 1949, provides this classic Savory Herb Stuffing recipe that involves no sautéing. Simply mix the ingredients and stuff the bird. Or prepare your stuffing as only a Californian can with this Avocado Holiday Stuffing Recipe from the Hass Avocado Board.
Shopping Tip: Instead of using plain bread, why not jazz things up with some fresh baked bread at Michelina Artisan Boulanger or T&Y Bakery. Ask if they have day-old bread or else buy the bread fresh and give it a day or two to age. The firmer texture of the day-old products will add extra body to your stuffing.
If you’d like your stuffing to have a little extra kick, talk to the experts at Dragunara Spice Bazaar. They can help you decide upon a healthy flavor profile that perfectly matches your meal plan.
Serving cranberries with your holiday meal is a must. But if your cranberry dressing starts out cylindrical—AKA out of can—you need a new plan.
For us, our hands-down favorite recipe is a local find, Mom Parson’s Cranberries, a passed-down family recipe from L.A. Times Food Editor Russ Parsons. The added citrus zest helps cut through the sweetness normally associated with cranberry sauce. The recipe recommends preparing the dish three days in advance, but for those who forget and leave it for Thanksgiving morning, don’t worry, it comes out tasting just fine.
No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a full complement of veggies on the side. Corn and mashed potatoes are usual suspects but many also include root veggies. Whether you’re preparing only fresh veggies or cooking an elaborate family recipe, our produce merchants, Farm Boy Produce and Farm Fresh Produce can help you determine what’s in season in November and just how much you need to order to make sure there’s enough for seconds.
Preparation Tip: If you’re preparing mashed sweet potatoes or yams, be sure to drop in a teaspoon or so of brown sugar into the mashed mixture. The sugar will be just enough to highlight the natural flavors but not so much that you’ll overpower the dish.
Or if you’re looking for a new take on a classic dish, try these Twice Baked Maple Chipotle Sweet Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Pumpkin Seeds from the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission.
Clearly, when it comes to Thanksgiving, we’re a big fan of DIY meals. But when it comes to dessert, we say why not let L.A.’s leading pie expert—Du-par’s Pie Shop —do the work for you. Pass these pies off as your own or impress your guests with your vast knowledge of where to get the best pies in town. One thing though, Du-par’s pies are super popular, so don’t order them at the last minute. In fact, we encourage you to put in a pre-order for your pies right away.
Hassle-Free Holiday Feast
Not a fan of cooking? Pick up your entire meal at Du-par’s Restaurant and Bakery, and leave your time for more important items—dare we say, sleeping in?
The holiday feast includes a roasted turkey served with Butternut Squash soup, homemade mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and green beans, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, dinner rolls, and of course Du-par’s famed pies.
A whole turkey feast, which serves 10-12 guests runs for $225 and includes two pies. Or for a more intimate affair, pick up a half feast, good for 6-8 guests for $155 and includes one pie.
If the top of the list of things you’re giving thanks for includes a furry loved one, you’ll want to be sure to pick up a Barkgiving Dinner at The Dog Bakery. This fresh-baked, dog-friendly meal includes a turkey pot pie, a pumpkin pie, sweet potato chips, cornbread, cranberry stuffing, acorn cookies and peanut butter wishbones. Your dog will woof with joy.