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Mulled Apple Cider

I will be up front.  I hate being cold.  I loathe winter.  But I do love being inside, listening to Christmas carols, and drinking apple cider.  I’m totally fine with snow as long as I’m inside and it remains outside.  The second I have to don the GoreTex coat I got one year in college for Christmas (not the pea coat I asked for), I get cranky and upset.  So when our local farmer’s market started selling apple cider, I started feeling happier, despite the rapidly decreasing temperature.

Now I’ve watched enough Food Network and read enough food blogs to know that you can’t serve something straight, you need to tweak it to make it unique.  Except a Bojangles chicken biscuit.  You eat that bad boy just as it is, don’t bother with it.  Anyway, with apple cider you are taking a delicious base (the cider) and adding spices and just a little fruit to make it the embodiment of liquid holiday.  I suggest adding allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, sliced oranges, and whole cranberries.  Mmmmm mmmm, yummy.  It almost outweighs the cold.  Almost.

Mulled Apple Cider

1/2 gallon apple cider

1 orange, sliced

1/2 cup whole cranberries

2 tbsp allspice berries

5 cinnamon sticks

Put a large pot over heat.  Pour in cider.  Add fruit and spices.  In order to fully incorporate the flavors, you want to scald the cider, bring it to almost a boil.  Lower the temperature and simmer until you’re ready to serve.

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Apple Cider Green Beans

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Every year for the holidays, my Aunt Lori makes a green bean casserole.  Now she’s the first to admit that the recipe is from the side of a French’s Fried Onion can.  But I refused to make it myself, and I worshipped that casserole.  One of the unfortunate things about learning to cook your family’s famous dishes is that you learn the secrets.  For instance, I was never able to eat meatloaf after my mother made me make it for the first time.  Anyway, when I set out to prepare my first solo Thanksgiving, I was planning on making my Aunt Lori’s green bean casserole.  Then I started looking into what that included.  Now, keep in mind that I’m happy to make a butter-heavy dish if I think it’s worth it.  And if it’s the only heavy fat dish I’m making that meal.  After careful consideration of what else I was serving (turkey, sweet potato casserole, crescent rolls, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sauce), I just didn’t think the calories were worth it on a side dish.

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So I started looking into alternatives.  I had already bought the green beans, and while a can of french fried onions can waste away in my cabinet for years, I wasn’t wasting fresh green beans.  So I perused the internet for a recipe that sounded good.  It was a bust.  For one, half the recipes I found were for the same 300 calories a serving casserole I was running away from.  The rest either included tomatoes (not the right season) or sounded unappealing for a variety of other (I’m too picky) ways.

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So I decided to fly by the seat of my pants, taking things I liked from different recipes here and there.  For instance, Rachel Ray had a recipe where her green beans were cooked in apple cider.  Others used apple cider vinegar.  So I took those elements and made it my own.  When I cook green beans, I like to boil them, then toss them lightly with butter and salt and pepper.  With this recipe I tossed them in less butter, a small amount of apple cider vinegar, and a larger amount of apple cider.  The result was light, crispy, and a good textural alternative to the other flavors on the Thanksgiving table.  I will note that Dan was not a fan of this recipe.  I don’t know how Megan and John felt about it, and Meredith only ate cranberry sauce and stuffing, but I loved it.

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Apple Cider Green Beans

1/4 cup apple cider vingear

1 cup apple cider

2 tbsp butter

4 cups fresh green beans

Clean and boil your green beans.  When they’re ready they’ll be bright green, and will be crunchy to taste.  But not so crunchy that they’re hard to eat.  Drain and return to the pan.  Toss in butter and apple cider.  When the butter is melted, add salt and pepper.  Pour in apple cider, and simmer for five to ten minutes.  Serve in a bowl with juices.

Serves 4.

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Whole Turkey with Apple-Sage Glaze

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This year, because of a scheduling mishap with our families, Dan and I are missing a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Which, I will admit, breaks my heart because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Instead on Thursday I will be eating taco lasagna.  Or New Jersey tomato pie, if I have any say in the matter.

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Anyway, as a consolation, I decided to make a Thanksgiving dinner the Sunday before so that I could make sure I got all my favorite foods.  We invited over Dan’s sister, Megan, her husband John, and their (adorable) two year old Meredith, and did Thanksgiving the way it should be done, with not a black bean in sight.

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I should mention that I’ve never actually made a whole turkey by myself before.  My father deep-fries our turkeys every year.  So while I’ve watched him deep fry them, and I vaguely remember the baked turkeys of my childhood, I’ve never been responsible for a turkey myself.  So… this was an experiment.

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I bought a twelve pound fresh turkey (anything bigger was too intimidating) and set to work.  To calm myself I’ve been overdosing on Food Network, and last week I saw a Bobby Flay Thanksgiving episode that inspired me.  He, naturally, grilled his turkey, but first he made an Apple-Sage glaze that sounded amazing. Think granny smith apples, serrano chiles, onions, and sage.  The perfect combination of spicy, sweet, and sour.

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Another tip I learned from watching Alton Brown was to make what he called a turkey triangle.  I’ve learned that one of the issues with cooking a perfect whole turkey is that the dark meat and the light meat need to be cooked at different temperatures or for different periods of time to get the optimal flavor/texture.  So, Alton suggested making an aluminum foil tent, that you put over the turkey in the middle of the cooking process, which shields the white meat from getting too dry and allows the dark meat to cook.  He also suggests cooking at two different temperatures for a total of about two hours.

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Apple-Sage Glaze
Source: Bobby Flay

1 red onion

2 granny smith apples

2 serrano chili peppers

2 tbsp fresh sage

1/4 cup sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

Chop the onions and serrano chiles.  Begin to sauté the onions and chiles in the olive oil.  Peel and dice the apples, and add them to the pan.  Add vinegar and sugar, and stir.  Allow the sugar to melt and become syrupy.  Remove from heat.  Coarsely chop 5 or 6 leaves of sage.  Pour your apple mixture into the food processor.  Add sage and salt and pepper.  Puree in the food processor and set aside.

Baked Turkey
Source: Alton Brown

Preheat the oven to 500*.  Remove the gizzards (they should be in a bag inside the turkey) and set aside if you’re planning on using them for anything.  Place in your roasting pan and tie the back legs together.  Take a large rectangle of aluminum foil.  Fold into a triangular shape and coat one side with olive oil.  Press the aluminum over the body of the turkey.  Remove and set aside.  Brush the turkey with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Rub with Apple-Sage glaze.  Bake at 500* for 30 minutes.  Drop the temperature to 350*  Open the oven door, put a thermometer into the top of the turkey (at least one inch deep), and put on the turkey triangle. If you wanted, you could also slap another quick glaze on it before you put on the turkey triangle.  Bake the turkey at 350* until the temperature is 161*.  This should take about an hour and a half (on a twelve-fourteen pound turkey, longer for a bigger turkey), making the total bake time approximately two hours.

Let sit for half an hour out of the oven so that the juices have the opportunity to redistribute.

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