Thanksgiving Throwdown

I hope everyone’s had their fill on turkey and stuffing.  This was my first year hosting a Thanksgiving feast and making everything on the menu from scratch.  With some help from my husband who was my personal dish washer.  I love that man. =)

We decided on this Thanksgiving event last minute.  Since I had just come back from my trip to Florida, I needed a day or two to recuperate. (Don’t get me started on that awful trip…)  So I created a menu in a day with inspiration from Alton Brown hosting Thanksgiving Live on Food Network.  And this is what came up…

Roasted Turkey

Classic Turkey Gravy

Corn Casserole (Paula Deen)

Mashed Potatoes (Giada de Laurentiis)

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Green Been Casserole

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon (Tyler Florence)

Bourbon Vanilla Cranberry Sauce

Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta (Giada de Laurentiis)

Dessert: Pumpkin Roulade and Chocolate-Espresso Dacquoise

I’ve found most of the recipes on Food Network, EatLiveRun Blog, and Cook’s Illustrated.  I linked all the recipes accordingly to not bore you with recipes on this entry.

For a guaranteed moist turkey, these are some old-fashioned secrets.

-Dry brine the turkey for 24 to 48 hours.  Salting the turkey seasons the meat and keeps moisture inside.  And because your turkey is probably pretty frozen from the supermarket,  this also prevents any bacteria or spoiling of meat as you have your turkey defrost.  (My sister-in-law has told me that she has skipped this step before and her turkey still retains its moisture.  But to do so you must cook the turkey breast side down.)

-Stab the skin and fat.  Poking holes in the fatty deposits speeds up the fat-rendering process.

-Pat the turkey dry and rub the skin with baking powder and some salt.  The baking powder encourages browning while roasting.

-Drape strips of bacon on the turkey.  This enriches it with deep flavor as it roasts and prevents the skin from burning.

-Bake turkey with breast side down on roasting rack in roasting pan.  Liquid will drain downward toward the breasts to keep the bird moist.  Roast until thermometer registers 130 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast.

-Flip the turkey and blast up the heat at 450 degrees for the last 45 minutes to get that crispy skin.  Turkey is done when breasts register 160 degrees F in the breasts and 175 degrees F in the thighs.

Besides the turkey, the star of this meal is definitely the chocolate-espresso dacquoise.  And you’re probably asking what is dacquoise??  It is a French pastry named after Dax, a town in southern France where the dessert was first made.  Dacquoise contains nutty meringue sandwiched with silky buttercream and coated with chocolate ganache and toasted nuts.  This is certainly a more advanced recipe.  The nice part is that you can have this dessert ready the day before and it is absolutely impressive.  This recipe was adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  They have perfect the dacquoise ingredients making it simpler and tastier, incorporating a German buttercream technique.  I have grown to love Cook’s Illustrated.  Not only do they experiment with different cooking techniques and products.  They also explain the science behind the cooking.  Sort of like a team of Alton Brown in a magazine.  But onto the chocolate-espresso dacquoise recipe.



3/4 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted

1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

4 large egg whites, room temperature

1/4 tsp cream of tartar


3/4 cup whole milk

4 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp amaretto or water

1 1/2 tbsp instant espresso powder

16 tbsp unsalted butter, softened


6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tsp corn syrup

12 whole hazelnuts, toaste and skinned

1 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted


FOR THE MERINGUE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees.  Using ruler and pencil, draw 13 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle on piece of parchment paper.  Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it, ink side down.

Process almonds, hazelnuts, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until nuts are finely ground, 15 to 20 seconds.  Add 1/2 cup sugar and pulse to combine, 1 to 2 pulses.

Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billow mounds, about 1 minute.  With mixer running at medium-high speed, slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to ship until glossy, stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.  Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 2 batches.  With offset spatula, spread meringue evenly into 13 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle on parchment, using lines on parchment as guide.  Using spray bottle, evenly mist surface of meringue with water until glistening.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Tun off oven and allow meringue to cool in oven for 1 1/2 hours.  (Do not open oven during baking and cooling.)  Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.  (Cooled meringue can be kept at room temperature, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.)

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM: Heat milk in small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering.  Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in bowl until smooth.  Remove milk from heat and, whisking constantly, add half of milk to yolk mixture to temper.  Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to remaining milk in saucepan.  Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is bubbling and thickens to consistency of warm pudding, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer pastry cream to bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.  Before using, warm gently to room temperature in microwave at 50 percent power, stiffing every 10 seconds.

Stir together amaretto and espresso powder; set aside.  Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter at medium speed until smooth and light, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add pastry cream in 3 batches, beating for 30 seconds after each addition.  Add amaretto mixture and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes longer, scraping down bowl thoroughly halfway through mixing.

FOR THE GANACHE: Place chocolate in heatproof bowl.  Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.  Pour cream mixture over chocolate and let stand for 1 minute.  Stir mixture until smooth.  Set aside to cool until chocolate mounds slightly when dripped from spoon, about 5 minutes.

Carefully invert meringue and peel off parchment.  Reinvert meringue and place on cutting board.  Using serrated knife and gentle, repeated scoring motion, trim edges of meringue to form 12 by 10-inch rectangle.  Discard trimmings.  With long side of rectangle parallel to counter, use ruler to mark both long edges of meringue at 3-inch intervals.  Using serrated knife, score surface of meringue by drawing knife toward you from mark on top edge to corresponding mark on bottom edge.  Repeat scoring until meringue is fully cut through.  Repeat until you have four 10 by 3-inch rectangles.  (If any Meringues break during cutting, use them as middle layers.)

Place 3 rectangles on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet.  Using offset spatula, spread 1/4 cup ganache evenly over surface of each meringue.  Refrigerate until ganache is firm, about 15 minutes.  Set aside remaining ganache.

Using offset spatula, spread top of remaining rectangle with 1/2 cup buttercream ; place on wire rack with ganche-coated meringues.  Invert 1 ganache-coated meringue, place on top of buttercream, and press gently to level.  Repeat, spreading meringue with 1/2 cup buttercream and topping with inverted ganache-coated meringue.  Spread top with buttercream.  Invert final ganache0coated strip on top of cake.  Use 1 hand to steady top of cake and spread half of remaining buttercream to lightly coat sides of cake, then use remaining buttercream to coat top of cake.  Smooth until cake resembles box.  Refrigerate until buttercream is firm, about 2 hours.  (Once buttercream is firm, assembled cake may be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Warm remaining ganache in heatproof bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until mixture is very fluid but not hot.  Keeping assembled cake on wire rack, pour ganache over top of cake.  Using offset spatula, spread ganache in thin, even layer over top of cake, letting excess flow down sides.  Spread ganache over sides in thin layer (top must be completely covered, but some small gaps on sides are OK).

Garnish top of cake with hazelnuts.  Holding bottom of cake with 1 hand, gently press almonds onto sides with other hand.  Chill on wire rack, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours  Transfer to platter.  Cut into slices with sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each slice.  Serve.

Notes: Use a rimless baking sheet or an overturned rimmed baking sheet to bake the meringue.

Instant coffee may be substituted for the espresso powder.

Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar with 60 % cacao is recommended for this recipe.

Print Recipe Here!  Or check out the video Here!

The video makes it seem much easier than it is. =P  But the dessert is delicious and the time put in really pays off with the presentation and flavor.  For those allergic to nuts, the pumpkin roulade or pumpkin roll cake.  It’s more simple to make and can be made the day before as well.  Just omit the spiced pecans for those allergic to nuts.  This recipe was adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine.



1 cup cake flour, sifted

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

5 large eggs

1 cup granulate sugar

1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree

Confectioners’ sugar


8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces and softened 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

8 spiced pecans (recipe follows)


FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 18 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet, line with parchment paper, and grease parchment.  Whisk flour, spice, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.  Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat eggs and sugar on medium-high speed until pale yellow and thick, 6 to 10 minutes.  Add pumpkin, reduce speed to low, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Fold in flour mixture until combined.  Spread batter evenly in prepared baking sheet.  Bake until cake is firm and springs back when touched, about 15 minutes.

Run knife between baking sheet and edge of cake to loosen.  Turn our onto clean sheet of parchment dusted with confectioners’ sugar.  Gently peel off parchment attached to cake and discard.  Starting from short side, roll cake and fresh sheet of parchment into log.  Let cool, seam side down, for 1 hour.

FOR THE FILLING: Using clean, dry bowl and paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add cream cheese 1 piece at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition, about 1 minute.  Add vanilla and mix until no lumps remain, about 30 minutes.

Gently unroll cake.  Spread filling, leaving 1-inch border at edge.  (If you spread filling to edges, it will leak out ends when you roll it up again.)  Reroll cake gently but snugly, leaving parchment behind as you roll.  Wrap cake firmly in plastic wrap and chill completely, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.  Remove plastic, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and garnish with spiced pecans.  (Filled cake can be wrapped loosely in plastic and held at room temperature for up to 8 hours before serving.)

Spice Pecans


1 large egg white

1 tbsp water

1 tsp salt

4 cups (1 pound) pecans

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp ground corriander

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees.  Lin rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk egg white, water, and salt in large bowl.  Add pecans and toss to coat.  Let drain in colander for 5 minutes.

Mix sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and corriander in large bowl.  Add drained pecans and toss to coat.  Spread pecans evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, 40 to 45 minutes, roasting baking sheet halfway through baking.  Let pecans cool completely. Break pecans apart and serve.  (Pecans can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.)

Print Recipe Here!

We had a blast with friends and unexpected friends that came by for a visit.  It was great!  Thank you all for coming over.  It definitely made the holiday more enjoyable and merry. =)

I shall share the Classic turkey recipe another day since it is just as long as the dacquoise recipe.  But out of all the food, I believe that would have to be my favorite.  Sam’s favorite dish was the bourbon vanilla cranberry sauce, besides the dacquoise that everyone loved.  Enjoy the break! =P

Ending with our housemate washing dishes… =P

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