When last minute changes to holiday plans threaten your dinner, help is found in your pantry (with some emergency supplies in your freezer) See how a Christmas dinner postponement didn’t stand in the way of our holiday feast.
I’ll confess, I was worried about our Christmas dinner plans falling through, so I did pick up a frozen turkey breast to have on hand just in case. My son was home from college and if you are a parent, you know that you want everything to be perfect. Anyway, back to the turkey. It’s one staple that’s always in my freezer, whether for a quick dinner or a supply of sandwiches for the week. But the rest of the menu came together with staples I had on hand (and was much more festive than being stuck rummaging the fridge for leftovers). As the turkey was in the oven, I got the rest of the sides ready to go.
You can’t have a turkey dinner without stuffing (well at least in my house). Since I didn’t have stuffing cubes on hand, all I needed to do was toast some bread in a 200 degree oven for about 20 minutes to make cubes. While the bread was toasting, I melted a stick of butter in a sauce pan, added some chopped onion, celery and garlic and cooked until soft. Then I tossed in some parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary and poultry seasoning till the kitchen began to smell amazing (no fresh herbs, no problem).
When everything was ready, I tossed the bread with the butter and seasoned veggies until everything was combined. Then I added in chicken stock until it was the texture I wanted (some like it dry, we like it a little more moist). I finished up with some salt and pepper and added it to a casserole dish coated with cooking spray. That’s the only drawback of a frozen turkey breast, you can’t have the spirited debate of stuffing in the bird or not!
- Green Bean Casserole
Confession, I’ve never made the traditional green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup. My mom actually turned me on to this version, which is healthier and I think more flavorful.
Once you’ve cooked your green beans (and again, this can be an item for debate, as some of us like the beans a little more toothful than others), drain them, put them in a casserole dish, and toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of balsamic or red wine vinegar. Add garlic, paprika and oregano to taste and finish with fresh ground pepper.
In a small skillet, melt half a stick of butter then add breadcrumbs and grated parmesan until a nice topping has formed. Sprinkle the topping over the beans. If you’re inclined (spoiler, we see this as a necessary ingredient) add some fried onions over the top of the casserole.
- Mashed Potatoes
There are probably a million different ideas on the perfect mashed potato, but I like to scrub and dice the potatoes with the skins on. Boil them in salted water until fork-tender and drain. I like to add a couple tablespoons of butter, a couple tablespoons of cream cheese, and a couple tablespoons of sour cream. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg (which honestly I did as an accident once and it stuck). As I mash, I keep adding a dash of milk until they’re the consistency we like. Want to make it fancy? Sprinkle with some parsley (as you’ll see below, I forgot that step. No one seemed to mind.)
Depending on the frozen turkey, it may come with a gravy packet for you. It can be super salty, so I don’t tend to use them. Instead, I melt half a stick of butter and add a quarter cup of flour to make a roux (or if you are feeding more than 4, just double it). Add the drippings from the turkey (lesson I’ve learned: if the turkey is cooked in a cooking bag, be careful draining the drippings into the pan because the bag and the clasp will be hot). Season with pepper (I don’t add salt until I give it a taste at the end). Add stock to get the gravy to the consistency you’d like it to be. Not tasting how you’d like? Add poultry seasoning, sage, rosemary or additional salt.
Bringing it all together
The turkey was supposed to take about three hours in a 375 degree oven. After two hours, insert a meat thermometer to keep track of it. At that point, I put the stuffing on (covered with foil). After 30 minutes, I checked the turkey and uncovered the stuffing. After another 15 minutes, I took the turkey out and put the beans in to warm. I finished the gravy and away we went to the table for our makeshift feast.