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story.lead_photo.caption Turkey, cornbread dressing and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes bake in the same pan for an easy Thanksgiving dinner. - Photo by Benjamin Krain

One the hardest parts about preparing a Thanksgiving meal, especially for those who can't do much cooking beforehand, is getting everything ready on time, while each dish is still at its peak.

For small gatherings, one option is to simplify the menu and the cooking method. Focus on the stars: turkey and dressing, two or three seasonal vegetables and a dessert.

Thanks to the versatility and durability of the common sheet pan one can cook almost an entire dinner at once in the oven.

We first read about this method last year on the Tasting Table website. We've since seen versions of it by Food Network and on various cooking blogs.

This year we were inspired to come up with a version of our own. Because we wanted plenty of leftover turkey, and because most Arkansas grocery stores don't carry turkey breasts smaller than 4 pounds, we opted to go with a bigger breast than the other versions we've seen. And because we think cornbread dressing is the only dressing worth eating, we scaled down our favorite cornbread dressing recipe. For the sides, we went with sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and winter squash. Pop open a can of cranberry sauce (or make your homemade version if you must) and dinner is served.

There were still some timing issues to keep in mind. The turkey takes the longest to cook, so it needs to go in first. And very large sweet potatoes will also need a long time to bake, so they go on the same pan as the turkey. The dressing gets spooned on next. And the squash and sprouts get their own pan.

To round out the meal, mini pumpkin Bundt cakes are sized just right. The cakes can be baked a day or so ahead or the morning of the feast.

Two Pan Turkey and Cornbread Dressing

With Brussels Sprouts, Squash and Sweet Potatoes

1 (4- to 6-pound) bone-in, skin-on turkey breast, thawed

4 to 6 leaves fresh sage

2 sprigs thyme, divided use

6 tablespoons butter, softened, divided use

Salt and ground black pepper

1 onion, halved

1 sprig rosemary

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked with a fork

1 to 2 ribs celery, minced

1 pound cornbread, crumbled

1/2 tube buttery crackers such as Ritz

2 slices white bread, torn into very small pieces

2 to 3 cups chicken stock

1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk

2 eggs, beaten

12 ounces to 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1 or 2 delicata or acorn squash, cut into 1-inch rings, seeds removed

Olive oil

3/4 cup pecan halves

1/2 cup mini marshmallows, optional

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready 2 half-sheet pans with 1-inch rims or two shallow roasting pans. If desired, line pans with parchment paper or aluminum foil and coat foil with butter or oil.

Remove giblet pack inside turkey cavity. Using kitchen shears remove the backbone and ribs from the turkey breast (can be used to make gravy, if desired, recipe follows, or stock). Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin. Place turkey on one of the sheet pans; set aside.

Finely chop the sage leaves. Strip leaves from one of the thyme sprigs.

In a small bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of the butter, the thyme leaves and half of the chopped sage. Season with salt and pepper. Rub 3 tablespoons of the butter mixture under the turkey skin. Rub the remaining tablespoon over the skin. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut one half of the onion into wedges. Place onion wedges along with the remaining thyme sprig and the rosemary under the turkey breast.

Place the sweet potatoes on the other end of the sheet pan.

Roast turkey and sweet potatoes for 30 to 45 minutes. (Total roasting time should be about 15 minutes per pound of turkey, so a 4-pound breast will roast in about 1 hour; a 6-pound breast will take 1 1/2 hours.)

Meanwhile, mince the remaining onion half. Saute onion, celery and remaining sage in 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter until softened.

In a large bowl, combine the crumbled cornbread, crackers, white bread, sauteed vegetables, 2 cups of the chicken stock, the evaporated milk and eggs and mix well. Mixture should be very moist, almost soupy. If necessary add the remaining cup of chicken stock.

On a separate half-sheet pan, arrange Brussels sprouts and squash in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

After the turkey has roasted for 30 to 45 minutes, spoon the dressing around it on the sheet pan. Return pan, along with the pan of vegetables to the oven and continue roasting until breast reaches an internal temperature reaches 165 degrees and the vegetables are golden brown and tender. During the last 5 minutes or so, scatter the pecans over the squash and sprouts and split the sweet potatoes and top with marshmallows.

Turkey should rest for 15 minute before carving.

Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

The drawback of the sheet pan turkey dinner starring a small turkey breast is you don't have all those luscious pan drippings for making gravy. To compensate, we sauteed the trimmed back and rib bones in a mixture of butter and vegetable oil to create some.

Turkey Gravy

Back and ribs from turkey breast (can substitute a skin-on chicken thigh)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon butter, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup turkey or chicken stock

Kitchen Bouquet or soy sauce (for browning), optional

Salt and ground black pepper

In a large skillet, saute turkey back and ribs in vegetable oil and butter until skin is browned and fat is rendered. Remove turkey pieces from pan. (Save to make broth, if desired, see note.) You should have about 2 tablespoons drippings. If not, add enough butter to make 2 tablespoons. Whisk in flour, whisking well to make sure flour is completely coated with drippings. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, whisking until thickened. If a darker gravy is desired, add a drop or two of browning sauce such as Kitchen Bouquet or soy sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For velvety smooth gravy, pass it through a fine sieve as you transfer it to a gravy boat or other spouted container.

Makes about 1 cup.

Note: To make turkey broth, combine the turkey back and ribs, 1 onion (quartered), 1 carrot (cut into chunks), 1 rib celery (cut into thirds), 1 sprig parsley and 8 cups water in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Skim off foam and fat. Strain and transfer to airtight containers. Broth will keep, refrigerated for about 3 days or frozen for 6 months.

This recipe can be prepared as individual Bundts or in a 6-cup mini Bundt pan. The secret to getting Bundt cakes cleanly out of the pan is to remove them while they are still warm. We've found the cakes will release more easily if they cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, before inverting the pan onto a cooling rack to cool completely. If the cake sticks at first, it will likely release as the pan cools. Also, avoid using spray oil on Bundt pans, as they can leave a residue. Instead, brush the pan, making sure to get into all of the crevices, with vegetable oil and then lightly dust with flour.

Vegetable oil is preferred to butter because the milk solids in butter tend to stick.

Mini Pumpkin Bundt Cakes

With Brown Butter-Bourbon Glaze

3/4 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup unpacked light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze:

2 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 teaspoons bourbon

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons milk, plus more as needed

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 6-cup mini Bundt pan or the wells of 6-cake mini fluted cake pan with vegetable oil and lightly dust with flour. (For best results, do not use baking spray.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, white sugar, vegetable oil and vanilla until smooth. Whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture, whisking just until no white streaks remain.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan. If using a mini fluted cake pan, use about 6 tablespoons of batter per well. If baking a single cake, bake about 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. If baking 6 individual cakes, bake about 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center of one cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert pan onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. If necessary, run a butter knife between the cake and pan to loosen.

For the glaze:

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat, swirling pan. When butter is just beginning to turn brown, remove from heat, whisk in the bourbon and then add confectioners' sugar. Whisk until smooth, then add the milk. If glaze is too thick, add more milk to create a good drizzling consistency.

Drizzle glaze over cakes.

Makes 6 servings.

Photo by Benjamin Krain
Mini Pumpkin Bundt Cakes With Brown Butter-Bourbon Glaze
Photo by Benjamin Krain
Brussels sprouts and delicata squash are topped with roasted pecans.

Food on 11/15/2017

Print Headline: Less messing, more blessing: Preparing Thanksgiving dinner in only two pans saves time, space

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