New Ways for a Stressless Thanksgiving


Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

Who couldn’t use a few new ideas to make this often frenzied holiday a bit more relaxed…a lot more healthy? First new rule of thumb is to plan any or all dishes which work at room temperature. Another tip is to coordinate the repertoire so there is plenty of space in the oven. Okay-so move your turkey to the grill for roasting over live-flame. 

The dishes below are efficient and exquisite without being fussy. Much of the prep can be done in advance.

Brussel Sprouts, Bacon and Manchego Flatbreads

Makes (2) 13×15 inch flatbreads

The topping for this recipe can be made a day in advance, brought to room temperature and spread on the pastry just before popping in the oven.


  • 1/4 pound coarsely chopped nitrate free bacon
  • 1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound brussel sprouts, thinly sliced (5 cups)
  • 5 ounces Manchego or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • Asian chile sauce, for serving
  •  About 1 pound package frozen puff pastry sheets

 Make the Topping: Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the bacon and cook for 4 minutes. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat until softened, 10 minutes; Transfer the bacon and onion to a bowl and let cool slightly. Add the brussels sprouts and grated cheese to the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup olive oil.

 Preheat the oven to 375° and position racks in the upper and lower thirds. 

 Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently roll out 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed (from a 17.3-ounce package) on a lightly floured surface to a 10-inch square and a bit less than 1/4 inch thick. Place on the baking sheet. 

Spread the mozzarella slices evenly over the pastry. Spread the topping on the mozzarella and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden and crispy. NOTE: Switch the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Slide the flatbreads onto a work surface. Cut into rectangles and serve with Asian chile sauce (Siracha).


Dried fruit, plumped in apple cider (or brandy) is a fine garnish for the bird.


 The Whole Holiday Bird on the Grill: Brined Heritage Turkey with Mustard Butter

 serves 8 to 10  

The biggest lesson to learn about heritage, pastured turkeys is that they cook much faster than a conventional supermarket turkey. Keep your thermometer at the ready. 

Most heritage turkeys are sold fresh. The general rule allows 10 minutes per pound roasting time for heritage or free-range turkeys; I recommend filling the cavity with lots of fresh herbs of your choice. 

 Use a brining bag or double up with two heavy-duty, unscented trash bags and, if the bag won’t fit in the fridge, put it in a cooler or ice chest large enough to hold the turkey. If your holiday bird is small, like the one we tested, it should fit in your refrigerator. 

 Make sure to bring the bird to room temperature before cooking. 

  • Into the brine she goes! First though, it will be turned-breast side down.

     1 fresh heritage turkey, about 12 pounds 

 for the brine: 

  • 2 /3 cup kosher salt 
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper 
  • 3 dried bay leaves, broken into pieces 
  • 6 medium sprigs fresh thyme 
  • 2 gallons cold water 

 Remove the giblet bag from the turkey along with any extra internal fat and the small, fine, pin feathers. Rinse the bird well under cold water. If using a large, sturdy bag for brining, combine the salt, sugar, pepper, bay leaves, and thyme in the bag; add the cold water. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the turkey; there should be enough liquid to completely cover it. Press the air out of the bag and close tightly. Keep the turkey cold with bags of ice, which will also help keep it submerged in the brine. Brine 12 to 24 hours. 

 Alternatively, place turkey and brine in a large pan or bowl. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. If turkey floats to the top, weigh it down with a plate and cans to keep it submerged. 

 Mustard Butter

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup Bumpy Beer Mustard, or grainy sweet and spicy mustard
  • 1 crushed garlic clove 
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest 

 In small mixing bowl, add the softened butter, garlic and lemon zest mix together.

 Put turkey on work surface and pat it clean and dry. Insert fingers under skin to loosen the skin from the breast meat. Be careful so you don’t tear the skin.

 Spread a generous amount of the mustard butter under the skin on both sides of the breast. (Reserve a small amount of the mustard butter to baste the turkey when you brown the skin.)

 To grill-roast: 

Preheat grill to medium-high. Sprinkle pepper in the cavity and rub into the skin. Tuck wing tips under, loosely truss legs, and place turkey on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan. You may want a layer of heavy foil wrapped around the bottom of the pan to protect it from the flames or use a heavy, disposable roasting pan. Tent breast loosely with foil. 

 For the first hour, cover the bird with heavy foil to seal, and cook directly over the flame. For the second hour, move the turkey in the roasting pan to the indirect heat side of the grill, remove foil covering and spoon about 1/3 cup mustard/butter over the turkey. Repeat basting at least 2 more times during the grill roasting. 

 For doneness, test with an accurate thermometer, making sure not to touch the bone with the tip of the thermometer. The turkey should have an internal thigh temperature of 160ºF. 

 Let the roasted bird rest 10 to 15 minutes before carving.


Mixed Mushroom and Parsnip Saute

Serves 6-8

 This guilt-free side dish is perfect for Thanksgiving as it is one more menu item which leaves your oven free and clear. The “frizzled rosemary” is a new yummy garnish I’ve created which adds a delightful crunch on top. You may want to prepare the rosemary first to have when ready to serve.

  • Extra virgin olive oil 
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 pound baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

 “frizzled rosemary”

  • 3 stalks fresh rosemary-about 6-inches long, rosemary needles cut off with scissors
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

 Heat a medium skillet over medium high. When hot, add a drizzle of olive oil and swirl around pan to heat. Toss in the rosemary and move very quickly to crisp-do not let get too brown. Sprinkle with salt and place on a paper towel to drain.

 For the vegetables: In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot and almost smoking, add the mushrooms. Do not keep moving around; instead let each side brown nicely. Remove from pan when golden and place on a plate.

 Add a thin film of water directly to the same saute pan and cover with a lid. When the water boils, add the parsnips, return the lid and steam for 3-4 minutes. Remove the lid and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Begin to saute and toss. Cook until the parsnips have a golden crust and are soft. Return the mushrooms to the pan; season with salt and pepper.

 Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle the top with the “frizzled rosemary”.