And I’m back! After a few crazy months in Taiwan and all over the US, I am back in California and ready to ruin your New Years diets. I don’t have a kitchen, so I’ll be posting recipes for some old Instagram posts until I’m able to be a fully functioning cook in my own home. In that vain, this post will have the recipe to the Thanksgiving Stack I made, well, for Thanksgiving, about a million years (one month) ago.
The story behind the Stack is that during my hundreds of flights over the past few months, I watched some cooking shows and decided that I have been summarily too basic in my cooking and presentation. I wanted to make a Thanksgiving meal, but realized that I can’t just make a standard meal and take a picture. For one thing, I only have one room in my house that has good enough light for photoshoots, and that is my guest room, so there was no way I could set up an entire Thanksgiving meal in there and still hope that any of it would be warm enough to eat afterward. For another thing, if I wanted to post my meal on Thanksgiving itself (which obviously did not happen, but which is always the goal), I would have to cook the food and take a picture of it about a week before actual Thanksgiving, which is a huge waste of money and ingredients because it would mean having to make two entire Thanksgiving meals one week after the other. And for a final thing, Thanksgiving meals are simply too big; there are always leftovers and tons of food waste.
SO, I decided that making a miniature version of an entire thanksgiving meal that could fit on individual plates. Unfortunately, it did not ease the turmoil of Thanksgiving day meal prep in any real way. I still had to prepare some manifestation of turkey, stuffing, some kind of cured pork, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy, and of course the almighty mashed potato. On the other hand, the final construction of the individual plates felt very fancy and satisfying, and I was able to prepare it for a potluck at work, so no food went to waste, so that is all very nice and good.
Anyway, I’d recommend this meal for any time of year. Since it is essentially a grown up shepherds pie, and turkey can be found all year, and it can also be converted from individual portions to a casserole-type miracle, it is pretty versatile and quick to make. The turkey mixture has Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste in it, like any shepherds pie, so it has a little bit of a tang, tempered by peas, and bolstered in a savory way by mashed potatoes and gravy. Finding the little crunchy pops of pancetta is really like discovering little sweet and salty jewels in an otherwise mush-forward experience. And of course, the entire dish is incredibly rich, with a thin layer of butter or fat coating every ingredient, but the richness is cut by the cranberry sauce so there is an overall balanced effect on the palate.
Give the dish a go and let me know what you think!
Butter Count: 18 Tbsp
3 slices of pancetta, sliced to 1/2-cm thickness
Cut the pancetta into 1/2-cm cubes.
Place the pancetta in a pan over low heat. Leave it to cook in its own fat until crisp, about 1 hour.
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 lbs ground turkey
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
Set a large pan over medium-high heat and add the canola oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook until the carrots begin to brown. Add the garlic and simply stir it into the mixture.
Add the turkey, salt, and pepper. Break up the turkey with a wooden spoon, incorporating it into the mixture. Continue cooking until the turkey is browned and excess moisture has evaporated.
Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir it in until fully combined for about 1 minute. The mixture will cook while you stir, which is what you want.
Add the chicken broth, tomato paste, rosemary, thyme, and Worcestershire sauce, stirring until fully combined. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook about 10 minutes until the liquid has thickened.
Stir in the peas and remove the mixture from heat. Set the pan aside.
3 Yukon Gold potatoes
8 Tbsp butter
1-2 Tbsp salt, depending on taste
1 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
Cut the potatoes into rough cubes, roughly 1 inch thick. Add them to the water and boil until cooked through and fork-tender.
Drain the potatoes and add them to a stand mixer set with a whisk attachment along with the butter and heavy cream.
Whisk the mixture over high heat until it is light and creamy. Add the salt and pepper to taste (I prefer the mashed potatoes to be extremely salty so that they basically only taste like salt and butter).
Transfer the potatoes to a piping bag set with a large serrated tip and set aside.
STUFFING (Honestly, I used StoveTop):
1 box StoveTop stuffing
Whatever else the box says you need
2 Tbsp butter
Follow the instructions on the box.
Stir in the butter afterwards.
8 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups chicken stock, heated
1 Tbsp heavy cream
Add the butter and onions to a pan and cook over medium heat until the onions begin to brown.
Whisk the flour into the mixture with the salt and pepper. Continue whisking about 2 minutes until it begins to brown and bubble slightly.
Add the chicken stock and stir to incorporate. Cook about 5 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and add the cream, stirring to incorporate.
1 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (zest the oranges before squeezing, and reserve the zest)
1 bag fresh cranberries
Add the orange juice and sugar to a small pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the cranberries and reserved orange zest.
When the mixture begins to boil again, reduce it to a simmer. Continue cooking about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries are all broken down. If the mixture begins bubbling over the sides, don’t panic - just stir the bubbles into the mixture (all bubbles will dissipate on their own when the mixture is removed from heat.
Remove the mixture from heat and set aside.
Place a greased ring mold on a serving plate.
Place the turkey mixture in the mold and press down so that there is an even layer, about 1 cm thick. Repeat with the stuffing.
Place about 1 Tbsp of gravy on the stuffing.
Remove the mold.
Pipe dollops of mashed potato onto disc. Use a kitchen torch to brown their tops.
Sprinkle pancetta over the mashed potatoes.
Top with additional gravy, and about 2 Tbsp of cranberry sauce.
Repeat the assembly steps on individual plates until all of the food is gone.
NOTE: If you want to avoid individual plating, simple layer the ingredients according to the order in the above steps, but in a casserole dish. I recommend heating at 400 degrees F about 10 minutes between steps 5 and 6.