by • November 7, 2010 • Uncategorized • Comments (0)673

Technique Class at Williams Sonoma: A Contemporary Thanksgiving

Today’s Technique Class theme was “A Contemporary Thanksgiving:”

Dazzle your friends and family with this delicious – and non-traditional – Thanksgiving feast. We’re putting a contemporary spin on the holiday meal, featuring everything from a new approach to turkey to fantastic new sides. No one will miss the classic Thanksgiving dishes!

So what did we learn to cook:

Sous Vide Turkey (view recipe)

Sous vide is a technique where foods are slowly cooked in a vacuum-sealed pouch inside a circulating water bath. You may recall seeing this method on food competition shows like Top Chef.

Rougié Duck Fat, $10.95

Carol and Barbara (our wonderful instructors) had the turkey marinate in an aromatic brine of grapefruit, peppercorns, and other spices. Carol had also told us that they rubbed duck fat on the turkey meat before vacuum-sealing it for the sous vide.

Notes about duck fat
Duck fat is healthier than butter. It is lower in saturated fat.
Anything that is solid at room temperature is bad. To demonstrate the consistency of duck fat, they circulated an open jar of Rougié Duck Fat, pictured right.

Well, butter does stay solid at room temperature, but it’s a staple and adds great flavor to dishes – too bad it’s unhealthy. But hey, use it in moderation, right?

Two turkey breasts sous vide in separate vacuum-sealed packs

The finished sous vide turkey was removed from the bath, drained and dried with paper towels before frying it in 375°F oil. The recipe called for peanut oil, but for the class, they used canola oil.

One turkey breast, fresh out of the fryer

Barbara prepared Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root (view recipe). I’ve never cooked celery root before, but it when sliced, it smells just like celery.

Some tips for preparing mashed potatoes

  • Use half and half for fluffy mash
  • Use butter
  • If you don’t like seeing the black pepper speckles in your mashed potatoes, use white pepper

I’ll admit I wasn’t very impressed by the mashed potatoes, especially when I had an amazing simple one prepared last week at their Basics class.

The cornbread stuffing was pretty good. Simple, they just used the La Brea Bakery Cornbread Stuffing Mix.

The Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (view recipe) was prepared using a slow-cooker. I’m a big fan of butternut squash soup, usually topped with sage.

Squash and apple? Explain?

  • Crops harvested during the same season pair well with each other
  • Pumpkins and apples pair well
  • Squash and apples pair well
  • Because pumpkins and apples are harvested in Autumn, they have a natural affinity for each other

The end product:

  • The butternut squash soup was delicious. Interesting to have chunks of apple in the soup, but having different textures was a nice twist.
  • The turkey was very moist. I only tasted hints of the grapefruit brine, mostly in the skin.
  • The mashed potatoes had an interesting flavor. I think it definitely needed the gravy on top.
  • The stuffing was quite delicious. I’d recommend it if you want to splurge on a $10 box for a pound of stuffing mix.
Bonus: For dessert we had an almond tart with homemade whipped cream mixed with pumpkin latte syrup. I’m not a big fan of whipped cream, but I gave it a try. Very sweet, and interesting. I’ll leave it at that.

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