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News Section: Food and Dining

Thanksgiving Table Tips

Published Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Russell Skall is an Executive Chef for Fleming's Prime Steak House and Winebar. Follow him on Twitter at @RussellOnSteak

Thanksgiving is a time to share good times with family and friends. Every year I seem to have a house full of family, relatives and friends. In order to entertain them, I need to be ready and not running around making food all day. So proper planning is essential for a fun and tasty holiday. Here are some preparation tips (and one of my favorite recipes) that I’d like to share with you to help make your own Thanksgiving more memorable.

Plan out the meal you are going to prepare and then decide what can be done a few days ahead of time. Homemade cranberry sauce is a must for our family and it tastes even better four days later. For my stuffing, I actually save old bread or the ends that my kids won’t eat for three or four months. I make our sausage stuffing two days ahead of time. I love using sausage not only for the pork flavor but for the way the fat helps to keep the stuffing moist during cooking.

Green bean casserole is a family favorite, but no canned mushroom sauces for this chef. I use fresh mushrooms, garlic and crispy bacon. My Thanksgiving turkey is a day long labor of love. A simple tip is to start early, around 7 am, for a 1 pm dinner. I love how the smell of the turkey rolls through the house in preparation for our dinner. I like my turkey to have a wonderful, crispy golden brown skin. So I cook it uncovered, resting on fresh-cut celery, carrots, onions and garlic in the oven for one hour at 375 degrees. Then I add water to the pan, turn the temperature down to 325 and cover the turkey loosely with aluminum foil. I pull the turkey out at noon and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Then I slice it up, place it on a platter, and wrap it with aluminum foil to keep it warm. Just before dinner, I place it back into the oven to heat it up.

Now the best part is to make the gravy. I place the turkey bones in a large pot covered with water and cook to make a flavorful homemade turkey stock. Next I strain about two cups into a small sauce pot with the drippings from the turkey and bring it to a low boil. I adjust the seasoning, then thicken the gravy with a mixture of corn starch and water. I have about 30 minutes to clean up and watch a little football. Here’s my own recipe for green bean casserole, which I think will be a hit with your guests. As always, be sure to let me know what you think on Twitter at RussellOnSteak.

Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole — Prepared by Russell Skall

1-1/2 lbs. frozen French green beans, thawed
10 slices of bacon
5 oz. or 12 medium mushrooms, diced in 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced in 1/4-inch pieces
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
5 cups half & half
1-1/2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese


Pre-heat oven to 350°. Place thawed green beans in a two-quart casserole dish. In a one-gallon sauce pot, cook bacon over medium heat until cooked and crispy on both sides. Place bacon on paper towels. Dice mushrooms and onions and cook in the bacon fat on medium high heat for about four to five minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for two minutes. Add salt, pepper and half & half. Stir frequently and make sure to scrape the bottom of the skillet to get more flavors into the sauce. Cook for five to six minutes until slightly thickened. Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan until melted. Pour mushroom sauce over beans, tossing to coat well. Crumble the cooked bacon over the casserole and bake covered 15-20 minutes until beans are hot.

This recipe serves eight.

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