Shopping days until Christmas? We'll worry about those later. As of today you have 15 days to prepare for Thanksgiving.
If that means stopping by a restaurant for a feast to eat in or take out (or a supermarket to do the latter), you have plenty of time. If you want to bring together friends and family to make memories around the dinner table, you need to start planning soon. In either case, the Taste staff stands by to help.
We're breaking down Thanksgiving planning into three groups. Today is for the planners, who want everything to be Martha meticulous. Nov. 21 we'll cover last-minute tips for the procrastinators, and on Nov. 14 we'll have info for everybody who falls in between.
This far ahead, you have the option of ordering the most pampered of turkeys - never frozen, free-range, no antibiotics, and on and on. They also are available in a larger range of sizes than you'll find in the supermarket.
The Butcher Block, 7625 S. Rainbow Blvd., is taking pre-orders of birds from the Diestel Family Turkey Ranch in Sonora , Calif., ranging from 6 to 10 pounds to 28 to 30 pounds or more, at about $3.49 a pound (and may have extras in stock); 558-6328
Village Meats, 5025 S. Eastern Ave., is taking orders for fresh Shelton's free-range turkeys from Ponoma, Calif., 12 to 30 pounds, $2.89 a pound. Order by Thursday for delivery the week of Thanksgiving; 736-7575
And www.Williams-Sonoma.com (877-812-6235) has free-range organic turkeys from the Willie Bird Ranch in Sonoma, Calif., in six sizes from 10 to 12 pounds to 24 to 26 pounds, $85 to $175, with a flat $15 delivery charge. Order by noon Nov. 16 for delivery by Nov. 20.
The side dishes
You don't have to settle for cranberry sauce out of a can; make chutney, which can be refrigerated for as long as a month and only improves with age. Here's a recipe:
1 cup cider vinegar (preferably unfiltered)
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 red onion, finely chopped
¾ cup mixed dried fruit, such as currants, golden raisins and chopped prunes
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
10 whole cloves, crushed with the side of a knife
2 whole cinnamon sticks
12 ounces fresh cranberries
Bring all ingredients except cranberries to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Add cranberries. Reduce heat to medium and simmer gently until cranberries are tender and start to burst, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and let stand until cooled.
Makes 4 cups.
- Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living
If you're planning this far ahead, it's almost obligatory to use fresh pumpkin for your pie, and you can do part of the job ahead. Those big ornamental pumpkins will work, although you may get better results from a smaller "sugar'' or pie pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin in half (then quarters, if it's large) and scoop out the seeds (save those for toasting) and pulp, discarding pulp. Put pieces in a glass dish, add about an inch of water and microwave on high 15-18 minutes, until flesh is soft. Let it cool, then scoop the flesh away from the shell. Puree the pulp in a food processor and freeze in plastic freezer containers or heavy-duty plastic bags until needed. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or 2 to 3 minutes in the microwave. Place in strainer, if necessary, to remove any excess water.
FRESH PUMPKIN PIE
Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
1¾ cups pumpkin pulp
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line pie plate with pastry and flute edges.
In a large bowl, combine the mashed pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves; beat until smooth. Gradually beat in milk. Pour into crust.
Bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40 to 45 minutes longer, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. (Cover edges with foil during the last 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning, if necessary.) Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers.
- Recipe adapted from Taste of Home magazine
HEIDI KNAPP RINELLA