Entertain/Food / November 13, 2013

Favorite Family Thanksgiving Recipes

Our Favorite Thanksgiving RecipesThanksgiving is just a few short weeks away. If you’re like us, you’ve already drafted your Thanksgiving menu and edited it twice. And, you’re probably still looking for a recipe to round out your holiday feast. 

Today we’re sharing some of our favorite family Thanksgiving recipes with you and stories about why they’re so special to us. Plus, we created these handy recipe cards to jot down our recipes or recipes of your own! (Click here or on the image to download the writeable and printable .pdf)

Wine Sisterhood Recipe Cards

Have a favorite recipe of your own? Share it with us in a comment at the bottom of this email.

And don’t forget the wine! Here are our recommendations for pairing wine with your Thanksgiving dinner


Grandma Peggy’s Oyster Stuffing – from Natalie

Natalie and Grandma PeggyBackground:  This recipe was taught to me by my Grandma Peggy who lives in a beautiful cabin in Bass Lake, CA.  She makes this Oyster Stuffing every year.  And every year it is one of the most popular dishes on the table.  When I asked my grandmother how she discovered the stuffing, I learned that it is a family recipe dating back to the late 1800’s.  My grandmother was taught the recipe by her mother Lola Dye, who in turn learned how to make Oyster Dressing from her mother-in-law Mable Dye.  Of course over the years the recipe has been altered to include some modern ingredients, but the simplicity has stayed the same over time.  I have broken down the recipe into two parts.  Part one is made in a slow cooker the night before; part one combines all the ingredients which are then stuffed into the Turkey.  This is truly a family tradition.  I hope you enjoy it as much as our family does each Thanksgiving! 

P.S. – Putting oysters in stuffing is not weird.  If you choose to take a risk on this recipe, you will be pleasantly surprised. I’ve converted many people over the years.

Part One:

2 Onions, chopped
6 Stalks Celery, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 C. mixed herbs, diced (sage, rosemary, parsley and whatever else you think sounds good)
Giblets from the Turkey
Salt & Pepper

Place the Giblets from the Turkey in the slow cooker.  Cover with water.  Then add onions, celery, garlic and herbs.  Cover and cook over night on low.  In the morning, drain out the giblets and veggies to get the Turkey Broth you will need for part two. 

Part Two:

2 C. Butter
2 C. Celery, chopped
2 C. Onions, chopped
2 Jars Oysters, drained, liquid reserved, then chopped
1 Box Mrs. Cubbison’s Corn Bread Dressing
1 Box Mrs. Cubbison’s Seasoned Stuffing

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan.  Add the chopped celery and onion and sauté until translucent.  Add oysters and stir for one minute.

In a large bowl combine boxes of stuffing mix.  Pour the celery, onion and oysters over stuffing mix.  Then gradually add the Turkey Broth that was made the night before while tossing with a large spoon.  Stop to give the mixture a taste every once in a while until it gets to the moisture level you like.  Add salt and pepper as needed.

Stuff the mixture in the Turkey and you are good to go!  Bon Appetit!

Tip:  Do not stuff Turkey until ready to roast.

The Wine:  I plan on popping open some bottles of bubbly to enjoy with our Thanksgiving meal.  It is the ultimate beverage to serve at a meal like Thanksgiving because it has the ability to go with the wide spectrum of flavors available on the table.

Pairing Wine with Thanksgiving Dinner

Orange-Marinated Brined Smoked Turkey and Rich Gravy – from Mary Ann

These recipes were created by my amazing significant other Chef Jeff Starr many years ago as part of a big Napa Valley Thanksgiving culinary story which appeared in publications across the country.

We still prepare the turkey and gravy (and by we, I mean he, mostly) in the same way every Thanksgiving, although sometimes we skip the smoking and just roast the turkey in the oven. The ingredients lists are a bit daunting but worth it. If you don’t have some of the spices for the Asian-inspired brine, don’t worry about it.

Orange-Marinated Brined Smoked Turkey

This turkey is moist and tender with a subtle blend of citrusy and spicy flavors. It is perfect as is, sans gravy, but a rich gravy recipe is included for those who find Thanksgiving dinner incomplete without it. The turkey is easy to brine and smoke, but the recipe should be carefully read before beginning. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of smoking, the brined turkey can be roasted in your oven per standard turkey roasting guidelines.


1 gallon orange juice
2 C. rice wine vinegar
2 C. apple cider vinegar
1 C. dark brown sugar
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 C. sliced fresh ginger
1 bunch green onions, sliced
2 bunches cilantro, chopped
12 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
2 T. red pepper flakes
1 T. whole cloves
2 T. whole black peppercorns
1 C. kosher salt + salt to taste
1 turkey (12 to 15 pounds), giblets removed, liver and neck reserved
About 2 pounds wine-barrel or orange-wood chips (grapevine cuttings or hickory chips may be substituted)
Olive oil as needed
Pepper to taste

Instructions: Combine the orange juice, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, green onions, cilantro, star anise, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, cloves, peppercorns and salt in a stock pot or large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Let cool. (May be prepared 1 day ahead; refrigerate in a nonmetal container.)

Thoroughly rinse and dry the turkey inside and out. Place in a large plastic, glass or earthenware container that is not much wider than the diameter of the turkey and deep enough so that the brine will cover the bird completely. Pour in the brine; make sure it covers the turkey. Cover and refrigerate for 3 days. If the brine doesn’t completely cover the bird, turn the bird every 12 hours.

About 4 hours before serving, soak wood chips (wine-barrel chips or orange wood imparts a good flavor) in water for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry; truss and place on a roasting rack. Rub with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place a drip pan on the fire grate of a kettle-type grill. Place 20 or 30 briquets on either side of drip pan. Light and let burn until coated with white ash, about 30 minutes.

Place the turkey in the center of the grill over the drip pan. Place small handfuls of wet wood chips on the briquets. Cover kettle with the lid. Partially open lid and kettle vents. Try not to remove the lid too often, which will lower the temperature, but check approximately every 45 minutes and replenish briquets as needed, adding about 10 each time and also additional smoking wood.

Serves 12 to 15.

Note No. 1: The smoking process (using subtle smoking woods such as oak wine-barrel chips, not a wood as assertive as mesquite) is the key to enhancing the citrus flavor of the brined turkey. Be sure to add a few soaked wood chips whenever the smoke stops coming out of the kettle vents.

Note No. 2: Just like an oven- roasted turkey, this one produces wonderful pan juices — better, even, because of their haunting smoke flavor. You can  use them to enhance the gravy or later on with leftovers.

Take care during the smoking process to keep the pan juices clean and clear of charcoal dust (a deeper pan makes this easier). If a little dust lands on the juices, it will settle with the fat on top; collect the clear, clean juices with a bulb baster or a fat-separator cup.

Take care when removing drip pan; it will be awkward to handle and extremely hot.

PER SERVING: 450 calories, 73 g protein, 0 g carbohydrate, 15 g fat (4 g saturated), 274 mg cholesterol, 172 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.

Rich Gravy

This gravy starts with a wonderful stock and finishes with a rich flavor. There are a few steps to the stock, but you can  make it up to 3 days before using; store in the refrigerator or freeze for longer storage. A complex stock with layers of flavor really makes a difference in the intensity of your gravy.

If you don’t have time to make homemade stock, use a good quality chicken stock and start from  the instruction “To make the gravy.”  


6 turkey wings, disjointed and cut into 3-inch segments (or substitute 2 pounds chicken wings)
1 turkey neck, reserved from the brined bird
3 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
3 small leeks, coarsely chopped
6 T. olive oil
1 1/2 C. Monogamy Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine
5 quarts water
1 bunch thyme
36 peppercorns
2 large bay leaves
1 turkey liver, reserved from the brined bird
1 C. (8 ounces) butter
2 medium onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C. + 1 t. flour
Pan drippings from the smoked turkey, if available
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C. chopped parsley
Lemon juice to taste


To make the stock: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan, thoroughly toss wings, neck, carrots, celery and coarsely chopped onions and leeks with the olive oil. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the turkey wings are deep golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove pan from oven, discard  half of the fat, and transfer the contents of the pan to a stock pot. Place the roasting pan over 2 burners on the stove top; deglaze with the wine, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Transfer the liquid to the stock pot.

Add 5 quarts water, the thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and skim off foam that collects on top. Continue to simmer, uncovered and without boiling, for 2 hours.

Strain the stock, pressing well on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Boil the liquid in a large saucepan until it reduces to 7 cups. Chill, then remove the fat.

To make the gravy: Saute the liver in 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until it is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove liver.

Add remaining butter. When it has melted, add minced onion and garlic; saute, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Stir in the flour. Reduce heat to low. Cook the flour, stirring frequently, until it is deep golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not let it burn.

Slowly whisk in 6 cups of the stock. Bring mixture to a boil, again reduce heat to low and simmer the gravy, skimming occasionally, for 5 minutes.

While the gravy is simmering, mince the liver. Thin the gravy, if desired, with up to 1 cup of the remaining stock. Stir in some of the pan drippings, if you have them, from the turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and the liver. Stir in lemon juice to taste. Yields about 6 cups.

PER 1/4 CUP: 85 calories, 24 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (5 g saturated), 40 mg cholesterol, 67 mg sodium, 0 g fiber. 

Grandma Ruth’s Texas Sheet Cake – from Chelsea

Chelsea and Grandma RuthThis is one of my family’s favorite cakes, holidays and birthdays just aren’t the same without it. You may catch me making one for a get together with friends just because I haven’t had my Texas Sheet Cake fix in a while. 

Because my Grandma Ruth made it, I had always thought growing up that it was difficult to make. It was a nice surprise when I asked Grandma for the recipe and whipped one up myself. Some of the best things in life are like this cake, simple and sweet. 

The recipe dates back more than 50 years, possibly much older. Grandma Ruth got the recipe from her hair dresser way back when in downtown Imperial, PA. I do my best to stick to Grandma’s specific ingredients and brand names. However, these days I usually keep it super simple by using butter and it still turns out delicious. (Just don’t go telling Ruth on me.)

Cake Ingredients:

1 C. (2 sticks) Fleishmann’s Original Margarine (baking margarine, not spread) 
1 C. Water
4 “heaping” T. Hershey’s Cocoa 
2 C. Robin Hood Flour (or other all-purpose flour)
2 C. Domino Sugar (or other white sugar)
1/2 t. Salt
1/2 C. Sour Cream
1 t. Baking Soda
2 Eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine water, cocoa and margarine into a two-quart sauce pan. Heat to boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add to flour, sugar and salt mixture. Beat well until blended. Add two eggs, sour cream and baking soda. Mix until blended and pour into a “jelly roll” pan (aka. 12″ x 17″ sheet pan) that has been greased. Bake 23 minutes. 

Frosting Ingredients: 

1/2 C. Land O’Lakes Butter
6 t. Milk
4 t. Hersey’s Cocoa

1 lb. Powdered Sugar
1 t. Vanilla Extract
1 C. Chopped Walnuts 

Combine first three ingredients to boiling stirring until it all bubbles, remove from heat. Add the last three ingredients and beat until well blended. Frost cake after cooling at least 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle crushed walnuts on top of frosting. 

Chelsea’s note: Everything stays in the sheet pan, don’t remove the cake before frosting it. In our family, we cut and serve the cake right from the pan. 



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