When asked by my Holidash editor if I could whip up an entire Thanksgiving dinner in 30 minutes, I shuddered, visions of Sandra Lee sugar plum pops dancing in my head. Could I bring myself to make a boxed dinner for my favorite holiday, even if it was for my job?
But then I started to get excited. It didn't have to be boxed, artificial, uninspired. There had to be a way to make a worthy, delicious Thanksgiving dinner in just 30 minutes. What about the crisp deliciousness that is turkey skin, the succulent oozing of brined bird, and the perfection of slow-roasted stuffing, you ask? I'd have to improvise. But if you're wondering if I could actually make it good, the answer is yes -- and my guests were going to love it.
Keep in mind that this is no Rachel Ray affair -- you can't stroll around the kitchen, casually chopping ingredients, checking the weather and chatting with guests while preparing this dinner. But you may actually have time to catch up with your friends and family without a gizzard in your hand -- it just takes a little scheduling and an extra set of hands. Here's how I did it, dish by dish, followed by a step-by-step guide to getting them all cooked in half an hour.
Since there's no way to roast even a slab of turkey in 30 minutes, the next option is to grill it. For this meal, a turkey breast was lightly oiled and seasoned with salt, pepper, dried basil, and poultry seasoning for authentic taste, then cooked on a George Foreman grill (medium heat) for 6-8 minutes. When finished, it was rested to juicy perfection and then sliced.
The grilled turkey will be tasty as is, but to really give it the Thanksgiving feel, gravy is a must. To prepare a quick turkey gravy, make up a roux of roughly 1/8 cup butter and 1/8 cup flour (whisk flour into butter until the resulting roux has the consistency of smooth paste). Then stir in about a cup and a half of stock (any poultry stock), a tsp of gravy seasoning, and, if you don't add sodium-heavy stock, any other desired flavors (garlic, pepper, salt) and season the thick deliciousness to taste.
When preparing a quick meal, it's important to have a dish with wow factor. For this meal, boiled potatoes were mashed with some whipping cream, butter, and a good slab of chevre (half of a small package for 4 potatoes). The cream makes the mashed taters much tastier, while the cheese gives them an extra-delicious kick.
This is where you have to compromise. There's no easy way to make homemade stuffing in 30 minutes. However, it's insanely easy to amp up Stovetop stuffing and get delicious results. Simply grab a sauce pan and saute one diced celery stalk, about 2-3 slices of cooking onions (diced as well), and approximately a half cup of loose sausage (use more or less to taste). When the veggies are soft and the sausage is cooked (using pre-cooked sausage will speed things up even more), follow the box instructions.
Want super-easy veggies? Gather and clean your favorite vegetables -- I used broccoli and cauliflower -- slip them into a large, microwave-safe bowl with a little water, cover with saran wrap (with a few holes poked in), and nuke until the veggies are to the softness you crave. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes, and they'll be healthy to boot.
This baked apple dessert recipe from Canadian Food Network chef Ricardo Larrivee allows you to prep dessert during your 30 minute window. Then just let everything wait until the first meal settles and it's time for a sweet finish.
THE SCHEDULE: STEP BY STEP
There's not much to scheduling other than realizing what you need to do, what takes the longest, and making sure all the necessary tools and ingredients are right there for the taking and not hidden deep within a cupboard somewhere.
STEP 1: When the timer kicks off, head straight for those potatoes. Wash, peel, and dice these puppies for boiling first, because even if they're done a little early, they'll survive well if covered. If you like skin-on smashed taters -- all the easier. (approximately 6 minutes)
STEP 2: Once the potatoes are in the pot and waiting to boil, prep the turkey so that it can be thrown on the grill at just the right time. (approximately 3 minutes)
STEP 3: As soon as Mr. Bird is spiced, dice the stuffing vegetables, and get started cooking the stuffing. (approximately 15 minutes)
STEP 4: While the stuffing is cooking, wash and prep the steamed veggies (let them sit in the water and wait for the last few minutes to get nuked). (approximately 5 minutes)
STEP 5: Whip up the apple crumble. At this point, almost everything is in the works (sweet!). When you finish the apples, set them in a pan to the side (using your hands to heap the crumble on the apples might be messy, but it'll also be super-quick). (approximately 8 minutes)
STEP 6: Get working on the gravy. From here, nothing takes too much time or effort. Just keep a watchful eye on everything. (approximately 8 minutes)
STEP 7: Throw the turkey on the grill about 18 minutes into the cooking (enough time to cook, check for doneness, and let rest). Keep an eye on the potatoes and mash when soft. Keep the dressing covered to keep warm whilst finishing the other dishes. Nuke the veggies in the last few minutes.
Does this still sound like too much work? Check out our Thanksgiving dinner from a box for a quick, no-cook alternative.