Fast Feast

Many things in life can be done in a couple of hours. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner isn’t one of them – or so we thought until Washington Park chef Jonathan Waxman generously divulged the foolproof 120-minute technique he developed on a dare seventeen years ago and has been perfecting ever since. The avatar of California-casual cooking keeps things predictably simple with a fourteen-ingredient shopping list, and in his opinion, bigger is decidedly not better: “No one in New York has a huge kitchen,” he says. “No one wants a huge turkey.” The twelve-pounder his recipe calls for cooks in under an hour and a half. Which still leaves plenty of time to whip up oyster-and-apple stuffing, rich giblet gravy, crunchy Brussels sprouts and bacon, earthy roasted-carrot-and-endive salad, and homemade cranberry sauce, not to mention two kinds of potatoes, and spaghetti squash. Okay, so it doesn’t include dessert. Isn’t that what guests are for?

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

1. Wash turkey under hot water to soften the skin and release fat. Pat the bird dry inside and out, season inside and out with salt and pepper, and place 2 sage leaves in each end. Put the turkey in a roasting pan, and set aside at room temperature.2. Slice the unpeeled apples in half. Lightly coat with oil the apples, carrots, sweet potatoes and potatoes (don’t peel any of them), and the spaghetti squash. Prick the sweet potatoes in several places with a fork.3. Place the apples, cut-side-down, and all the vegetables on two baking sheets, and roast for 15 minutes. Remove the apples, and turn the vegetables. Continue cooking the vegetables for a further 20 minutes.

4. While the vegetables are roasting, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium sauté pan, add all the chopped onion, season to taste with salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes until they’re translucent. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Don’t wash out the sauté pan.5. Place the drained oysters in a bowl along with 3⁄4 cup of the cooked onion, 3 cups of the torn-up pieces of baguette, and 1⁄4 cup of softened butter. Core the apples (leaving the peel on), slice the flesh into 1-inch chunks, and add to the bowl withthe oysters. Stir together, and season to taste with salt and pepper. 6. Stuff the turkey (a), and cover the exposed stuffing with foil (b). Add 1⁄2 cup hot water to the roasting pan.

Shopping list:
1 12-pound turkey
6 small sage leaves
6 large carrots
3 medium-size tart red apples
1 and 1⁄2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 pound medium-size Yukon Gold potatoes
1 large spaghetti squash
2 Vidalia onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 pint fresh-shucked oysters
1 sourdough baguette, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 pints Brussels sprouts
1 cup 1⁄2-inch coarsely chopped bacon
1 12-ounce bag (2 and 1⁄2 cups) organic cranberries
1 pound Belgian endive

7. Remove vegetables from the oven. Place the turkey in the oven, and cook for 1 hour and 25 minutes, basting often. 8. If the juices in the roasting pan start to burn, add 1⁄2 cup hot water. Place the giblets (but not the liver) in a small saucepan with 1⁄2 cup onion and 3 cups water, bring to a boil, and simmer over medium-low heat for about an hour to make a stock.9. Wash the Brussels sprouts, trim the ends, and cut in half. Add the bacon and 1⁄2 cup onion to the onion sauté pan, and cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts, season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat, and cook slowly for 20 minutes, adding 1⁄2 cup water after 10 minutes if the pan starts to brown.

10. Transfer to a shallow casserole dish, stir in 1 cup heavy cream, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the Brussels sprouts with about 2 cups of the remaining bread chunks to cover, and press them lightly into the cream. 11. Place the cranberries, orange juice, and brown sugar in a small saucepan, and simmer over medium heat until the berries start to burst open, about 15 minutes.12. Cut the Belgian endive into shreds lengthwise, and place in a salad bowl.

Pantry items:
1 cup fresh orange juice
1⁄4 cup brown sugar
1 pint heavy cream
3⁄4 pound butter, cut into dice
1 cup good olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

13. When the carrots have cooled, peel and roughly chop them. Add to the endive and toss together with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 4 chopped sage leaves, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.14. Peel the sweet potatoes, and mash the flesh with 4 tablespoons butter and 1⁄2 cup cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and place in a casserole dish. Remove any very dark pieces from the Yukon Gold potatoes, and mash them, unpeeled, with 1⁄4 cup olive oil and 4 tablespoons butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer to a small casserole.15. Cut the roasted spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and discard.

16. Scoop out the flesh with a fork, place in a large shallow casserole, add 4 tablespoons softened butter, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss together. 17. Remove the turkey from the oven and place on a platter. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes. Carefully pour off and discard the fat from the roasting pan (retaining the juices), add 2 cups turkey-giblet stock to the pan, and bring to a boil, scraping the brown bits at the bottom of the pan into the juices. Cook down for about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons cream. Transfer to a sauce boat. Remove the stuffing from the cavity of the turkey, place on a platter, and keep warm.18. Place all the casseroles in the oven and cook for 15 minutes while the turkey rests. Serve buffet-style and enjoy.

1 roasting pan
2 baking sheets
1 sauté pan
2 bowls
2 sauce pans
5 casserole dishes (ceramic or Pyrex)
1 large turkey platter
1 large salad bowl
2 sauce boats

Buffet-Style Thanksgiving

  • Serves 6 to 10.
  • Roast turkey and gravy
  • Oyster-apple stuffing
  • Brussels sprouts with bacon
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Roasted-carrot-and-endive salad
The Wines
  • Roero Arneis, Bruno Giacosa; 2001 ($21.95)
  • Chinon, Les Roches Cachées; 2000 ($9.95)
  • Available at Sherry-Lehmann
    679 Madison Avenue, near 61st Street

Fast Feast