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Thanksgiving dishes can be improved by adding alcohol

Thanksgiving is a stressful holiday.

After weeks of planning the menu and a full day of cooking, you have to deal with all those family members you try to avoid the rest of the year. Sometimes, a glass of wine can be the only thing that makes the day go smoothly.

So why not take the edge off from the start by planning a menu of recipes that call for alcohol? Almost all Thanksgiving favorites can be enhanced by adding wine, beer or liquor.

Try basting the turkey with white wine while it cooks, or follow author Pam Anderson's recipe for a roasted turkey with a rich, wine-based gravy. Orange-flavored liqueurs, such as Gran Gala or Grand Marnier, add a rich flavor to cranberry chutney. And rum is the perfect addition to desserts. It works especially well in Pumpkin Pecan Rum Cake, which combines two favorite Thanksgiving flavors.

The No. 1 rule for cooking with alcohol is to choose high-quality wines, beers or liquors to use in recipes. If you wouldn't drink it, don't use it for cooking.

You might want to be careful, though, if children will be sharing Thanksgiving dinner. The common assumption that most of the alcohol is burned off during the cooking process isn't exactly true - studies have shown that 5 to 85 percent of the alcohol can remain in cooked food, according to the Food Network's cooking guide.

Plenty of non-alcoholic beverages can be substituted if you're abstaining. Diluted red or white wine vinegar can be swapped for wine, as can broth, tomato juice or water. Ginger ale or chicken broth are good substitutions for beer, according to the Food Network.

Check the supermarket for rum or whiskey extracts that can be used in place of the real thing.

Twin Turkeys with Rich Pan Gravy

Note: This recipe produces two small turkeys, one for carving for Thanksgiving dinner, and the other for presentation and leftovers.

3 cups kosher salt

2 cups sugar

2 turkeys, 10 to 12 pounds each, neck and giblets removed and discarded

2 medium onions, unpeeled, coarsely chopped

2 medium carrots, unpeeled, coarsely chopped

2 medium celery stalks, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth

1 quart chicken broth

1⁄4 cup cornstarch or 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour

The night before roasting, dissolve salt and sugar in 3 gallons of cold water in a large clean ice chest or similar-size container in a cold spot (under 40 F - the garage, for example). Add turkeys, breast side down. Cover and let stand for 12 to 16 hours. Drain, rinse and pat turkeys dry. Place turkey No. 2 in a cool place.

For Turkey No. 1: Five to six hours before serving, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 F. Place turkey, breast side down, on a work surface. Cut along both sides of the backbone with heavy-duty kitchen shears, and remove. Open up turkey, turn it breast side up and press hard on it with the palm of your hand so it lies flat.

Make a bed of half of the chopped vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet. Place turkey skin-side up on vegetables and brush with butter. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 175 F, about 1 to 11⁄2 hours. Remove pan from oven and transfer turkey to a cutting board. Let rest for at least 30 minutes. Reserve vegetables and pan juices for turkey No. 2. Carve turkey, transferring slices to an ovenproof platter. Cover tightly with foil and set aside in a cool place or in the refrigerator while you roast the second turkey.

For Turkey No. 2: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and reduce oven temperature to 400 F. Place cooked vegetables and pan drippings from first turkey in a heavy roasting pan, and set a V-rack in pan. Place raw vegetables in turkey cavity and set turkey down on V-rack. Brush turkey back and sides with pan drippings. Roast for 1 hour.

Baste back and sides of turkey with pan drippings. Holding two wads of paper towels to protect yourself, carefully turn turkey brest side up. Baste with drippings, and continue to roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest point of the leg registers 175 F, about 1 to 11⁄2 hours longer. Transfer turkey to a platter.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 F. About 20 minutes before serving, reheat previously carved turkey.

Meanwhile, set roasting pan over two burners on medium-high heat. Add wine and, using a wooden spoon, stir to loosen brown bits on bottom of pan. Strain contents of roasting pan through a large strainer into a large saucepan, discard vegetables. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Whisk cornstarch with 1⁄2 cup water (or flour with 1 cup water), then gradually whisk into pan juices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until gravy thickens. Pour gravy into a serving bowl or boat and serve with turkey.

Source: "Perfect Recipes for Having People Over," Pam Anderson (Houghton Mifflin, $35).

Turkey Dressing

1 cup butter

1 pound dense French bread, cut into 2-inch slices

bratwurst sausage, crumbled

1 medium onion, diced

1 pound mushrooms, chopped

4 stalks celery, diced

1 turkey liver, chopped

1 turkey heart, chopped

1⁄2 cup chopped parsley

1⁄2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

1⁄2 cup sherry or white wine

3 eggs, lightly beaten

4 cups turkey stock

Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

Preheat the broiler.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Brush each side of the bread lightly with the butter. Place under the broiler and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook the other side about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool. Cut into 1-inch cubes.

Adjust the oven temperature to 375 F. Butter the sides and bottom of a large casserole dish. Warm the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the bratwurst to the melted butter and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook 2 minutes. Combine the mushrooms, celery, liver, heart, parsley, jalapeno, garlic, rosemary, thyme and sage; mix well. Add the sausage and onions.

Beat the sherry and eggs together in a small bowl. Add to the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Add the bread and stir to mix well. Add the stock 1 cup at a time until the dressing is completely moisturized, do not exceed 4 cups or the dressing will be soggy. Season with pinch of salt and pepper; stir and taste; add more salt and pepper if needed.

Transfer to the baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and crispy, 15 to 20 minutes. Serves 10 to 12 as a side dish.

Source: Mondavi

GranGala Cranberry-Orange Chutney

3 tablespoons GranGala Triple-Orange Liqueur

2 large navel oranges

11⁄2 cups granulated sugar

1 12-ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds or ground mustard

1 3-inch cinnamon stick

1 garlic clove, minced

1⁄2 cup finely chopped onion

1⁄2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1⁄2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper

Grate the zest from the oranges and set aside. Using a sharp knife, cut off and discard the thick white pith. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut between the membranes to release the orange sections, set aside.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, 1 cup water, onion, ginger, mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, red pepper, garlic and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often to help dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce is thick and the cranberries have burst, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange sections and GranGala. Cool completely. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Source: GranGala

Pumpkin Pecan Rum Cake

3⁄4 cup chopped pecans

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

4 large eggs

1 can pure pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Rum Butter Glaze (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease 12-cup bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom. Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a large mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat well. Add pumpkin and vanilla extract, beat well. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, 1⁄3 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Make holes in cake with long pick, pour half of glaze over cake. Let stand 5 minutes and invert onto plate. Make holes in top of cake, pour remaining glaze over cake.

Rum Butter Glaze

1⁄4 cup butter

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons dark rum

Melt butter in a small saucepan, stir in sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in rum.

Source: Nestle

Honey Beer Corn

Popover Rolls

1⁄2 cup honey-flavored lager beer

1⁄2 cup heavy cream

1⁄3 cup canned corn kernels, drained

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons sugar

3⁄4 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal

Coat a 6-cup popover pan or 8 cups of a muffin pan with cooking spray. Puree beer, cream, corn, eggs, sugar, salt and cayenne pepper in blender or food processor until smooth. Add flour and cornmeal; pulse until just combined. (There will be small lumps in the batter.)

Fill prepared popover or muffin pan with batter. Place in cold oven; turn oven to 425 F. Bake 35 minutes for a popover pan or 30 minutes for a muffin pan, without opening the oven door, or until popovers are high, have golden brown tops and are crusty when tapped.

Remove popovers from oven; turn onto wire rack. Pierce sides with paring knife to let steam escape. Cool slightly and serve while warm.

Makes 6 popover rolls, or 8 muffins.

Source: National Beer Wholesalers Association