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A quick feast for Thanksgiving

We’re talking turkey and the works in just a couple of hours. Cookbook author Mark Bittman shares his secrets. Sample some of his recipes.
/ Source: TODAY

In need of some tips for tasty dishes you can feed your guests who’ll be arriving for the Thanksgiving festivities in only a few hours? Well, fear not, Mark Bittman, author of “How to Cook Everything: Holiday Cooking,” has some recipes that will help you get a homemade meal on the table in no time. He shares some of his secrets on “Today.” Check out his recipes below.

Fast Thanskgiving turkey
Makes at least 12 servings (with leftovers)

Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

12-pound turkey

1 recipe Bread Stuffing (below)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 500F. Rinse the turkey and remove the giblets; save the liver to make the stuffing. Loosely pack the turkey cavity with the stuffing, then tie the legs together to enclose the vent.

2. Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan. Add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan along with the turkey neck, gizzard, and any other trimmings. Place in the oven, legs first.

3. Roast 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top begins to brown, then turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Continue to roast, checking every 30 minutes or so; if the top threatens to brown too much, lay a piece of aluminum foil directly onto it. If the bottom dries out, add water, about 1/2 cup at a time. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh measures 165 degrees. If, when the turkey is nearly done, the top is not browned enough, turn the heat back up to 425 degrees for the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking.

4. Remove the turkey from the oven. Take the bird off the rack and make your favorite gravy while the bird rests (let it sit for about 20 minutes before carving).

My favorite stuffing
Makes about 6 cups, enough for a 12-pound bird

Time: 20 minutes, plus baking time

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter

1 cup minced onion

1/2 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts

6 to 8 cups fresh bread crumbs

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried crumbled tarragon or sage

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup minced scallions

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large, deep skillet, Dutch oven, or casserole. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the nuts and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they begin to brown, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the bread crumbs and the tarragon or sage and toss to mix. Turn the heat to low. Add the salt, pepper, and scallions. Toss again; taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the parsley and stir. Turn off the heat. (You may prepare the recipe in advance up to this point; refrigerate, well wrapped or in a covered container, for up to a day before proceeding.)

3. Pack this into the turkey if you like, or simply put it in an ovenproof glass or enameled casserole and bake it with the turkey during the last 45 minutes of cooking.

Quick-braised carrots with butter
Makes 4 servings

Time: About 20 minutes

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

2 tablespoons butter or 1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon sugar or 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Minced fresh parsley, mint, chervil, or cilantro leaves for garnish

1. Place the carrots, butter or oil, water, sugar, salt, and pepper in a medium saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil and cover. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes.

2. Uncover and raise the heat a bit. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are cooking in butter or oil. Lower the heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, a couple of minutes longer.

3. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then garnish and serve.

Quick-Braised Carrots with Orange and Ginger: In Step 1, substitute 1/4 cup orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed) and 1 tablespoon minced orange zest for the water. In Step 2, add 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger to the saucepan after removing the cover. Step 3 remains the same.

Slow-cooked green beans
Makes 4 servings

Time: About 1 hour

About 1 1/2 pounds green beans, the smaller the better, washed and trimmed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for sprinkling

1 cup minced onion

1 cup cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; drain them first)

1/2 cup water, plus more if needed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste, plus a few drops for sprinkling

1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour, checking every 15 minutes and adding a few tablespoons of water if necessary. Longer cooking, up to 1 hour longer, will not hurt a bit.

2. When the beans are very tender and all the liquid is absorbed, they are ready. (You may prepare the recipe in advance up to this point; refrigerate, well wrapped or in a covered container, for up to 2 days before proceeding.) Serve hot or at room temperature, sprinkled with a little more oil and a more few drops of lemon juice.

Potato pie
Makes at least 4 servings

Time: About 30 minutes

About 2 pounds baking potatoes, like Idaho or Russet, peeled

1 medium onion

2 eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs or matzo meal

Canola or other neutral oil as needed

1. Grate the potatoes by hand or with the grating disk of a food processor. Drain in a colander or strainer; grate the onion.

2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the salt, pepper, and bread crumbs or matzo meal; stir in the potatoes and onion.

3. Place a 1/8-inch layer of oil in a 10 inch nonstick skillet and turn the heat to medium. When the oil is hot, pour the batter into it. Cook until browned on one side, adjust the heat so it browns without burning, then slide the cake out onto a plate (it will hold together). Cover with anotherr plate, then invert the plates. Slice the pie back into the pan, cooked side up, and cook the bottom until brown. Remove from the skillet and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Bread pudding
Makes 6 servings

Time: About 1 hour, largely unattended

3 cups milk

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus some for greasing the pan

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon

Pinch salt

8 slices white bread, crusts removed if they are very thick

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350DF. Over low heat in a small saucepan, warm the milk, butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt, just until the butter melts. Meanwhile, butter a 1 1/2-quart or 8-inch square baking dish (glass is nice), and cut or tear the bread into bite-sized pieces; they need not be too small.

2. Cool the milk slightly and beat in the eggs and vanilla. Place the bread in the baking dish and pour the milk-egg mixture over it. Let it sit for a few minutes, occasionally submerging any pieces of bread that rise to the top. Beat the eggs briefly and stir them into the bread mixture. Mix together the remaining sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Set the baking dish in a larger baking pan and pour hot water in, to within about an inch of the top of the dish.

3. Bake 30 to 45 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife inserted in the center comes out clean, or nearly so; the center should be just a little wobbly. Run under the broiler for about 30 seconds if you like, to brown the top a bit. Serve warm or cold, with or without sweetened whipped cream.

Chocolate Bread Pudding: In Step 1, melt 2 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate with the butter and milk. Proceed as above.

Apple-Raisin Bread Pudding: Step 1 remains the same. In Step 2, add 1 cup peeled, grated, and drained apples and [1/4] cup or more raisins to the mixture along with the eggs. Proceed as above.

Recipes excerpted from, “How to Cook Everything: Holiday Cooking.” Copyright 2003 by Mark Bittman. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of John Wiley & Sons.