Monday, November 25, 2013

The White House Recipes For President Obama & The First Family's Thanksgiving Menu

Beloved holiday favorites from the White House chefs include brined Thyme-Roasted Turkey, side dishes and the President's favorite dessert...
UPDATE, Nov. 28, 2013:  More pies added to the menu
Washington, DC - When President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome family and friends on Thursday for their Thanksgiving feast, like many Americans they will serve beloved favorites that have been enjoyed year after year.  The White House chefs have been sharing their recipes since 2009, so it's now possible for home chefs to cook the First Family's holiday menu, including the star of the show, turkey.  

Executive Chef Cris Comerford's recipes for the garlic and brown sugar-brined White House Thyme-roasted Turkey and for White House Turkey Gravy are reprinted below, with links to recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes as well as the desserts created by Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses.  The grand finish to the holiday meal is six different kinds of pie, the President's favorite dessert.

White House Kale Salad
Turkey is not the only meat on the Obama Thanksgiving menu:  The President and First Lady annually serve Honey Baked Ham.  They also serve two kinds of stuffing:  Cornbread Stuffing and Oyster Stuffing.  Sides are Macaroni and Cheese, Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Kale Salad, and Dinner Rolls.  Kale is currently growing in Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden.

  Pumpkin Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, Huckleberry Pie, Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, and Banana Cream Pie have all been served each year since 2009.

The White House Thanksgiving recipes are ucomplicated, and the First Family's celebration tends to be equally unfussy.  Last year they dined in the Blue Room, with the feast set up on a self-serve buffet in the Cross Hall.  Mrs. Obama's brother, Craig Robinson, head coach of the men's basketball team at Oregon State University, and some of his players were the special guests.

POTUS pardons Cobbler in '12
The White House turkey recipe calls for a 20-pounder for 16 guests, which is about half the weight of the young Minnesota tom President Obama will pardon this Wednesday during a Rose Garden ceremony, where he will "reflect upon the time-honored traditions of Thanksgiving, and wish American families a safe and healthy holiday," the White House said.

Day-ahead prep time for the turkey recipe is needed:  It must be soaked in the brine in the refrigerator for at least twelve hours before roasting.  A five-gallon food-grade bucket is called for, unless a brining bag is used. 

>The recipe for White House Whipped Sweet Potatoes uses cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, and cloves to create a unique flavor.

>The recipe for White House Kale Salad includes fennel, radish, jalapeno peppers, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a red wine vinaigrette. 

>The recipe for White House Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese is a healthy Let's Move! version of the dish, included in Mrs. Obama's book American Grown.

>The recipe for White House Sweet Potatoes and Greens was created by Assistant Chef Sam Kass.

>The recipe for White House Green Beans with Almonds included in American Grown is the closest recipe to the Obamas' Thanksgiving casserole.

>Pastry Chef Yosses has not shared his recipe for Dinner Rolls, but his White House Sweet Potato Quick Bread is perfect for Thanksgiving. 

>The recipe for White House Huckleberry Pie uses blueberries, too.  Frozen berries are fine. 

>The recipe for White House Apple Pie has a double crust that uses both butter and lard.

>The recipe for White House Sweet Potato Pie has a honey meringue topping, an homage to Mrs. Obama's beehive, the first to be on the grounds.

Check the site sidebar for other White House recipes.  There are many that can be used for Thanksgiving, including Chef Comerford's No-Cream Creamed Spinach.  Left-over lovers will adore the recently released recipe for Grilled Turkey Flatbread Sandwiches.

Chef Yosses hasn't shared his White House recipes for Banana Cream, Pumpkin, or Cherry pie, but his recipe for White House Pumpkin Orange Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Icing is delicious.  His White House Sticky toffee Pudding, a Christmas show-stopper, is perfect for Thanksgiving, too. 
The 2012 Presidential Thanksgiving Buffet 
White House Thyme-Roasted Turkey

*Serves 16; Brining must take place for 12 hours ahead of roasting.  

*20-pound fresh Turkey, neck and giblets removed, rinsed

*16 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

*2 Tsp fine sea salt

*3 Tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the brine
 *1 Gallon Water

*1 bunch Thyme

*4 whole heads Garlic, peeled and cut in half horizontally

*1 Tablespoon whole black Pepper Corns

*6 Bay leaves

*1 Cup Kosher salt

*1 Pound light Brown Sugar

*Ice, if brining in a bucket


1.  For the brine:  In a large saucepan, heat the water, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, Bay leaves, salt and brown sugar over medium-high heat.  Stir frequently until the salt and sugar dissolve.

2.  Transfer brine to a clean, food-safe 5-gallon bucket.  Add enough ice to total 3 gallons of liquid, and mix until incorporated.  Add the turkey to the bucket and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.  Alternatively, place the turkey in a large brining bag and fill with enough of the brine to cover the turkey; seal the bag and refrigerate.

3.  For the turkey: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

4.  Remove the turkey from the brining liquid and use paper towels to pat it as dry as possible, inside and out.

5.  Rub the turkey with the butter all over, including inside the cavity, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Fold the wingtips underneath the turkey.

6.  Place the turkey in a large roasting pan, breast side up.  Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and fold the neck flap under.

7.  Roast the turkey for one hour to brown it, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and cook for 2 more hours or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees.

*Let the turkey rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before carving.  Use the pan drippings for the gravy.  Serves 16.

White House Turkey Gravy

 *2 Pounds Turkey Wings and/or neck bones, plus the contents of the turkey's giblet packet, excluding the liver

*2 Medium Onions, coarsely chopped (about 3 Cups)

*3 Medium Carrots, cut into large dice (1 1/2 Cups)

*1 Head Garlic, peeled and cut in half horizontally

*3 rRibs Celery, cut into 1-inch lengths (1 1/2 Cups)

*2 Sprigs Thyme

*1 Bay Leaf

*1 Teaspoon Whole Peppercorns

*1/2 Cup Flour

*1 Cup Sherry

*8 Cups Water


1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  The first part of the gravy prep can roast with the turkey as it is cooking.

2.  Place the turkey wings, bones and giblets in a single layer in a small roasting pan, and put in oven to roast.

3.  When these have begun to brown nicely, after 20-30 minutes add the onions, carrots, garlic, celery, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns, and roast for 10 more minutes.

4.  Transfer the roasting pan to the stove top over medium-high heat.  Add the flour and stir to coat the contents of the pan.  Pour in the sherry and use a flat wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Scrape contents of the pan into a large saucepan.

5.  Add the water and bring the mixture just to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat so that it is barely bubbling.  Cook uncovered for about 1 hour, until the liquid has thickened somewhat. Cover the pan and keep it warm.

6.  When the turkey is done, scrape drippings from the roasting pan into the saucepan and stir to combine.  Pour the gravy through a strainer into a bowl or gravy separator and discard the solids left in the strainer.  Skim the fat from the surface of the gravy.  Transfer to a gravy boat or other serving vessel.


*First Family portrait by Pete Souza/White House; kale and pardon photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama; buffet photo courtesy of Craig Robinson.