What to Do If You Can’t Find Turkey & Other Thanksgiving Swaps

Every year people rush to the grocery store before Thanksgiving. The problem is that most of us are searching for the same ingredients. If you’re late to the game, the store could be out of Brussels sprouts or cranberry sauce. This might be a setback, but not even a Turkey shortage will stop us from celebrating. Chef Lili Dagan is here to help you work through any missing ingredient emergencies. We planned an alternative Thanksgiving menu that’s packed with flavor and full of seasonal produce. 

An Alternative Thanksgiving Menu

Roasted cabbage with warm pancetta vinaigrette

If Brussels sprouts are in short supply, this roasted cabbage dish is a great solution. Cabbage is readily available all year round, and it’s from the same family as Brussels sprouts. Once this head of cabbage is roasted and covered with a savory pancetta dressing, you might not even be able to tell the difference. 

Baked beets with hazelnuts and goat cheese

Green beans are in season in the spring, so Thanksgiving isn’t necessarily the best time to find these legumes. Instead of turning to canned beans, try switching to seasonal beets. These delicious baked beets bring sweet and tart flavors to your holiday table. 

Fresh and roasted citrus relish

Thanksgiving is the cranberry’s time to shine. If your store is out of fresh cranberries (or canned cranberry sauce), you can create a sweet and bitter relish using seasonal citrus. This dish combines roasted and citrus to create a complex, tart jam that would be delicious on a turkey sandwich. 

Beef tenderloin with sherry-dijon pan sauce

No alternative Thanksgiving menu would be complete without the protein. If Turkey is out of stock this year, opt for a flavorful beef tenderloin. This dish is faster and easier to prepare than a whole turkey, but will still make for a show-stopping centerpiece.

Looking for more tips from Chef Lili? Check out our guide to making pantry pastas, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

How To Take the Pits Out of Olives

Olives add a salty complexity to salads, flatbreads, and cheeseboards. These fruits are native to Southern Europe and Northern Africa, and are an essential part of many traditional recipes from those regions. After harvesting, they’re packed in a salty brine that gives them their characteristic kick. Olives grow on trees, and have a hard stone-like pit. Pits are fine for a cheeseboard or snacking situation, but it’s best to remove them if you’re incorporating olives into a recipe. You don’t want to be happily chomping through a pizza only to crack down on a hard pit. Ouch! 

Pitted vs. Unpitted olives 

The main difference here is obvious: pitted olives come with the pit already removed. Removing the pit breaks down the structure of the olive a little bit. In the jar, these olives will continue to break down and absorb flavors from the brine. Pitted olives tend to be slightly mushier and slightly saltier than their pit-containing counterparts. They’ll still have plenty of flavor, but for the best olive experience, we recommend buying them whole. Working with whole olives is easy. Just remove the pit before you move on with your recipe. The easiest way to do this is to apply a little bit of force. 

How to pit olives 

Lay the olives on a cutting board. Working one at a time, place the flat side of a chef’s knife on the olive and smack it firmly with the heel of your hand. This will crush the olive. After it’s crushed, you should be able to pull the pit right out. Set the pits aside, and proceed with your recipe, either by chopping or leaving the crushed olives whole. Watch our chef demonstrate this technique in the video below. 

Recipes we love with olives 

Oregano Chicken & Olive Pan Sauce with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Onion & Spinach

chicken with pitted olives

Oregano chicken gets a lift from a bright, zesty pan sauce of olives, lemon juice, butter, red pepper flakes, and sweet date syrup.

Greek Chicken with Olive Tapenade & Creamy Orzo

feta chicken and orzo

This chicken gets its exciting Greek flavor from a coating of dried oregano and a topping of tapenade—a briny, punchy paste made with niçoise olives. For a simple, flavorful side, we’re tossing orzo with roasted Brussels sprouts and Feta cheese.

Orange-Olive Chicken Thighs & Couscous with Vegetables, Feta & Dates

chicken and cous cous and olives

In this dish, you’ll marinate chicken thighs in a zesty combination of our shawarma spice blend, olives, and fresh orange juice, before roasting them in the oven. You’ll serve it alongside sweet peppers, tangy feta, and mint––all over a bed of harissa couscous studded with plump medjool dates for pops of sweetness.

Feta & Olive Pizza with Spicy Tomato Sauce

feta olive pizza

Crisp, golden brown crust is layered with a classic, lightly spicy red sauce and creamy mozzarella. It’s the perfect base for a marinated topping of briny olives, crumbly feta, and piquante peppers, which garnishes the pizza after baking—adding tangy bursts of flavor in every bite.

Greek Panzanella Salad with Feta & Olives

greek salad

This vibrant Greek salad features classic ingredients like tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and tangy feta—mixed with crunchy homemade croutons, fresh arugula, and a simple oregano dressing.

Learn How to Make Glaze at Home

hot honey glazed chicken
Hot Honey Butter-Glazed Chicken

Some of your favorite restaurant and takeout dishes are finished with a sticky cooked sauce, also known as a glaze. Replicating these dishes at home doesn’t have to be complicated. Learn how to make two basic glazes, then take these recipes and mix and match them with your favorite ingredients.

A glaze is basically just a cooked sauce. It can be used on vegetables or proteins. The important thing is that it has a sweet element, like honey or sugar. As the glaze cooks down this sweet element caramelizes, gets sticky, and forms a beautiful glossy coat on whatever you’re cooking. This can be accomplished by baking or heating in a frying pan, depending on your desired results. Cooking in a pan creates a smooth, glossy sauce. Baking yields a sticky coating and bring in tons of caramelized flavor.

how to make glazed meatloaf
Hoisin-Glazed Meatloaf

We use this technique in Blue Apron recipes all the time. Two of our favorites are this Asian-inspired hoisin glaze, seen here on a pork meatloaf, and a sweet and spicy hot honey glaze, which we love to spoon over chicken.

Watch the video below to see Chef Lili Dagan demonstrate these recipes, and pick up a few tips for making them at home. After you’ve perfected the process, it’s time to get creative. You can pair these sauces with any protein or vegetable that you enjoy eating.

If you loved this video, check out our guide to making better pantry pasta.

How to Make a Perfect Steak

Making yourself a steak? That’s self-care. There’s something so satisfying about creating a golden brown sear on a beautiful piece of meat. If you learn how to make a perfect steak, you’ll always be able to create a meal for at-home dates, special occasions, or occasions where you’re simply very hungry. Follow our tips for the best results.

how to make a perfect steak

How to make a steak at home

Bring the meat to room temperature

To achieve a golden brown exterior without overcooking the interior, you want to cook the meat quickly. If you start out with cold meat it has to warm up before it begins to caramelize.

Heat up the pan

You want your steak to start sizzling as soon as it hits the pan. If the pan isn’t hot enough, the steak will steam instead of searing. Any moisture lingering in the pan will prevent browning.

make a perfect steak in a pan

Season both sides

Adding salt and pepper to both sides of the steak adds flavor and helps create a golden brown crust.

Feel for texture

Sear the steak on both sides for several minutes. The exact timing will depend on the thickness of your cut, but you’ll be able to tell when the steak is done by feel. Press on the steak with the tip of a finger (be careful not to burn yourself!) It should feel firm to the touch, but still slightly springy.

Let it rest

Letting meat rest preserves moisture. A few minutes on the cutting board will give the juices time to redistribute themselves. That way they won’t all run out when the steak is sliced. This is a perfect time to use the browned fond to create a pan sauce.

Slice against the grain

For the best texture, slice meat against the muscle the grain. Once the meat is cooked, you should be able to see the lines of the muscle fibers running across it. Slice perpendicular to these lines to create tender pieces of steak that will fall apart in your mouth.

Once your steak is sliced, pour a glass of wine and enjoy. If you liked the video, subscribe to our channel.

How-To: Truss A Chicken or Cornish Game Hen

A roast chicken or Cornish game hen is a simple, delicious dinner. Every cook should have her favorite method for roasting a whole bird memorized. Next time you’re preparing a poultry feast, try our method for easy trussing, no butcher’s twine required.

What is trussing?

Trussing is a method of tying up a chicken into a neat little package. Typically it’s done using butcher’s twine. A chef uses twine to tie the legs and wings closer to the body of the bird. Trussing a chicken can improve the appearance of the roasted bird, and can help it cook more evenly.

Why do chefs truss chickens (and Cornish game hens)? 

One of the challenges of roasting a chicken is ensuring that it cooks evenly. When a chicken is lying flat on a tray, the wings and legs tend to fall away from the bird. These small pieces of sections are exposed to more air, and will cook more quickly than the rest of the bird. Trying the legs and wings closer to the body of the bird can help the chicken cook more evenly and prevent the tips of the wings from burning. A trussed chicken also looks neat and pretty when presented whole. 

Do I need to truss a chicken (or Cornish game hen)? 

Trussing a chicken or Cornish game hen isn’t strictly mandatory, but with the no method we use, it’s so easy that there’s no reason not to.

What do I do if I don’t have butcher twine?

I’m glad you asked! Watch the video above to see our chef demonstrate a method for trussing a chicken with no twine. 

How to truss a chicken with no twine 

Using a knife, locate the extra skin flap around the cavity of the bird. Using scissors or a knife, make a small incision in the skin flap. Use your finger to widen the hole. Repeat on the other side of the cavity. 

After both incisions have been made, take hold of one of the drumsticks. Pull it across the body of the chicken and tuck the end of the drumstick through the hole that you created. Repeat with the other drumstick so that the legs are crossed and tucked closely against the bird.

Finally, take hold of the wings of the bird. Push them up and back, as though the chicken were stretching its arms over its head. Push the tips of the wings behind the bird and tuck them into place. This will keep the meat from drying out. 

trussed roasted chicken

Now that you’ve mastered this technique, try our recipe for simple roast chicken.

How To Poach a Pear

A poached pear is a pear that has been cooked in a gently simmering liquid. Poached pears can be eaten on their own, or incorporated into dessert or dinner. This is a classic dish to serve in the fall and winter, when most pears are at their best. 

Pick your poaching liquid 

The poaching liquid is the liquid in which the pear is simmered. Depending on what liquid you choose, you can use this to add flavor to your pear. Pears can be poached in wine, or in water that has been spiked with flavorings like spices, honey, or liqueur. 

Prepare the pear

Pear skin has tannins, which could impart a bitter flavor if left on during poaching. To prep your pear for poaching, peel the skin of the pear away with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Cut the pear in half vertically and remove the seeds with a melon baller or small spoon. 

Watch carefully 

During poaching, the pear should be mostly submerged in liquid. If too much liquid boils away, you’ll need to add more. The pear is done when it is soft and a knife can easily pierce all the way through. Depending on the size of the pear, this could take 16 to 18 minutes. After the fruit is tender all the way through, allow it to cool in the poaching liquid if time allows. 

Watch a Blue Apron chef demonstrate our favorite method for poaching pears below.

Now that you’ve learned the basics, try this recipe for Poached Pear & Crispy Goat Cheese Salad with Escarole & Walnuts. For this recipe, we flavor our poaching liquid with verjus, honey, juniper berries, mustard seeds and tarragon stems. The result is a slightly sweet fruit with plenty of warm spice. It’s a perfect complement to tanging goat cheese and crisp lettuce. 

Learn more about types of pears here.

How-To: Cut an Apple into Matchsticks

A matchstick cut is a lot what it sounds like–it refers slicing your produce into thin rectangular sticks. It’s often referred to as a julienne cut. Matchsticked apples can be a great addition to a salad, or a fun crunchy topping for a savory dish. The cut may look delicate, but if you know how to do it, it’s not challenging at all. Watch the video below to learn how to cut an apple into matchsticks.

To cut an apple into matchsticks, start by removing the core. With the apple standing upright, make four straight slices to separate each side of the apple from the core. You should end up with four slices of apple, and one rectangular portion containing the core. Discard the core and work with one apple portion at a time.

To form matchsticks, lay the apple portion cut side down on a board. Make vertical cuts from top to bottom to form thin slices all the way across the apple.

Keeping these slices lined up and stand them on their side to form a stack. One side of the stack should be straight, and the other will be the natural round shape of the apple. Start at the flat edge of this stack and make thin cuts all the way across to form thin stick-shaped slices.

Now that you know how to cut apples into matchsticks, try some of our favorite apple recipes.

Recipes with Matchsticked Apples

Pork Chops with Pan Sauce & Apple-Kohlrabi Slaw

 Bright apple, tangy lime, and creamy sesame tahini make a flavorful complement to a seared pork chop.

Center-Cut Pork Chops with Pan Sauce & Apple-Kohlrabi Slaw

Roast Pork with Green Apple & Endive Salad

A crisp apple, mint and raw endive side salad and a garnish of aromatic fennel pollen complete this well-balanced feast.

Roast Pork & Braised Endive with Green Apple & Endive Salad

Sweet Potato & Fontina Pizza with Apple, Celeriac & Arugula Salad

Pair this hearty fall pizza with a seasonal salad topped with matchsticked apples.

How to cut an apple into matchsticks for a salad

Chicken Schnitzel with Watercress, Apple, Beet & Red Walnut Salad

Thinly pounded chicken cutlets paired with a refreshing salad of baby red beets, watercress and tart apple make a delicious dinner.

Chicken Schnitzel with Watercress, Matchstick Apple, Beet & Red Walnut Salad

Find more easy how-to videos on Blue Apron’s YouTube channel.

How-To: Small Dice an Onion

Onions belong in pretty much every dinner. We’ll small dice an onion wether we’re making sandwiches, lettuce wraps, or grain bowls. Dicing an onion isn’t difficult, but knowing the proper technique will make it even easier. Follow these steps to master this essential kitchen skill, and watch the video above to see how our chefs do it.

Steps to small dice an onion

Trim the onion ends

With your chef’s knife, slice the top and bottom end off of the onion. Don’t throw these pieces out! You can save onion scraps for homemade stock.

Peel the outer layer

Use your hands to peel away the papery, outermost leaves of the onion. These can go in the trash or compost bin. They tend to hang on to a bit of dirt, and don’t have that much flavor for stock.

dice an onion

Halve through the ends

Stand the onion on one of the newly created flat ends. Use your chef’s knife to slice down the center. Use a sharp knife to avoid bruising the onion.

Make parallel cuts

Place the onion half cut side down on your work surface. Working end to end, cut 2-3 slices almost all of the way through the onion. Stop about 3/4 of the way through, this will help keep the onion together during the following steps. You should be working parallel to your cutting board.

Make long slices

Next, use your knife to make lengthwise cuts, from root end to stem end, all the way through the onion. The distance between your cuts will determine the width of your onion dice.

Cut across

Finally, cut crosswise through the onion. Keep the onion together are you slice by holding it with the tips of your fingers curled back. That way, you can use your knuckles as a guide for the knife, and keep your finger tips out of the way.

Tips for Roasting Eggplant

Eggplant is a powerful fruit. When properly roasted, eggplants can be as rich and savory as any meat. Roasting eggplant isn’t difficult, but there are a few tricks that we love to employ to make sure they come out of the oven evenly cooked and golden brown. Follow our advice and harness the power of the eggplant to create delicious dinners in your home.

How to prepare an eggplant before roasting

The first step is choosing a dish for your finished eggplant. If you’re working with a recipe, it will offer guidelines on how you should cut your eggplant. If you’re not working with a recipe, try choosing from one of the methods below:

1-inch cubes 

Small cubes of eggplant are well-suited to salads because they are easy to stab with a fork, and they are perfectly bite-sized. This method of preparation maximizes surface area and browning, for a crispy final product. 

To cut an eggplant into cubes, first rinse the eggplant. Then use a chef’s knife to cut off the very top of the eggplant, removing the stem. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise to form two long pieces. Working one half at a time, place the eggplant cut-side-down on a board and slice lengthwise into strips. Keeping the strips together, rotate the eggplant and cut across the strips at a 90° angle. Repeat this process with the other half. 

½-inch rounds 

Roasted eggplant rounds are easy to slice and eat. This shape has a good balance between crispy surface area and creamy roasted interior. Eggplant rounds are a great way to top off a grain bowl. 

To slice an eggplant into rounds, start by rinsing the eggplant and removing the stem with a chef’s knife. Then, simply lay the eggplant on its side and slice across the eggplant, doing your best to keep each round even. 

Halves 

Eggplant halves have a crispy exterior and a creamy exterior. With a golden-brown top, these large pieces make for a beautiful presentation. 

To cut an eggplant into halves simply rinse, remove the stem, and slice lengthwise with a chef’s knife. To help these large pieces cook evenly, we recommend scoring the surface before roasting, as demonstrated below. 

When to salt an eggplant before cooking 

Salting and rinsing eggplants prior to cooking isn’t always necessary, even though you might see it in recipes. The eggplants of yesteryear had a strong bitter flavor. Cooks would mellow out this astringency by salting and rinsing eggplant slices prior to cooking. Today’s eggplants have been selectively bred to remove this bitterness, so salting to remove unwanted flavors before roasting is unnecessary.

Sometimes salting can serve another purpose: drawing out excess moisture. Eggplants are full of water, and it can make it hard to get them nice and brown when frying. All of that water turns to steam in the pan, and prevents the eggplants from getting crispy. To remove water, you need a good amount of salt. Sprinkle the sliced eggplant generously with salt, and wait for 10-15 minutes. You should see little beads of water forming on the surface of the eggplant. Brush off the excess salt, and use paper towels to pat the eggplant dry. Now you should be able to achieve a beautiful sear.  

When to score an eggplant before cooking 

If you’re working with large pieces, scoring an eggplant will help the flesh cook evenly and allow any seasonings to penetrate the flesh of the eggplant. Scoring before roasting eggplant also creates more surface area. That means you’ll get even more caramelized golden brown goodness in your finished dish.

All you need to score an eggplant is a small knife and a cutting surface. This technique will work with any type of eggplant. We’re demonstrating with a globe eggplant, which is the variety most commonly available in American grocery stores.

Start by removing the stem of the eggplant. Do this by cutting away the very top of the eggplant with your knife. Discard or compost this portion. Then, cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. You should end up with two long eggplant halves.

Working one half at a time, use the very tip of your knife to make long, shallow diagonal incisions across the entire surface of the eggplant. Then rotate the eggplant and repeat the process, so that the shallow cuts form a crosshatch pattern. Repeat this process with the other half of the eggplant. To see just how simple this process is, watch Chef Tim demonstrate in the video below.

How to roast eggplant in the oven

You’re ready to roast! Be sure to season the eggplant thoroughly with salt, pepper, and olive oil and before placing it in the oven. Eggplants are very absorbent, so we recommend brushing the olive oil on with a silicon brush (if you have one). Cooking time will vary based on the size of your eggplant pieces, but for ½-inch slices, it should take about 20-22 minutes in a 450°F oven.

Recipes with roasted eggplant

Now that you’re done roasting your eggplant, it’s time for the fun part. Choose a recipe that shows off your creation. Here are a few that we love:

Roasted Eggplant Pitas with Tomato, Cucumber & Farro Salad

Roasted Eggplant Pitas

Seared Cod & Miso-Roasted Japanese Eggplant with Cucumber-Soba Noodle Salad

Seared Cod & Miso-Roasted Japanese Eggplant

Smoky Marinated Eggplant with Herb Salsa

roasted eggplant with herb salsa

If you want to scoring an eggplant at home, we recommend this trusty petty knife.

How to Freshen Stale Bread

soon to be stale bread

Unless you’re a total carb-o-phile, or you share a household with eternally hungry teenage boys, you may not get through a loaf of preservative-free bakery bread before it gets stale. That means, sadly, that extra bread winds up in the trash. Not anymore! This essential kitchen tip can help you freshen stale bread and reduce food waste.

To start: One way to extend the shelf life of fresh bread is to store it in the fridge or the freezer. The cold will preserve a loaf’s lifespan, but it will also rob the bread of its crisp exterior and chewy crumb. What to do about the problem created by our preservation solution?

Don’t worry, we’ve got a solution to that too. The easiest way to freshen a stale loaf of bread is simply to stick it in the oven. Take your loaf right our of the freezer or refrigerator and pop it into a 475°F oven. After to three minutes, the loaf will be hot and crispy again.

This method is best suited for bakery bread. Unlike its more processed counterpart, pre-sliced sandwich bread, bakery bread doesn’t contain any preservatives. That means it will become stale or moldy in just a few days if left out on the counter. Sandwich bread, on the other hand, is often happy on the counter top for up to a week.

Ribollita soup with stale bread

Once it’s out of the oven, you can use the bread in recipes, like this Tuscan Ribollita, or just enjoy it with a smear of good butter.

How to Dice Potatoes Quickly Using a Large Dice Cut

large diced potato

We’re embarking on a quest to help you cut down prep time in the kitchen by finessing your knife skills and making short work of onions, garlic, and carrots. Today’s lesson: how to dice potatoes. Let’s start by focusing on a large dice. This method is great for creating big potato chunks perfect for roasting.

Our Method for Dicing Potatoes

how to dice whole potatoes
Start with a big ol’ potato

Speedy chopping can help you get dinner on the table quickly, and this method will keep you fingers safe while you’re working. 

The first step is to cut the the potato in half from end to end. Then, lay the new potato plank flat side down on the cutting board. Cut into thirds lengthwise, you’ll end up with three long potato sticks.

how to dice potatoes second step

Keeping the slices together, rotate the potato half 90° and slice all the way across with four long cuts. This should leave you with 12 large potato chunks. Repeat this process with the other half of the potato.

how to large dice potato
Under one minute to perfect potato chunks

To see some professional potato dicing in action, watch the video below.

Learning how to dice potatoes is just the beginning. Once you’ve mastered this method, you can use it to cut zucchini in a large dice for our Tempeh Ratatouille, tomato for our Chicken with Tomato & Fennel, and cucumbers for the salad that goes with our Chicken Tikka Masala.

How to Remove Rusty Brown Lettuce Spots

Everyone loves a good salad, but sometimes lettuce can be a pain. Delicate leaves can wilt or decay, and hearty lettuces like romaine can develop rusty brown spots. Don’t despair! There’s good news: a little brown lettuce doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole head is bad. Professional chefs call these spots “rust,” and they simply remove them before making a salad. Don’t throw that perfectly good lettuce away! Just follow these steps to remove lettuce rust and get cooking. 

rusty brown lettuce
These romaine heads have rusty brown spots, but they’re still good to eat

Rust usually occurs near the roots of a head of lettuce. These reddish-brown blemishes can be the result of too much moisture during storage. Although it’s not harmful, it can certainly be unappetizing. It’s best to remove these spots before making a salad. Luckily, it’s easy to just cut away any discoloration.

To remove the lettuce rust simply take a chefs knife, hold firmly onto the head of lettuce, and cut away from your hand.

remove brown lettuce spots
A little brown lettuce is no match for a chef’s knife

If the lettuce has more than one brown spot, just keep cutting until all the rusty pieces are removed. After the brown portions are removed, just continue your preparation. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, try a romaine salad with feta and roasted red bell peppers, or a hearty main course salad with chicken, homemade croutons, and creamy caper dressing.

romaine lettuce salad
Voilà, a perfectly good salad

Watch the video below to see how a Blue Apron chef gets rid of lettuce rust in just 20 seconds.