Turkey Time!

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Something big is about to go down in the Roberts famiy. For the first time in our history–a history that goes back to the 70s when mom and dad danced to “What Are You Doing For The Rest of Your Life?” at their wedding–we are having a home cooked Thanksgiving. And who’s doing the cooking? You’re looking at him! And I need help! So here are some questions:

– How would you cook a 14 to 16 lb turkey? Would you brine it? How long would it take? (We reserved a Bell & Evans turkey that I think is all natural and organic.)

– What sides would you make? The obvious ones? Anything special?

– What other courses would you serve? Soup? Salad? Dessert? (Well, of course dessert. But which desserts? A basic pumpkin pie or something more exotic like a pumpkin ginger cheesecake from Gourmet?)

Can’t wait to get your advice and of course you’ll get to read all about it next week. Thanks in advance!

75 comments

  1. Thanksgiving isn’t complete for me without candied sweet potatoes with the toasted marshmellows on top. YUM!

    Good luck with the turkey!!

  2. Hi,

    Apparently the ‘Turkey Mercedes’ at allrecipes.com won the America’s Top Recipe Contest 2006 – so maybe that is worth a try.

    Stuffing is a must. Mashed potatoes and carrots. Pumpkin pie for dessert. But then again, I’m Canadian and we had our Thanksgiving during the actual harvest time so what do I know?

  3. Way to go, AG! Starting a new family tradition, now that you’re a professional blogger and all. ;-) My suggestion is — Stick With The Classics. Now is not the time to try out some kind of pumkin foam emulsion. Think back to what your family liked to get at the Turkey Buffet, and make the tastier homemade versions. At my house, it’s turkey, mashed (Yukon and sweet), stuffing (in a dish, not inside the bird), beets, carrots, green beans. Plus apps, pie, and cranberry sauce. Nothing too fancy, but a nice variety — and the stuffing is actually pretty rich. Hey, you could always serve Craig for dessert, right? :P

  4. We brined our turkey for the first time last year. I am known for making good turkey (not dry), and this was better than any turkey I’ve ever made. I highly recommend it. Stuffing suggestion: cornbread/apple/sausage from the first Silver Palate cookbook (people go nuts over it). Best vegetable dish ever: brussels sprouts with pancetta (cube pancetta, brown it, add quartered sprouts and whole shallots, saute until tender, add white wine vinegar and S&P at end). I’d go with a gussied up pumpkin dessert like cheesecake or pumpkin bread pudding. I always think regular pumpkin pie will be better than it really is.

  5. I’ve been doing Thanksgiving for my family the past 10 years and you cannot go wrong with Alton Brown’s brined, roast turkey.It is awesome and foolproof. For stuffing, it is always the Dried Apricot grand mariner stuffing from the Silver Palate Good times cookbook. I change up the sides and the dessert every year. This year the sides are barefoot contessa’s penne with five cheeses (we do pasta instead of potatoes), green beans with carmelized shallots,and collard greens. For the appetizer I usually do a soup, but this year decide to change things up with mini barefoot contessa crab cakes on top of an herb salad. Dessert will be the frozen grand mariner tart with spiced cranberries from the current holiday issue of bon appetit.

  6. Adam…for sides, I can’t reco shredded Brussels sprouts with bacon and onions enough. Simple and tasty.

    Also, throw some sausage in your stuffing…and/or some chestnuts.

    And don’t forget the wine my friend!

  7. I made a butternut squash pie (NYT) and an apple quince pie (LAT) last year for Thanksgiving and they were both hailed by our 20+ guests as being among the best T-giving desserts ever eaten… check them out (posted in Nov 2005). Good luck! And breathe deeply. It’s going to be a lot of work in 1-2 days but you’re so up for the challenge!

  8. Ahh, so many suggestions to share with you. For a unique and fantastic soup, try this South African Butternut Squash Soup, it is incredible, http://scrumptious.typepad.com/srbeack/2006/10/south_african_b.html

    I also like taking variations on the regular themes. I’ll make some of these next week and post on my own blog. Fresh Cranberry Compote with Raspberry, Orange and warm spices, Roasted Chestnut and herb Spaetzle, and Wild Mushroom Sautee… as for the bird, I can’t give much help there. I used to do one years ago but haven’t for a very long time. I hear lots of people are deep-frying them lately. Who knows? http://www.hormel.com/templates/knowledge/knowledge.asp?catitemid=36&id=418

  9. I would HIGHLY recommend getting some back November issues of Bon Appetit — we’ve had a lot of luck with many of their Thanksgiving suggestions, including a delicious recipe for turkey with prosciutto and butter rubbed under its skin (also, it makes for fantastic gravy) and a sausage dressing recipe. These were probably in the 2003 or 2004 issue.

    We usually do a soup course (apple/parsnip or something similar), some variation of the usual green beans, mashed potatoes, etc. If you have an ice cream maker, cranberry and/or pear sorbet (they compliment each other very well) is easy. A strange side dish: macaroni and cheese has become a tradition and so popular that double and triple batches have to be made.

  10. no matter what you do – put butter and maple syrup underneath the skin. trust me. i know it sounds a lot like a cracked-out paula deen experiment, but im a vegetarian now, and i remember my mom’s turkey (made like this) very very well . . .

  11. There’s a lot of good advice so far re: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans and brussels sprouts. However, no one really seems to have addressed cranberry sauce yet. It’s a must as far as I’m concerned. The easiest is to cover a bag of cranberries with orange juice, add between 1/2 and a full cup of sugar and cook until the berries pop. There’s enough natural pectin for the sauce to jell. You can gussy it up with ginger and/or other spices if you like.

    Also, my mom used to make a raw cranberry relish that I loved: chopped berries, orange peel and pecans sweetened to taste.

  12. Personally, I’m not a big brining fan. I think it can over-flavor and over-moisten the bird. A turkey have its own delicious, subtle taste and its own texture. Manys brines are too salty and too “clever.” There are plenty of flavors going on on a Thanksgiving plate – why complicate things?

    My family does oyster stuffing. If you have access to fresh oysters, give it a whirl.

  13. For the Turket, definitly brine it and let it rest for no less than 25 minutes after you remove it from the oven.

    As others have mentioned, brussles sprouts are great, especially when sliced in half, blanched, then sauteed to carmelize the cut side of the sprout. I like using a mix of oil and butter. Finish with some sea salt.

    This year my mom is hosting and there are some vegetarians coming (my mom has no clue what to feed them) so I am making either butternut squash & mushroom risotto or Thomas Kellers butternut squash and mushroom gnocchi from the Bouchon cookbook. I figure either would be a great side dish for non-vegetarians, yet is filling enough to be a main dish for the non-carnevors.

  14. And who’s doing the cooking? You’re looking at him!

    Wait! … A cartoon turkey playing the bagpipes is going to cook your Thanksgiving dinner this year? That is not only a Roberts Family first but quite possibly a first in all of history.

  15. I LOVE (as in make for every single dinner party and eat obsessively) these sweet potatoes that my stepmother discovered a few years ago. Super easy, just roast the sweet potatoes in their skins and wrapped in foil in a 375-400 degree oven until easily pierced with a fork (about 40 mins? i think?) then just let them cool a bit (unwrapping helps) and slide the good bits out of the skins. Add unsalted butter, chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt, and brown sugar. Then MASH VIGOROUSLY, leaving some chunks because its not SUPPOSED to be super smooth. Serve either hot or cold (I prefer hot).

    I don’t know the EXACT measurements, but its really easy to do to taste. I’m going to guess that I usually do about 6 sweet potatoes, roughly 1/4 cup of lime juice, 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar, a bunch of cilantro, maybe 1/4 stick of butter and salt to taste? AMAZING combination of salty/sweetness/tartness.

  16. Yeah, get the bird cooked but make damned well sure you gots plenty of rich & creamy gravy. Add some creme fraiche to it. Then, use a crock pot on the dinner table to keep the gravy hot and ready. This way you can have hot gravy with every side, entree and desert.

    Biggles

  17. Sufferin Sucotash! This holiday classic is a must on the table. Just take corn, lima beans, a sliced red bell pepper- or jalpeno for heat, saute in butter. It is simple, colorful and tasty. I am sure you can find better recipes elsewhere/ Add cheese at the last instant if you want a truly great experience.

  18. We did the Alton Brown brine, etc a few years ago with a fresh, organic bird. Did the brining in a camp cooler because we had 1 turkey and 1 additional breast. It all came out great, but I couldn’t say whether it was due to the brining. Highly recommended.

  19. Welcome to the Turkey-roasting Club. I enjoyed reading what other commenters had to say. I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving for an extended family usually of about 16-24 people for about 20 years now. I think Thanksgiving is a challenge, more than any other holiday, because people are very opinionated about it. Most people want TRADITION and only that. Like “don’t mess with the basics on T-day”. When I was just a young bride I once thought I’d mix it up (like I do with just about everything else in my cooking life) and I cooked cornish game hens, non-traditional wild rice stuffing, potatoes au gratin, fruit salad, and asparagus. For dessert we had pumpkin cheesecake. You would have thought I shot the president (not NOW, but back then). Everyone was kind of mad at me, and yet, since I’d gone to the work of hosting and all that, they couldn’t come right out and say it – but basically no one smiled and no one gave me eye contact. Bad news. It was a long day of passive aggression. For a few years, they wouldn’t let me host again, leaving me instead to non-traditional meals like Christmas Eve or Father’s Day. No one really cared what I made then. But then when I was older and wiser, I tried again and this time I PROMISED to make all and only the traditional dishes. And so I did and everyone loved me for it and gave me hugs all around. And I’ve been hosting T-Day for the family every year since.

    So here’s my 20+ years of advice:

    1) DON’T MESS WITH THE TURKEY! Ever. It is the single most important ingredient of the day. (also – if you have a small kitchen/oven, make sure your roasting pan actually fits into your oven. Don’t wait until you’re putting it in Tday morning. Been there, done that.

    2) Determine if your guests are traditional or non-traditional Thanksgiving eaters. Then you’ll know how much flexibility you have. Very, very important.

    3) When you call to invite your guests, ask each person who offers to bring their FAVORITE traditional side dish/salad/dessert. That’s fun to see what people bring. Then you supply the basics.

    4)Turkey talk: I agree with Alton Brown’s turkey-prepping advice. He seems to have it down. Although, I don’t know if I would brine a FRESH, organic turkey. But maybe. One trick I like to do that I heard years ago is – roast the turkey upside down (breast side down). It doesn’t look nice (if you want to carve at the table this won’t work), but the breast meat stays tender with the dark meat dripping down into it as it cooks for hours. Sounds weird, but I swear by this. I also belive in injecting chicken broth and herb butter directly into the bird prior to cooking. The worst and easiest way to cook a bird on Tday is to OVERcook it so it tastes dry. Don’t do it. I also like to get what they call a “young” turkey = tender. Old = stringy.

    5)Potatoes. Taters are probably the second most important feature of the meal. People have great expectations about Tday potatoes. Once, about 5 years ago, I cooked a big pot of Yukon Golds and then proceeded to whip them in a Kitchenaid mixer while I went about finishing up other parts of the meal. I also had too many cooks in the kitchen – about 14 at the time I think. Anyway they whipped too long, and basically I had to serve sticky glue for potatoes. Yuck! Everyone hated them and said so. I was not popular the rest of the day, or year. My brother-in-law STILL won’t let me forget that. I now have major potato anxiety every night of the week leading up to Tday. So be very very careful. Most people like their taters “just so”.

    6)Stuffing. This is an area where you can kind of get creative and no one seems to care. I always sneak in a little minced bacon and shredded apple in mine. The main debate here is: dry or moist. I like dry, but most of the family likes moist. So I make two batches.

    7) Sweet potatoes. Everyone likes to have them sitting there even if they don’t eat them. My sister-in-law brings these – from scratch, baked with butter and a little brown sugar. No white stuff.

    8) Rolls. In our family the BREAD is pretty darn important. Especially for the under-25 year olds. In our case, Grandma always makes her homemade rolls and she brings boxes full. They’re really good with leftover turkey too.

    9) Cranberries. Basically I love them, but not many people do. If no one’s offering to bring their homemade batch, I just cheat and buy them. (or shhh…open a can.)

    9)Other veggies – here you can go wild. Well, kind of. Basically this is what I farm out to other guests to bring. A cranberry salad, a green bean dish, a veggie plate (must have olives for the kiddos), and maybe a tossed salad if we’re feeling particularly healthy.

    10)Dessert – I used to try different things here. Like gingerbread cake, a pumpkin cake roll, cranberry tart, pumpkin bars, or cheesecake. Two years ago I made a beautiful walnut cake with browned butter frosting from Martha Stewart and set it on a cake stand. It was pretty But no one touched it but me. And it was good. So I’ve learned the hard way that on Tday, people basically want two things for dessert: pumpkin pie with real whipped cream or apple pie. My crowd won’t even go for apple crisp. It has to be round and have a crust to satisfy these traditionalists. I now designate another sister-in-law to bring these.

    Have I covered all the bases and then some? I think so! And lastly – my very favorite part of the day is when I get up early and put the turkey in the oven with Macy’s Parade playin on the TV and the whole house starts smelling like roasting turkey. And you only get that feeling when you’re the host. Enjoy and good luck!

  20. AG 3 thoughts:

    1. Maybe try a Turducken if you want to go all out. (Turkey stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken)

    2. Try adding toasted pine nuts and sausage toy our stuffing

    3. Your blog rocks! :)

  21. You could always fry the turkey. :)

    Whenever thanksgiving dinner falls on me, I take a look at the “traditional” foods (turkey, cranberries, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, mushrooms, corn, green beans, whatever is tradition for you), and try to come up with “untraditional” ways of using them. Which has turned into a whole new set of traditions for us. Cranberry salsa and cranberry fritters (basically a fried beignet with a surprise center of a whole cranberry)are oft requested traditions. Pumpkin bread pudding has always been a huge hit. Last year, pumpkin profiteroles with maple caramel went over wonderfully, as did eggnog cranberry tart.

    Probably my favorite T-day menu included the above mentioned starters, a cold turkey roast (cooked the day before, chilled and cubed) with hot cranberry-port sauce, a lovely green salad with apples, pears, nuts, parm and a cranberry dijon dressing, mushroom “stuffing”, and great company. Not a whole lot of same-day work, but the flavors that I associate with the season. Have fun with the experience.

  22. Here’s a great recipe that I found when I went on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for my health. It’s savory and everyone loves it!

    Butternut squash and Brie mash

    This tasty vegetable recipe features mashed butternut squash and Brie

    cheese – great as an accompaniment to roasted or barbecued poultry.

    Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

    3 cups butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced

    2 oz. butter

    1 cup Brie cheese slices

    1 large clove garlic, finely crushed

    1 tsp. salt

    1 tsp. black pepper

    parsley sprigs to garnish

    METHOD:

    Melt butter in a pan. Add squash and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic,

    salt and black pepper. Fry for 3 minutes until aromas become strong.

    Using a food processor, puree squash mixture and Brie cheese slices.

    Reheat in pan and serve hot, garnished with parsley sprigs. (Or not.)

  23. Before you commit to any dinner menu, commit the preparing/roasting/baking schedules to a piece of paper and make sure the oven and stovetop burners will be available when you need them. Look for other scheduling conflicts, too, like mixing up the green bean casserole while simultaneously rolling out piecrust. Write out a timetable for the cooking the day before so you know exactly when things need to be done. This would be much easier if turkeys had an easily determined roasting time. Good luck, and have some wine while you cook to keep the pressure off.

  24. If you want to taste some great wine pairings and are in midtown RIGHT NOW, head to Crush (57th bet 3rd & Lex) where a free, 30 wine tasting is happening. Otherwise you might try to hit your local wine shop this Saturday PM since many will be pouring free samples…

  25. I’ve hosted my family for thanksgiving for the last several years. Definately brine the turkey, I add maple syrup to my brine, it helps crisp the skin, and gives a really nice flavor. You might consider serving a risotto as a side, if your looking for something a little less traditional. That’s what I did last year. I like to make a soup, too. Crimini Mushroom & Sherry was my last choice. Make sure you find a good stuffing recipe. There’s a shaved asparagus salad recipe in one of the Chez Panisse cookbooks that’s a great side. And remember to add a little Kitchen Bouquet to your gravy!

  26. Brine-ing a turkey is great – or you could try deep frying the turkey. It takes less time.

    With all the time you save, you can go crazy on all the sides

    Can be found in epicurious:

    stuffing with apples, onions, sausage

    Gratin of yukon gold potatoes

    fresh cranberry relish

    pumpkin soup with red pepper mousse

    Sweet potato and yam galette * this is a really good and well worth it.

    FoodTV:

    Paula Deen’s sweet potato casserole ** you could probably cut out half the sugar and butter and it would still be Way Too Sweet. But that’s the charm of the “cooks with butter” lady!

  27. I highly recommend taking at least a gander at Nigella Lawson’s ‘Feast’. There’s a massive section devoted solely to Christmas/Thanksgiving foods, and they’re all delicious, varied, and wonderful. If nothing else, check one out while in a bookstore for some tips or ideas. :)

  28. If you want to go the traditional route for dessert, absolutely make the no-bake pumpkin pie from the recent issue of Cooks Illustrated. I made it for my office on Monday, and it was AWESOME.

  29. Maybe I too am an amateur, but I swear by those Reynolds’ turkey-roasting bags. Couldn’t be simpler, and with fantastic results.

    We like to serve apple-sausage stuffing atop steamed acorn/butternut squash halves. It’s a nice presentation, delicious and very easy.

    If you decide to make brussels sprouts, I highly recommend Ina Garten’s roasted brussels sprouts recipe – yum!!

  30. For mixed company of vegans and omnivores for Tday I got a Turkey and made a vegetarian shepherd’s pie(exotic mushrooms galor). Somehow the shepherd’s pie has become our tradition now along with some baked yams and pumpkin pie.

    Growing up filipino our tradition was the turkey along side the roast pig, pancit, and lumpia…strange but it was definitely tradition. I miss it now!

  31. Brine and then grill. It is SO fabulous–and is so much quicker than the oven– and leaves oven space for all of the rest of the food. Just place the briquets on each side of the grill and a drip pan in between. I brined and grilled my turkey last year and the results were tender, slightly smokey flavored turkey with an amazingly flavorful gravy. You could also use specialty wood like hickory for a different flavor.

    Good luck! Can’t wait to hear what you end up doing.

  32. ohmygoodness, i just realized that next week is already thanksgiving! yikes!

    i second the suggestion made above by Luisa for the apple-quince pie from the LA Times! i made the same pie, along with the requisite pumpkin pie, for thanksgiving last year, and it was delicious, and not a bite left over! last year was also the first time i attempted the turkey for our family dinner, and though it was a bit intimidating(i got the largest organic bird i could find to feed our crowd!), it went much better than expected! i have to look back in my recipe files to help remember exactly what it was i did though..

  33. Mmmm. All the suggestions sound delicious. This year we’re starting with delicata squash soup made with roasted shallots.

    I like an organic turkey with herbed butter rubbed under the skin, over the breast. Cornbread/sausage stuffing, plain baked sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, green salad…and definitely homemade cranberry sauce, made with 1 bag fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup water, cooked until the berries pop. Grate in the zest of an orange, and squeeze in the fresh juice.

    For dessert, I have to please several groups of people, so I end up making a souffled pumpkin pie with cognac, pecan-maple pie, and a toffee apple crumble pie. Three pies is a lot of work, but they ensure lots of leftover pie!

  34. Brining the turkey is going to make it bulletproof and Alton’s recipe is the perfect balance of adding moistness and flavor without adding odd flavors (you can use chicken stock instead of the vegetable stock in the recipe). As for stuffing, I cannot say enough good things about an old fashion giblet stuffing. This is the stuffing your great-grandmother made and is a favorite in my family. If you want tradition, and I think you should, that is a must along with sides of all the root veggies (squash, turnips, parsnips, potatos) and of course, the cranberry sauce. The recipe on the back of the cranberry bag makes a great cranberry sauce, just replace the water called for with orange juice.

  35. Alton Brown is by far the man to go to for turkey-day. If you can, check out his Thanksgiving Day special, as well as the most recent Good Eats episode ‘Fry Turkey Fry’ which should be on heavy rotation on the Food Network right now. I’m from Canada, so I had my t-day last month, and to be honest I’m quite jealous of my southern neighbors. I suppose I could just buy a turkey and fry it up (which I have done in the past, delcious!) or make the sweet potato stuffing that my grandmother makes.

    Anyway, I’m sure that no matter what you decide, your T-Day is going to be special because of your family. Mine always is. Keep up the good work with the site.

  36. really, don’t brine it if it will stress you out. see ny times article on turkeys now on website – the secret is not cooking it too long (our turkey took about 2 1/2 last year, I couldn’t believe it! You hear these stories about people waiting and waiting for the bird) and making a little tent for it out of foil to cook a little more out of the oven. this is very easy (we did this last year by default because our turkey was out of the oven before our first guest arrived, see above comment). also, I made mashed Yukon Gold potatoes with brown butter instead of regular butter, per Gourmet. so good! I also like a salad, maybe with walnuts, apples and roasted beets.

  37. three words: DEEP. FRIED. TURDUCKEN.

    (just kidding)

    or am i?

    Good luck with the feast AG! can’t wait to hear all about it…

  38. Ooh, that brie and squash recipe sounds wonderful. Do you have any idea how many carbs are in it? I’m diabetic and watch those things.

  39. Ooh, that brie and squash recipe sounds wonderful. Do you have any idea how many carbs are in it? I’m diabetic and watch those things.

  40. Really interesting comments here – I’d never heard of brining a turkey before. Turkey is one of the traditional birds we have in the UK as our Christmas Lunch. Personally I suggest stuffing inside the bird, something simple – breadcrumbs, thyme, seasoning and onions works perfect everytime. I also agree with the foil tent suggestion – we tend to cook our Turkey overnight on a low heat, take it out in the morning and let it finish cooking of its own accord. If it’s a beast of a bird why not cut the legs and wings and cook separately. Good luck!

  41. With a bird that big I’d brine. Alton Brown has it down so I’d go with that. We’re having a smallish organic, free-range heritage turkey so I’ll roast breast down…we don’t carve at the table. I like the Silver Palate polenta stuffing, green beans because no one but me likes brussel sprouts, and usually a pear/walnut/gorganzola salad with a dijon vinegrette or a raspberry vinegrette/pecan/spinach salad. Homemade dinner rolls. Homemade cranberry relish. Dessert is piew, both pumpkin and pecan, with freshly whipped cream. Wines are the Beaujolais and champagne. Have fun!

  42. For such a very special thanksgiving, you should totally have a special drink to toast with. I love champagne with just a little bit of vanilla stoli.

  43. Love your Blog !

    I’ve been hosting Turkey Day for more than 15 years and I have to agree with a lot of the comments here – most people want traditional food .. nothing fancy. I try one new dish a year but make sure it’s in addition to all of their old favorites. One year I made a separate batch of sausage,apple, and cornbread stuffing and everyone loved it so much that it has replaced the boring stuffing I had been making for years.

    P.S. cranberry sauce (not too chunky) mixed with a little mayo is great on turkey sandwiches the day after.

    Enjoy !

  44. Lots of good suggestions abound, AG.

    Our family must-have side dish is twice-baked potatoes – one potato for each person at the table. Wash huge Idaho baker potatoes with water, scrub them clean, allow them to dry, then lightly coat with oil. Place in the oven (no microwaving!) at 350 degrees for about an hour and a half until done. Do not cover with foil, you want the skin to get crispy. My mom has often sprinkled the skin with Kosher salt as well before baking. After these are done, take them out of the oven and let them cool for about 15 minutes, long enough so the skin doesn’t break when you open the potatoes. Slice the potatoes longways in half, then scoop out all the insides into a big mixing bowl. Hand mix with butter, sour cream and whole milk or half and half until you get a lumpy but smooth concoction – add salt or pepper if you wish. If you have four potatoes, about 1/2 stick of butter, couple of pints of sour cream and cup of milk/cream is about right. Put the concoction back into the potato skins, then top with your favorite shredded cheese (you can use any cheese you want, but it should be a hard cheese, not a soft cheese). Put back in the oven at 350 degrees just long enough for the cheese to melt over the tops of the potato skins and lightly brown. You will not have any leftovers, promise!

    Have a wonderful time cooking for your family – make LOTS of pictures and video clips – and you should bring some cardboard stand-up celebrities so your mom can say she had Thanksgiving dinner with famous folks!

  45. That Simply Recipes lady (elise.com/recipes)- has some awesome looking recipes, I plan on trying the Pecan Pie- Mmmm; found a green beans with pancetta recipe there as well. Oh yeah, there was a link on her site to a stuffing/dressing recipe with candied walnuts and figs- think I’ll try that to go along with the fresh bird we’re picking up, outside DC of course, at some farm in rural Maryland- yay!

  46. I like to use an electric roaster for my turkey- you know, those big white things you usually see at church dinners and fundraisers? It cooks the turkey faster than the oven, plus it frees up your oven so you can make all the other dishes. Like dessert! And dinner rolls! And stuffing because I refuse to eat stuffing that comes from the bird’s ass! My mom has a phenomenal recipe for crock-pot stuffing. She used to make nasty, bone dry stuffing you could use for a door stop, but then she tried the crock-pot version and I’ve been happy ever since.

  47. I grew-up with Two-Gallon Turkey. That’s turkey so dry it took two-gallons of milk to choke-down the breast meat. So, I’ve done lots of work on my own roasting technique over the last 25 years.

    Six Easy Steps To Perfect Roast Turkey:

    1. Spring for a fresh natural, chemical-free bird. Eat a bird that’s as close to that which the Pilgrims ate as possible (although wild turkey is a bit more gamey than the typical American can handle. Grain fed, free range is a great compromise and it is Thanksgiving after all.

    2. Brine it. Use Alton Brown’s recipe or modify if you want. Orange brine — a gallon of OJ, cup of salt, cup of brown sugar, 6 cloves of garlic. Boil, let cool to room temp. Brine two to three days for a full bird. I use a clean Home Depot bucket in the downstairs fridge — keep it at 40-degrees or lower (don’t freeze) where ever you store it.

    3. Use an electronic probe thermometer. Set the alarm for 161-degrees (the carry will cook to 165 while resting) Poke one hole and that’s it — no more breaks in the skin until you carve.

    4. Use a Roasting pan / rack: Get the bird up out of it’s juices — they insulate / boil the bottom.

    5. Shield & Sear: Mold a foil triangle to the raw breast and set aside. Sear in your oven for 35-mins at 500-degrees. Lower temp to 350 and put the set-aside shield on the breast for the rest of the cooking. DON’T baste (just makes the surface wet) and leave the oven alone — keep the oven temp at a constant 350 and let the thermometer tell you when it’s done — your eyes can’t do that anyway. If you have to multi-task your oven, do so QUICKLY to keep the temp constant. Temp fluctuations cause the juices to escape. CAUTION — the bird gets done quicker than you would think using this process. As long as you have the probe tip buried deep in the breast, you can count on it being right.

    6. Let it Rest and Only Carve as needed: 25-minutes rest will do fine. Carve when serving to keep the moisture from escaping.

    Pair your flavors to properly compare and contrast as desired. If you go with an orange theme, serve a Gran Mariner cranberry walnut relish as an accent.

    Stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy are mandatory side dishes. Don’t mess with the core of our American traditions — you can get creative, but don’t leave these out.

  48. About a month and a half ago my daughter and I prepared, for her birthday, in her dormitory kitchens at her Morningside Heights institution of higher learning, her favorite menu–Turkey Day! We roasted one turkey and three count-em three ducks. I looked to Barbara Kafka and, I believe it was last year’s Thanksgiving Gourmet, for cues on the big bird, which we roasted by first sauteing three huge onions in the bottom of the roasting pans, then putting the bird in upside down to baste itself as instructed in a previous comment. It was fabulous, and the ducks, scored so as to render and crisp, were wonderful. Yeah we did the rest, stuffing (used leftover cornbread from Dinosaur Barbecue), broccoli casserole for Mr. Indiana, punkin pie yada yada, and Cardiac Potatoes: boil some russets until soft. Peel as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, grate on the big holes of a box grater into a buttered casserole, salting and peppering to taste, then pour in heavy cream until it’s just visible. You can park it at this point until you have oven space, then bake it for about 40 minutes at somewhere between 325 and 375, depending on what it’s sharing the oven with. You do not need to gild this lily.

    THEN! we loaded the whole feast, it being more or less moveable, into two cabs and bogarted the whole thing at friends’ East Side quarters. Thanks for carving, hostesses!

  49. It really depends on what you grew up with, and where you live. Cause down here in the south everybody wants what grandma made, and it is quite Southern. We have cornbread stuffing and squash and broccoli casseroles. Soon as you don’t make one of those, somebody gets all in a twist. Brining for me is too over the top with the organic turkey we usually buy, so I stick with Alton’s roasting rules of start it high, then turn it to low. I always contribute the cranberry sauce made using the recipe right on the bag and the pumpkin pie for my husband. This year I think I’ll try the Contessa’s pumpkin souffle pie made in a graham cracker crust cause that sounds WAY easy.

  50. Hey Adam,

    Whatever you make, I’m sure will be wonderful. Just as long as pumpkin pie is involved, though. The basics of Thanksgiving Dinner are Turkey, Stuffing, Gravy, Mashed Potatos, Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Pie…the rest is up to your imagination. The fun part is that all of the aboves are easy to make simply. Not stupid, open a can simply; just without truffles and caviar…save that for New Year’s Day.

  51. Brining is the way to go. If you don’t feel like doing it yourself, buy a kosher turkey. The butcher will have done it for you. We buy a kosher organic turkey each year and it is the most moist of any turkey I’ve ever had.

    I also use a vermouth, turkey stock, and orange wedge basting liquid with the oranges used in place of stuffing during cooking. It’s SO delicious. It’s nice to add some orange zest to the cranberry sauce to compliment.

  52. Oh, and if you’re looking for a cocktail to go with the hors d’oeuvres, try vodka with a tablespoon or two of orange zest and fresh cranberry relish. Macerate with brown sugar.

  53. Damn! If I had a family that reacted to a bit of novelty with as much distaste as some of the families mentioned here, the only difference I might make is a little strychnine in the pumpkin pie while I eat whatever I damn well please that I spent my own valuable time and money on. Jeez, its THANKSgiving here people.. a holiday based on receiving kindness from others and being thankful. Presumptious ingrates.

  54. We don’t brine our turkey, but then, my mother-in-law is in charge of that part of the meal and I don’t tell her how to cook. ;)

    It’s all rather traditional, chez eux. We have several starches – stuffing, mashed potatoes, and sweet potato casserole (made with fresh taters, not the canned kind). There’s also green bean casserole (with fresh green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup with Roasted Garlic), corn pudding (a very custardy version), and shredded Brussels sprouts steamed and then tossed with a dash of Golden Whisk Star of Siam oil (lemongrass and chiles). I concoct some sort of cranberry relish and most recently have been whirring the raw berries in the food processor with a whole naval orange (peel and all) and sugar to taste. And gravy. I’m lazy, and my MIL’s kitchen is teeny tiny, so I use Williams-Sonoma turkey gravy base and stir in some drippings.

    I’m making a traditional pumpkin pie and an apple pie this year. I’ve made pumpkin cheesecake before, but that’s often too heavy after all that food.

    We always start the meal with a Manhattan, and we drink Shandys (beer and Sprite, a tradition from my husband’s British grandfather) with.

    And then we all fall asleep in front of the football game.

    That said…man! I’m looking forward to next Thursday!

  55. Today, in the Food Section of the LA Times (gasp!) they tested a turkey four different ways, including brining, and have a clear winner – salting it per their instructions a few days in advance. The texture comes out better than the sponginess of brining and it’s easier.

  56. For the turkey, the simpler, the better. For starters, don’t stuff it. I know people love stuffing [when it’s done right, which isn’t all that often], but not stuffing the bird lets it roast faster and cook more evenly from the inside and out, so it stays moister. Salt and pepper it inside and out, as if you were roasting a chicken, and add herbs of your choice, especially in the body cavity. Then baste it with butter and the bird’s own juices. Great. Now I’m really hungry for turkey.

    What we do for a stuffing replacement at our house is kasha. A simple dish with a great nutty flavor–and it plays nicely with the gravy.

  57. I’m going to say salting a turkey is the best way. There was an article about it in the LA Times today. Best way to cook a turkey, brining will definitley make the turkey moist, but also it will come out spongy. Salting, you need about 4 days. Salt the turkey, put it in a bag for a few days, take it out the day before cooking, let it dry in the fridge, let sit out an hour before cooking time, then put it in the oven. It’s incredibly flavorful turkey.

    As far as sides, there’s the traditional sweet potatoes w/ marshmallows & pineapple, green beans & garlic with almonds, roasted acorn/kabocha squash, wild rice chestnut or wild mushroom, sausage, and apple sourdough stuffing (my favorite).

    Desserts, try a pumpkin mousse with some crushed amaretti cookies, or maybe a pumpkin cheesecake.

  58. I’ll second the grilled turkey suggestion. The bird comes out great when cooked in a Weber grill using the indirect heat method, and your oven is free for other things. Obviously, you need access to an outdoor area for grilling.

    Don’t even think about frying the turkey unless you have a big fireproof outdoor area to put the fryer. Google “fried turkey & fire” if you don’t believe me.

    There’s a to. die. for. recipe for spicy cranberry chutney in the book “The Joy of Grilling” by Joe Famularo. It’s like a preserve so it can be made well in advance of Thanksgiving Day.

    If you’re making mashed potatoes, try cooking the potatoes in chicken broth. It adds a lot of flavor without too many calories (like that matters on T-day). I prefer potatoes that are mashed by hand, whipped potatoes are a little too industrial for me.

    Our traditional stuffing was made with Italian or French style bread cubes, sweet Italian sausage, chestnuts and diced citron peel along with the usual onions, celery, eggs. That’s still my favorite. Epicurious.com has a reasonable facsimile here.

    I always make a Kahlua pecan pie along with the pumpkin pie, because that’s what I like.

    Do plan your time and look for things you can make ahead so that you can (1) get some clean-up done before dinner, because you sure won’t feel like doing it after, and (2) enjoy time with your guests.

    Good luck!

  59. I really think that brining is not worth all the effort — the taste doesn’t come through! Moist, yes….knock you dead…no.

    So, I recommend stuffing bird with chosen stuffing, (in cavity and under skin with herbs/garlic if you want), and then roasting at 450 for an hour. Then….

    POUR A PINT OR TWO OF GUINESS OVER THE DAMN THING!!

    Seriously, I’ve experimented with all sorts of birds, and the guiness approach is the absolute best. works every time. Baste with it. Love it. Drink it.

    Cook turkey for normal time.

    Also, makes the turkey a beautiful dark brown color.

    gobble gobble!

  60. I think brining is the way to go, even for organic fresh birds. We also like to cook the bird upside down. The SF Chronicle tested 40 birds cooked diff ways and this is the recipe they liked the best. We converted my family and my in-laws. :)

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2005/11/16/FDG71FNODJ1.DTL

    Alton’s recipe is similar, and the whole boiling the brining solution to get everything mixed in seems like a good idea, but also more trouble. The salting idea seems interesting, we might try that some time, but 4 days?! I don’t plan that far ahead of time!

    Also, don’t stuff the turkey, too hard to get them both just right. If you are going to make stuffing, make it separately.

    I love cranberry sauce, just use the recipe from the back of the ocean spray bag. Only not quite so much orange juice (a few squeezes from an orange will do) and add a little orange zest.

  61. I made the pumpkin ginger cheesecake for halloween and it was amazing… And who says you can’t have your cake and your pie?

  62. We’re getting a heritage turkey this year, brining it, and then shoving herbed butter under the skin and some garlic, citrus fruit, salt, and pepper inside the cavity. We’re rubbing the bird with a thyme-salt olive oil mixture and then baking it.

    Sides: I think we’re doing two stuffings but since they’re not going in the bird they’re not technically stuffings.

    Also, a cranberry kumquat relish with candied ginger. Not cooked, served raw, it’s delicious that way.

    Crispy thin sliced roasted potatoes; mashed root vegetables; broiled brussels sprouts halved and dashed with rosemary, sea salt, and olive oil.

    For dessert: a (fruit only) mince pie and a pumpkin pie with a hazelnut crust.

    Yes a lot of food but we have 15 people to feed!

  63. ur food is so good my french teacher went to france and bought us some food that was made by u and the turkey u make i just cant believe u made it

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