Treat yourself and your loved ones to an amazing Thanksgiving meal

There’s no need to serve a dried-out turkey or thin, tasteless gravy. Just follow these easy steps and treat yourself and your loved ones to an amazing Thanksgiving meal.

Photo compliments of Bigstock.com

Of all the holidays my family celebrates, none is as food-focused as Thanksgiving.  We enjoy a turkey, stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes like many other traditionalists. Over the years, I have developed a number of recipes that I follow and techniques that I use to produce consistently excellent results. There’s no need to serve a dried-out turkey or thin, tasteless gravy. Just follow these easy steps and treat yourself and your loved ones to an amazing Thanksgiving meal.

Turkey

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Remove any packaged giblets and/or the neck from inside the turkey. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water then pat it dry with paper towels. Using your fingers, gently peel back the skin from the breast and insert slices of garlic, butter and thyme leaves. Stuff the cavity with stuffing (see recipe below) and insert a fork in the middle. Leave the end of the fork exposed, sticking out of the stuffing. This will conduct heat to the middle of the stuffing and help it cook evenly. Tuck the legs inside the loose skin around the cavity opening to close it.  Rub the skin of the turkey with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and fresh thyme leaves.

Place the turkey in a heavy roasting pan with a ¼ cup of oil. Place the neck in the base of the roasting pan. Cover the turkey loosely with a paper grocery bag that has been brushed on the inside with oil, tucking the edges of the bag inside the pan.

Put the turkey in the oven.  After one hour, remove the neck from the pan.  After 2-1/2 hours, add 3 cups of low-salt chicken stock to the roasting pan. At the 3-1/2 hour mark, remove the paper bag from the turkey. Carefully pour off the pan juices in to a separate bowl to use in the gravy (see recipe below). Check the temperature of the turkey with an instant read thermometer. The thickest part of the thigh should be 165°F and the center of the stuffing should be 160° when finished. Return the turkey to the oven if needed otherwise cover the turkey with aluminum foil. Allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Sourdough Stuffing with Apples, Bacon and Caramelized Onions

Cut 2 loaves of day-old sourdough bread in to 1” cubes. Spread the cubes out on a cookie sheet to dry. If time is short, you can put them in the oven on its lowest heat setting to dry them out quickly, but be very careful the bread does not burn.

Chop 8 oz. of bacon in to 1” squares.  In a large skillet cook the bacon until it is crispy. Set the bacon aside and pour off all but 2 Tbsp. of the fat left in the pan, reserving it for later. Sauté 1-1/2 cups of diced onion (1/2” dice) in the bacon fat over medium heat until it is soft and light brown, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. of sugar over the onion and continue to cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Cook the onions for another 3-5 minutes then scrape the pan contents in to a large mixing bowl.

Add 2 Tbsp. of the reserved bacon fat to the pan. Add 2 granny smith apples (peeled and diced in to ½” cubes) and 1-1/2 cups of chopped celery. Sauté 5-7 minutes until softened. Add 2/3 of a cup of chopped fresh flat leaf/Italian parsley, 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage, 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme, ½ tsp. of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  Sauté another minute then scrape contents of the pan in to the mixing bowl containing the caramelized onions.

Add the bread cubes and the bacon to the mixing bowl and toss. Beat 3 large eggs then combine them with 2 cups of low-salt chicken stock. Add this to the mixing bowl and toss until stuffing is well blended and moist.  

Thyme and Apple Cider Gravy

The day before Thanksgiving, begin making a roux by melting 8 Tbsp. of butter in a heavy saucepan. Add in 2/3 of a cup of flour, whisking it until it is smooth. Over very low heat cook the roux for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not let the roux burn or darken. Remove from heat and store in the refrigerator in a covered container.

Remove the roux from the refrigerator far enough in advance to allow it reach room temperature before using. Once the turkey has roasted for one house, combine 3 cups of apple cider, 1 cup of white wine, 1 apple (peeled and diced) 2 shallots (finely chopped), 1-1/2 cups of low salt chicken stock and the turkey neck in a large saucepan. Bring the stock to a boil over high heat and reduce it by half. Remove the neck from the pan and discard it (or save it if you plan to make stock from the turkey carcass the following day). Set the stock mixture aside.

When the turkey is finished roasting and has begun to rest, allow the reserved pan juices to rest for 10 to 20 minutes. Skim off the fat that rises to the surface and add the remaining juices to the pot with the cider stock. Bring the mixture back to a gentle boil then gradually whisk in small amounts of the roux. The more roux you add, the thicker the gravy so continue adding roux until you get the thickness you want. Strain the gravy and add salt & pepper to taste. Stir in 1 Tbsp. of chopped fresh thyme and serve.

Come back tomorrow to learn how to prepare completely decadent mashed potatoes and some excellent side dishes.

 

 

 

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