Turkey Day

Thanksgiving is my favorite of all the holidays. Having none of the gift-giving stress which accompanies Christmas, it’s a time to give thanks, to enjoy family and friends, and just concentrate on eating! Last year at this time, I shared some of our traditional side dishes: Sweet Potato Soufflé and Cranberry Applesauce. Now I thought

I’d give you my versions of the turkey, gravy, and dressing. Before I get into the recipes though, I want to stress the importance of buying the best bird you can afford for the holiday. I used to always purchase a frozen turkey from the supermarket until I discovered that the fresh variety is so much tastier. Usually, the bird is the least interesting dish on the Thanksgiving table, but last year we had an especially good one from Plainville Farms in central New York State. Their turkeys, antibiotic- and hormone-free, are so much better than average; I remember that I kept saying “Wow! The meat is really delicious!” Of course, it’ll be more costly, but in my mind, it’s worth it.

When our boys were small, I bought the November issue of Bon Appétit magazine which featured a beautiful roasted turkey; it has been my go-to Thanksgiving recipe ever since. You take a 12-14 pound turkey and season the cavity with salt and pepper. Then
rub 2 tablespoons of softened butter, 1 teaspoon of oil, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, and 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard all over. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each paprika, thyme, and rosemary. (Don’t worry about being too exacting with any of the amounts.) Put the bird into a roasting pan and place into a 375 degree oven and, after a half-hour or so, begin basting every 15 minutes with the juices in the bottom of the pan. When the turkey is done, cover it with aluminum foil and let stand for at least 30 minutes. This last step is important because it keeps the meat from drying out.

Meanwhile, start making the gravy by covering the turkey neck with water adding some salt and pepper, chopped onion and celery. (Actually you can add whatever you want to make the stock—bay leaf, thyme, and carrot slices, for example.) Bring to a boil and then simmer until done, about 30 minutes. My family used to make giblet gravy by
adding in the heart, gizzard, and liver; I sometimes use some or all of the innards to make the broth, but I don’t chop them into the final product. In a separate pot add three tablespoons of butter and the same amount of flour; cook and stir for a minute or two and then strain in some of the turkey stock you made. Use the juices at the bottom of the turkey roasting pan to give added color and flavor to the gravy. At this point I also put in two or three chopped hard-boiled eggs.

As for the dressing (we call it that because we don’t actually stuff the turkey), I do it more by feel than by following an actual recipe. At least four days ahead of time, I make the cornbread from the recipe on back of the yellow cornmeal box to allow it to dry out. On Thanksgiving morning, I melt butter in a pan and cook 1 cup of chopped onion, 1 cup chopped celery, a ½ cup chopped fresh parsley, adding in small
amounts of sage, thyme, and rosemary. When done, I put the mixture into a large bowl containing the cubed cornbread and about ½ a bag of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing. I then mix in 3 hard-boiled eggs, 3 raw eggs, ½ cup chopped pecans, and at least 3 cups of chicken or turkey broth. It’s important that the mixture be kind of soupy so that it won’t dry out too much in the oven. You then bake the dressing covered with aluminum foil for about a half-hour.

So there you have some of my traditional favorites. Whatever you decide to serve this Thanksgiving, I hope you enjoy it. Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

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Alex said...

Thanks for the stuffing recipe! We don't have the original Better Homes cookbook anymore so I needed it.

Mme Boisvert said...

Glad it worked out for you, Alex! Now you'll always know where to find the recipe. :)

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