"Stuff the bird!" and other cries you may hear from the kitchen this Thanksgiving
First of all, let me preface, I am not Martha Stewart.
Whenever I strive for Martha’s perfection, I fail miserably.
My gravy is lumpy; my cake is flat and my home-made pumpkin centrepieces with branches and leaves from the back yard do NOT look “whimsical” (especially that time I accidentally picked leaves that the dog ‘favoured’)
Thanksgiving – one of my favourite times of the year.
It has just as much delicious food as Christmas but without all the ‘hoopla’.
Its full of colour and smells and spices that make everything taste like a cozy afternoon in front of the fire.
It can be daunting however cooking for a crowd and every year I pull out the recipe books and family cards for the tried and true dishes.
I’m also scouting around on the interweb for new dishes to serve my family (which I have learned the hard way… really should include a test run BEFORE the big day)
Here are a few of my favs that have never let me down.
First, the boss of the whole affair – the big Kahuna; the Grand Puba – the turkey!
There are likely as many different ways to prepare the bird as there are spices in your kitchen that you never use.
Some say breast up; others say breast down.
Some say cover the bird; others say let it breathe.
Some say stuff the bird the night before; Martha says NEVER!
Some use a cooking thermometer; others do the per-pound math.
I, personally, have found great success using one of those little red pop-up thingies that let you know when Mr. Bird is done.
For one 20 lbs turkey you will need:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted, plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 bottle dry white wine (another other for the cook)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
Giblet Stock – which you presumably make from that nasty bag you find in the bowels of the bird
Rinse turkey with cool water and dry with paper towels.
Despite what your grandmother told you… let it sit for 2 hours at room temperature.
Warm the butter and white wine together and soak a large piece of cheesecloth in it.
Place rack on lowest level in oven and pre-heat to 425.
Tuck the wing tips under the body of the bird, and place turkey breast-side-up in a roasting pan.
Season inside of bird with salt and pepper.
If you plan on stuffing the bird, this the time.
Insert stuffing just before the bird goes into the oven.
Don’t pack it too tightly or it won’t cook evenly and bacteria may grow.
Don’t forget to stuff both ends!
Pull the flap of skin at the neck down and use toothpicks to fasten it.
If you wish, tie the legs closed with kitchen string (cotton…NOT polyester)
A roasting rack will keep the turkey from sticking to the pan.
Rub the turkey with butter and season salt and pepper.
Cover the turkey’s breast and leg area with cheesecloth that has been soaking in the butter and wine.
Roast 30 minutes then brush cheesecloth and exposed turkey parts with butter mixture and reduce temp to 350.
Every 30 minutes, use a pastry brush to baste the cheesecloth and exposed areas of the turkey with the butter-and-wine mixture.
After the second hour of cooking, carefully remove and discard the cheesecloth and baste as normal with pan juices.
After another half hour of cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone.
When the temperature reaches 165 degrees, or your pop-up thingy has actually ‘popped’ the bird should be ready.
For a 20 pound bird that should take about 4.5 hours.
A photo posted by AD (@adwms) on
When I was a kid, the only stuffing my mom every made was sausage stuffing; a beige, gelatinous substance that came in a tube which I think you were supposed to add things to.
She never did and it was delicious.
There was never enough of it.
Now that I’m making my own turkey dinners, I like to use the best of both worlds and add the sausage meat to my bread-based classic stuffing recipe.
For most people, the stuffing is the best part; the reason we slave in the kitchen all day – for those few glorious spoonfuls.
I do not like adding oysters or dried fruit or chestnuts to my stuffing. (any family who loves sausage out of a tube don’t want anything fancy in their stuffing)
Serves 6 to 8
16- to 18-ounce loaf rustic white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes, about 10 cups
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus an additional 2 tablespoons melted
1 pound onions, diced
4 large stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage leaves
Leaves from 4 stalks thyme
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups turkey, chicken, or vegetable stock (I use the cubes here)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
You may want to make this recipe the day before and put in the fridge UNBAKED until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 225°F. Spread the bread cubes on a large baking sheet and bake for 90 minutes or until quite crisp, stirring every half hour.
Heat the butter in a heavy skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or the vegetables are very soft. Stir in the sage and thyme and cook for 2 more minutes, then turn off the heat.
Beat the eggs with the broth, salt, and a generous quantity of fresh black pepper. In a large bowl, fold together the toasted bread cubes with the cooked onions and celery, then stir in the egg-broth mixture.
(If you are adding sausage from a tube… this would be the point to throw that in too)
Spread in a lightly greased 3-quart baking dish and drizzle with the additional 2 tablespoons melted butter.
At this point the dressing can be covered with foil and refrigerated overnight or up to 24 hours.
Either stuff your bird with it or bake, covered for 25 to 35 minutes at 375.
Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes until top is lightly browned.
From my family to yours – Happy Thanksgiving!
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