Thanksgiving brings on a mix of emotions for me. I’m excited to bring my family and friends together for what turns out to be a gorge fest; but at the same time I am fearful of whether I’ll be able to pull it off. Years ago, I taught a an adult ed. class in Weston, MA that focused on some very traditional Thanksgiving recipes, but more importantly, outlined a time-line for organizing ones self starting two weeks before Thanksgiving; complete with essential kitchen equipment needed, wines to serve and when to prepare each item. It was a huge hit so I decided to update it a bit and share it with all of you.
Plan of Attack:
1-2 weeks ahead
Order fresh turkey-1 1/2-2 lbs. per person
Organic Turkey Farms in MA:
Bob’s Turkey Farm - 181 Old Common Rd. , Lancaster, MA; 978- 365-9271; 978-368-1353; bobsturkeyfarm.com
Non-organic Turkey Farm in MA:
Owens Poultry Farm- 585 Central Ave., Needham, MA; 781-444-1861
Markets for organic turkeys:
Lionette’s Market - 577 Tremont St., Boston, MA; 617-778-0360; lionettesmarket.com
Whole Foods Markets in your area or other natural foods stores
Plan out table setting, serving pieces, and decorations
Make shopping lists
Purchase any necessary Kitchen Equipment like a sturdy stainless steel roasting pan with rack. Don’t use non-stick pan-need caramelized bits that stick to bottom of pan. Don’t use disposable pans- flimsy and dangerous.
Check your instant-read or traditional meat thermometer. If you place it in a pot of boiling water and it registers 212
degrees(water’s boiling point) you’re all set. If it doesn’t, buy a new thermometer!!!
2 days ahead
Complete shopping list:
Shop for staples, produce and other fresh ingredients
Make Cornbread Stuffing, Balsamic Glazed Onions, and Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Allspice Caramel.
Pick up bird
Make Cranberry-Pecan Relish, Candied Yams, and Giblet Stock
Chill Wines, Soda, Water
Organize coffee/tea service
Determine time turkey must be put in oven
Get good nights sleep
Wines to Serve:
Full Bodied Burgundy
Oregon Pinot Gris
Roasting pan with rack
pastry brush or bulb baster
instant read thermometer or traditional
black peppercorns and Kosher salt
Always buy a big turkey so you have lots of leftovers for relatives and yourself!!!
Please try to buy fresh, unfrozen turkeys. They are far superior to frozen.
When you get the turkey home, clean out the giblets and keep them for stock. Dry the bird inside and out with paper towels, cover it loosely, and put in the refrigerator. About two hours before cooking, take it out and let it come to room temperature.
Do not stuff the turkey ahead of time. Even if it is refrigerated, bacteria in the meat could react with the stuffing and create toxins. Wait until the oven is on before stuffing the turkey, so oven and bird are ready at the same time.
Don’t forget to baste the turkey every thirty minutes while you’re tending to other things.
Always roast turkey on the lowest rack in the oven; this will keep it away from the top, the hottest part of the oven. Once the breast skin is browned, loosely cover it with foil to prevent it from becoming too dark.
Keep an eye on the thermometer the last half hour of cooking since the turkey’s temp can rise rapidly toward the end.
Test for doneness in the thickest, meatiest parts of the turkey. The breast should be 165 degrees. The thigh, 180 degrees.
Corn Bread, Sausage and Apple Stuffing with Fresh Herbs
1 lb. italian sausage (out of casing)
4 T. unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
3 T. fresh sage, chopped
1 T. fresh thyme, chopped
3-4 cups College Inn chicken stock
2 Delicious apples, chopped 1/2” dice
5 cups day old cornbread
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté sausage in large frying pan over moderately high heat, breaking up lumps with a fork, until no longer pink. Transfer sausage with slotted spoon to a large bowl. Add butter to fat remaining in skillet and then add onions, celery, sage and thyme. Sauté for about 3 or 4 minutes. Add a cup of chicken stock at a time to veggies, continuing to cook for about 15 minutes. Dressing should be moist but not wet. Add the chopped apple and cook another 5 minutes.
Add this mixture to the sausage and crumbled corn bread in the bowl and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper. Cool Completely. Refrigerate.
Can be made up to two days ahead
Cranberry Pecan Relish
1 T. Butter
1 cup pecan pieces
1/4 c. cassis or cranberry juice
1 12 oz. package cranberries
1/2 c. sugar or to taste
Melt butter in pan. Add pecans and toss until lightly toasted. Remove to a bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Put aside and cover when cooled.
Return pan to heat. Add berries and cassis and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. When berries start to pop, cook for another few minutes. Add sugar to taste. Chill.
Can be made up to two days ahead. Mix pecans and berry mixture together when ready to serve. Pecans would become to mushy if you mixed them ahead of time.
Maple Candied Yams (Easy!!! Make 1-2 days ahead)
1/2 cup Maple syrup
2 T. butter
1/4 c. cider
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 long Yams boiled for 15 minutes, peeled, and sliced in half.
Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in small pan, stirring constantly.Place yams in a Pyrex baking dish (13 x 9x 2). Pour mixture over pre-cooked yams. (Can be made up to this point two days ahead and refrigerated until 1 hour before dinner is served) Preheat oven
to 325 degrees and bake for 1 hour.
Yams are indigenous to S. America, the West Indies, and parts of Asia and Africa. They are not related to the more common sweet potato that we know of.
Sautéed Kale with Cracklings and Garlic Bread Crumbs
3 slices bacon, pancetta, or uncooked duck fat
1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/8 t. salt
1 large bunch kale, rinsed and stems and tough ribs discarded
Chop bacon into small pieces. In a large heavy skillet cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp and transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Pour half of fat out of skillet into a pyrex bowl or measuring cup and reserve.
In fat remaining in skillet cook bread crumbs and garlic with salt, stirring occasionally, until golden and transfer to paper towels.
Wipe skillet clean and heat reserved fat and 1 T. olive oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Sauté kale with salt to taste, turning with tongs to coat, until kale just wilts, about 2 minutes, and toss with bacon and bread crumb mixture. Serve immediately.
Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onions
2 1/2 lbs. pearl onions
2 T. olive oil
1 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. water
In a saucepan of boiling water blanch one third of onions 3 minutes and drain. Blanch remaining onions in batches in same manner. Cool onions and peel.
In a large heavy skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté onions in olive oil until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar and water and simmer, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer onions with a slotted spoon to a platter, reserving liquid.
Glazed onions may be prepared up to this point 2 days ahead and onions and reserved liquid chilled separately, covered. Reheat onions in reserved liquid, adding a little water if necessary, and transfer with slotted spoon to platter. Simmer reserved liquid until thickened and syrupy and reduced to about 1/2 cup.
Spoon sauce over onions and serve warm.
Roast Turkey (serves eight)
1 12 lb. fresh Turkey-prepped as on previous page-giblets removed, etc.
Kosher salt, Fresh ground pepper
Lots of melted butter- two sticks
2 finely chopped carrots
2 finely chopped celery ribs
1 finely chopped medium onion
2 T. olive oil or other veggie oil
1 cup Tawny Port or a decent Red Wine for Gravy
Bring turkey to room temp for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place rack on lowest level in oven. Season inside of cavity with salt. Pack neck cavity loosely with some stuffing. Fold neck skin under body and fasten with a skewer. Fill body cavity loosely with some remaining stuffing and truss turkey. Transfer remaining stuffing to a buttered 3-quart baking dish and reserve it, covered and chilled. Tuck the wing tips under the body. Pull the legs together loosely and tie them with kitchen string-a bow will be easier to untie later. Rub the turkey with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place cut-up veggies in bottom of roasting pan and mix with a little oil. Put rack on top of veggies and procede to place turkey, breast side up, on the rack. Place turkey in oven for 40 minutes or until the bird is browned all over. Loosely cover with foil if it is browning too quickly. Turn oven down to 325 and baste generously. Continue basting every 20-30 minutes, the more the better. Roast for a total of 3-3 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted in fleshy part of a thigh registers 180 degrees and juices run clear when thigh is pierced.
During last 1 1/2 hours of roasting, drizzle reserved stuffing with stock and bake, covered, in 325 oven 1 hour. Bake uncovered for another 30 minutes.
Transfer turkey to a platter and cover with foil. Let rest for half hour while making the gravy.
Place roasting pan on two stove burners. Pour off any excess fat. If the veggies haven’t caramelized yet, cook down the juices that are in the pan till they are evaporated and the veggies start to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the flour in slowly, until it is all incorporated. Push veggies toward one end of pan and turn burners on medium. Pour the cup of port into the pan and with a wooden spoon scrape up the bits of caramelized veggies. You can now add the strained giblet stock and return to a boil. Simmer 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Strain and serve.
Turkey Giblet Stock
neck and giblets (excluding liver)
5 cups chicken broth
5 cups water
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion quartered
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. dried thyme, crumbled
1 t. whole black peppercorns
In a large saucepan combine neck, giblets, broth, water, celery, carrot, and onion and bring to a boil, skimmimg froth. Add remaining ingredients and cook at a bare simmer 2 hours, or until liquid is reduced to five cups. Strain stock through a fine sieve into a bowl. Stock may be made up to two days ahead. Cool stock completely, uncovered, and keep chilled or frozen in an airtight container.
Pumpkin Bread Pudding
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 t. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
2 cups stale corn bread, crumbled
2 cups raisins
9×13 baking pan
large roasting pan
Preheat oven to 350
Combine custard ingredients in bowl. Place cornbread and raisins in baking pan and pour custard over them. Let stand for 15 minutes, cover with aluminum foil and place in larger roasting pan and place in oven. Pour water in roasting pan until 2/3 up side of baking pan, creating a water bath.
While baking rotate every 1/2 hour. After 1-1 1/2 hours it should start to get firm. At this point, remove foil and continue to cook until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and cool in water bath.
This can be made 1-2 days ahead of time. You can serve it cold or room temp with the following Allspice Caramel which can also be made the day before and heated in a water bath or microwave.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 t. cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a heavy sauté pan and boil until it is as thick as maple syrup.
Timing of last hour before dinner is served:
-1 hour before: Bake yams and remaining Stuffing
-Last half hour while turkey rests: Make port gravy, Kale, and reheat onions. Mix cranberry mixture with pecans
Ideas for Hors D’œuvres
Jumbo Shrimp marinated in olive oil, pepper, garlic and lemon juice, then flash grilled
Oysters on the Half Shell with traditional sauce or a mignonette of minced carrot, shallot, fresh ground pepper, minced parsley, and a Champagne vinegar.