Is It Too Late To Talk About Thanksgiving?

It might be late, but who needs a holiday for turkey, stuffing, and pie?

The Turkey

If you remember last year, I de-boned a whole turkey to make a turkey roll, after practicing with a couple of chickens. It was a good skill to learn and have in my apron pocket, but I decided to go with something even easier this year—the spatchcocked turkey. You might recall when I spatchcocked a chicken to cook on the grill. Well, it’s the same simple process with a turkey—cut out the backbone with kitchen/poultry shears and press the whole thing flat, so it all cooks at the same time without overcooking the breast.

It did mean that I needed to buy some more kitchen equipment, which I’m always glad to do. I bought the extra large 15″ x 21″ x 1″ baking sheet (from Nordic Ware®) and a 14″ x 20″ stainless steel rack that fits exactly into it. Even though I’m only cooking a small 12 lb. turkey this time, the sheet will be big enough for larger ones in the future. The rack sits up enough to allow room for carrots, celery, and onion beneath the bird to flavor the juices that drip down, although I skipped that because I made the stock for gravy on the day I started the brining process with the backbone and giblets. I also picked up the extra long heavy duty aluminum foil to line the pan, because, why make a hot mess on its first voyage?

Here are the instructions for dry brining, and here are the instructions for the roasting day, both from Serious Eats. This might be my favorite new way to cook a turkey. It cooks in just a little over an hour at 450° and everything comes out juicy, including the breasts without the usual drying out to get the thighs done. Cutting up the turkey for serving is very easy—I’m long over the need to present a whole stuffed bird and try to carve it at the table; I’d much rather present the serving platter.

After dinner, I made turkey stock in the slow cooker with the carcass and drumsticks (we don’t really care for those), letting it cook on low overnight. You can let the slow cooker go for as long as 24 hours when making stock. The next morning I packaged the rich stock in quart containers for the freezer.

The Dressing

I almost called it stuffing, which would be technically incorrect. You can’t really stuff a flattened bird. 🙄

For me, the dressing is the most important dish on the Thanksgiving table, then gravy, then pie, then bird, then potatoes, in that order. I picked up 2 half-pound bâtards (short baguettes) last week and put them in the freezer. I’m making a simple dressing with roughly-torn croutons, onion, celery,  sage, and parsley, lots of butter and stock, like this one from Epicurious, but without the other herbs. This dressing recipe includes beaten eggs, which makes the stuffing kind of a savory bread pudding—I recommend it. We ate every bit over a couple of days. I might have nibbled into one corner before dinner, as you can see in the pic.

The Pie

It’s been a long time since I didn’t make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but with my husband’s lactose intolerance, the custard and whipped cream just seemed like more than I wanted to deal with in terms of substitution, so apple it is. I’ll be making that on Wednesday and trying out the concept of macerating the apples beforehand and then cooking the resulting juices into a syrup. The process is described here, another recipe from Epicurious. The juices from the apples cook up into a very nice syrup with a strong apple juice flavor, and the pie filling is not overcooked, as sometimes happen when you cook the filling in advance, apples and all. I did follow the linked recipe pretty closely, but I did not want to fool around with our expectations by adding Chinese five spice powder—I just used cinnamon.

 

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Author: Barbara

I have a PhD in American Literature and taught in higher education for over twenty years and directed two Centers for Instructional Technology before retiring.

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