Thanksgiving 2011

When celebrating Thanksgiving away from home and without all of your family, you have one of two options to choose from: a) You can sit around, slurping up ramen noodles (is that broth salty from the chicken bouillon or your tears?), sulking because you have no one to share the holiday with or b) You can cook a full out turkey dinner for all of your fellow students who did not go home either. Needless to say, I chose option b). Actually “chose” is too mild of a verb…I tackled option b) like a 300 pound defensive lineman sacking a quarterback!
It all began early this morning, while everyone else was still in bed, hoping that the sleep would prolong their inevidable hangovers. But not me, nope, I was up at the crack of dawn and off to the market! I even texted a few of the guys, out of courtesy, to see if they wanted to join me. Judging by the fact that the first response came more than 2 hours later, I guess the answer was no. But they can’t complain that I didn’t ask!

You could definitely tell that it’s Thanksgiving weekend because the market was packed! After hunting down a turkey (not literally, it was already dead, plucked and cleaned!) and picking up some veg for the side dishes, it was time to start cooking.
I had some 7-UP hanging out in my fridge so I decided to use it in the cranberry sauce, instead of water and sugar. Don’t laugh at me! The lemon/lime flavor with the cranberries totally worked! I also made a mixed bean salad with dijon and apple cider vinegar dressing. Then I was ready for a break…lunch time! Although it was just leftovers, my stomach really appreciated the fuel after all of my running around. Did you know that chocolate souffle actually tastes better the second day? It becomes dense and fudgey, soaking up the sweet custard sauce like a sponge (don’t worry, the recipe will be coming later on in the week).
I couldn’t deviate from the schedule too much, so I packed up and headed off to our actual dinner venu to get the turkey lurkey in the oven. We decided it would be better to do the meal at someone’s house, rather than stuffing 6 people into my tiny, one-bedroom dorm. That would have been interesting, especially considering I only have 3 chairs!
Anyways, for the turkey. So, so simple. I rinsed it off and stuffed it with dry, cubed bread (it was ciabatta but your choices are endless) mixed with chicken stock, onion, celery and fresh herbs. Instead of using a roasting rack, I made a make shift one with a bed of carrots, onion, celery, garlic, rosemary and thyme, all tossed together with salt, pepper and olive oil (and placed in the bottom of the roaster). I also seasoned the turkey with salt and pepper. No butter or olive oil massage, simple S&P did the trick.

Now here is the key to acheiving ultra-crisp skin. Preheat your oven to 500 F, or as hot as it will go. Then when you put the turkey in, turn it down to between 325-350 (it really depends on your oven). This extra heat leads to the most picturesque, golden brown turkey you have ever seen! Honestly, it deserves to be on the cover of a magazine. Obviously cooking time depends on the size. My bird was 10-12 pounds (and stuffed) and it only took 2.5 hours. Personally, I think basting is overrated. The only reason that it will dry out is if you leave it in the oven too long, it’s not rocket science. Over-cooking = dry turkey.
I covered the wing tips to prevent them from burning
Once it was finished, I took it out of the roaster, covered it with tin foil and let the birdie rest. If you slice into it right away, all of the juices will run everywhere, then you are guaranteed to have a dry turkey.
Gravy time! My mother may not like to cook, but if there is one thing she taught me, it’s how to make a killer gravy! You have to scrape all of the wonderful caramelized bits off of the bottom of the pan, the darker the gravy is, the better. I deglazed with a combo of wine and chicken stock, then allowed everything to reduce down. I strained it so no one got a mouthful of rosemary stems, skimmed the fat/oil off the top and returned the liquid to the stovetop in a clean saucepan. To thicken, I was always taught to use a slurry of cornstarch and water (so I stuck to tradition). And the number one, biggest, most important factor of all…SALT!!! I am not telling you to go and dump the entire container in, but you need to be liberal. Nothing is worse than bland gravy. Come on, make that turkey proud (and in my case, make my mother proud too)!
Serve everything up with a big bowl of mashed turnip, an assortment of pickled vegetables, baked wild rice (all the way from Ontario!) and great company, you will be glad you opted out of choice a) (being all alone, just you and your ramen noodles).
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I have so many things to be thankful for but family, friends and food definitely top the list! Enjoy the holiday, regardless of what you choose to cook or how you choose to cook it. For those of you who have never attempted turkey dinner before, hopefully this provides some insight to use as a starting point. Don’t be intimidated, because no matter how the food turns out, as long as you have people to share the experience with, it will be amazing anyway you slice it!
And that reminds me, I never explained my preferred method of carving a turkey. Rather than shaving off slices, I remove each breast, then slice them right on the cutting board. For the dark meat, I use both my knife and hands. The legs twist right off and depending on their size, you can leave them whole or peel the meet right off. Same goes with the thighs. At the end of the day though, no particular way is right or wrong. After doing it a few times, you get to know which way works best for you, so stick with it!
Making some delicious wild rice!

The spread

Keeping the boys in line!!!

Again, Happy Thanksgiving! I think that’s enough information for anyone’s brain to absorb from a single post!!! Cheers!!!

One thought on “Thanksgiving 2011

  • October 11, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Looks like a fantastic feast (and you’re so right- there’s nothing worse than bland gravy)


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