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Thank You Lord for Turkey Dinners

November 23, 2010

The first time I ever cooked a turkey mostly by myself was when I was just out of college, in my own apartment, and it was for only my mom and grandparents. My mom came over early in the morning probably and guided me through the whole Thanksgiving dinner cooking process… and I’ve been a pro ever since! No, seriously though, I’ve cooked a handful of Thanksgiving dinners in the last several years, and I’ve found some tried and true recipes and tricks that make Thursday much easier.

Our menu this year –
Turkey, brined in Out of This World Turkey Brine, seasoned with Herb Roasted Turkey Rub, and cooked in a Reynold’s Oven Bag.
I think you pretty much can’t go wrong with brining and those Oven Bags! And brining doesn’t have to be a pain… no 5 gallon bucket in the fridge necessary. I stick my turkey (a 17.5 lb. this year) in one of the oven bags and make just enough brine to fill the bag. As long as your turkey is submerged, you’re good. Have a friend help, poor the brine in the bag, cinch it up and get most the air out, and tie it closed. Then just place it in the roasting pan in the fridge with the tie side sort of up overnight. I’ve done this 3 years in a row now and never had leakage problems. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place with a perfect 40 degree weather, well just stick it out on the porch! We’re looking at 30 degrees and below temps here in Colorado Springs on Wed. and Thur. so I will not be trying to re-freeze my turkey.
And “they” say that if you brine, you can’t really over cook your turkey. So after one year when I under cooked my turkey, I’ve gotten into the habit of “overcooking” it for 30 minutes just to be sure, but my turkey has always come out moist and delicious. … I guess I should mention that I also remove it from the Oven Bag for the last 45 minutes or so, so that it can get the nice browned skin.

Sweet Stuffing
The stuffing I make is a take on this recipe.  Basically what I do is I use half raisin bread, half Mrs. Cubbinson’s Cube Stuffing mix.  I use the seasonings and brown sugar of that recipe, the orange juice and broth, add celery and onions, and the liquid and veggie ratios on the Mrs. Cubbinson’s box.  Sometimes I throw in some dried cranberries for good measure.
This is another thing I prep the day before.  I cube the raisin bread and toast it.  Then I toss in the seasonings and wrap it up.  I chop the celery.  I’ve learned not to pre-chop the onion because I’m not sure there is any container you could put chopped onion in that would either not smell itself, or that wouldn’t stink up the fridge.

Winter Fruit Salad with Brianna’s Rich Poppy Seed Dressing
I just had this salad at a baby shower a couple weeks ago… Yum! And I love Brianna’s creamy poppy seed dressing. Seriously, save yourself some trouble where you can – use the bottled dressing.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Ok, for years I heard a bunch of griping about getting the gravy ready at the last minute, and it not having clumps of flour in it. The cure-all is a good turkey stock made the day before. When I make the turkey stock it’s a very “fly by the seat of your pants” process. Grab some turkey wings and parts, and roast them till they are dark golden brown. I fill a 6 qt. pot with water, throw in the roasted turkey parts, some celery, onion, carrots, and whatever, plus some sage, rosemary, and thyme and let it simmer pretty much all day. Add salt to taste. Then store it in the fridge over night. If you’ve done it right, it should be like jelly in the morning – I don’t know what that’s about, but my brother-in-law who went to culinary school for a while tells me so.
Literally minutes before you are ready to eat, melt maybe 1/4 cup of butter in a pan, stir in an equal amount of flour. Cook that for a few seconds then gradually start adding your turkey stock, whisking as you go. And of course add in the drippings from the turkey. In minutes you have a LOT of awesome gravy.
The potatoes… well, those just require a lot of milk… dare I say cream?!… and butter and salt and pepper.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Usually I use the red skinned yams and do one of those mashed sweet potato casseroles with a brown sugar and pecan crumb topping. This year I decided to change it up, so I’m going with this recipe, which I have not tried. But I don’t think anyone will cry if the sweet potatoes don’t turn out… thus, the experimental dish.  It looks good and sophisticated though, no?

Green Bean Casserole
My family pretty much won’t let a Thanksgiving go by without French’s Green Bean casserole with canned green beans! Don’t get me wrong, I love my canned green beans over fresh (sorry!), but it’s crazy how violent they could get at the suggestion of not including this dish.

Cranberry Grape Compote
Thank you Martha Stewart for a cranberry sauce recipe that uses real cranberries, but doesn’t make your face twist in wretched ways when you eat it. I LOVE this stuff. The grapes tame and sweeten the cranberries… it’s just yum. I half the recipe because it does make a lot and not everyone is as big of a cranberry sauce fan as I am. And yes, if it’s from a can, it has to be whole berry style!

Something from this book because I’ve never had anything bad from it.  And again, super easy because I can make it a day or a few days ahead and I don’t even have to knead it.

Pumpkin Pie
I’ve tried a few pumpkin pie recipes and I decided I like the Eagle Brand recipe the best, both for texture and flavor. Plus, I love that the filling doesn’t slosh all over because of the thickness of the sweetened condensed milk. It’s a super easy and fast recipe with great results.
I think it was just this year that I FINALLY mastered pie crust. Nevermind that I bought myself a food processor years ago with the intention of making my own pie crust because Martha Stewart said it was so easy that way! Well, fine, she was right! But I didn’t care for her crust. I love my Crisco, and I love the Crisco pie crust recipe.

Turtle Pumpkin Pie
Oh my goodness. If you have no tried this pie you are missing out! First of all, it’s no bake. How easy is that? Second, it’s caramel-y and rich. Enough said.

I think that about does it.  I’m looking forward to hanging out with the in-laws, playing some board games, and stuffing myself till I’m sick!  Happy Thanksgiving.

One Comment leave one →
  1. LizAndrsn permalink
    November 23, 2010 4:55 pm

    AMEN to all of the above! My one suggestion is that some folks haunt the Thrift Store to purchase an old Gatorade drink cooler (you know the ones they dump over Coach’s heads in victory?) for dedicated brining. That way you just assemble the liquid, plop in the turkey and a bunch of ice (SONIC sells theirs!) and let it sit anywhere to do its’ magic. No more cramped ‘fridge!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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