Thanksgiving Turkey

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     Thanksgiving.  The ultimate feast excuse.  Fill your house with family and friends.  Cook and conjure while you remember cool autumn days filled with rolling in great piles of orange and yellow leaves. This is my favourite holiday.  It lacks the stress of Christmas so you can spend all your time enjoying the spirit of spoiling the snot out of everyone you can get your hands on.  Life just doesn't get any better than that.

     I tried for many years to make stuffing just like my Mom used to make.  It was deemed impossible.  Even when I sat and watched her, diligently writing everything she put into it down on a piece of paper, I couldn't come close to the wonderful flavour she was able to invoke.  It seems to be a very personal thing to every cook.  Eventually I realized this and developed my own "turkey style".  I guess some things you just have to do for yourself. This is my adaptation of the Thanksgiving Turkey.  Don't be afraid to serve this at Christmas too...it'll make the transition very nicely.

 ... Stuffing  ...  Gravy  ...  The Bird  ... Serving Suggestions ...


Stuffing:

1 loaf whole wheat bread – broken into very small pieces and left out for a day to dry slightly

In a large frying pan sauté the following:

1 lb. sausage meat – crumble fine as it cooks

3 large onions – chopped

2 stalks celery – chopped

2 carrots – chopped

1 heaping tsp. chopped garlic

Sauté until meat is cooked through and onions are transparent, remove from heat, drain off fat and in a very large bowl or right on the counter top...

Add:

6 dried apricots – chopped

4 large prunes – chopped

2 large apples – skinned and chopped or grated

¾ cup mixed nuts – crushed in large pieces

1 loaf whole wheat bread - slightly stale and broken into small pieces

Mix together and...

Gradually add seasonings;

2 tbsp. ginger

2 tbsp. poultry seasoning (or a mixture of lots of sage, a little rosemary, some cinnamon and a light dash of nutmeg)

1 tbsp. salt

1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Remember that this is a "to taste" seasoning.  Use your nose.  If it smells like thanksgiving at Mom's then it's perfect and it's time to "stuff" it into the stomach and neck cavities of the bird.

 ... Stuffing  ...  Gravy  ...  The Bird  ... Serving Suggestions ...


Gravy

When using the above stuffing, I find that the best gravy to use is not traditional gravy, but a lighter white wine sauce.   When the turkey is cooked, scoop as much fat as possible out of the pan drippings and add:

½ cup white wine

½ tsp. garlic

1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms

Stir constantly over high heat until all the drippings and wine are well mixed,

Add:

1 container sour cream

1/3 cup chopped chives or green onion

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or 1 tbsp. dried parsley

Stir constantly until smooth and hot.  Try not to let it boil.

Serve immediately and if you need to keep it hot for a while, be sure to keep the heat low or turn it off and warm it up just before serving.

 ... Stuffing  ...  Gravy  ...  The Bird  ... Serving Suggestions ...


Tips on Cooking The Bird

Don't blow your entire budget on a high bread bird – Yuppies can be tough too.  Buy a cheaper bird and treat it right.  They are trainable you know. 

1.  Make sure that the bird is fully thawed before you stuff it. Be careful to thaw it in the fridge (or in the garage if it's cool enough in your neck of the woods at this time of year) for about 24 hours.  If it's not fully thawed when it's time to cook it, run luke-warm water into the cavity for a while.  This will help to thaw it out quickly.  Never leave the bird out thaw at room temperature.  You will invite bacteria to invade both the meat ... and you're dinner guests.

2.  Lift the skin away from the meat on the breasts and pat a layer of fine ground liver pate between the skin and the meat.

3.  Using a syringe (you can get these at the drug store) inject the entire bird with melted butter.  (this is a good place to take out your frustrations at not being a doctor and the bird won't cry or yell at you)  An injection every 2 or three inches of about ¼ of the syringe full will do nicely.

4. Fill both the stomach and neck cavities with stuffing.  Sew up the openings with a large needle and thick grade thread to hold the stuffing in.

5.  Tie the bird.  Wrap strong waxed string around the leg area and the wing area (use a couple of layers) to hold them close to the body.  I like to tie a couple of thickness' of string crosswise along the top of the bird, between the leg and wing ties to form a "handle".  This handle will help you lift the turkey out of the roasting pan when the time comes.

6.  Rub the entire bird with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt and paprika.

7. Cook it slowly and cover it with a lid or foil "tent" for most of the cooking time.  Take the cover off for the last hour of cooking time to brown the skin.

8.  Baste it frequently with the "juice" from the bottom of the pan during the last ½ of the cooking time

9.  Cook 15 mins per pound at 350 or ½ hour per pound at 300

10. When it will shake a leg (when the drumstick feels loose) it is done.

11.  Never leave it in the oven to keep it warm.

12.  Let it sit out for 20 minute before carving.

  ... Stuffing  ...  Gravy  ...  The Bird  ... Serving Suggestions ...


Serve with:

Shrimp Salad or Orange Fennel Salad and chilled Asti Spumonte

and a selection of  any of the following with chilled white wine:

Baked sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts in orange butter, Minted peas, Festive spaghetti squash, Maple winter vegetables, Roasted brussels sprouts & squash, Mashed or roasted potatoes.

Follow it up with

Minted Chocolate (such as After Eights)

Apple Crisp or Cherry Cheese Cake, Harvest Pumpkin Cheesecake or Steamed plum pudding with Mom's Caramel Sauce

Coffee and/or Mint Tea

Brandy, Orange Brandy or  Grand Marnia, Ice wine or a Late harvest wine.

 

 ... Stuffing  ...  Gravy  ...  The Bird  ... Serving Suggestions ...