Thanksgiving: Turkey!

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As you know, I love this holiday. I love this holiday so much that I celebrated it three times this year. Once at my sister’s friend’s potluck, then again at a pot luck with my graduate school program, and then a third time with my wonderful family in New Jersey. I was really excited because I prepared the turkey for my graduate school potluck, an experience I had yet to do on my own. I found a fabulous local, happy Maryland turkey and picked up all 18 pounds of him on Sunday morning.

I spent a lot of time debated how I would prepare this turkey, looking through food magazines, cookbooks, and websites. In the end, I asked my mom to send me the recipe she uses and I don’t think I will ever stray from it. We also used this recipe to prepare our family’s Thanksgiving meal. It is perfect.

Notes about turkey timing: Directly upon removal from the refrigerator, place the bird in a preheated 450 degree oven. Reduce the heat immediately to 350 or to 325 for large turkeys. After the first half hour of cooking baste frequently with pan drippings. Cook to an internal temperature of 180 or 185. The center of the stuffing should reach at least 165. If not using a thermometer, allow 20 to 25 minutes per pound for birds up to 6 lbs. For larger birds, allow 15 to 20 minutes per lb. For turkeys over 16 lbs, allow 13 to 15 minutes per pound. Add about 5 minutes to the pound if the bird you are cooking is stuffed (we stuff our birds). For our 18 pound bird, we cooked it 5 hours.

Thanksgiving Turkey (with gravy and stuffing) (from my mom adapted from The Joy of Cooking and the Silver Palate)

What You Need

-2 T of vegetable oil
-3 cups of chopped celery with leaves
-2 cups chopped onions
– 2 tart apples cut into 1/2 inch cubes (pealed)
– 1 cup walnuts, chopped
– 1 cup of raisins
– 6 cups stall bread cubes (we use Pepperidge Farm seasoned cubes that come in bag)
– 1 t salt
– 1 t of dried thyme leaves
– 1 t of crumbled dried sage leaves
– group black pepper to taste
– 1 cup tawny port
– 1 cup of chicken stock

Turkey (and gravy)
– A turkey (between 18 – 20 lbs. for this recipe)
– 3 ribs of celery, halved crosswise
– 1 onion quartered
– 1 large carrot, pealed and quartered
– 3 1/2 cups of water
– 8 T of unsalted butter, melted
– 3/4 cup tawny port
– 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
– salt and pepper to taste

What You Do

1. First begin by preparing the stuffing.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the celery and onions over low heat until softened but not browned, 10 minutes.
3. Transfer the vegetables to a large mixing bowl.
4. Stir the apples, walnuts, and raisins into the mixture.
5. Add the bread cubes and toss lightly.
6. Sprinkle with salt, thyme, sage and pepper. Toss lightly again.
7. Add the port and sock, toss again until well blended.
8. Preheat oven to 450.
9. Rinse the turkey well and pat it dry. Rinse the inside of the turkey with the juice of an orange.
10. Stuff the cavity loosely with about 7 cups of stuffing. Skewer or sew the opening shut.
11. Stuff the neck area with about 3 cups of stuffing. Secure the neck skin flap under the turkey.(Put any remain stuffing in an ovenproof casserole and set it aside.)
12. Arrange a bed of the celery, onion and carrot pieces in a large roasting pan.
13. Gently place the turkey on the vegetables.
14. Pour 3 cups water into the pan.
15. Cover the breast with cheese clothe soaked in melted butter. (You will remove the cheese clothe at the last hour or most likely 1/2 hour of cooking.)
16. Roast the turkey for 4 hours brushing it well with melted butter once an hour.
17. After it has cooked for 4 hours, pour or brush 1/4 cup of the port over the turkey. Bake 15 minutes.
18. Repeat basting with port and baking three more times, until the turkey has cooked a total of 5 hours. (Note: If you have reserved some extra stuffing in a casserole, stir in a bit of the pan juices and put it in the oven during the last hour, loosely covered. Bake for 45 minutes.)
19. Transfer turkey to a platter, cover it loosely with foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
20. While the turkey is resting, strain the pan juices into a saucepan and heat to a simmer.
21. Stir the flour and remaining 1/2 cup of water together in a small brown until smooth.
22. Whisk this into the pan juices and heat to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes.
23. Season with salt and pepper.

This is the most fun and leaves your house smelling delicious. After carving the turkey, you can use the bones to make a wonderful turkey stock by simmering the bones with some onions and carrots in water for 3-5 hours.

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