Hosting the Thanksgiving feast? Take some advice and don't attempt it by yourself. Ask a relative or friend to bring a dish. And then impress your guests with hollandaise sauce or gravy made from scratch. We're here to help with recipes that are sure to liven up the mashed potatoes and the steamed broccoli.
Fresh or frozen turkey?
Selecting a fresh or frozen turkey is your choice. Fresh turkeys need no thawing and are ready to cook. Frozen turkeys require several days to thaw before roasting.
How to roast a turkey
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The open pan-roasting method will consistently create a juicy, tender, golden brown turkey.
■ Place thawed or fresh turkey, breast up, on a flat rack in a shallow pan, 2 to 21/2 inches deep.
■ Brush or rub skin with oil to prevent the skin from drying and to enhance the golden color.
■ Insert oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh muscle, but not touching the bone. Place in a preheated 325-degree oven. If turkey is stuffed, make sure to follow stuffing tips. When thigh reaches proper temperature, move thermometer to center of stuffing to check stuffing temperature.
■ When the turkey is about two-thirds done, loosely cover the breast and top of drumsticks with a piece of lightweight foil to prevent overcooking the breast.
Turkey size and thawing time in refrigerator
8-12 pounds, 1-2 days
12-16 pounds, 2-3 days
16-20 pounds, 3-4 days
20-24 pounds, 4-5 days
Thawing times: cold-water method
If you need to thaw your turkey more quickly, you can thaw the bird in cold water, in the original wrapping. The cold water must be changed every 30 minutes. Allow about 30 minutes a pound using this method.
8-12 pounds, 4-6 hours
12-16 pounds, 6-8 hours
16-20 pounds, 8-10 hours
20-24 pounds, 10-12 hours
You will need to tailor the timing of this guide to suit the size of your turkey.
Weight Unstuffed Stuffed
(pounds) (hours) (hours)
8-12 23/4-3 3-31/2
20-24 41/2-5 43/4-51/4
Cook stuffing until the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees. The turkey is done when the meat thermometer reaches the following temperatures:
■ 180 degrees deep in the thigh; also, juices should be clear, not reddish-pink when thigh muscle is pierced deeply.
■ 160 degrees in the center of the stuffing, if turkey is stuffed. When the stuffed turkey is done, remove turkey from oven and let stand 15 minutes.
This stand time allows the stuffing temperature to reach 165 degrees for an added measure of safety.
How to carve a turkey
■ Before you begin carving, remove the metal clamp that holds the legs in place while roasting. Remove legs from clamp, and pull clamp from meat. To get the most white meat from your turkey, first remove the drumstick and thigh by pulling the leg away from the body.
■ Pull the leg away from the body, including the thigh. Cut dark meat completely from the body by following its contour carefully with a knife. The joint connecting the leg to the backbone will often snap or might be severed easily with a knife point.
■ Place drumstick and thigh on cutting surface and cut through connecting joint. To slice drumstick, hold firmly on cutting surface with fork. Cut slices evenly and parallel to the bone.
■ Cut the thigh meat the same way. Hold firmly on cutting surface with fork. Cut slices evenly and parallel to the bone.
Carving the breast
First, make the base cut at the bottom of the breast.
■ Place the knife parallel and as close to the wing as possible.
■ Make a deep cut into the breast, cutting to the bone. This is your base cut. All breast slices will stop at this horizontal cut.
After making the base cut, slice the breast by carving downward, ending at the base cut. Keep slices thin and even. Always remember to work on a clean cutting surface. Repeat process on other side of breast.
■ Thaw frozen turkey in the refrigerator or cold water.
■ Keep thawed or fresh turkey in the refrigerator.
■ Prevent uncooked juices from dripping onto other foods in the refrigerator by placing packaged turkey on a tray.
■ Thawed turkey can be kept in the refrigerator as long as four days before cooking.
■ Roast fresh turkey as soon as possible, no later than the "use by" date on the package.
■ Place raw poultry on non-porous surfaces; these are easy to clean. Two cutting boards are recommended, one strictly to cut raw meats and the other for cooked and ready-to-eat foods.
■ Use paper towels, not cloth, to wipe off the turkey and clean up juices.
■ Combine stuffing ingredients and stuff the turkey just before roasting, not the night before.
■ Wash hands, work surfaces and utensils touched by raw poultry and its juices with hot, soapy water.
■ Use a food thermometer to determine turkey's doneness.
■ Use cooking methods that allow the turkey to reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees in less than four hours and a final temperature of 180 degrees in the thigh. Stuffing should reach 160 degrees. Avoid using low roasting temperatures or partial-cooking methods.
■ If you don't have a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the stuffing in the turkey, the stuffing should be cooked separately from the turkey.
■ Store turkey, stuffing, gravy, broth and other leftover cooked foods in separate containers in the refrigerator within two hours after cooking.
Sources: Butterball Turkey and Honeysuckle White Turkey
JUST TAKE IT ONE DAY AT A TIME
■ Start defrosting frozen turkey in the coldest part of the refrigerator on a baking sheet with a rim.
■ Make a grocery list and buy all non-perishables.
■ Make the dough for pie crusts, and freeze it.
■ Prepare the serving pieces, plates, flatware, glasses.
■ Iron tablecloth and napkins.
■ Homemade stuffing calls for stale bread. Cube the bread, and set the cubes out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
■ Pick up the fresh turkey and buy perishables.
■ Prepare the stuffing, but leave out raw eggs until just before you stuff the bird. Refrigerate overnight.
■ Make giblet stock for the gravy.
■ Defrost pie dough; assemble and bake pies.
■ Peel the potatoes; refrigerate in a pot of cold water.
■ Make side dishes that require baking, such as casseroles, and reheat them on Thanksgiving; or assemble them today and cook them right before dinner.
■ Set the table the night before or first thing in the morning.
This timetable assumes an 18- to 20-pound turkey and a dinnertime of 4:30 to 5 p.m. Adjust the schedule to your liking.
9:30 a.m.: Remove the turkey from the refrigerator; allow it to sit for 90 minutes to 2 hours at room temperature. If your stuffing recipe calls for eggs, add them now.
11:15 a.m.: Preheat the oven, and stuff the turkey.
11:30 a.m.: Put the turkey in the oven, basting it every half hour.
1 p.m.: Make mashed potatoes. Closer to dinnertime, place them in a heat-proof bowl and set them at the back of the stove over simmering water.
3 p.m.: Prepare the coffee, but do not brew it until 20 minutes before it will be served.
4 p.m.: Check the temperature of the turkey at the thigh, which is the thickest part. If the thermometer reads 180 degrees, remove the turkey from the oven. If not, check the temperature every 15 minutes until the bird is done.
4:15 p.m.: Let the turkey sit for 30 minutes before carving. Take advantage of the break and make the gravy. Heat side dishes.
4:30 to 5 p.m.: Let the feast begin.
ADAPTED FROM MARTHA STEWART LIVING
Steamed broccoli with hollandaise sauce is a terrific side dish to serve with the turkey. But the classic French sauce can be problematic. The egg can easily overcook and curdle, and the butter can separate in pools.
According to Cook's Illustrated, a foolproof method to keep hollandaise warm is to hold it in a Thermos. First, preheat the Thermos for 30 seconds with hot water, taking care to dry it thoroughly. Second, use a small Thermos that will be filled completely by sauce. In the Cook's Illustrated test kitchen, hollandaise remained in good condition for 21/2 hours in a small Thermos, cooling by only 3 degrees an hour.
When a hollandaise is heated or mixed improperly, the sauce "breaks" and the butter comes out of the emulsion. It can be fixed by processing it in a food processor or blender. Stirring in a bit of ice is an easier method. Add a couple of tablespoons of ice water (with ice) to the mixture and whisk it briskly. The sauce will soon regain proper consistency.
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Pinch cayenne powder
Vigorously whisk egg yolks with lemon juice in a stainless steel bowl until mixture is thickened and doubled in volume. Place bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler). Continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let eggs get too hot, or they will scramble. Slowly drizzle in melted butter and continue to whisk until sauce is thickened and doubled in volume. Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt. Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use. Makes 1 cup.
Source: Food Network
Gravy is composed of fat, flour and liquid. The fat can come from the cooking pan or an outside source, such as butter. The liquid can be composed of stock, pan juices, milk, coffee (red-eye gravy), wine or water. Some cooks work the flour and fat together into a paste, then add this mixture to simmering liquid. Alternatively, the flour is cooked in the fat until golden, or until mahogany brown; this depends on the cook's preference.
It's the proportion that doesn't vary: one tablespoon fat to one tablespoon flour to one cup liquid. To make a traditional giblet gravy, first make stock from the liver, neck, heart and gizzard. Roast a few turkey parts to produce pan drippings, which form the base for a rich roux. On Thanksgiving Day, the drippings can be used to sauté mushrooms or shallots.
Giblet pan gravy
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Reserved turkey giblets, neck and tail piece
1 onion, unpeeled and chopped
6 cups turkey stock or chicken stock
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 parsley stems
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add giblets, neck and tail, and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook about 20 minutes. Add stock and herbs; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes longer, skimming any scum that might rise to the surface.
Strain broth (you should have about 5 cups), reserving heart and gizzard, and discarding neck. When cool, remove gristle from gizzard, then dice heart and reserved gizzard. Refrigerate giblets and broth until ready to use.
While turkey is roasting, bring reserved turkey broth to simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat butter in large heavy- bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat; when foam subsides, vigorously whisk in flour to make a roux. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, 10 to 15 minutes. Vigorously whisk all but 1 cup hot broth into roux. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and flavorful, about 30 minutes longer. Set aside until turkey is done.
Spoon out and discard as much fat as possible from roasting pan, leaving behind caramelized herbs and vegetables. Place roasting pan over two burners at medium-high heat (if drippings are not dark brown, cook, stirring constantly, until they caramelize). Return gravy in saucepan to simmer over medium heat. Add wine to roasting pan and scrape up browned bits clinging to pan bottom; boil until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup broth to roasting pan, then strain mixture into gravy, pressing on solids in strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in giblets; return to simmer. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper; serve with turkey.
Source: Cook's Illustrated