Thanksgiving Essentials: Turkey, Stuffing, and Gravy
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
I hope you all have found something to be thankful for this year… As for us, we’ve been very fortunate in 2015. I got to travel to Europe, we celebrated my in-laws’ 35th Wedding Anniversary on a cruise ship, and we’re about to wrap up our fifth year of marriage! It’s been a very fulfilling year…
This Thanksgiving, we are hosting my family for the first time! I’m in charge of the Turkey, Stuffing, and Gravy – three Thanksgiving Essentials! This time, I’m going to follow my dad’s recipe almost to a ‘T’ to ensure everything turns out wonderful! [A couple of years ago, we hosted my in-laws and the turkey was raw…talk about embarrassing!!! I won’t let that happen again…]
So, here’s my family’s tried and true Thanksgiving Essentials recipes:
We stuff the bird. I know, not many people do that anymore but, let me tell you, it’s worth it! The taste is far better than dressing prepared in a pan…
The night before you cook the bird, remove the crust from an entire loaf of plain white sandwich bread and cut it into large cubes (cut each slice of bread into 9 pieces). Put the bread into a large bowl and cover with a paper towel. Let sit overnight. The purpose of this is to dry out the bread before you season in.
The day you are planning on cooking the bird, sauté approximately 1 cup of diced onion and 2 cups of diced celery in a stick of butter until softened.
Pour the butter and vegetables over the dried bread cubes and toss to combine and coat the bread.
Sprinkle the mixture with Poultry Seasoning and Dried Sage and toss until the bread is coated and has picked up the color of the spices. Add salt and pepper. Set aside to cool to room temperature until ready to stuff the bird.
I learned something about turkeys this year…the difference between fresh and frozen. Apparently, the typical frozen turkey has liquid injected into the breasts to help keep them moist. Fresh turkeys do not…
I happened to purchase a fresh turkey this year due to one of my friends recommending it. I went to Hen House and signed up for a 16-20 pound bird and picked it up the day before Thanksgiving. I didn’t have to deal with the process of holding a turkey in my freezer, thawing it in my fridge, and praying it’s not frozen the day I needed it – it was quite nice. I think I’ll do this every year I need to cook a turkey!
Anyways…whether you purchase fresh or frozen, the following turkey prepping technique will work!
Remove your turkey from the package, remove the giblets bag (this could be hiding in the neck), rinse it, and dry it. Place it on a large roasting pan with a rack.
Stand it up. Salt and pepper the cavity; be sure to get the sides!
Now, we’re ready to stuff it!
Fill the bird with most of the stuffing; don’t pack it in tight. Just apply soft pressure to make sure there are no gaps.
Now, to deviate from my dad’s recipe a bit and to address the moisture issue in the breasts of a fresh turkey… We’re going to put butter under the skin. Butter makes everything better! Soften your butter in the microwave, season with Poultry Seasoning, Sage, Salt, and Pepper…I just decided to replicate the flavor of the stuffing.
Loosen the skin near the cavity over the breasts. Jam about half the butter under the skin on this side (we’ll put the rest on the reverse side).
Tuck the tail in and wrap the skin across the opening. Use metal turkey roasting skewers to secure everything together and string to seal it up.
Flip over the bird and put any remaining stuffing into the neck cavity. Loosen the skin towards the breast and stuff with the remaining butter. Tuck in the skin to seal this up or use the roasting skewers and string as needed to secure it.
Tuck the wind under the bird and tie the legs together to keep them from drying out.
Wrap tightly in foil and place in a 325-degree oven; don’t forget to move the rack to the bottom. According to the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, an 18 pound bird will need to cook for 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours. Since this one is stuffed, we’ll anticipate the whole 6 1/2 hours… Remove the foil 30 to 60 minutes for the end of the cooking time to let it brown.
I promise I’ll stop forgetting to take the final photos… But, here it is after my brother carved it! He did a great job for his first time! Don’t forget to remove the stuffing from the cavities before carving…
Now, remember to reserve all of the juices in the bottom of the roasting pan when you remove the turkey because you’ll need those to make gravy!
My dad says that my mom was the Gravy Queen – she could make gravy out of anything! There are two types of gravy that I’m familiar with: juice gravy and grease gravy. This turkey gravy will be juice gravy.
The quantity of gravy you produce will depend on the amount of juices in the bottom of your roasting pan from the turkey. This turkey ended up producing lots of juices!
Start by pouring approximately 4-6 cups of milk in to the roasting pan (ensure it is heavy enough to be able to go on the stovetop). Put the roasting pan on a burner at medium high heat.
Create a slurry of flour and water – start with about 1 cup of flour for this amount of gravy. Stir the flour and water together until there are no lumps. You’ll want the slurry to be liquid-y but not thin. It needs to be medium thickness…not pasty, though!
Stir your milk and juices with a whisk; scrape up as much of the brown bits as possible. When this mixture comes to a boil, slowly drizzle in the slurry while whisking the mixture. As the gravy boils, it will thicken. Put in as much of the slurry as you want until you get the thickness of gravy you prefer. Keep whisking and allow to boil for a bit to cook out the flour flavor. Add fresh ground black pepper and salt to your liking.
And, there you have it! The perfect turkey gravy!
It’s been so fun sharing my family’s Thanksgiving traditions! Our dinner turned out really nice and simple. In addition to the Turkey, Stuffing, and Gravy, we had Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, and rolls.
Does your family have any Thanksgiving Dinner Traditions? What makes your Thanksgiving Dinner unique?