A quick turkey dinner
I had a frozen turkey that I had put by about a year ago. (Yes, a whole year!) I decided I'd better go ahead and use it, so I took it out of the freezer and into the refrigerator it went to thaw. It weighed about 14 pounds and I left it to thaw for 5 days. At that point I hadn't even decided for sure what I was going to do with it. But since we did not have Thanksgiving Dinner here at our home, we were not covered up with leftovers, so I chose to make a simple, traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner just for me and my husband. (I mentioned using the carcass to make soup on an earlier post.) So, here is what I did.
The Turkey ~ Wash in cold water, remove the giblets and/or neck from the cavities, wash those and put them in a pan, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer until thoroughly done. In the cavity of the turkey, place a large peeled onion and a mixture of dried parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme tied up in a little piece of cotton cloth. Put the bird in a roasting pan that has a lid. Rub the skin with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and some more of that same herb mixture. Put the lid on the pan and place in a 350 degree F. oven on the middle rack.
"Stuffing"~ In a cast iron frying pan, melt 1/2 cup butter and add a large diced onion, 2 cups of diced celery (I pulled mine out of the freezer. I often dice and freeze celery so it won't go to waste and is ready to use in soups and things). Saute', stirring often until the vegetables start to get limp. Then, take about 1/2 loaf of bread (I used my homemade whole wheat, but you could use any bread you have, and it's a good way to use stale bread) and cut it into little cubes. Put them in the pan and continue to cook for a little while, stirring. Take some of the liquid from cooking the giblets/neck (my bird didn't come with giblets) and mix in an egg. Pour that over the stuffing. Add some more of that same herb mix mentioned above. Stir it all up well and turn off the heat. Add more of the broth if needed to make it moist but not soggy. Cover the pan with either parchment paper or waxed paper and then with aluminum foil. You could use a lid, but then your pan might not fit in the oven with the turkey. During the last hour of roasting the turkey, put this pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Then it will be done at the same time.
Mashed Potatoes ~ Scrub as many potatoes as you think you will need and cut them in quarters. Do not peel if the skins are decent. Put them all in a Crock Pot, cover with water and cook either on high for about 2 hours or low for 4 hours. Then when everything is done, drain off most of the water and add some butter, milk, salt and a little garlic powder and mash thoroughly.
Gravy ~ When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and use your baster to take out the pan drippings. If you don't have a baster, with a little help, pour the drippings out. Put them all in a saucepan. Add enough of the aforementioned broth to make the amount of gravy you would like to have. You will have to gauge the amount of thickening by how much liquid you are now using. For 1 cup of liquid, use 1 Tablespoon non-GMO cornstarch or 2 Tablespoons of unbleached mixed in a little warm water. When it all comes to a boil, then slowly add the thickening, stirring carefully to prevent lumping. Add any little bits of meat from the neck and dice the giblets too. Simmer until thick, then taste it and see if it needs anything else, like a little more salt or pepper, but it probably won't.
Cranberry Sauce ~ I LOVE cranberry sauce! Put 2 cups of cranberries in a saucepan, 1/2 cup honey, or if you don't mind the mild molasses flavor, you can use 1 cup of Sucanat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and chill if you like, but you don't have to have it cold if you are doing this at the last minute.
Vegetables ~ Just pick what you like off the shelf or out of the fridge and cook them! We had some home canned green beans with this meal. Corn and sweet potatoes are more traditional.
There you go! It sounds complicated, but it's simply not. Roast turkey is one of the easiest things to cook, and there are always nice leftovers for soup, sandwiches, salads, etc.
Here is one thing I like to do with some of the leftovers. Cut some of the turkey meat into bite sized pieces, and mix with enough stuffing to fill a pie plate. Pour some of the gravy over that and top with mashed potatoes and bake it at 350 degrees F. until heated through. I call it "Thanksgiving Pie."
I realize that Thanksgiving 2012 is now past. I want to show you this and tell you how I do "stuffing". After all, Christmas is not long from now and it might be helpful.
I have never used a recipe for stuffing and I don't actually stuff the poultry anymore. "They" have scared me off with all the warnings about possible salmonella exposure, so now I roast the bird and bake the stuffing separately.
Here is a list of what I use:
Stale homemade bread
Homemade poultry broth or stock
Salt and pepper
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (whole, dried and rubbed until small)
A small amount of ground poultry seasoning (be careful with this. It is very strong.)
1. Slice the bread, as much as you like (for 12 people I use 2 loaves) and lay it out in trays to get stale and dry out some. You don't want it to be hard, just dried up a bit.
2. Break the bread into small pieces into a large bowl. Add celery and onion, as much as you like. For this amount I would use 2 medium onions and about 5 celery ribs.
3. For this amount, I pour on 1 cup of melted butter and enough broth to make it moist, not soggy.
4. I never measure the seasonings. I just put on "some" and keep tasting until I like the flavor. Do the salt first and then start adding bits of the other things, the parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and black pepper. When that tastes nice to you, sprinkle on a little bit of ground poultry seasoning and stir it all well.
5. Taste it a few times and pay attention. You will know when it tastes right.
6. Pack it all into an oven-proof covered dish and bake at 350 for about an hour.
7. When it is time for your big dinner, reheat in the oven, just until warm. Serve with gravy that you make from the drippings from your roasted bird, as follows...
Remove the bird from the oven and use your baster to take out the pan drippings. If you don't have a baster, with a little help, pour the drippings out. Put them all in a saucepan. Add enough of the aforementioned broth to make the amount of gravy you would like to have. You will have to gauge the amount of thickening by how much liquid you are now using. For 1 cup of liquid, use 1 Tablespoon cornstarch or 2 Tablespoons of unbleached flour mixed in a little warm water. When it all comes to a boil, then slowly add the thickening, stirring carefully to prevent lumping. Add any little bits of meat from the neck and dice the giblets too if you like. Simmer until thick, then taste it and see if it needs anything else, like a little more salt or pepper, but it probably won't.
Leftover stuffing can be frozen and reheated for future meals. I like to make what I call "Thanksgiving pie." Cut up some of the leftover turkey, mix it with some leftover stuffing, pack it into a pie plate and pour gravy over it all, then top with mashed potatoes and bake at 350 until the potatoes start to brown a little bit. We love this!
I have even filled some pie plates, as above, without the potatoes, and wrapped them snugly and frozen them for later use. All you have to do is add the potatoes and bake.