Did you ever want to make a Thanksgiving turkey without the event being a travesty?
Well, you came to the Chateau Smidlap so you are on the right track. Start by going to the store and getting plenty of wine and come back and read the rest.
Maybe you live alone or have a very small gathering and if that’s the case you might try and use my warm-weather classic of grilling a turkey: Good Eats for Cheap #1 – Artisan Bread and Grilled Turkey That post will tell you how to cut up a whole turkey of if you’ll be too liquored up or afraid or both you can always just buy some turkey parts already cut up. If you read it you know it also contains a cheap-o and delicious recipe for crusty bread you can use for your stuffing.
I like to start with a regular ol’ bird for 99c a pound or less
If you season and cook it right it will come out tasting just like grandma’s. What the hell kind of bird do you think she used to make? Correct, whatever kind they had on sale at the store 50 years ago except she had the mad skillz to know what to do with it. Go ahead and get the 80 dollar farm to table humane version if you insist but don’t blame me if the budget is blown there when you could have had a custom Smidlap Swag coffee mug in addition to a damned fine average bird. I’ll buy the thing fresh/never frozen if that option is available but a frozen turkey will do just fine. I start by making a brine of salt and sugar in water. Just boil up a cup of sugar and a cup of salt in a few quarts of water until it’s all dissolved and let that solution cool near room temperature. I often cut up an orange or piece of citrus and put that in with some rosemary of sage when boiling and that stuff tastes even better in the end. Add a bunch of cold water to your favorite vintage cooler that’s big enough to hold the turkey and add your brine mixture with fruit and herbs and a bunch of ice to make an ice bath. Unwrap your turkey and just plop it into your spicy ice bath. You can thaw your turkey this way over a couple of days or if it’s already thawed it only needs an overnight in the ice bath. If your bird was frozen try your best to remove the neck and giblets from the cavity after a day or so. You might want some rubber dish gloves for this to avoid frozen hands. After your bird is thawed in the ice bath and the Thanksgiving day is at hand you will want to remove it and dry it off as much as possible ahead of cooking.
Put your oven on about 325 at least 4-5 hours before you plan on eating to pre-heat and turn on the convection if that’s an option. You’ll want to save a shelf below where you’ll roast the turkey where you will cook the squash and rutabaga later on. I cook the bird near the middle rack. You want to season the thing with salt and pepper and Bell’s Seasoning. Grandma used this in the turkey and the stuffing and you can trust me that it’s Thanksgiving flavor in a box…and it’s cheap. I usually put a half an onion and some garden herbs like more rosemary of parsley into the cavity too with a busted up celery stalk. I don’t stuff the bird with stuffing any more as it’s a pain in the ass and the turkey takes longer to cook that way. Truss your turkey, which means to tie it up with the legs and wings pinned to the body and you’ll be glad you took this extra step. Put the thing in a roasting pan with our without a rack and pop it into your oven with the breast side down at first. I usually let it go for an hour before turning it to the breast side up for the remainder. I know you have a meat thermometer so you should use it after the first couple of hours and you’re looking for a minimum temp of about 165 in the thigh to check for it being done. Pour yourself a wine and relax because it’s going to be a long afternoon. When the bird reaches the temperature of done (cook it a little higher if you’re paranoid about food borne illness) take it out and put it on a platter to rest at least 30 minutes. You’ll want to do your best to separate the fat from the stock in the pan in order to make gravy. I don’t have the space or will here to cover gravy making. You’re on your own.
More Thanksgiving wisdom nuggets
- Bell’s Seasoning will make your stuffing fantastic. You can do this a day ahead and butter the bottom of your stuffing cooking vessel. You want some if it crusty and brown as that’s all anyone really showed up for.
- Making your own cranberry sauce is easy. The recipe is right on the package of whole berries and takes 10 minutes. Some folks really like the canned stuff that is served in the shape of the can, though.
- Pecan pie isn’t as hard as it sounds, but takes a bit of work. Call Mrs. Smidlap for help on this if you need it. Her number is 555-1212.
- If you’ve never had rutabaga it’s time you tried it. The fresh kind is best but you might lose a limb or digit trying to cut it up. If you get the frozen package just boil it and drain and add butter, salt, and pepper. My white trash upbringing included mixing in some squash with the mashed up rutabaga. It’s good either way.
- Make your mashed potatoes with half and half instead of milk. Calories be damned.
- White wines from Alsace in France are great with Thanksgiving. Pinot Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, or Riesling will do the job. I like pinot noir from the US west coast if you like red.
- Do most of your knife work before you drink too much and end up needing stitches.
- It’s all about friends and family so even if you mess something up enjoy the company.
How about you Smidlappers? Do you think I have it all wrong about how to roast a turkey? Have you ever cut or burned yourself on Thanksgiving or made some other disaster? Let it fly in the comments and Happy Thanksgiving!
p.s. I almost forgot this next day delight from one of my favorite readers, Megan. The Thanksgiving waffle is leftover stuffing jammed into your waffle maker and cooked just like a regular waffle. Top with mashed potatoes and leftover turkey and gravy when you’re hung over on Friday morning. she didn’t say to do it but I add a little cranberry sauce to these kind of things and there you have it. Waffles on Wednesday are sure to love it as they love all things waffle related.