there is enough stress on this day without having to have the whole family showing up. So I am cutting right to the chase without using your time on a long preamble. Your mother or worse mother-in-law has a specific to way to cook something. Don’t argue just have her bring the dish. If she won’t tell her you prepared just as she said to and it if it sucks she will never admit it anyway. I hate green bean casserole. If a guest wants it for Thanksgiving dinner they can make it themselves and eat it in the garage.
Seriously, have every guest pitch in if they are able. Kids too, they will take more interest if they are part of the program. You know most guests will not shirk. I have never found it a problem to enlist help with clean-up either. We tend to do most of the cooking but our guests and relatives do enjoy bringing something and this does make it more of an interactive holiday and supports the true meaning of what Thanksgiving is supposed to embody. In the two original sources of the pilgrim era thanksgiving the community and the Wampanoag Indians came together, all bringing the bounty of the harvest for the feast. There was no mention of turkey, as water fowl is more succulent. A wild turkey is a stringy flea riddled bird and only the breast meat is edible –and then only in a quick fricassee preparation. As turkeys were selectively bred and farm raised they became (like hogs) more economical to feed a big family in one seating.
Tips on cooking the bird to avoid a holiday meltdown of a dried out bird or under cooked bird or an 8 p.m. meal:
- Cook at 325 F for 10 to 12 minutes per pound for a 10 to 14 pound turkey.
- The breast cooks quicker than the darker leg meat because of the bones in the leg and the carcass. It is best not to truss up the bird but let it hang free as heat will circulate better and the bird will not insulate itself. This is unique phenomenon with the larger turkey and not inherent in ducks or chicken. If you buy a twenty pound or larger turkey I recommend removing the spine and laying flat on the baking sheet. This will allow it to cook quicker and more evenly. Also break the legs so it lays flatter. You can cut the spine out with kitchen shears. It is not very difficult. (Reserve the spine and neck to boil for soup stock).
- If you need a lot of meat, get two smaller turkeys. Or a turkey and a boneless breast. You can cook one in the morning if space is an issue and warm it up again before serving or serve as a cold roast platter with lots of cranberry sauce alongside. Springs of fresh rosemary, parsley and sage beautifully dress up the platter.
- Coat your bird with olive and butter then seasonings before cooking.
- Don’t stuff the bird, but putting a few sectioned lemons and/or other citrus and a bunch of fresh herbs is okay. Actually it is very good!
- Check the thigh temperature after 2 hours and then every half hour and/ or during commercial breaks during the Lions game. This will allow proper planning for all your side dishes.
- When done, the thigh juices should flow profusely and run clear. Yes you need to make a small incision, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.