Thanksgiving is around the corner, in a week and two days. It is one of my favorite holidays as family and friends gather to share a meal. I invite many who have no families here because I remember when I was not able to come home to family, and the holiday just did not seem the same. I also love leftover turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce dripping out of from the sides.
There have been many past columns that I have written about brining the turkey a day ahead. It is the most important aspect of roasting most meats, and for the Thanksgiving meal, is important for a juicy and tasty turkey. After the turkey is removed from the brine, it is important to thoroughly dry the skin of the turkey to ensure even browning. If there are wet spots, the skin will make blotchy spots and will not brown evenly.
A turkey roasting pan with a V-rack is essential for even browning. If you are buying your first turkey roasting pan with a V-rack, get one that is heavy duty. Also check the handles. I have one brand with handles sticking up so high that the top rack must be removed in my oven, not allowing me to place other dishes in the oven while the turkey is roasting. If you don’t want to clean the pan and prefer to use aluminum disposable pans, use two as one is too flimsy. However, I am very much against cooking with aluminum. I prefer to cook with stainless steel pots and pans.
How the turkey is handled once it goes into the oven varies, some place foil on the turkey for the first couple of hours, others place it in a bag. I prefer to place the turkey in the oven without anything covering it and baste often. However, each time you open the oven to baste, you are lowering the temperature in the oven, and it will affect baking time.
A thermometer is essential to check that the thickest part of the breast registers at 160 degrees and the largest part of the thigh is at 175 degrees. I love digital thermometers that instantly read the temperature.
So we got the turkey in the oven, and now we need to work on mashed potatoes. In order to make them fluffy, you will need a stand mixer. It will create light and fluffy mashed potatoes.
Perfect Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Place in a bowl of water:
6 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Change water a couple of times until the water becomes clear.
Drain in colander.
Fill a large pot with water, enough to cover potatoes. Place potatoes in water with:
4 whole cloves garlic
Bring to boil and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes into a colander. Sprinkle with salt while hot.
Heat in a medium pot:
2 cups whole milk or half-and-half
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Place potatoes in bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment.
Slowly add about 1 cup of hot milk and start whipping potatoes. Slowly add more milk mixture while motor is running and continue whipping until the potatoes are light and fluffy.Season with salt and black pepper.
Now with the perfectly roasted, juicy turkey, whipped mashed potatoes, a smooth, delicious gravy is all you need.
I always have a stock pot of turkey bones that I make the day before. This turkey stock is used to moisten my cornbread dressing and make my gravy. You can make it on Wednesday from the giblets and turkey neck. I would also cut off the wings and use them for stock as there is not much meat in them anyway and could be sacrificed for stock. Make a mirepoix with 1 chopped onion, one chopped carrot and two stalks of celery, place bones, giblets and vegetables in the oven a roast until the vegetables start browning, about 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Place browned vegetables and parts of the turkey in a stock pot, add water to the pan to save all the browned bits that are stuck on the pan, and continue adding water till you have covered the vegetables. If you feel you do not have enough stock, you can add canned chicken stock.
Gravy is equal parts of fat and flour, like making a roux. The fat can be from the pan drippings taken from the turkey pan. If you measure the amount of drippings and then add the equal amount of flour, you will have a perfect gravy. Remember though, you only need about one cup of dripping for a 20 pound turkey. After the flour starts cooking into the drippings and starts to “gather” slowly add hot turkey stock and mix continuously with a whisk. If done carefully and slowly, there should be no lumps. Season with salt and pepper. Remember the dripping may be salty if you brined the turkey.
Remember you first timers, you cannot place a frozen turkey in the oven. It has surprise packages of gizzards, organs and the neck in the cavity of the turkey. These cannot be removed when frozen.
I would prefer you emailing me if you have any questions and you don’t want to call the Turkey Hotline. I want your first Thanksgiving to be a great success and I will walk you through it.
Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question. Bon appetit until next week.