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Thanksgiving's Day Traditions


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I have to come up with something other than my normal method of roasting a turkey because my mom is on a low sodium diet and typically I'd brine. Someone in another thread mentioned SV working well for turkey so I'm considering that, but that misses the dramatic presentation of a whole bird so I have to think of something else with the wow factor.

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Mom, for whatever reason, never wanted to repeat recipes. She thought it was boring - even if we really wanted a repeat of something. The one constant we have is roasted chestnuts for snacks before dinner. Last year it was reasonably warm outside and Dad did them on the gas grill, which was pretty awesome.

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"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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Last year, we did our best-ever turkey, albeit one that won't work if you absolutely require a whole bird presentation. The breast meat got cut off the bone, tied together yin-yang style to make a more or less continuous circumference cylinder, and cooked SV. The leg quarters were braised, and the braising liquid made some mighty tasty gravy. And the skin got salted, sandwiched between two half-sheet pans, and roasted into a delicious crispy sheet that was way too easy to eat way too much of. For years, we've cooked our stuffing in a crockpot, so disassembling the bird isn't an issue.

 

For the last several years, we've celebrated Tgiving with our next door neighbors and their family and friends-who-might-as-well-be-family, and it turns into a festival of side dishes. It changes every year, but we always bring at least one vegetarian side and homemade dinner rolls. We do our own turkey some other weekend. If this remains our new tradition, I'm fine with it.

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MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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I had a fresh, farm-raised turkey for the first time last year. Brined it and roasted per the New York Times' method. Best damn turkey I ever cooked. Will be doing another one, for sure.

 

Must have standard sweet potato casserole, cornbread dressing, cranberry salad. Dessert is yet to be determined. Maybe cheesecake.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

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9 hours ago, MelissaH said:

Last year, we did our best-ever turkey, albeit one that won't work if you absolutely require a whole bird presentation. The breast meat got cut off the bone, tied together yin-yang style to make a more or less continuous circumference cylinder, and cooked SV. The leg quarters were braised, and the braising liquid made some mighty tasty gravy. And the skin got salted, sandwiched between two half-sheet pans, and roasted into a delicious crispy sheet that was way too easy to eat way too much of. For years, we've cooked our stuffing in a crockpot, so disassembling the bird isn't an issue.

 

 

Oh, I like the idea of braising the legs - did you do it with the standard turkey aromatics? What did you use for braising liquid? This sounds like it has distinct potential for my low-sodium-but-tasty requirements.

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9 hours ago, kayb said:

Brined it and roasted per the New York Times' method.

 

Would that be the one that is dry brined or a traditional wet brine?  They seem to have both methods.  I've been dry brining for at least the last couple of years.  I like the results and it is a lot easier.

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35 minutes ago, rustwood said:

 

Would that be the one that is dry brined or a traditional wet brine?  They seem to have both methods.  I've been dry brining for at least the last couple of years.  I like the results and it is a lot easier.

I did a wet brine last year, with lots of sage and onion in the brine. Have never tried dry brining. Will have to do that one of these days.

 

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10 hours ago, quiet1 said:

 

Oh, I like the idea of braising the legs - did you do it with the standard turkey aromatics? What did you use for braising liquid? This sounds like it has distinct potential for my low-sodium-but-tasty requirements.

I'll ask my husband, as he was the one in charge of that.

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MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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5 hours ago, kayb said:

 Have never tried dry brining. Will have to do that one of these days.

 

Check out the NYT article and recipe (published in 2009, I think). I've been using the bay and sage dry brine for some years. Last year I also separated the white and dark meat for precise to temp roasting of each. 

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On 10/13/2016 at 0:12 PM, quiet1 said:

I have to come up with something other than my normal method of roasting a turkey because my mom is on a low sodium diet and typically I'd brine. Someone in another thread mentioned SV working well for turkey so I'm considering that, but that misses the dramatic presentation of a whole bird so I have to think of something else with the wow factor.

 

One year I had to figure out a way to do a TG dinner ahead of time and transport it 85 miles and be ready to serve within an hour or two with limited equipment.  So I got a turkey and took all the meat off the bone in strips running along the grain.  I laid all the strips down in parallel on cling wrap, starting with the dark meat.  Then I spread a mixture of spinach, mushrooms and cheese (and such) over it and rolled it up so the dark meat was outside (as it would survive direct heat better).  Then I SV'd this big sausage and chilled it at the end.  I finished it in the oven onsite with a bread crumb coating.  Then it was sliced and presented on a platter,  The visual effect was enough that my sister (who has a chef of some note for a son-in-law) grabbed her phone and posted it to her social media.

 

I originally wanted to to take the skin off the turkey intact and wrap the whole thing in it rather than the breadcrumbs.  But my trial run with a chicken didn't live up to my expectations and I had to resort to the breadcrumbs which I decided would be more reliable.

 

I'd still like to go back and try to refine that one.

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On 10/15/2016 at 5:02 PM, IndyRob said:

 

One year I had to figure out a way to do a TG dinner ahead of time and transport it 85 miles and be ready to serve within an hour or two with limited equipment.  So I got a turkey and took all the meat off the bone in strips running along the grain.  I laid all the strips down in parallel on cling wrap, starting with the dark meat.  Then I spread a mixture of spinach, mushrooms and cheese (and such) over it and rolled it up so the dark meat was outside (as it would survive direct heat better).  Then I SV'd this big sausage and chilled it at the end.  I finished it in the oven onsite with a bread crumb coating.  Then it was sliced and presented on a platter,  The visual effect was enough that my sister (who has a chef of some note for a son-in-law) grabbed her phone and posted it to her social media.

 

I originally wanted to to take the skin off the turkey intact and wrap the whole thing in it rather than the breadcrumbs.  But my trial run with a chicken didn't live up to my expectations and I had to resort to the breadcrumbs which I decided would be more reliable.

 

I'd still like to go back and try to refine that one.

 

Interesting idea, but I definitely have to stick to traditional flavors. Taking the turkey apart definitely seems like the way to go. I'm intrigued by the idea of rolling it with something but I'm not sure what would work but still have the right traditional flavors. Hm. (My mom is picky enough that she will complain if there is too much carrot in the stuffing, so spinach and mushrooms in the turkey would be right out if I was trying to pass it off as Thanksgiving dinner. :D )

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20 minutes ago, MelissaH said:

Here's the recipe we used for the braised turkey leg quarters, from Serious Eats.

 

Thanks for the link.  I've been looking through my braised turkey leg/thigh recipes, so the link was very timely.  I don't think I'd have thought of using red wine as a braising liquid ...

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 ... Shel


 

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The job of making the sides falls to me.

 

These pix are from last year:

 

12240851_1049303898453693_8890509150916007501_o.jpg

 

Cipolle en agrodolce ("sweet and sour onions")

 

12248176_1049346745116075_8225361970507756501_o.jpg

 

Pink Lady apples stuffed with Italian sausage and baked with apple juice, butter and sage

 

12248091_1049291331788283_3858258976894241002_o.jpg

 

12291820_1049291338454949_2750057379345033890_o.jpg

 

12241114_1049291341788282_6495522819123505428_o.jpg

 

12273715_1049291368454946_8775411189011372146_o.jpg

 

12244358_1049291438454939_1542649368215781458_o.jpg

 

Roasted brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta and golden raisins

 

And here's a pic of our turkey for good measure

 

12303952_1051677564882993_7935080000547054347_o.jpg

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17 hours ago, munchymom said:

Roll it with stuffing! Maybe a cranberry glaze for the outside?

 

I was thinking along those lines. I don't tend to like a thick layer of breadiness in a rolled meat so I was pondering breaking the stuffing down a bit - maybe a vegetable and herb very finely diced sauté and then a sprinkling of breadcrumbs, more to suggest the flavors than to actually replace a serving of stuffing on the plate. (We always do ours outside of the turkey anyway.) I'm wondering about including some cranberries also in the roll, for the color as much as the flavor? But they'd need some sweetening. Maybe gently heat in some simple syrup with a bit of orange peel, then strain so the berries don't burst into mush? I may have to experiment.

 

The other route I was pondering would be a riff on more of a traditional British Christmas dinner, with sausage meat and bacon rolled with the turkey. But that may have to wait for Christmas since I suspect everyone in the family spent enough time visiting me in England to spot it as a British Christmas thing, not Thanksgiving. :D

 

Thoigh my mom is now talking about going out on Thanksgiving if it isn't going to end up being a large group at home - sometimes it isn't worth the stress for her of a big meal even if someone else is doing the cooking. (My mother has never been one of those people who enjoys all the cooking and prep leading up to an event, so just the prospect tends to stress her out. She enjoys entertaining, and she enjoys cooking, just not together so much. If she could afford it she would just have all of her social gatherings professionally catered and order enough for an army.) (I have no idea where I got it from - I like preparing challenging meals. I make charts and lists and timelines, it is all very organized to start with. A couple of years ago I last minute decided to make beef Wellington for Christmas dinner. First time cooking it, turned out fine, no worries. My mom nearly had a heart attack. :D )

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My husband and I have been making the turkey for about 30 years. In those 30 years neither of us has missed a Thanksgiving with his family: his parents (now only his mom), three siblings plus partners and some or all of their five millennial  offspring. This is a family of very different habits. Some are vegetarians, some don't really care for turkey but think it belongs on the table, three large 20-something boys can inhale a fair amount, and so can my hollow legged husband. And then there's me. I'm bored with cooking it, I don't even like turkey that much, but I swear turkey soup is a narcotic for me, so I need the carcass.  Also I'm in it for my husband's gravy, which is fantastic; leftover gravy makes for a fantastic turkey pot pie.

 

None of this has anything to do with the latest family wrinkle. We always sat down to dinner around 6:30. But one strong-minded in law has now decided she wants to eat early in the day, like 2 pm. No one wants to cross this woman, and that's all you need to know about her. My husband and I do a lot of work for this meal, and one thing I'm growing increasingly tired of is the chaos in the kitchen working up to dinner hour. Also I don't wish to be in a hurry, scrambling to get things done, etc. When I pointed out to said family members that I wasn't keen on waking up early just so I could get a turkey in the oven by 11 am, one BIL suggested I set an alarm. And he actually meant it. Well, hell will freeze over before I do that on Thanksgiving morning. 

 

So, although I grumbled at first, I am now secretly thrilled with our solution: we are going to cook the turkey the day ahead. We will wake up alone at a beach house. It will be peaceful. We will have a long leisurely breakfast. And later we can nibble on the crunchy parts in private. Sounds naughty, doesn't it? Mmm, the Pope's Nose, as my mother used to call it. And we won't have to navigate the kitchen or fight for oven space during the main event, which is Grand Central Station.

 

Yes, I do have a question. How best to heat and serve the turkey meat the day of? Can it be kept in a cool place overnight, but not in the fridge, so it doesn't dry out at all? Heat it in the oven? Microwave? It will be a dry-brined turkey with no stuffing. No clue, any ideas welcome. And remember, my goal is to do as little work as possible on Thursday, so no rolling it up or layering or anything interesting. I'm looking forward to sitting around at 1 pm with a cocktail and and not caring what happens next! Sadly the five cousins, including my daughter, either can't or don't like to boil water, so future is a bit murky when it comes to tradition. And if she continues to live in Atlanta she won't be cooking my turkey an time soon.

 

Prof. Hobbit those onions are to die for. How do you do them?  OMG I've written a novel.

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2 hours ago, Katie Meadow said:

My husband and I have been making the turkey for about 30 years. In those 30 years neither of us has missed a Thanksgiving with his family: his parents (now only his mom), three siblings plus partners and some or all of their five millennial  offspring. This is a family of very different habits. Some are vegetarians, some don't really care for turkey but think it belongs on the table, three large 20-something boys can inhale a fair amount, and so can my hollow legged husband. And then there's me. I'm bored with cooking it, I don't even like turkey that much, but I swear turkey soup is a narcotic for me, so I need the carcass.  Also I'm in it for my husband's gravy, which is fantastic; leftover gravy makes for a fantastic turkey pot pie.

 

None of this has anything to do with the latest family wrinkle. We always sat down to dinner around 6:30. But one strong-minded in law has now decided she wants to eat early in the day, like 2 pm. No one wants to cross this woman, and that's all you need to know about her. My husband and I do a lot of work for this meal, and one thing I'm growing increasingly tired of is the chaos in the kitchen working up to dinner hour. Also I don't wish to be in a hurry, scrambling to get things done, etc. When I pointed out to said family members that I wasn't keen on waking up early just so I could get a turkey in the oven by 11 am, one BIL suggested I set an alarm. And he actually meant it. Well, hell will freeze over before I do that on Thanksgiving morning. 

 

So, although I grumbled at first, I am now secretly thrilled with our solution: we are going to cook the turkey the day ahead. We will wake up alone at a beach house. It will be peaceful. We will have a long leisurely breakfast. And later we can nibble on the crunchy parts in private. Sounds naughty, doesn't it? Mmm, the Pope's Nose, as my mother used to call it. And we won't have to navigate the kitchen or fight for oven space during the main event, which is Grand Central Station.

 

Yes, I do have a question. How best to heat and serve the turkey meat the day of? Can it be kept in a cool place overnight, but not in the fridge, so it doesn't dry out at all? Heat it in the oven? Microwave? It will be a dry-brined turkey with no stuffing. No clue, any ideas welcome. And remember, my goal is to do as little work as possible on Thursday, so no rolling it up or layering or anything interesting. I'm looking forward to sitting around at 1 pm with a cocktail and and not caring what happens next! Sadly the five cousins, including my daughter, either can't or don't like to boil water, so future is a bit murky when it comes to tradition. And if she continues to live in Atlanta she won't be cooking my turkey an time soon.

 

Prof. Hobbit those onions are to die for. How do you do them?  OMG I've written a novel.

 

First off, NO to trying not to refrigerate the cooked turkey for food safety reasons.

 

It seems like you're not concerned about presenting a perfect whole bird to the table after scarfing the crunchy parts. If that's the case, what I would do is dismember it into leg quarters or thighs and drumsticks, and half breasts. Then I'd wrap the parts in heavy duty aluminum foil, maybe padding sharp bones with wadded foil so they don't poke through and lose the moisture. Refrigerate, and then reheat in the oven. I do not trust the microwave with meats even on defrost power. The thin parts always suffer.

 

If you're among the sou vide crowd, you could vacuum seal the meat in plastic, refrigerate, and bring up to serving temp the next day in time for service. I'm sure that would do away with any remaining crispy bits, but it would free up the oven.

 

Another alternative, which may not appeal, is to appear to have every intention to have the turkey ready at the dictated hour and then be apologetically late with it. I have a relative who always does this when he hosts, because he doesn't want his cocktail hour interfered with. Since he's like your in-law and it's always easier for everyone to go along to get along, he gets away with it time after time. This still does nothing to free up the oven or reduce last minute chaos.

 

I have also cooked turkeys outdoors. First in a Brinkman Smokin Grill. I think they have discontinued this model, but there are similar products still available for under $100. I smoked a ham and a turkey in my Brinkman one Chistmas when I had already bought a nice ham and my husband was gifted with a turkey on Christmas Eve with no warning by his employer. No room in the freezer so had to cook both. It took almost 24 hours for both giant pieces of meat because it was cold and windy, and ambient temp/wind slows down cooking. This involved more than one alarm clock set. It's charcoal, so one must attend the fire, and/or add water the the pan about every four hours. Probably not a good solution for you, but it would free up the oven.

 

Another outdoor solution is to fry the turkey. The years I did that in the backyard, the oil cost more than the loss leader turkeys, and they are the best ones I've every cooked. Bonus, it only takes about 40 minutes or so, once your set up and the oil comes to temp for the first time. Not sure how much these things cost, as the equipment I used was borrowed. I had my own thermometers for the oil and the turkey, and that is critical, if you are going to do this. Downside is that these things are pretty dangerous and can result in a flopped party due to an unscheduled trip to the emergency room, so I hear. We never had a problem, but you definitely want to keep kids and pets inside while cooking. That would free up the oven, provide a fun activity in the backyard, weather permitting, and cocktail sipping can certainly be part of that.

 

Also, don't people who have a lot more money than me get a hot Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings catered in? No idea how much this costs, because I know I can't afford it.

 

If you really want to "Pope's Nose" them, follow your beach house plan, slice the cooked meat thin and offer it cold for a sandwich buffet with some nice buns. This would free up the oven too.

 

Then sit back and enjoy your cocktail. :laugh:

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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To expand upon the "reheat in the oven" part of TFTCs' summary, I keep back a bit of turkey broth or drippings and use that to moisten the sliced turkey when it goes back in to the oven under its foil wrapper. That helps keep it from drying out, especially at the edges of the pan. 

 

I usually break down the bird into large pieces (ie, breast, thigh) and put them into the refrigerator separately to chill. You can give them an hour in the freezer first, if you like, to speed the process. I defer slicing until the next day, because the chilled bird slices so much more neatly and evenly. As an added benefit, the carcass is then available immediately for soup-making. :P

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I love the texture and juiciness of sous vide turkey and almost always break it down and cook separately. 

 

Though I've never done it, Bourdain has recommended doing a "stunt turkey" for the presentation and then actually serving a separately-cooked and properly done second turkey.  They cost what, $15? And the meat could be used in salads and for stock etc etc.

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