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Thanksgiving Made Easy

Although work is picking up and exams are approaching, we can take solace in looking forward to the upcoming holidays that provide a season of some of the biggest cooking events of the year. Thanksgiving is the kickoff party for this culinary Olympics and one of the most exciting times of year for kitchen junkies such as myself, but it can also be intimidating. If you’re cooking for family, there’s a lot of pressure to make it all go smoothly because “you don’t see each other nearly enough” and “Grandma has only so many more Thanksgivings left”. If you’re out on your own, you either want to try to make it taste like mom’s as a reminder of home or make it better to show everyone that you can do it on your own. Whatever your situation, pulling together a stuffed, trussed turkey with all the fixins is no easy task, so here are some tips to creating a memorable main dish that won’t drive you crazy. Your guests on the other hand are you own problem…

The centerpiece of any Thanksgiving dinner is the bird, pure and simple. Some people fry it, some smoke it, some people pound out the breast and roll it up with stuffing, but my personal favorite is the old fashioned roasting method. Not only is it the best way to keep the meat moist and delicious with very little muss and fuss, but Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without the smell of roasting poultry and the pageantry when the bird emerges from the oven. You should look for a bird that is fresh not frozen, but if you do get a turkeycicle, remember to allow half an hour per pound to thaw in a bath of room temperature water. The first thing you should do after your turkey has thawed or after you open a fresh turkey is to reach inside the cavity and remove the neck and giblets.

Brining

One of the best ways to ensure a moist and well-seasoned bird is to brine it overnight before you cook it by giving it an overnight soak in a seasoned salt-water solution. The salt in the brining liquid will alter the muscle tissue of the turkey and cause it to expand absorbing the seasoned liquid and will also help tenderize the bird by breaking down some of the proteins. You will need a container that is large enough to fit the entire turkey and cover it in liquid; you can use anything from a stockpot to a cooler to a garbage can if need be (although you should by a new one if you choose to go this route).

Brining Liquid 2 cups Kosher salt2 gallons water5 Bay leaves2 tablespoons peppercorns¼ cup sugar

1) Dissolve the salt and sugar in two cups of water2) In a large pot or bowl, combine all of the ingredients

Place the turkey in the container you have chosen to brine in, and pour the liquid over the turkey making sure to cover it completely and that the cavity is filled. Refrigerate it over night or leave it outside if the temperature is below 40° and above freezing. The next morning, remove your turkey from the liquid, give it a quick rinse in the sink and then pat it dry.

Stuffing

This is a very simple and classic stuffing that uses some of the offal (kidneys, liver, etc.) to create a very complex flavor that is enhanced by the liquid created by the juices flowing inside the roasting turkey.

Stuffing 1 3-4 day old loaf of French bread, cubed Turkey giblets, chopped1 cup onion, diced1 cup celery, diced2 tablespoons butter2 cloves garlic, minced¼ cup walnuts, chopped1 tablespoon sage (fresh or dry), chopped1 tablespoon thyme (fresh or dry), chopped 1 cup chicken stock (canned or fresh)salt and pepper to taste

1) Melt the butter in a large saucepan and sauté the onion, celery, walnuts and garlic until brown2) Slightly lower the heat and brown up the chopped turkey giblets in the pan and then mix to combine3) Add the cubed dry bread to the pan and mix with other ingredients and until every cube is slightly coated4) Slowly and evenly pour the chicken stock over the pan and continue to cook mixing frequently until all of the stock is absorbed5) Finally, add the herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste

Trussing

Before you roast it, the turkey must be stuffed and trussed, in order to make sure it cooks evenly and that the stuffing doesn’t fall out.. First spoon your stuffing into the cavity of the turkey with a wooden spoon and stuff it in making sure it is packed. Then, with string, tie together the “ankles” of the drumsticks so that they close the cavity of the turkey. You are now ready to roast.

Roasting

Preheat your oven to 350°. Place your stuffed, trussed turkey on a rack in a roasting pan breast side up and add a half cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Once the oven has warmed up, you should roast your turkey according to the chart below. Before you pop it in the oven however, rub the outside down with butter and continue to do so every hour or so to ensure a brown, crispy skin.

A few hours later, and your beautiful golden masterpiece emerges from the oven and takes its rightful place as the star of the show. Even if the mashed potatoes are lumpy, Uncle Mikes homemade wine is closer to vinegar and Aunt Sally’s pumpkin pie tastes like the spice rack collapsed into it, you have a bird worth clucking about.

About the Contributor
Ben Whelan served for the following positions at The Mass Media for the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Spring 2009; 2009-2010. News Editor: Spring 2008; Fall 2008 Sports Editor: 2006-2007