Thanksgiving Dressing

turkey-dressingMany will argue that the most important fixture at a Thanksgiving meal is the dressing rather than the bird.  I am prone to agree as members of my family will often engage in rather heated debate over the “best” way to prepare dressing. I have no intention of raising Thanksgiving tensions any further but I have recently come across a couple of tips (Cook’s Illustrated on the Food Channel) that I felt were quite useful. In addition, I will share our traditional dressing recipe (sans meat or oysters) for those prone to making their own dressing rather than buying it at a grocery store.

Tips to Prepare Dressing

  1. We have long ago given-up cooking dressing in the cavity of the bird.  Aside from being a chore that yields only a limited amount of dressing, some studies suggest that the undercooked drippings of the turkey can be harmful to your health.  Why take the chance?  As such, we prepare and cook the dressing separately.
  2. Yes, Sheila makes turkey stock by slow-cooking turkey wings and legs overnight using the same ingredients (but three times as much) described in GourMay’s recent recipe on chicken stock.    (Editor’s Note:  Most people will use chicken stock for Thanksgiving dressing, but it isn’t quite the same.)
  3. Our family prefers the dressing to be a bit drier than most and this is accomplished by removing the aluminum foil some 20 minutes before the end of baking and/or reducing the amount of stock that is added to the dressing.
  4. NEW TIP – You should slowly bake the bread pieces (about an hour at 250ºF to remove the moisture.  Cook’s Illustrated has proven that it removes moisture far more effectively than the traditional way to let the bread harden on the kitchen counter for a couple of days.
  5. NEW TIP – Cook’s Illustrated rendered fat from turkey wings by poking holes in the wings and then browning them quickly on both sides (about 10 minutes) before setting the wings aside.  They then sautéed the vegetables (see below) in the drippings with a couple of Tbs of butter.  Most importantly,  they placed the turkey wings on top of the dressing to allow more “natural” drippings to infuse the dressing while it baked.   The dressing and turkey wings are covered in foil and returned to the oven to bake for about an hour.

GourMay’s Traditional Thanksgiving Dressing

Ingredients

  • 12 Cups of bread cubes (if possible, 1/2 of which should be traditional unsweetened cornbread)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 3 cups finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 Tbs poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 cup of turkey stock (add more if you want a “wetter” dressing).  Note:  The stock should only be added shortly before baking.

Preparation

  • The dressing maybe prepared a day or two earlier, but do not add the stock until shortly before baking.
  • Saute onion and celery in butter.  Combine with other ingredients (except the stock) and adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Preheat oven to 325º
  • Add turkey stock to dressing mixture, place in a casserole and cover with foil and bake for about an hour.
  • Uncover for the last 20 minutes or so for a slightly crisper dressing.

Peace to you and your family this Thanksgiving.

 

Another Two Feet of Snow for Buffalo

2ftSnow

Wolf Blitzer announced yesterday that Buffalo has received another two feet of snow. For once, he got something right.

P.S. Wolf, don’t worry about getting deported since an assault on your viewer’s intelligence is not yet considered to be a felony.

Spatchcock Heritage Turkey for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving-Turkey-Cartoon-4As the few remaining loyal readers of GourMay are aware, Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year.  I am obsessed with the struggle to cook the “perfect” turkey and each year fortunately brings me closer to achieving that goal.   This year (with a few minor and inconsequential variations), I will “spatchcock” my heritage turkey using the preparation method described in the latest edition of Cook’s Illustrated (Nov – Dec 2014).   For Tea Party activists who no longer read, there is a FREE video demonstration that will be on the Cook’s Illustrated website for 4 months.

Cook’s Illustrated follows two techniques already highly recommended by GourMay:

  1. Make sure you use a Heritage turkey.  We will use a Bourbon Red, but Cook’s Illustrated (“CI”) plans to use “Mary’s Free-Range Heritage Turkey.”  According to CI, Heritage turkeys were “nearly extinct in 1997,” but have rebounded nicely and are vastly superior to the factory-processed turkeys sold at most markets (even under questionable “organic” labels).
  2. Also, I thoroughly agree that the dry brine cited by CI is as good as most complicated wet brining techniques that I sadly recommended in 2009.   By all means brine the turkey with salt and allow it to rest uncovered in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

The most difficult part of cooking a turkey is to make sure the white meat is moist and the dark meat is thoroughly cooked.   The white turkey breast is generally moist at 155ºF, but the dark meat (leg and thigh) needs another 20ºs or 175º.  Last year, I cooked the turkey on a closed Weber and almost achieved perfection, but I couldn’t control the internal temperature and it could have done with about 30 minutes less cooking.  This year, I will spatchcock the turkey using the technique beautifully illustrated in CI.

The Cook’s Illustrated recipe is quoted in its entirety below:

Cook’s Illustrated:  How to Cook Heritage Turkey

INGREDIENTS

  • 1(10- to 12-pound) heritage breed turkey, neck removed
  • Kosher salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Place wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and lightly grease rack. With turkey breast side up, using sharp knife, slice through skin between breast and thigh down to joint on both sides. Using your hands, pull each leg quarter back to expose joint between leg and breast. Remove legs by cutting through hip joint and then skin. Slice through membrane connecting breast to backbone. Bend backbone away from breast to break where it meets rib cage; use knife to remove completely.

    2. Using your fingers, gently loosen skin covering legs and breasts. Rub 1 1/2 teaspoons salt evenly inside cavity of turkey breast, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt under skin of each breast, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt under skin of each leg. Tuck wings underneath breast. Place turkey legs and breast, skin side up, on prepared wire rack. Refrigerate turkey parts, uncovered, for at least 24 hours or up to 48 hours.

    3. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Transfer breast to large plate and set aside while leg quarters start roasting. Flip leg quarters skin side down and transfer to oven; roast until thighs register 140 degrees, 45 to 75 minutes.

    4. Flip leg quarters skin side up and place breast, skin side down, on wire rack next to leg quarters. Return to oven and roast for 1 hour.

    5. Flip breast skin side up and continue to roast until breast registers 155 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees, 1 1/4 to 2 1/4 hours longer. Remove turkey from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.

    6. While turkey is resting, increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Stack turkey assembly on second baking sheet to prevent excess smoking. Return turkey to oven and roast until skin is golden brown and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes.

    7. Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest for 20 minutes. Carve turkey and serve.

I wish you all a warm and caring Thanksgiving.