An Inspired Thanksgiving

Grit Staff
November 9, 2007
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Anyone can roast the perfect turkey with these simple instructions.
Lori Dunn


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The Perfect Turkey: A few simple herbs add an easy twist on the traditional roast turkey. All you need to do is rub a few herbs on the turkey before it goes into the oven, and your family will clamor for seconds. This recipe from Grit’s recipe archives gives you the directions for the herbal rub, as well as directions for the Perfect Roast Turkey and gravy.

Perfect Roast Turkey 

1 turkey (10 to 12 pounds) with pop-up timer
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried celery seed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 cups turkey stock or canned chicken broth, divided

Place oven rack in lowest position; heat oven to 325°F.

Rinse turkey inside and out with cold water and pat dry. Pull wing tips up and tuck between wings and body; place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in an open roasting pan. Rub turkey with softened butter.

In small bowl, crush herbs together and rub over turkey. Season turkey with salt and pepper.

Tightly cover breast area with aluminum foil. Pour 2 cups stock into the bottom of roaster and roast, basting turkey all over every 30 minutes for about 2 hours (lift up the foil to reach the breast area). Remove foil to allow breast skin to brown; roast for about another hour until the pop-up timer indicates turkey is done.

Remove from oven; loosen browned bits on the bottom of roaster and pour drippings into a 2-quart glass measuring cup. Allow turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes. Serve in roasting pan.

For gravy: After drippings have settled for at least 5 minutes, skim off fat and reserve. Add enough stock or broth to drippings to make 6 cups. Add melted butter to reserved fat to make 1/2 cup. In a saucepan over low heat, heat the turkey fat mixture. Whisk in 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and cook until lightly browned. Add drippings mixture and continue whisking until thickened, about 2 minutes. Keep gravy warm until serving.

Yields 10 to 12 servings.

Stuffed Turkey: Who knew a few vegetables would add such a great taste to your Thanksgiving turkey? Stuffing for your bird doesn’t have to be bread and a few spices. Spice up the dressing with coleslaw mix and water chestnuts – and don’t forget the cheese! Click here for the recipe, Turkey with Vegetable Medley Stuffing, from Grit’s recipe archives.

Turkey with Vegetable Medley Stuffing  

1/2 cup butter or margarine
4 cups coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrot)
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning, optional
1 package (14 ounces) dried herb-seasoned bread cubes
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
1 turkey (14 to 16 pounds), fresh or frozen (thawed, if frozen)
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In large skillet over medium heat, melt butter or margarine. Add coleslaw mix, onion and celery; cook until tender.

Stir in water chestnuts and cheese. Season to taste, if desired.

In large bowl, toss together bread cubes and vegetables mixture. Sprinkle small amount of water over bread cube mixture to moisten; stir lightly. Set aside.

Heat oven to 350°F.

Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavities; set aside to use in soup or gravy or discard, if desired. Rinse turkey well (inside and out) with cool water. Drain completely. Place turkey on absorbent paper toweling on counter.

Spoon stuffing into neck cavity; stuff lightly, do not pack. Secure skin over cavity with turkey roasting pin or tuck wings back to hold skin in place. Gently turn turkey. Stuff cavity lightly; close cavity with turkey roasting pins and string as lacing or tuck legs to secure stuffing before roasting.

Place turkey, breast side up, on flat rack in open roasting pan about 2 inches deep. Insert meat thermometer into thickest part of thigh next to body, not touching bone. Brush skin with oil.

Place turkey in oven and roast 4 to 4 1/2 hours. When skin is golden brown (about 2/3 done), cover breast loosely with light-weight aluminum foil to prevent over-browning. Check for doneness; thigh temperature should be 180° and stuffing 160°. Let turkey stand 15 minutes before carving.

Yields 12 to 14 servings (with 10 cups stuffing).

Tasty, Toasted Stuffing: Cornbread takes traditional stuffing and dressing to another level. And when you add pecans to the mix, your stuffing never tasted so good! This recipe from Grit’s recipe archives is a simple way to wow the guests at your holiday feast.

Toasted Pecan Cornbread Stuffing  

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, minced
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 bag (16 ounces) cornbread stuffing mix
2 teaspoons ground sage
2 1/2 cups apple juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add celery and onion; saute until soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. On a cookie sheet, toast pecans at 375°F for 5 to 7 minutes.

In large bowl, mix sauteed vegetables together with stuffing mix. Stir in pecans and ground sage.

In small saucepan, combine apple juice and butter; heat over medium heat until butter is completely melted. Pour liquid over stuffing mixture, season mixture with salt and pepper, and mix well.

Stuff turkey cavities immediately before roasting.

Place any remaining stuffing in buttered casserole and bake at 325° until hot and crusty, 45 to 60 minutes.

Yields enough stuffing for 16- to 20-pound turkey.

Traditional Tastes: Cranberries and sweet potatoes are among the ingredients of many a traditional holiday dish. What could be better than combining the two to create a new tradition for your family? Take a hint from Grit’s recipe archives, and check out Cranberry Sweet Potato Bake.

Cranberry Sweet Potato Bake  

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
1 large apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup cranberry juice cocktail or cranberry-apple juice
1/3 cup pecan halves, toasted

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large mixing bowl, combine sweet potatoes, cranberries, apple and raisins. In separate bowl, combine butter, sugar and spices. Add to sweet potato mixture, tossing to coat.

Place in shallow, 2-quart casserole dish. Pour juice over mixture. Cover and bake for 50 minutes, or until potatoes are almost soft, stirring occasionally. Stir in pecans and bake, uncovered, 10 additional minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Yields 8 servings.

Mashed Mounds: A holiday feast is incomplete without a mound of mashed potatoes next to that roast turkey. Most cooks mash butter and milk with the potatoes and call it finished. Why not add some garlic, onion, mustard and cheese? Here's the recipe from Grit’s recipe archives for Roasted-garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Roasted-garlic Mashed Potatoes  

1 large bulb garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup margarine
2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled, cubed and cooked
1/2 cup Dijon-style mustard
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley leaves

Heat oven to 400°F.

To roast garlic, peel off loose, paper-like skin from bulb. Coat bulb lightly with olive oil; wrap in foil. Place in a small baking dish; bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

Cool. Separate cloves. Squeeze cloves to extract pulp; discard skins.

In large saucepan, over medium heat, sauté garlic pulp and green onion in margarine until tender. Add potatoes, mustard, milk and cheese. Mash potato mixture until smooth and well-blended. Stir in parsley; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Classic Veggie: It hasn’t taken long for the Green Bean Casserole to become a must at many family holiday feasts. The easy-to-make dish tastes great, looks delicious and disappears fast!

Green Bean Casserole  

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups french fried onions

Heat oven to 350°F.

In 1 1/2-quart casserole, mix soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions. Bake for 25 minutes or until hot.

Stir. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake an additional 5 minutes.

Yields 6 servings.

NOTE: Use 1 bag (16 to 20 ounces) frozen green beans, 2 packages (9 ounces each) frozen green beans, 2 cans (about 16 ounces each) green beans or about 1 1/2 pound fresh green beans for this recipe.

For a change of pace, substitute 4 cups cooked broccoli flowerets for the green beans.

For a creative twist, stir in 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese with soup. Omit soy sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup additional Cheddar cheese when adding the remaining onions.

For a festive touch, stir in 1/4 cup chopped red pepper with soup.

For a heartier mushroom flavor, substitute condensed golden mushroom soup for cream of mushroom soup. Omit soy sauce. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped red pepper with green beans.
– recipe courtesy Campbell’s Soup, www.CampbellKitchen.com 

Dessert, Please: This year, take that tried-and-true pumpkin pie and add a bit of a crunch. Pumpkin says Thanksgiving, and so do pecans. Make a pie that’s bit of pumpkin and bit of pecan – two desserts everyone asks for at this time of year. From Grit’s recipe archives comes Pumpkin-Pecan Pie, and your family will request it every year!

Pumpkin-Pecan Pie  

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecan halves

Heat oven to 350°F.
For pumpkin layer, in medium bowl, combine egg, pumpkin, sugar and pie spice. Mix well and ladle into bottom of pie shell.

For pecan layer, combine corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla; stir in pecans. Spoon over pumpkin layer.

Bake for 50 minutes or until filling is set.

Yields 8 servings.

Another Favorite: Sweet potatoes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, and, in any dish, they are a great addition to a holiday table. One way to add sweet potatoes to your feast is in a delectable pie – this Sweet Potato Pie is a tradition in the making.

Sweet Potato Pie  

1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pastry for single crust pie

Heat oven to 450°F.

Line pie plate with pastry, forming a high collar. Combine sweet potatoes, brown sugar, melted butter, egg, milk, spices and salt. Ladle into pie shell.
Bake for 15 minutes; reduce heat and continue baking at 350° for 30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Yields 6 servings.

Age-old Question: On the day after Thanksgiving comes the yearly question, “What do I do with the leftovers?” Two possibilities, from Grit’s recipe archives, may become your yearly routine after the festivities have ended. Make a tasty broth for later use, and put a pot of tasty turkey soup on the back of the stove for everyone to enjoy. Try out Turkey Frame Broth and Quick Turkey Noodle Soup on your family this year.

Turkey Frame Broth  

1 turkey carcass, preferably with some meat
3 stalks celery, cut into pieces
1 carrot, cut into pieces
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
10 black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon paprika
10 cups water

Break up turkey carcass and put pieces in heavy 4-quart saucepan or stockpot. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Remove carcass from pan and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove turkey meat from bones and reserve for another use, if desired. Discard carcass. Strain broth and discard vegetables and seasonings. Use broth for soups, gravies and sauces.

Yields about 8 cups.

Quick Turkey Noodle Soup  

8 cups Turkey Frame Broth or canned chicken broth
4 ounces egg noodles, uncooked
10 ounces whole kernel corn, frozen
10 ounces frozen peas
2 cups turkey, cooked, chopped
Salt
Black pepper, freshly ground

In large heavy saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Add noodles, lower heat and cook according to package directions until almost tender. Add frozen corn and peas and cook for 5 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender.

Stir in turkey. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 5 minutes more. Cook until turkey is heated through.

Yields 6 to 8 servings.


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