Note: This post was originally called Thanksgiving Preparations, but I have been so busy it never got posted. Better late than never, I say.
I am preparing Thanksgiving dinner for my parents, my family, and my daughter's best friend. We'll have turkey with giblet gravy and dressing, whole cranberry sauce, a potato casserole, a corn dish, two kinds of sweet potatoes, freshly baked crescent rollls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and a relish tray filled with olives, pickles, deviled eggs and the like.
In the past I have searched recipes and tried variations of traditional fare. Some were successes, some were merely serviceable. This year, I let my husband and children decide the menu. Almost every recipe was something I can prepare mostly in advance. As I write this, my Thanksgiving dinner is two thirds prepared, and it is Wednesday evening. Tomorrow, I will get up and roast the turkey, make a fresh pumpkin pie, put finishing touches on the sweet potatoes and bake everything. It has been the easiest Thanksgiving meal I have ever cooked.
Combine 1 part sugar with 2 parts salt. Season to taste. I use sage and chili powder, about a tablespoon each. Mix well and rub over the skin of the turkey. Refrigerate the turkey overnight without covering. (I put parchment paper in the bottom crisper of my refrigerator and pop the turkey in with the rub applied to the bottom, then apply the rub to the rest of the body and return the crisper drawer to the fridge. It works like a charm.)
Remove turkey from the refrigerator in the morning and rub off the seasonings (do not rinse). Apply olive oil to the skin. Do not stuff. Place celery and carrot sticks in the bottom of the roasting pan. Halve an onion and slice; add it to the pan. Cover just the bottom of the roasting pan with chicken broth (about one cup). Place the turkey on top of the celery and carrots. Place in a 325 degree oven and roast for 3 to 4 hours, depending on size, until it reaches the desired internal temperature (I like 170 degrees). The skin will be crisp and beautifully browned. The dark meat will be cooked through and the breast meat will be moist. Every time.
I used to brine my turkey. This is much better and requires infinitely less preparation.
Traditional Southern Dressing
Brown one pound of bulk Italian sausage. Add a sweet onion, diced, and two stalks of celery, diced. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Drain. Return to flame and add four cups of chicken stock and two tablespoons of butter. Simmer while you prepare the bread.
Cube one 8" x 8" pan of cornbread. Add one tablespoon of rubbed sage. Combine with one 16 ounce package of herbed dressing mix (I use Pepperidge Farms). Add several tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley.
Combine sausage mixture and bread mixture. Mix well. Add chicken stock to achieve desired moistness. Turn out into buttered 3 quart casserole dish. Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes.
I don't think I have ever made dressing the same way twice. This is the basic recipe I use. Sometimes I add chopped pecans or dried cranberries or both. My mother uses oysters and adds green peppers to the onion and celery. The result is always delicious.
Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Combine two cups of cranberries, one half cup of sugar, two tablespoons water, one tablespoon fresh orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cranberries burst, about six to eight minutes. Serve warm or cold.
I like this spooned over vanilla ice cream when still warm.
As it turns out, this really was the easiest Thanksgiving ever. I got up and put the turkey on to roast at 7:30am, then baked the pumpkin pie. I have two large ovens, so I could bake the dressing, potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn dish in one oven as the turkey finished roasting in the other. The crescent rolls were baked last while the table was filled with food. Dinner was served about 12:30pm. Everything was warm and everything was delicious. Best of all for me, it was easy since I did most of the work on Wednesday. The children cleaned up while I put away food. I spent the afternoon visiting with my parents and my husband. I don't ever remember having such a leisurely and pleasant Thanksgiving. Well, not when I was the one cooking, anyway.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.