Traditional Turkey & Dressing

This recipe proves that going back to the basics can be the best!

Traditional Turkey

16-20 lb. turkey
turkey gravy
cranberry sauce

Wash the turkey in cold running water and then stuff it if you're going that route. Put the bird on a rack in an uncovered roasting pan. Preheat oven to 450° then reduce the heat to 325° as soon as you put the bird in. (Last time I waited 15 minutes before reducing the temperature, then covered with foil for the remainder of the roasting, and the skin came out great!) Roast for about 15 minutes per pound if unstuffed, or about 20 minutes per pound if stuffed.

You must baste frequently or cover the top of the turkey with aluminum foil part way through to prevent excessive browning. Remember that the 20 minutes per pound is a guideline. Your oven's characteristics may result in faster or slower cooking. Use a meat thermometer as your final gage.

Cook to an internal temperature of 180° to 185°. The little "pop-up" thingies do work. If the bird has one, believe it. Allow the bird to sit for about 20 minutes before carving it. This allows the meat to absorb the juices and results in juicier meat.

Note: After you've cooked and eaten your turkey, perhaps you'd like to Make Your Own Turkey Stock!

Traditional Turkey Gravy

turkey neck and giblets
pan drippings from roast turkey
2 cans chicken stock (14 oz. each)
2 T. poultry seasoning
cornstarch, as required
salt & pepper to taste

As soon as you have put the turkey in the oven heat water in a large sauce pan to simmering, then add the turkey neck and giblets. Cover and reduce the heat to barely simmering. Cook over low heat for 3-4 hours or however long suits you, then remove from heat and take the neck and giblets out of the water and allow them to cool. Remove the meat from the neck using your hands, then finely chop. Also finely chop the giblets. You can reserve the giblet mix until you are ready to proceed.

After you have removed the turkey from the oven and transferred it from the roasting pan to a serving plate, pour off the pan grease into a Pyrex measuring cup and place it in your refrigerator. Add one can of chicken stock to the pan and place it on the stove, heating it over low flame while you lightly scrape the pan drippings to release them into the liquid. (Usually you will use two burners for heat, and keep the flame as low as possible.) Continue scraping until you've released most of the drippings, adding additional stock if desired. When you're happy with the amount of drippings released, transfer the entire contents of the pan to a medium sauce pan, add the remaining stock and the reserved giblet mix and poultry seasoning, then heat over medium flame until the mixture begins to simmer.

Use the cornstarch to thicken the gravy. Mix 1-2 T. of cornstarch with about ¼ C. of water, then scoop out some gravy using a spoon and add it to the cornstarch mix, stir until blended, then return the mixture to the sauce pan. Repeat one or more times until you are satisfied with the gravy's consistency. Add salt and pepper as desired to correct the seasoning. You may also add more poultry seasoning as desired. Transfer the gravy to a serving dish when you're ready to serve dinner.

Traditional Turkey Stuffing

1 lb. loaf of whole wheat bread, cubed (Branola brand works well)
3 onions, chopped
1 head celery with tops, chopped
1 t. salt (or to taste)
1 t. pepper
3-4 T. poultry seasoning

Mix the above ingredients in a bowl, then stuff the turkey's chest and neck cavities with it. If you like, use your hand to push out the skin adjacent to the cavities and put more stuffing there.

These measurements are suitable for a 20 pound turkey. Adjust as required depending on the size of your turkey and consider that it's better to throw away some raw stuffing rather than running out. Warning: Discard any stuffing that has come into contact with the raw turkey!

My Oven Turkey Stuffing

The very best stuffing can be only made by cooking it in the bird, but stuffing the bird is difficult, messy and time consuming, particularly if you're behind the clock and need to get the bird into the oven as quickly as possible. My mom devised this recipe which I have fine tuned and documented. It's nearly as good as in-the-bird stuffing and can be made after your turkey is already happily roasting in the oven.

10 C. wheat bread, cubed (about ½ a loaf)
3 T. poultry seasoning
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper, finely ground
¼ C. olive oil
3 C. celery, diced (about ½ head)
3 C. onion, diced (about 2 medium onions)
1½ to 2 cans chicken stock (14 oz. each)
2 eggs

Season the bread cubes with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, and set aside. Heat the oil in a large chef's pan over medium heat, then saute the celery and onion until they start to get limp and translucent. Increase the heat and add one and a half cans of the chicken stock, then continue heating until the mixture begins to simmer. Turn off the heat, add the bread cube mixture and stir until the bread is moistened. Add the last half can of stock only if necessary to moisten the mixture. Add the eggs and continue to stir until everything is just mixed, but don't get carried away. We are making stuffing, not pudding!

Put the mixture in a 3 quart casserole and bake uncovered in a 350° oven for 1 hour or until the top is browned but not burned. This recipe can also be scaled down and served with a chicken entrée.

Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

Nothing is as good as home made cranberry sauce, and it is ridiculously easy to make. Here are the package directions, but we're going to change them:

1 C. water
1 C. sugar  <   too much! Use ½ C. of sugar!
12 oz. package fresh cranberries

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Remember to use only half of the sugar specified in the package directions! Add the cranberries and return to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the sauce into a bowl, cover and cool completely to room temperature before serving. Refrigerate any sauce left over after serving.

Credit: My own recipes inspired by my mom!

Filed under Poultry   Tagged family recipe, turkey, dinner