Turkey needed for dinner

Published 10:08 am Friday, November 20, 2009

By Staff
Lisa Tindell
Cook’s Corner
In 1621 Edward Winslow wrote a letter to family and related a story surrounding would very well could be considered the first Thanksgiving meal — you know, the one that the Indians were supposed to be invited to attend.
Funny thing is turkey may not have been the main dish. That idea is so foreign to me that I can’t imagine how those pilgrims even got the Indians to come. No turkey – bah, that’s just un-Thanksgiving.
Although that first feast may not have had turkey, at least Winslow reported having “wild fowl” on the menu. Could have been duck, could have been goose, might have been turkey. Puts me in the mindset of where the idea of a turducken might have been born.
If you’re looking for a somewhat contemporary yet traditional meal for your Thanksgiving feast, I’ve got some great menu ideas for the big meal of the day.
Of course, there has to be turkey with plenty of dressing (not stuffing), cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie for dessert. At my house I usually throw in a pot of dumplings and maybe some broccoli salad for a little green. Others in my family think turnips or collards on the table is a must for the sake of tradition. I’m a little iffy on the greens (not a fan).
There isn’t really a recipe for baking a turkey, only guidelines and time estimates. I tend to do a couple of things to a turkey prior to baking just to add some flavor.
Roasted Turkey
16-18 lb. turkey, thawed
Preheat oven to 325. Remove turkey from package and drain any water or other liquids. Pat dry with paper towels. Quarter two large onions. Clean four to six ribs celery and cut into four inch sections. Stuff onions and celery in turkey cavity. Sprinkle salt and pepper over turkey and rub into skin. Brush entire surface of turkey with oil to prevent skin from drying. (You can also spray non-stick cooking spray instead of using oil). Bake for 3 to 3 1⁄2 hours or until meat thermometer placed in thigh reaches 180 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving.
For dressing the key is to have good cornbread. If you don’t make good cornbread then your dressing probably won’t be good either. However, even if your cornbread isn’t the best in the world, you can make do by adding good seasonings to the mix.
Cornbread Dressing
6 cups crumbled cornbread
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
7 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sage (optional)
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (optional)
5 eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until transparent, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the vegetable mixture over cornbread mixture. Add the stock, mix well, taste, and add salt, pepper to taste, sage, and poultry seasoning. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Pour mixture into a greased pan and bake until dressing is cooked through, about 45 minutes.
The dressing should be sort of soupy before you begin baking. This will insure the dressing isn’t too dry when done. Judge the baking time for yourself. Just remember after about 30 minutes of cooking the dressing is safe to eat. Since the bread and vegetables have already been cooked you need only to make sure the eggs added to the mixture are done to avoid any problems.
The addition of cranberry sauce to the menu is up for debate for many people. Personally, I don’t think I could eat turkey and dressing without it.
Most folks I know simply go with a can of the sauce at their meal. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to make your own here’s an easy preparation method for fresh sauce.
Cranberry Sauce
1 cup white sugar
1 cup orange juice
12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the orange juice. Stir in the cranberries, and cook until they start to pop (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat, and transfer to a bowl. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.
One other great benefit of making your own cranberry sauce is the versatility of the dish. If you’ve never tried it as an appetizer you may want to give it a go. Simply pour the cranberry sauce over a block of cream cheese and serve with a variety of sweet or savory crackers.
Round out your meal with a little something green and pull out the pumpkin pie and coffee at dessert.
Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving meal will be the thing that brings your family and friends together to enjoy the holiday!

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