This is such a fun time for those of us who love to cook. Making a holiday meal is a treat, even if it is only served to us two. I promised last year to share the steps of my dressing recipe, and I have a new idea for you that I tried last year that worked beautifully. You have time to get to the store if you want to do the dressing recipe, but likely you will have most of what you need already. The recipe is pretty much dump, mix and go, add in what you like and leave out what you don’t. Sometimes I add in sausage instead of bacon, sometimes I leave out the wild rice, some years I add in leeks. I never use celery because I hate it.
The secret to an ‘effortless’ (LOL, yeah, right) holiday is make as much ahead as possible. So I do as much prep on Wednesday as I can. The dressing is an easy one to do ahead. For this one, I cooked some wild rice to add to the mix. It takes about 45 minutes to boil to tenderness.
While the rice boils, I take all the bits of breads I’ve been saving in the refrigerator and cut them into cubes. Well, that is what I haven’t fed to Oliver and Jack. This year will need a supplemental amount of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix.
So with the bread I have, I’ll cut it into cubes and spread on a baking sheet.
Bake at 350º for 15 to 20 minutes, until dry and browned. Stir and flip once or twice during the baking.
Place in a big bowl.
Fry several strips of bacon, then saute onions and garlic in the bacon fat. Drain well.
Using the same pan, wipe out the grease, then saute brown mushrooms in butter.
Add everything to the bread cubes and mix well. Add at least one can of low sodium chicken broth, and maybe a bit more if the bread is still dry.
Lightly pack into a baking dish. Cover and put in the refrigerator. It can hold for a couple of days at this point.
Take out of the refrigerator about an hour before you want to begin baking it so it comes up to room temperature. Place in a 350º oven for 30-45 minutes, until browned and heated through, with the internal temperature at least 150 degrees.
Another treat is homemade bread, and my Rustic Egg Bread is a yummy addition.
It has a delicate crumb and a crispy crust. It is easy to prepare, and the rising can be done while other kitchen prep is going on.
So, now the new way to cook turkey. In previous years I have brined the turkey, which makes a delicious and really moist turkey, but the drawback is you cannot use the juices as they are too salty. So, I thought about doing a slow cooked one. I didn’t want to do 24 hours at 200 degrees, it needed to be a bit faster than that. So I experimented last year with cooking the turkey at 250º, taking it out and testing the temperature frequently so I could get you the right timing. I rubbed the turkey with butter, then added a selection of herbs and spices, heavy on the sage and oregano.
I baked it at 250º for 20-25 minutes per pound. I planned on 3 hours for a nine pound turkey. If you have a 20 pound turkey, plan on 6 hours and 40 minutes minimum, about 7 hours is likely, and may take as much as 8 hours. Put the turkey in the oven with the legs towards the back of the oven if you can. If you can’t, be sure to turn it around halfway through the cooking time. You’ll need an instant read thermometer, and bake until the breast meat is 165º near the bone. Be sure to let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes, while the side dishes cook. Covered with foil it should stay hot for an hour or more.
This was a winner, with tender juicy meat, crispy skin and delicious flavor. Plus the juices could go into the gravy! I used those roasting bags for several years until I realized they were overcooking my meals. If you just swear by them, get an instant read thermometer and start checking your breast temperature at least 30 minutes before the chart says you’ll be done. You want no higher than 165 – 170 degrees, or your turkey will be dry as toast on the day after Thanksgiving. With this slow roast method, it is next to impossible to overcook, so the meat is moist and juicy not only Thanksgiving day, but days later for sandwiches and more nibbles.
I’m doing the Baked Spinach for our side dish.
Dessert for the holiday will be pie, I found a little berry pie for My Sweet Babboo that I’ll bake for him on Wednesday. For me, I have a slice of frozen French Silk pie that I’ll defrost on Thanksgiving morning. Yes, just one slice because I’ll get a little cake later as my birthday falls during the holiday weekend this year. My favorite is a dense vanilla cake with dark chocolate buttercream frosting. That will be plenty of sweets for one weekend! Of course, I highly recommend my Pumpkin Toffee Dump Cake as an alternative to the usual pumpkin pie.
Do you do a lot of prep cooking before the holiday? What’s your favorite side dish? What are you having for dessert?