It’s barely November, and I am planning ahead for Thanksgiving. This will be my third year donning the apron, and I am getting pumped. But before detailing my 2013 menu, a trip down memory lane.
Thanksgiving 1- Anatomy of a Turkey
I started cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for my family only two years ago, when we hosted my parents & brothers for Thanksgiving in Maryland. Using the power of the Internet, I painstakingly prepared to engineer the best Thanksgiving meal, primarily using Lifehacker’s “This Is How You Should Cook Your Turkey Next Thursday” and SeriousEats’ Alton Brown on How to Carve a Turkey. It was time to put the Internet to practice, and try my hand at the iconic American dinner.
Preparation began the night before- putting together the brine and finding a big enough bag and enough space in the fridge for a raw turkey to hang out for the night. Katie felt like the brining was a bit absurd, but she went along for the ride. Thursday morning, everything seemed to be going to plan. With a few ‘rotate the turkey 90 degrees’ steps involved, the recipe was a bit more involved, but it wasn’t too difficult to figure out. After rotating the bird several times I was expecting Katie’s eyes to simply fall out of her head with all the eye-rolling she was doing.
Finally the last timer went off, and I pulled the turkey out for ‘resting.’ Now, the meat thermometer steps to the fore for its time in the sun (ok kind of the opposite since this is seemingly the most important time you should not actually be sticking the thermometer where the sun shines). Anywho, the temperature is… off. Something isn’t right. I seemingly followed everything to the t, but the turkey wasn’t hot enough. I quietly started panicking, looking over the bird as Katie casually walked over and pointed out that I was measuring the back meat- I had cooked the bird upside down. Gah!
I threw the turkey back into the oven for another 30-45 minutes (right side up!), started Thanksgiving Dinner with a table full of side dishes and prayed for the best. 45 minutes later when the bird was done (for real this time) it was still pretty good- pretty crispy skin and the meat was still pretty tender. Victory, snatched from the jaws of Thanksgiving defeat. Overall I would say this recipe is a pretty solid one- even more so when you know which side of the turkey is which.
Thanksgiving 2- Rightside up this time.
My second Thanksgiving went off without a hitch; after figuring out which side was which on the turkey I was good to go. Another key was getting the timing right for all the side dishes- this time around just about everything that could finished up at about the same time to arrive fresh & warm on the dinner table.
I considered an Alton Brown Turkey Recipe from Good Eats, but opted for a simpler preparation from Bon Appetit: Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs . This turkey recipe was a fair amount less involved. In the end I generously gave the dish a 3/4 rating. The turkey meat was tender, but the skin was only ok. For me, one of my side dishes stole the show- Real Simple’s Sweet Potato Casserole with Coconut was a home run, and let’s face it, desert thinly disguised as a vegetable.
Thanksgiving 3- Old Hat
So it’s my third Thanksgiving- decisions, decisions. SeriousEats has a great primer- The Complete 2013 Serious Eats Guide to Turkeys. Type of turkey? Size? Brining or Salting? Spatchcocking? It’s there.
As for a specific turkey recipe, Alton Brown’s Good Eats Roast Turkey continues to speak to me, like an annual siren call. But, wait, what is this… Just as the weather is getting chillier and I am starting to plan ahead for Thanksgiving, Wired publishes ‘hack your Thanksgiving.’ Wired & Food Network say that Giada’s Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus is the #1 recipe? But what about spatchcocking? Shortcut to an easy bird?
And while I will be repeating last year’s sweet potato casserole, I might try and find some stronger sides this time around- I am looking at you, green bean casserole.
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