Splayed Turkey recipe – Although I love the idea of a beautifully browned whole turkey sitting in the middle of the dining table, I have yet to master cooking it that way. Instead, I like to splay (butterfly) the turkey: The legs slowly braise while the breast roasts to a nice golden brown. Instead of a dry, over cooked turkey, this recipe provides a perfectly cooked holiday bird. And it cooks more quickly, about half the time for a regular roasted turkey. Brining the turkey 24 hours ahead of time will add moisture to the bird. Read the NY Times splayed turkey recipe here – http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018403-splayed-turkey-with-herbs
How to carve a turkey – Every Thanksgiving, I would roast a beautiful turkey, bring it to the table to show the admiring guests and proceed to butcher it into an unrecognizable mess. Until I learned how a turkey should be carved. Watch this NY Times video about how to carve a turkey. It shows you how and tells you why you do it this way. And the presentation at the table is far more elegant and functional for guests. http://www.nytimes.com/video/dining/100000002542844/how-to-carve-a-turkey.html
I know this will be heresy to many, but if you are cooking for a large group at Thanksgiving, save your self a lot of time and effort and buy Bob Evans Mashed Potatoes. Peel a couple dozen potatoes, cut them into 2 inch pieces the same size, boil them, cool them, put in a big pot and mash them is a lot of work when you have 10 other items to cook.
And if you happen to over cook the potatoes (which I have done) you have to start all over, because the starchy mess can’t be saved. You just hope a grocery store is open and they have a bag of potatoes left – on Thanksgiving Day. The best part is that Bob Evans Mashed Potatoes taste great, and have some minor lumps, so you can fool just about everyone into thinking you made them from scratch.
Shop several days early, especially for non-perishable items (stuffing, cranberry sauce, anything canned, baking supplies, etc). You will avoid the pre-Thanksgiving crush at the grocery store.
Buy these things early and you’ll avoid the last-minute trip to the grocery store. You always forget something. These are the items we always forget to remember. Add them to your list, and you won’t have to make a trip Thursday morning to the store.
Butter – One of my favorite sayings is there is no such thing as too much butter. Make sure you have plenty.
Containers for Leftovers – For your guests to take home some leftovers. They don’t have to be fancy; in fact, they should be those restaurant take-out containers you don’t mind giving away.
Aluminum foil – Like paper towels, this tool is indispensable and in high demand during the holiday—for tenting turkey or wrapping up leftover rolls. Be sure to have plenty on hand.
Enough Ice – Easy to forget, so set a reminder to get a bag the day before, and put it in a cooler outside or your freezer.
Heavy cream – Another kind of dairy you won’t want to forget. Because there’s nothing like fresh whipped cream on a slice of pumpkin or pecan pie.
Paper towels – Cleaning up as you go. Wiping off plates, silverware and glasses. Lifting the turkey. Drying off anything. What do all of these have in common? The need for paper towels. Buy more than you think you need so you won’t get caught short. A definite Sam’s Club trip before Thanksgiving.
Beer/Wine/Sodas – After the grocery store, the worst place to be the day before Thanksgiving is the wine store or liquor dispensary. Take an inventory a week or so before the bog day and purchase accordingly.
Best Thanksgiving Tips
When making gravy from pan drippings, use soy sauce to both flavor the gravy and add color. Soy sauce has sodium (for flavor) and the dark color turns the home made gravy to a nice darker brown hue.
Start several days out with dicing your onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Keep them in a freezer bag or a plastic container.
Go to your grocery store butcher in advance and order a fresh turkey instead of buying a frozen one. The difference in taste is noticeable. And you can usually pick it up whatever day you need to start preparing the bird.
I feel like I’ve failed as a cook when there are no leftovers, so every year I cook a larger turkey, make a little more stuffing and make sure there is a lot of gravy. No such thing as too much gravy.
I sometimes use bourbon in my brines. Most bourbons have smoky, woody notes, which give the turkey a fantastic flavor. But remember, do not brine a frozen turkey – they have added sodium injected in most cases.
Try to get all of your side dishes done the day before.
Have lots of chicken or turkey stock on hand. You can use stock to baste the turkey and make gravy.
Use your oven space wisely: Make dishes like mashed potatoes ahead and heat them in a double boiler to save room in the oven for things that need to crisp, like stuffing.
Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the bird.
Don’t try to serve the entire meal hot—you usually don’t have enough space or burners. One of my favorite dishes is a green bean salad that you can serve at room temperature.
For big groups, don’t be afraid to use place cards. Strategic seating allows for better conversation by placing the extroverts in the right spot. No one wants to be stuck at the boring end of the table.
Enjoy the day and the time spent with friends and family.