It is November 1st, and the holidays are officially upon us! I am super excited this year for the holidays to have arrived! Not just because of the most awesome gift guide ever that we have planned for you, dear reader, but because this has always been my most favorite time of the year!
I’m kind of ashamed to admit that I am one of those people who sits here on my couch on Thanksgiving watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, just shaking my head at the poor people who keep the Butterball hotline in business. I mean really, cooking a turkey is not that difficult, but I understand that looking at a 20 pound naked bird sitting in your roasting pan can be a bit daunting to the first-time Thanksgiving meal cook. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, so it’s “old hat” for me now. I do remember the angst I felt that very first Thanksgiving dinner I hosted though, so here are a few tips to help you out!
Get a Head Count.
You have found yourself in the awkward position of being the home that everyone is coming to for Thanksgiving dinner. Embrace the challenge! You need to get a good head count and ensure just how many people are going to be attending, and then plan to feed at least another four people. (My husband has a habit of inviting people and forgetting to tell me that he did so, so I always make sure that I have more than enough for everyone, and there’s always those leftover recipes to make the day after!)
Figure out what you want to make for the entire meal, right down to desserts, so you can put together a shopping list to ensure you have everything that you need. You also might like to inquire as to whether any of your guests have any food allergies as well to avoid a trip to the emergency room Thanksgiving Day.
Prep Your Shopping List.
Once you have your meal and desserts planned, pull the recipes and get your list made of all the ingredients you will need. Don’t forget to check the staples in your pantry and make sure you have things like gravy, butter, milk, sugar, flour, etc. on hand.
Start Watching Your Newspaper Ads.
Many of the grocery stores will provide you with a FREE TURKEY if you spend a certain amount of money each week in their store leading up to Thanksgiving. (Here is where the shopping list comes in handy!) So when you do your weekly shopping, add a few items from the Thanksgiving list.
Defrost the Turkey.
Depending on when you are planning on having your Thanksgiving feast (we always have ours around noon so we can nap afterwards and then nibble on the leftovers for dinner) depends on when you need to begin thawing your turkey out. The best way to thaw a turkey is to do so in the refrigerator. Butterball has an absolutely awesome way to help you to determine how long you need to thaw your turkey out using their thaw-a-turkey calculator.
Prepare Ahead of Time.
Anything and everything that you can prepare ahead of time – DO SO! Why should you be slaving in the kitchen trying to cook 8 different things while your guests are enjoying themselves? By the time your guests begin arriving, you should have everything finished except for the turkey and whatever sides need to be baked the day-of or just reheated. Most recipes will give you an idea on whether you can prepare ahead of time and freeze or just keep cool in the fridge until the day of.
The best holiday turkey is the simplest holiday turkey – and this recipe is a favorite!
Classic Thanksgiving Turkey and Stuffing
- 1 large turkey about 12 to 14 pound
- Salt and Pepper
- 4 large baking potatoes cut into bite-size pieces
- 6 large carrots cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 and 1/2 cups mushrooms sliced
- 2 onions cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 to 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 large oven cooking bag for turkey
- Stuffing Ingredients
- 1 loaf of bread long French/Italian is best shredded into small pieces
- 1 large Spanish onion diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 stalk celery chopped
- 1/4 cup margarine
- 1 cup mushrooms sliced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- Remove the giblets from the turkey (the little bag with the neck, heart, gizzards and liver inside the turkey) and set aside.
- Start with preparing your stuffing. Saute onions, garlic, and celery in margarine.
- Add mushrooms after the onions are half-translucent.
- Place shredded bread into a large mixing bowl.
- Pour vegetable mixture over the bread and toss together until well mixed.
- Add chicken broth slowly while mixing, until bread is moist but not drenched.
- Add your eggs and seasonings and mix well. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash turkey, inside and out, and pat dry.
- Sprinkle liberally inside and out with salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Stuff cavity of your turkey with your prepared stuffing, packing lightly as it will expand.
- Gently loosen the gap between the skin and breast, and place a layer of stuffing underneath the turkey skin. The stuffing will form a small mound at the front of the cavity.
- Open your oven cooking bag and shake your flour into it.
- Place your stuffed turkey into the oven cooking bag.
- Scatter the potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and onions around the turkey in the bag.
- Place the bagged turkey into a large roasting pan.
- Cut approximately 4 or 5 slits in the top of the bag, approximately 1/2 inch.
- Place the turkey in the oven and bake until done (approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours). Use a thermometer in the bird's thigh to check temperature.
- Eat and enjoy!