Charlie Abowd: Counting our blessings this Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is already upon us, and in review, this has been one heck of a year. I suppose to say Karen and I are embarking on a new adventure is a bit of an understatement given what has unfolded since March, but that said, there are some silver linings.
For the first time in a very long time, if ever, we have time to attend our grandchildren’s games and events, can go camping at will, take time to give public comment at meetings and pursue the pleasure of cooking just because.
As we move forward, Karen will continue to work at her design business as she has for many years. As for me, I am launching Charlie’s Table at Your Home, cooking for private events only and have already been booking dates. I look forward to the diversity that will bring to my days.
Another thing that I’ve been able to do, was to be present for the annual Celebrity Chef & Harvest Dinner, which was conducted this year at the Governor’s Mansion’s Nevada Room. This event was started years ago to honor my dad, Paul Abowd’s career as a chef and restaurateur, and has become a hugely successful benefit event for The Greenhouse Project.
This year, rather than being in the mix of a busy kitchen, I assisted with prep and then turned the reigns over to Roundabout Catering’s chefs Collin Smith and Chris Nealon, which allowed me to view the evening through a different lens. And what a magical evening it was. To see 100 people gathered with the sole purpose of generously supporting the work of educating our young people in traditional and evolving agriculture education at Carson High School, which in turn provides produce for our community’s food insecure, reminded me that we all have a role to play in being our brother’s and sister’s keepers.
During this time of gratitude, that spirit was alive and wonderful, and I was thrilled to be there. TGP is currently working toward raising the necessary funds to build an outdoor classroom, and is a third of the way there. If you feel so moved, please visit TGP’s web site for more information and for ways to participate and donate to TGP’s continuing work, http://www.carsoncitygreenhouse.org .
Also, just a reminder to find a Toys for Tots toy bin or go directly to Ron Wood Resource Center and donate a toy or two so every child experiences a joyful Christmas.
So now to dinner. This year, I am preparing a free-range, organically-grown turkey from Sue Kennedy’s Ranch in Elko. Sue sells beef, chicken and rabbit year around and turkeys seasonally. She always has a booth at the Farmer’s Market at Tamarac Junction each Saturday, during late spring through late summer and can also be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KennedyRanch .
Remember, the sole purpose of this uniquely American holiday is to count our blessings. Family Day, which follows, calls us to remember and share time with those closest to us.
Now let’s get cooking!
The recipe I am giving you is for a 16-pound turkey. I like to give 15 to 20 minutes per pound roasting time, making sure the bird’s internal temperature is between 165 and 170 degrees.
These are my traditional Thanksgiving Day menu recipes. Follow the directions, use your eyes and nose to gauge how your cooking is coming along, and pay attention to the instructions from various health agencies I am giving you.
It has been deemed by the various agencies that stuffing the turkey is of great concern due to bacteria that can form in the cavity, due to incorrect temperature application. The school of thought is to fill the turkey cavity with herbs and vegetables, and cook the stuffing in a casserole dish. That is what I do.
¾ cup kosher salt
¾ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry sage
12 fresh sage leaves, whole
1 tablespoon cinnamon
12 whole cloves
3 oranges, quartered
4 cups maple syrup
4 cups apple juice
Add enough cold water to cover turkey in a large stock pot.
When you make the brine, I recommend you dissolve the salt and brown sugar in the apple juice on the stove over medium heat. Heat just until the ingredients are dissolved, and then add a little ice to bring the temperature back to cold.
When brining the turkey, it is important that it is rinsed thoroughly after removing it from the packaging. The neck, gizzard and liver must be removed, rinsed and set aside for making the turkey stock, which will be needed for the stuffing and gravy.
You can brine the turkey one to two days in advance. Leave it in the brine at least 24 hours. When ready to remove, rinse, pat dry, and put it in the refrigerator, covered until you are ready to roast the bird.
16 pound turkey
1cup rough chopped carrots
1 cup rough chopped celery
1 cup rough chopped onion
1 cup chopped apples, peeled and cored
6 sprigs fresh thyme
5 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to cover bird
½ pound salted butter, soft
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups white wine (Riesling is my preference for this recipe.)
Put half of the vegetables, apple and thyme sprigs in the turkey cavity. Put the rest in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the brined turkey on top, after it has been patted dry. Pat the turkey with the soft butter and add the salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top.
Place the turkey in an oven preheated to 425 degrees, for 30 minutes. Turn down the heat to 350 degrees. Add the wine to the bottom of the pan. Cook for two and a half hours. Check the temperature of the bird, with either a turkey or meat thermometer. It should register 165 to 170 degrees. The cooking time might vary. All ovens are different, so please use your thermometer. Baste your turkey about every 45 minutes. Also, when you remove the turkey from the oven, remove it from the pan and let it sit for approximately 20 minutes before carving. This lets the meat absorb all the juices.
Sourdough Stuffing with Apples, Cranberries, Walnuts and Kielbasa Sausage
1 large sourdough round loaf, cut into ¾-inch squares (lightly cut off hard crust)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound kielbasa sausage, ¾-inch slices or half rounds
2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
¾ cupwalnuts, halved (I like to roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.)
When you open the package, make sure the nuts have not gone rancid.
½ cup dried cranberries
2 cups yellow onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 cups turkey stock
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the stuffing, buy a large round sourdough loaf. They are about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ pounds. Remove the crust and cut it into squares. Place the bread in a baking pan and then, in a 325-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, dry the bread. Do not dry it so much that it resembles a crouton. You don’t want it that hard. When the bread is done, place it in a large mixing bowl.
In a sauté pan, heat the oil and add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute about eight to 10 minutes or until slightly translucent. Add the sausage and cook 5 to 10 minutes, and then add the apples and cranberries. Cook five more minutes, stirring constantly. Add the stock, and pour the mixture over the bread. Add the dry sage and walnuts. Mix well and be sure the stuffing is not dry. If it is too dry, add some more stock. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Do not cook the walnuts in the sauté mixture; roast them, if you prefer. Cooking them will take the crunch out of them. Also, if you prefer, chop the nuts. I simply prefer the texture of halved ones.
Also, even though it is not on the ingredients list, some of the old timers like to add a couple of raw eggs to the stuffing. If you do this, mix very well.
Place the stuffing in a lightly buttered 12- x 16-inch or two 8- x 12-inch casserole dishes. Bake for one hour.
The making of the gravy is done at the very last minute. You will use the remainder of the turkey stock, drippings from the roasting pan, ½- to 1 cup all-purpose flour, whipping cream, salt and white pepper. You will also need a six quart or larger saucepan and a one-quart measuring cup or large bowl.
Now we will make the roux for the gravy. Pour all the juices and drippings into a measuring cup or bowl. Set aside away from the heat, so the solids from the drippings settle to the bottom, and the oil remains on top. Carefully pour only the oil into the saucepan and save the solids for the final stages of making the gravy. I usually pour the oil through a fine mesh strainer. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add half cup of flour, whisking constantly to avoid burning. Continue to add flour a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the consistency of thick, creamy pudding. You may not need to use all the flour.
Add the turkey stock (about four cups) slowly, whisking constantly. Add ½ cup of whipping cream and the reserved drippings. Continue to whisk and add salt and white pepper to taste. Bring the gravy to a slow, rolling boil to thicken. If your gravy is too thick, add more cream or stock. If it is too thin, make a roux of butter and flour in a separate pan, and slowly add to the gravy in small amounts, whisking vigorously until you achieve the desired consistency. Cook about 5 to 10 minutes.
I recently did a tasting for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner and have found Dry Creek Chenin Blanc and Zinfandel to be stellar. They might be a bit tough to find in Carson City, but Whispering Vine or Total Wine in Reno will have them. For more information or to order online, visit http://www.drycreekvineyard.com .
As always, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
And give thanks!
Charlie Abowd is the past owner and chef at Café at Adele’s and current owner of Charlie’s Table at Your Home. He and his wife, Karen, have lived in Carson City since 1980. Charlie is a fourth-generation restaurateur. Contact Charlie at 775-671-5948.