The foundation of a good Thanksgiving begins with a good turkey and fixin’s
By Charlie Abowd
It’s time to plan Thanksgiving dinner. It is one of Karen’s and my favorite times of year. It gives us time to pause and be thankful for what we have been blessed with in both our professional and personal lives.
Personally, I want to express my gratitude to those members of our community who have taken the time and given money to help those less fortunate.
Have you ever wondered how many thousands of dinners the Carson City Nugget has given away during the holiday season? I’m sure, through the years, it amounts to more than 100,000 meals. And how about the Russell family and the hundreds of thousands of dollars that it helped raise for the Boys & Girls Club along with the Wandler family and the countless other people in this community?
We have a lot to be thankful for in the Carson City area. So please take the time and give thanks and remember, if you can, to drop off a box of food to FISH or your favorite charitable organization. Also try to take a turkey to Mike’s Pharmacy on the corner of William and Curry streets today. They will be distributed to those less fortunate.
Getting back to the food – people have requested that I repeat last year’s recipes. So reluctantly I have decided to do so.
I recommend an all-natural or certified-organic turkey. I will not buy turkeys injected with solutions by the manufacturers for moistness. If you cook the bird properly, this will not be an issue. However, if you feel the need for added juices, add them yourself by buying a specifically designed hypodermic-style needle from a kitchen shop and inject the solution. I recommend a mixture of maple syrup, butter and a touch of turkey stock. It adds a unique flavor to the meat.
There are many ways to prepare a turkey – slow barbecue in a covered Weber-style barbecue, french frying (done by using specifically designed equipment for this purpose), smoking or have someone smoke one for you, or roasting, which is the method I prefer.
I enjoy french frying turkeys, but it can be very dangerous for the average home cook so if you choose this method, please be very careful and follow the instructions. Also, if you choose to have someone smoke a turkey for you, I would recommend Butler Meats, but order early enough to make sure they can accommodate your needs because they are extremely busy at Thanksgiving.
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In cooking my turkey, I use a roasting time of 15 minutes per pound unstuffed and 20 minutes per pound stuffed. The internal temperature of a fully cooked bird should be about 160 to 165 degrees.
I first thoroughly wash the turkey inside and out with a salt water solution. Then in a large pot, I put enough water to cover the bird and add 2 cups of kosher or pickling salt and 2 cups of sugar to make a brine. I soak the turkey for 8 hours, drain it, and do this process again, letting it sit a minimum of 8 hours but no more than 10 hours.
This process does two things – it sweetens the meat by adding sugar, and the salt helps the skin hold in the natural juices of the turkey. When you slice the turkey, the natural juices, which normally would run out of the bird while cooking, are still in the meat and the skin will have a crispy texture.
I like to use a dry rub on my turkey. I use a mixture of dried sage, sea salt (or kosher salt) and fresh ground black pepper. Rub it onto the entire turkey, inside and out. The amount you use will depend on how big your turkey is so you will have to be the judge. You don’t want to cake it on, but just have a thin film over the entire bird.
When I have completed this stage, I press about half a pound of soft butter onto the top of the bird then drizzle it with pure maple syrup. (Remember to baste the bird approximately every 45 minutes. Also, when you take 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 of the juices.)
When adding stuffing, make sure that it is hot and/or recently prepared. I believe this will help with the cooking time. If the stuffing is cold, it will add approximately 5 to 10 minutes per pound, but do not stuff the bird the night before cooking. It could allow bacteria to form during the cooking process.
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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, 1Ú2 cup to 1 cup of all-purpose flour, whipping cream, salt and white pepper. You will also need a 6-quart or larger saucepan and a 1-quart measuring cup or large bowl.
For the roux for the gravy, pour all of the juices and drippings from the roasting pan to the 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. (I usually pour the oil through a fine mesh strainer.) Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add 1Ú2 cup of flour, whisking constantly to avoid burning. Continue to add flour a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the consistency of a thick creamy pudding.
Add the turkey stock (approximately 4 cups) slowly, whisking constantly. Add 1Ú2 cup of whipping cream and the reserved drippings from the roasting pan. 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 for your taste, add more cream or stock. If it is too thin, in a separate pot make a roux of butter and flour; slowly add to the gravy in small amounts, whisking vigorously until you achieve the desired consistency. Cook about 5 to 10 minutes.
2 pounds sausage*
6 apples, peeled and cored
1 cup dried sun-dried cherries (or dried cranberries or golden raisins)
1 cup yellow onion, chopped in half-inch cubes
11Ú2 cups celery, chopped in half-inch cubes
1Ú2 cup apple cider
10 quarts of crumbled cornbread **
1 bunch fresh sage, equivalent to 2 T. chopped or use 1 T. dried
2 cups turkey stock ***
2 cups toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)****
In a large saucepan or braising pan, sauté sausage over medium heat. Add half of the celery, onion and apples, cook for about 10 minutes, or until the sausage is completely cooked and vegetables are soft. Turn up the heat for 3 minutes then add the apple cider and remaining celery, onion and apple. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it is reduced by 25 percent. Keeping half of the celery, onion and apple to add at this time imparts a nice texture to the stuffing. Add the fresh sage, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, sausage mixture and nuts. Mix thoroughly; it should be either semi-dry or moist at this time. Slowly add hot stock to the mixture so the stuffing becomes soft and pliable, not dry. Add a 1Ú2 cup at a time until you reach the desired texture.
Stuff the bird. If there is any stuffing left over, place it in a casserole and bake it in the oven during the last hour of cooking the turkey.
* Because there are many people who do not eat meat, I use a chicken or turkey sausage instead of pork, although pork is excellent. Butler Meats sells an apple sausage that I like and works well in this recipe.
** Make the cornbread a week to three days before use and leave it out to dry.
*** Make stock from giblets, neck, wings, celery, peppercorns and bay leaves.
**** Most pecans and walnuts are sold raw so to toast them sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little olive oil. Bake in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes.
3 cups all-purpose flour
11Ú3 cup sugar
1 cup cornmeal
2 T. baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
21Ú2 cups milk
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2Ú3 cup vegetable oil
6 T. butter or margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two 8-by-8-inch baking pans.
Combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Combine milk, eggs, vegetable oil and butter in a separate bowl; mix well. Add to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Divide mixture between the two pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
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For a beverage selection I would recommend Tulip Hill Sauvignon Blanc, a nice crisp wine, or an Alsatian-style wine. I would highly recommend something like a Firestone Riesling or a Chateau St. Jean Gewürztraminer.
As always have fun and enjoy the moment. Also please say a prayer for our troops who are sacrificing their lives around the world.
Charlie Abowd is the owner and chef at Adele’s. He and his wife, Karen, have lived in Carson City for 22 years. Charlie is a fourth-generation restaurateur.