Here is the way I like to make Thanksgiving dinner. (I'm sure everyone lies awake at night thinking, 'I wonder what FightingRegistrar cooks for Thanksgiving.')
1. The Turkey.
Personally, I like a 12 pounder or less because I don't like having leftovers for like ten weeks after Thanksgiving. Even with a large group of people, I wouldn't personally go over a 14 pounder. The only time I have ever run out of turkey at Thanksgiving dinner was when I threw a Thanksgiving Party, inviting just 8 people, but 17 guests somehow showed up. Word of mouth?
Does anyone else out there like using a brine? I swear by this technique. Basically, you need some sort of saucepan or bucket or other large container that is big enough to fit the entire turkey inside of it. Once the turkey is placed inside, you fill the container with water and pour in roughly equal amounts of salt and sweet. I use honey or maple syrup and of course regular table salt. The salt draws the moisture out of the bird initially, but given enough time, the salt reintroduces moisture, and whatever flavors you've put into your brine, back into the bird. It sounds strange, but it works via osmosis. You can put any flavor you want into your brine actually. I just like mine sweet because I like the taste of a sweet turkey breast. Don't worry, the meat will not taste like a dessert or anything like that. It's a pretty mild flavor, but a brine makes the turkey moist and tasty. The important thing is that you follow the recipe of whatever brine you have chosen, because if you take the bird out too soon, you will end up with a dry bird.
Generally, you want to bake a turkey at 325. It's easy to find a chart on how long to bake a turkey just by googling it. An 8 pound stuffed turkey should take about three hours. A 12 pound stuffed turkey takes about 4 hours. I have a friend who cooks his turkey all night long at about 225. The only thing that matters is that the internal temperature of the bird (or the center of the stuffing) reaches about 165 degrees, after having been allowed to rest for about 15-30 minutes. This is very important! Letting the bird rest before carving allows moisture to get reabsorbed into the meat and it also allows the temperature to continue to rise a bit after you've taken the bird out of the oven. A stuffed turkey will usually take 30 to 60 minutes longer to bake than an unstuffed turkey.
During the baking process, I like to baste the turkey, using the juices from the turkey itself. Sometimes, I will mix the juices with a little milk or cream and some garlic. I guess I would say that I don't begin the basting until about two hours into the cooking and then for about each 30 minutes thereafter.
2. The Stuffing.
Mmmmmmm..... stuffing is very yummy. I noticed in a recent online article that Pepperidge Farm stuffing won a taste test of all major brands. I've never used that brand so I will have to give it a try. You can make homemade stuffing by toasting/baking bread and then cutting it into tiny pieces. A lot of people like to mix carrots, onions, and celery with their stuffing. I'm not a huge fan of onions in my stuffing so I skip that step lol. I do love pearl onions though, which I will get into later. In any case, stuffing is usually just a mixture of bread pieces, butter, veggies, and seasonings.
3. Sweet Potatoes.
I really prefer to buy sweet potatoes raw from the produce section. Canned ones are okay, but I always feel the need to doctor them up. As far as raw ones go, you can peel them, cut them up, and boil them, or you can just stick them in the oven, skin and all, and bake them for about an hour at 350. They get very soft on the inside just by baking them. The also get very sweet that way. My preference is to peel them, cut them up, and boil them until they are soft. Then I drain the water and mix the sweet potato pieces with butter, syrup, and cinnamon. They're so damn yummy. By the way, in general, I prefer the orange ones over the yellow ones, but both are very tasty. A lot of people believe that sweet potatoes and yams are the same thing, but that is a debate for another day. According to my scientist friend, real actual yams are rarely found in the US. But I digress.
4. Pearl Onions.
Everyone has their non-Thanksgiving-y kind of food item they love on Thanksgiving and mine is caramelized pearl onions. For this recipe, you need both colors - white and red (purple). There are many recipes online for this. Generally, you will use a balsamic vinegar in which to stew and caramelize the onions. Of course, you can add whatever seasonings you like. I just love caramelized pearl onions.
Asparagus is extremely good for you because it is packed with antioxidants. I like to pan-sear or braise asparagus in a little butter along with garlic. But don't overcook or you will have the dreaded limp asparagus! I actually like my asparagus a little undercooked or firm when I bite into it.
6. Mashed Potatoes.
Who doesn't like mashed potatoes? I like mine skin-on but different strokes for different folks. I use lots and lots of butter. You can never overstir or overmash mashed potatoes. In fact, the consistency of mashed potatoes at most fine dining restaurants is that of, dare I say, malt-o-meal. I like to use half-and-half or heavy cream instead of milk. And of course, I'm a hard core garlic addict.
7. Bean Casserole.
I have never made green bean casserole, although I do like it when other people make it, which they sometimes do when I have Thanksgiving at my place.
I always buy the canned, gelatinous cranberries. It's just habit, I guess. But fresh cranberries are very beautiful and can easily be the most eye-catching dish you will serve.
9. Pumpkin Pie.
Okay, who doesn't like pumpkin pie? I usually throw in an extra pinch or two of cinnamon. I like my pumpkin pie spicy! Every once in a while, I will serve it when it's still a bit warm, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or cool whip. Yum.
10. What else is there? I guess a lot of people have dinner rolls, or brussel sprouts, or corn, or apple pie. I'm just writing about what I usually have. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. You don't have to worry about gift-giving and all the drama that that entails, for instance. It's just a whole day devoted to giving thanks for what you have, being with family and friends, and cooking up some kick ass food.
11. Okay, I forgot to talk about the appetizers/things to nibble on before Thanksgiving. And I forgot one of my favorite things! Deviled Eggs! Yum yum yum. I make deviled eggs to eat around lunchtime along with a relish plate of cornichons, baby dill pickles, olives, and crackers and cheese. I live for Thanksgiving!
What does everyone here have to drink? Usually I have sparkling apple cider. I like a glass of white wine as well or a hard apple cider.