We hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner (15+ people) when we were 21…and about every other year since. I come from a family which regularly gleaned stranded students and set them around a heavy-laden Thanksgiving table.
I’ve had my share of fiascoes. After I made my first pumpkin pie, I couldn’t find space for it in the refrigerator; so I placed it on top of the fridge and walked away. When it was time for dessert, that pie had polka dots of mold from crust to crust. I’ve spattered mash potatoes on the ceiling, set off the smoke alarm, and discovered unserved salads in the fridge long after the guests had left.
Along my journey, except for the deep-frying gig, I think I’ve tried every new twist on cooking turkey. Breast down, in a bag, on the grill, very low heat overnight, high heat, covered, uncovered. I am a sucker for three words: New and improved.
I saw good words about Rick Rodger’s Thanksgiving 101 and promptly put it on my wishlist. A book that focuses on one meal intrigued me. Even though I’m not a novice, I wasn’t satisfied that I had found the best methods. This is the first Thanksgiving where I used Rick Rodgers for my guide. Color me thankful! There is so much I love about this cookbook.
Rodgers includes many versions of traditional Thanksgiving dishes, with the kind of explanations you would find in Cook’s Illustrated. He is frank in debunking what he calls Thanksgiving Myths. I followed his Perfect Roast Turkey directions, tightly covering the breast with aluminum foil; it was the very best turkey I’ve ever tasted. Rick’s stuffing recipe was the best stuffing. Really!
On Tuesday I made stock from turkey necks and legs (I could not find turkey wings, but I only checked one store). I used the stock instead of canned chicken broth for the stuffing, in roasting the turkey, and in the gravy. What’s left went into the soup. I highly recommend this extra step. If time is tight the week of Thanksgiving, the stock (and gravy) can be made and frozen three weeks in advance. Another tip was to heat the milk before adding it to potatoes for mashed potatoes.
I feel confident that I won’t deviate from the turkey and stuffing recipes I used. But there are so many varieties of side dishes that would be fun to try. The chapter on Leftovers offers great ideas. Menus and timetables give all the practical help you need. I highly recommend this book as a reference for your future Thanksgivings. Turkey is a budget-friendly protein. You may want to have a practice turkey dinner in March. (← brilliant thought, eh?)
One last thing. Guess what I plan to use a month from today? Christmas 101