When we're hosting, Thanksgiving starts quite early, even with lots of prepping. We always roast one turkey, usually a brined turkey, in our outdoor wood-fired oven. Since it takes at least two hours to get the oven heated up, Mark wakes up at 5:00 to get the oven started.
Once the oven is roaring, the focus shifts to stuffing. First, we take out the turkeys so they can come to room temperature (at least one hour). We start with traditional bread stuffing so it has a chance to cool down before we stuff it into the bird. As mentioned in the previous post, we follow the Betty Crocker bread stuffing recipe with the addition of shredded carrots and LOTS of poultry seasoning.
Once that's all been mixed together, we let it rest while we get the Apple Sausage Stuffing going in our All-Clad Slow Cooker. If you don't have one, stop reading this post and go add it to your Christmas list. Seriously. We use it at least twice a week during the winter. Soups, stews, roasts, whole chickens…the list goes on and on. The best thing about it is that the insert can be placed right on the cooktop (and the oven!), so for this recipe we can brown the sausage, onions, and herbs all at one time in the insert, add the rest of the ingredients, pop the insert back into the body, then set it and forget it.
Back to the birds. For the turkey we roast in the house I like to use Tom Colicchio's Herb-Butter Turkey recipe. Once the stuffings are ready the "house" turkey has come to room temperature and is ready to be stuffed. I made the herb butter the night before, so it's really just a matter of stuffing the bird and then rubbing the herb butter under the skin.
Once both birds are in the oven, it's time to get ready for the day. Up until this point I'm generally still in pajamas! It's a nice break from the kitchen during which I try NOT to mentally run through everything I have left to do!
Back in the kitchen, about two hours before guests arrive, it's time to focus on sides. Fortunately, we have double ovens. The turkey is always in the top oven (easier basting), so we roast the squash (there must always be squash!) in the lower over. Once it's finished, we reduce the temperature to the lowest setting and use it as a warming oven. Each side is placed in their serving dish, with foil on top, and then added to the warming oven as they are completed. We even throw the rolls in a paper bag and add them so they can warm up as well. Once the turkey in the top oven is finished that oven becomes a warming oven as well so everything can hold its temperature while the turkeys get carved and the gravy gets made.
Gravy. Gravy stresses me out more than any other element. My mother makes amazing gravy, so the bar is set high. And I once really screwed it up, so I always worry I'll repeat that mistake. We add the pan drippings from the brined turkey, which is too salty to be used on its own, to the drippings from the herb butter turkey; together the seasoning is generally just about right. From that point on I typically follow this Alton Brown recipe.
Our three children each have tasks to complete before guests arrive. One polishes the silver and sets it on the tables, another gets out all the glassware, makes sure it sparkling and sets that on the tables as well. There are candles to light, pitcher's to fill, coffee to be made…lots of easy tasks that they can complete without much guidance.
Once dinner is finished, it's a few hours before everyone is ready for pie. I neglected to get any photos of the beautiful pies by sister-in-law made, but trust me when I tell you they were beautiful. And delicious.
While everyone is giving their tummies time to recover, we start to clean up, finish carving the turkeys and make Thanksgiving Meal # 2: Baked Brie en Croute with Turkey Sandwiches. Once all the turkey has been carved off the birds, we immediately throw the carcasses into two separate stock pots and get started making broth so we can have Turkey Wild Rice Soup at some point over the weekend while we get started on our holiday decorations. Our favorite turkey sandwich recipe comes from Williams-Sonome (image from Williams-Sonoma.com).
There are lots of baked brie recipes out there. We like to slice the brie in half horizontally and fill it with the leftover cranberry sauce. I'm also partial to Dufour puff pastry. Num!
I can hear laughter from another room where games are being played. I could go join them. I could also go sit by the fire, put my feet up, and enjoy the entertaining afterglow. Ahhh.
*Feature image from Epicurious.com