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Thanksgiving recipes.

I have very strong feelings about Thanksgiving dinner. I had to work on the 4th Thursday of November (as well as about 15 hours each of the three previous days) every year for 10 years. I’ve probably cooked over a thousand turkeys in my life, almost a thousand different ways. (The only way I’ve probably never cooked a turkey is smoking it). So, since I left the profession, I hold the holiday very sacred. We usually have 25 people or so at our house (< 15 this year and we are earing outside) and I do all of the main dinner cooking. And we have the same meal, every year. The only thing I tweak is the way I cook the turkey, as I find new tricks that make the bird just a little bit better.

First of all, you have to buy a quality turkey. I spent 3 years living down the street from a turkey farm and you’ll just have to trust me on this… buy a FRESH, all-natural turkey like Bell and Evans. It will cost you, but it’s worth it.

Second of all, and this may shock some people, I actually don’t present the whole bird any longer. I’ve cooked them long enough to realize that a whole turkey cooked in the oven is going to leave SOMETHING over-cooked… most likely the breast. Yeah, there are tricks like turning the turkey over and/or cooking it in a bag… but it’s still far inferior to cooking the breast, legs and thighs separately. If you don’t know how to break a turkey down into individual pieces, I recommend you have your butcher (or butcher department) do it for you. Save the carcass for stock. Once you eat turkey this way, you’ll realize how superior it is. I didn’t come to this realization until recently, but you get a better tasting bird and it cooks much faster and much more evenly. You’ll free up oven space to cook your side dishes. Plus, you can use the carcass to make stock (see below) ahead of time, saving you the aggravation of having to make gravy at the last minute from the drippings and you’ll have fantastic turkey stock to make your stuffing. If you brine the bird and cook it whole, the drippings are likely to be too salty to make gravy out of anyway. (I’ll include a variation at the end if you insist on cooking your turkey whole)

Third of all, it’s a pain in the butt to get your turkey perfect. It takes 3 days. You make the brine, cool the brine, brine the meat, dry the meat, butter and herb the meat, tie the meat and cook the meat. Yes, it might be overkill, but the reason most people don’t like turkey is because most people don’t cook turkey very well. Buy a quality bird, take the time and effort to prepare it properly and you will be the hero of your gathering.

You will need (for a 20 lb turkey):
•1 Bell and Evans All Natural Turkey: About 1 lb per person if you want leftovers
•1 bunch sage
•1 bunch thyme
•1 bunches rosemary
•1 head of garlic, halved
•2 bay leaves
•12 juniper berries
•Fresh ground pepper
•2 cups Kosher Salt (if you use iodized salt, cut the salt by a third)
•2 cups light Brown Sugar
•1 lb butter, softened
•Butcher twine
•Plastic container large enough to hold all of the meat and brine

For the stock:
•3 carrots, chopped
•1 large onion, chopped
•4 stalks celery, chopped
•Few sprigs of thyme
•2 bay leaves
•10 peppercorns

On Monday, put a gallon of water in a large stock pot. Add the half a bunch of each of the herbs, salt, sugar, garlic, bay leaves, juniper berries and a few cranks of fresh ground pepper. Bring to a simmer and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Take it off the heat and let it cool to room temp. Then put in the fridge overnight (or outside if the temperature will get below 40). It will taste VERY salty. Don’t worry about it.

Take your turkey carcass and roast in the oven until the meat is cooked and the bones begin to brown. Add it to a large stock pot, breaking it apart as needed. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Skim all of the foam that comes to the top and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 4 hours. Strain the stock and chill IMMEDIATELY. I like to leave mine outside, covered, overnight, if the temperature is going to be in the 20s. If not, then chill it to room temp in an ice bath and then refrigerate it overnight.

While your stock is cooking, submerge the turkey breasts and thighs and legs in the brine. Place in the fridge or in a cooler surrounded by ice for 18 hours.  Please make sure the Turkey stays below 40 degrees.  (If you are trying to make enough stock for the stuffing as well, buy a couple of packs of turkey wings and roast them with the turkey carcass and add to the stock. Wings are great for making stock! If you want to add a little something extra, you can buy a pack of turkey necks as well).


Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Let the pieces air out in the fridge overnight, uncovered, sitting on a cookie cooling rack over a sheet pan. This will allow the skin to dry out so it will get crispy. If you remove the turkey from the brine on Thursday, the skin will be soggy. Be SURE to keep the turkey away from anything that will be eaten raw. I have an extra fridge that I use for this. If you don’t, just put a towel on one of the shelves in your fridge and be sure that the turkey doesn’t touch ANYTHING.


Okay, I admit, this part is a pain in the rear. I promise, promise, promise, it’s worth it. Cut about 20 12-inch pieces of butcher twine. Pull the turkey out of the fridge for 30 minutes and let it sit on the counter (this will keep the butter from solidifying when you rub it on the turkey). Mince the remaining fresh herbs and mix with the pound of softened butter. Take your fingers and gently loosen the skin from the meat on all the pieces. Try not to tear it if possible. Put at least a quarter cup of butter on each turkey part. Put some between the skin and the meat of each turkey part and on the bottom of the breast. Take the remaining butter and rub it all over the skin. Take 4 pieces of butcher twine and tie it around the breast to compact the meat and keep the skin covering the meat. You want the breast to be as uniform in shape as possible. You will need to put the pieces of twine about 1.5 inches apart. Repeat with the other breast and then do that with each thigh. I know this is a pain, but when you slice the turkey, you’ll understand.

Place the turkey parts on a cookie cooling rack over top of a sheet pan. Roast at 325 degrees until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165 degrees and the thighs reach 170 degrees. This will take anywhere from 45 mins – 1.5 hours, depending on the size of your turkey breast and thighs, your oven and whether or not you have other stuff in your oven. You should probably put the meat in the oven about 90 minutes before you plan on eating and you might have to pull the breasts or thighs out before the other. I have a meat probe that will let me know what the temperature of my meat is without opening the oven. The more often you open the oven, the longer it will take to cook. If you have to pull a piece out before the other, just keep it loosely covered with aluminum foil and don’t sweat it… and here’s why…

Turn the oven up to 450 degrees. Carefully cut the twine away, being careful not to rip the skin. Take the butter that’s accumulated on the bottom of the cookie sheet and brush it all over the turkey parts. Roast in the 450 degree oven until the skin gets REAL crispy… about 5-10 minutes. If you omit this step, you will need to cook your thighs to 175 before removing them from the oven. Let the pieces rest, covered for 20 minutes before carving, loosely covered with foil.  Don't skip the resting part, as you will have dry meat when the juices spill out.

If you want a lot of leftovers, buy an extra breast and increase the cooking time to accommodate it.  (I usually buy 2 turkeys so I can send out leftovers for the guests to take home). 

1 loaf of challah bread
2 granny smith apples, fine diced
1 onion, fine diced
2 stalks celery, fine diced
1 stick butter
1 quart turkey stock (posted a recipe on The Sabre tonight) or good chicken broth
1/2 bunch each: sage and thyme, minced
3-4 eggs

Cut the challah into chunks the size of half a finger.  Place them on a cookie sheet and toast them in a 200 degree oven until dried, but not brown. You might need to use a couple of cookie sheets and toss them occasionally. You can do this up to 3 days ahead of time, but make sure you keep them wrapped, so they don't get stale.

Saute the apples, onions and celery in the butter until the onions are clear. Add 1 tsp kosher salt and the herbs... saute for a few minutes, but don't brown the vegetables. In a large bowl, add this mixture to the bread. Toss well to combine.

Add the stock, one cup at a time, tossing the stuffing with the stock after each cup. I like my stuffing completely soaked and my stuffing moist, but others like it dry. At this point, you want to add salt to taste.

Beat the eggs and add them to the stuffing. Fold gently. Place the stuffing in a casserole dish wiped with butter and bake at 350 degrees until the middle is completely cooked. I like to put a cookie sheet one rack below the stuffing to keep the bottom from burning. If you want to go the extra mile, you can brush the top of the stuffing with melted butter and put it under the broiler to get crispy. But be careful not to burn it!

When your stock cools, a layer of fat will form on the surface. You will need about ½ cup of this fat. If you don’t have enough, then supplement with butter (you can also take some of the extra fat around the carcass and saute it over low-medium heat to render the fat. Bring the turkey stock to a boil and reduce by 25% (this will take about 30 minutes—you will need ½ gallon of this reduced stock). Heat the fat in a large skillet and add ½ cup of flour. Cook at medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until this roux browns. Add the hot stock, a few cups at a time and whisk vigorously to remove any lumps. Bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. If you want to go an extra step, you can add roasted giblets (gizzard, liver, heart and neck) to the stock as it reduces. Then strain them out and chop them up and put them in the gravy.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Whole Turkey
If you insist on cooking a whole turkey you will follow the same instructions, except you will need to double the brine and put the turkey in a brining bag, surrounded by ice, in a cooler overnight. Be sure the turkey is completely submerged. You will also need to dry the whole turkey overnight and rub butter under the skin. Roast the turkey in an oven bag at 325 for about 3 hours. Let it sit for AT LEAST 30 minutes, preferably 45 mins- 1 hr prior to carving.

Use a fat separator to separate the fat and cut the defatted drippings half and half with low sodium chicken broth. Use the fat to make the roux. It might still be too salty. You can also make a separate stock with just roasted turkey wings (wings make a GREAT stock) ahead of time, which is what I would recommend. You’ll need about 4 whole turkey wings.

Please don't share these recipes.  They are for the Sabre Community only!

For the mashed potatoes... I like to use Yukon gold potatoes and cut them into quarters (but keep the pieces uniform).  I peel them.  Cover with cold water (you will need about 1/3 - 1/2 lbs of potatoes per person.  Add 1/4 cup kosher salt per 10lbs of potatoes.  For extra credit, you can take 3 smashed garlic cloves, 10 peppercorns, a bay leaf and a few thyme sprigs... and wrap them up in cheesecloth and cook with the potatoes--trust me... it's worth the extra effort).  While they are cooking, cut 1 stick of butter for every 2.5lbs of potatoes into chunks and let it get soft.  To cook the potatoes, bring to boil and reduce to med heat and simmer until the middle of the largest chunks of potatoes are completely done and not grainy.  Strain. 

Heat 1 cup of whole milk for every 2.5 lbs of potatoes until hot.  I like to use a ricer to make my potatoes extra smooth and fluffy (or you can use a stand mixer after all the ingredients are added--use the paddle first, then the whip).  But you'll need to work quickly!!!... potatoes that cool down make glued mashed potatoes.  Return them to the hot pot and add the hot milk, softened butter, 2tbs of sour cream for every 2.5lbs of potatoes.  Whip vigorously with a whisk or use the whip attachment on a Kitchen Aid until fluffy.  Add salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.  You can actually make these earlier and reheat in the microwave with good results.  Just stir every 2 minutes.

Posted: 11/19/2020 at 3:43PM


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Current Thread:
Thanksgiving recipes. -- chefhoo 11/19/2020 3:43PM
  Break out the WSM! -- 4thYear5th 11/20/2020 12:06PM
  Whats the wine selection this year? ** -- Zhoo 11/19/2020 10:00PM
  Thanks - will archive this time -- Trigon 11/19/2020 9:37PM
  How the hell are you gonna watch any football? ** -- HOOGATORB 11/19/2020 5:51PM
  Will you marry me? ** -- Skeets 11/19/2020 5:35PM
  Going to ask you this about -- Zhoo 11/19/2020 4:56PM
  Don’t eat this....... -- TomasHoo 11/19/2020 11:38PM
  Jerry Jones has a huge yacht -- TomasHoo 11/19/2020 11:44PM
  Here's one from a couple of years ago.** -- chefhoo 11/19/2020 6:39PM
  I think you should make a trip to Chicago -- Zhoo 11/20/2020 12:01PM
  Oh yeah - I tend to agree with him.... -- Zhoo 11/20/2020 12:00PM
  Agreed! ** -- chefhoo 11/20/2020 12:13PM
  Speaking of skin..... -- Zhoo 11/20/2020 1:02PM
  They are properly outfitted! -- Trigon 11/19/2020 9:20PM
  Was a cool pic anyway! ** -- GtownHoo 11/19/2020 6:44PM
  Question about the half finger on the stuffing -- Chesapeake HOO 11/19/2020 4:41PM
  Ha ha. Half inch to one inch cubes. ** -- chefhoo 11/19/2020 6:08PM
  Last year I emailed the link for this to my wife -- Hoo Phan 11/19/2020 4:19PM
  You're welcome!!! ** -- chefhoo 11/19/2020 6:08PM

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