On Thanksgiving we gather with family and friends – in person, virtually, and through memories – to celebrate our blessings. Most of us eagerly anticipate the feast. But for the hosts, coordinating the preparation, serving and clean-up can be incredibly stressful.
If you are the host, don’t worry – everything will turn out fine! Your friends at Chip-in Farm are here for you, as a convenient stop for last-minute necessities and a resource for serving a delicious, tender turkey with minimal stress. Read on!
Turkey as the Main Act
For most of us, turkey is the star of the day. As guest chef Nancy Langer recounts from her childhood, “My mother paraded her golden roasted turkey through the living room where the family enjoyed appetizers and drinks. Grandma had the honor of whisking up the gravy, an aroma that announced the feast was nearly ready. Dad carved the bird with his trusty Sunbeam electric knife.”
If you are a host who is intimidated by the complexity of preparing a turkey, or simply want to prioritize time with guests here are tips to streamline the process.
Make-Ahead Cranberry Relish
Cranberry sauce or relish adds a bit of sweetness to offset the umami flavors of the Thanksgiving feast. This simple recipe is best when prepared 2-3 days ahead, to allow the flavors to blend and marinate.
- 12 oz cranberries (1 bag), washed and picked over
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 unpeeled orange, cut in 1/8s, seeds removed
- 2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier or Triple Sec (optional)
- Place half the cranberries and oranges in a food processor and pulse until evenly chopped. A meat grinder may also be used.
- Repeat with the remaining cranberries and oranges.
- Stir in the sugar and Grand Marnier if using.
- Refrigerate or freeze.
To Brine or Not to Brine
The purpose of a brine is to produce a more tender and flavorful turkey by dissolving a bit of the protein in the muscle fibers, and allows the meat to absorb the brine and retain moisture during cooking (Source: USDA).
The process is controversial as some chefs feel it produces a moist turkey at the expense of flavor (Source: CNET).
Wondering if you should brine your turkey? If you’ve purchased a Stonewood Farms turkey, owner Peter Stone does not recommend the process as their birds have been specifically bred to be moist and tender, but also feels it will not negatively affect the flavor. He says, “follow your favorite slow-roasting recipe and turkey will turn out fantastic!”
Before you make a brining decision, check your turkey’s ingredients label as the process should be avoided with any turkey that has already been injected with a salt or tenderizing solution such as Butterball turkeys. As these birds have been “pre-tenderized” they should not be brined.
Consider Pre-Roasting the Turkey
Have you ever considered roasting and preparing the gravy a day ahead? The turkey will still be delicious…and you will be much more relaxed!
Early in her career Nancy worked in hotel banquet kitchens where turkeys were cooked a day ahead. Cold or at room temperature they cut cleanly and beautifully with a proper, sharp carving knife.
Here are some tips for roasting your turkey the day before the feast:
- Roast and cool the bird, then carve into large pieces – breasts, wings, thighs and drumsticks and store in a container in the refrigerator.
- On Thanksgiving Day, slice the pre-roasted turkey and serve it cold, at room temperature or warmed in the oven.
- To reheat cold turkey meat, overlap slices in a shallow baking pan. Ladle hot turkey or chicken stock over meat and cover with foil, then bake along with the sides at 300-325 for 20-25 minutes.
About the Stuffing
Turkey stuffing (or dressing) often lets cooks add a personal touch to their Thanksgiving turkey. Whether you prepare a simple bread stuffing or generations-old family recipe, it is important to ensure that the stuffing is baked to 165 degrees – the same internal temperature as the turkey – to eradicate harmful bacteria.
As this temperature is difficult to achieve without overcooking the turkey pre-cooking the stuffing is recommended. To infuse turkey flavor, add some turkey drippings before baking the stuffing or stuff the bird after the stuffing is baked.
Don’t Forget the Leftovers!
Leftovers are almost as eagerly anticipated as the feast itself. To delight your guests, suggest that they bring containers so they can bring some home.
If you are planning to make leftover turkey sandwiches, reheat the cold in a shallow baking pan covered with hot turkey or chicken stock and foil. Bake at 300-325 degrees, or until the meat is warm.
Sending our Thanks and Warm Wishes
Chip-in Farm will be closed on Thursday and Friday, November 23 & 24 so the team can relax with their families and give thanks for the support of the wonderful Bedford and surrounding communities.
Whether you are hosting a celebration for one or twenty-five, and eating turkey or some other favorite food, we are sending our warmest wishes for a happy Thanksgiving.