At this time of year, most Americans begin to make preparations for the holiday known as Thanksgiving. It is always celebrated on the last Thursday of November. Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday of mine because it is a day to acknowledge and give thanks for the bounty of foods we are so very fortunate to possess. One thing that is especially nice about this holiday is that it has not been distorted into a commercial muddle of buying unnecessary junk. In contrast to the inane focus on gifts and the melee of excessive buying/consuming/overindulging associated with the Christmas holiday. Thanksgiving remains a time for family and friends to come together and enjoy good food and the warmth of knowing we have much to be thankful for. The first Thanksgiving in America was celebrated in 1621 by the early settlers of the new continent. One of the foods of the aboriginal people was the wild turkey, a species indigenous to North America.
For the Thanksgiving feast I normally prepare many food items that are considered traditional fare. Today, most people will have a farm raised turkey purchased from the supermarket, though some families who enjoy hunting may eat wild turkey. The centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving is a stuffed turkey. There are many different types of stuffing.
Here is my almost world famous recipe for SOUR CREAM WITH SAGE STUFFING.
10 cups of dried bread cubes
1/4 pound butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 cups chopped celery
3/4 cups chopped carrot
1 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chicken stock
Place the bread cubes into a large bowl and set aside.
Bring the chicken stock to a boil and set aside.
Melt the butter, add the vegetables and saute until the onions are translucent.
Add the seasonings and the hot chicken stock to the vegetables.
Pour all of this over the bread cubes and mix well.
Fold-in the sour cream.
Some important words about stuffing a whole bird for roasting.
It is always best to use a fresh, not frozen bird, but a frozen bird intended for stuffing and roasting must be fully thawed before stuffing. Thawing should always be done in the refrigerator. Wash the cavity with cold water and salt. Rinse and pat dry. Only add the stuffing when you are ready to begin cooking the bird. At that time add the warm stuffing to the washed bird. Be sure to push all of the stuffing into the cavity tightly. Season the out side of the bird with salt and paprika.
Place the bird breast side down on a rack to start the roasting. The bird should be cooked breast side down for the first hour to ensure the breast meat does not become too dry. This also allows the skin around the leg and thigh section to become nice and crispy as seen in this photo.
If the roasting pan becomes dry and begins to smoke or burn, a little water may be added to the bottom. After one hour, turn the bird breast side up and finish the cooking time. As a general rule a stuffed bird will take approximately 30 minutes per pound to cook. So, a ten pound bird will take up to 3 hours to cook. Some additional roasting information is available here. Keep in mind that a large stuffed bird will continue to cook even after it has been removed from the oven. This is called carry over cooking. To test the bird to determine if it is done stick a knife into the joint of the leg or wing and remove it. If the bird is cooked the juice that runs out will be clear. It is also important to check the internal temperature of the stuffing. Stuffing should be 160 degrees Fahrenheit. If the internal temperature is 160 it is time for the bird to come out of the oven to rest before carving. While the bird is resting the remainder of the food items can be completed and placed into serving dishes.
Some families carve the turkey at the table and others cut the bird up in the kitchen. This depends on the tradition of the host. It is quite a spectacular sight to present a large stuffed cooked bird to your guests at the dinner table. How to carve a turkey is very important information if you will be in charge of that detail. I always prefer a smaller turkey. Hens (females) run in size between 8 and 12 pounds. Toms (males) are over 12 pounds and usually much larger, 18 pounds and more. I find the larger birds are drier and tougher than the small ones. If I needed to cook for a large crowd, I would cook two smaller birds! When planning portions, the rule of thumb is one pound per person. There is significant shrinkage during the cooking process and you must account for the weight of bone. Also, part of the tradition of cooking a Thanksgiving feast is to have some left-overs for sandwiches or to reheat with some gravy and mashed potatoes. That is sort of a post-holiday tradition.
In addition to the turkey with stuffing, there are two or three vegetables such as, Brussels sprouts, winter squash and carrots, peas or some other seasonal vegetable, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams. Often, at large family gatherings, different members of an extended family will bring something to contribute to the feast. There is usually some sort of cranberry relish to compliment the turkey and of course, gravy!