Friday, November 19, 2010

A Thanksgiving turkey you will not soon forget ...

When Nick and I were dating he was the cook! Surprised? Well, while I loved to cook, I barely had time to do anything more than attend to the needs of Shirley MacLaine, Carrie Fisher, Christopher Plummer, Ron Howard, Mariel Hemingway and many, many other stars who were guests in the boutique hotel where I was General Manager.

In 1989 Nick and I hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner in our home with family and friends. With little time to plan and prepare our meal, I was relieved when Nick announced he would handle preparing and cooking the turkey. A few weeks before the holiday, he found a Junior League cookbook in a multi-unit garage where he kept one of his antique cars. He came across Marie Louise’s Turkey recipe and was intrigued. It was the method that attracted him to the recipe: rub well with a paste you make up of … lay 2 pieces of bacon in the little crevice … soak a dishtowel or cheesecloth in …

It turned out to be the best turkey anybody at our Thanksgiving table had ever eaten! It was precisely as the editor’s note had described: This is the best way we have found that will make the juiciest and most flavorful turkey that you have ever cooked!

With the exception of the few years when brining was the only way to go, we've been preparing this turkey recipe for many years and our turkeys have never disappointed. Pictured is the cookbook with the recipe and Nick’s notations, including the turkey's weight, how many hours to cook and date and year!

Today marks the beginning of my favorite week of the year. I love the days that inch toward Thanksgiving for many reasons. For starters, I love the cooler temperatures, fireside meals, and the food that's in season now. I also love that it's one of the few holiday's that has kept its true meaning. There is not a lot of ridiculous commercialism. Thanksgiving celebrates the things I love in life ... family, friends and food!

Our Thanksgiving menu typically doesn't veer too far from the traditional menu. It's a combination of foods our families have served for generations. When Nick and I started hosting this holiday back in 1989, we combined family favorites.

Sauerkraut was a family tradition and we didn't have a Thanksgiving dinner when it wasn't served. Some years we serve sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and I often interchange the vegetable serving either green beans, Brussels sprouts, parsnips or Swiss chard. For dessert we've served warm apple crisp with dollops of cinnamon-laced whipped cream or my recipe for Pumpkin Roll-Up Cake (11/12/10 post) instead of pumpkin, pecan or sweet potato pie.

Every year I create a new recipe, this year its dessert. We will be taste-testing desserts over the weekend. I'll post the winning favorite, so be sure to check in later. Here's the menu Mr. Fabulous and I are serving this year.

Thanksgiving Menu 2010

Marie Louise's Turkey
Beyond Basic Bread Stuffing
Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans with Cinnamon-Spiked Pecan and Tangerine Vinaigrette
A Maize Zing Corn Pudding
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Maple Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Cream Cake

Our rendition of Marie Louise’s Turkey
It is best to prepare the turkey the day before you plan to cook it. As for the soft paste consistency, (we’ve never measured the ingredients and evidently neither did Marie Louise) think of thick ketchup. Cheesecloth can be found in kitchen supply isle of most grocery stores nationwide.
Soft Paste Mixture
Olive oil
Worcestershire sauce
Dry mustard
Apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard and a little bit of apple cider vinegar, season well with salt and pepper. Rub the turkey well inside and out with the soft paste. If you run out of paste mixture, make another batch.
1 onion, cut in half
2 stalks of celery, cut in half
A few sprigs of parsley
Place onion, celery and parsley sprigs inside the turkey.
2 strips of bacon
1 stick butter, cut into chunks
Across the breast of the turkey, lay 2 pieces of bacon. In the little crevice between the drumstick and the body of the turkey, place hunks of butter.
Olive oil
In a medium bowl, soak cheesecloth in olive oil. Cover the turkey with the olive oil soaked cheesecloth. Transfer turkey to a roasting pan to accommodate. Cover and refrigerate turkey until the following day.
The following day …
2 cups chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 300°. Add chicken broth to the bottom of roasting pan. Cook turkey uncovered according to Marie Louise’s recommendations:
7-10 pounds, 30 minutes per pound
10-15 pounds, 20 minutes per pound
15-18 pounds, 18 minutes per pound
18-20 pounds, 15 minutes per pound
20-23 pounds, 13 minutes per pound
Baste the turkey only once or twice during the course of cooking. This browns the turkey beautifully and makes it memorably tender.
Remove cheesecloth and allow turkey to stand for about 30 minutes prior to carving.