I have been cooking the same turkey recipe for over thirty years, a really good turkey by the way. A turkey anywhere from 10 to 22 pounds with lots of salt, pepper, plenty of butter and a white bread herb in the bird stuffing. But over the last few years I keep getting the urge to try new things especially new recipes. The holidays are a perfect time to look for and prepare new dishes for family and friends.
So, with this thought in mind I embarked on finding just the right turkey recipe for the friends and neighbors I invited to share the holiday with. My first thought went to a recipe I had tried just a few years before by Tyler Florence called, Maple-Roasted Turkey with Sage, Smoked Bacon, and Cornbread Stuffing.
However, since Kristine had mentioned that she had decided to host her first Thanksgiving this year I passed along how wonderful the Tyler turkey I had made was and how my guests had loved the turkey so much that even after dessert I found them in my kitchen picking at the turkey carcass. Kristine decided to give the recipe a try while I went on the hunt for a new one.
A week before Thanksgiving Randy and I took a trip to New Mexico to visit friends. While at the airport I made my usual stop at the newsstand to find some magazines to read while on the plane. I found myself, because it was the holidays, perusing the food magazines instead of the news magazines that I usually read on the plane.
My eye fell on the words, “Perfect Thanksgiving Recipes” and a beautifully cooked turkey on the front cover of Gourmet magazine. So off I went to the cashier hoping all the while that I would be able to find a really appetizing turkey recipe for the friends we had invited for Thanksgiving dinner. At this point I was getting anxious as our trip was a week before Thanksgiving and one day after our return we would be having guests come and stay for a few days leaving just a day and a half before the holiday. The tight schedule would not leave much time for questioning of my choice.
So, my hopes ran high as I read every page of this mouth-watering magazine. The article entitled “From The Heart” was a collection of recipes by Ian Knauer and covered a myriad of recipes from rural Pennsylvania. Each recipe sounded wonderful. I felt that I had found the perfect Thanksgiving turkey, Cider-Glazed Turkey as well as a rye bread stuffing recipe that sounded very intriguing.
Now I only needed a new turkey, gravy and stuffing recipe, as my guests were each bringing something to share. But, I must say, if that were not the case I would have prepared all the recipes in the article. I also was in charge of making the mashed potatoes.
As it turns out I actually prepared a dessert recipe that I also found in the magazine, Café Au Lait Puddings for the company that came a few days before Thanksgiving. The recipe was easy to make and the puddings were smooth, light and wonderful. I felt as though I was off to a good start as this recipe turned out so well.
The first thing I was intrigued by was the use of unfiltered apple cider as part of the glaze. I had never used apple cider in cooking before only for drinking. I was not sure what unfiltered meant. Did it mean unpasteurized? Would the word unfiltered be on the label? There were a few apple ciders in the case at the supermarket non of which mentioned unfiltered but I spotted on that said, “Made with pride in Pennsylvania…” and decided that would be the one I would choose especially as the recipes in the article were also from Pennsylvania.
Now the turkey recipe called for a twelve to fourteen pound turkey I was going to prepare an eighteen-pound turkey so I had to adjust the time. The recipe called for a total of two hours so I added an hour to the cooking time. As the turkey cooked I loved the aroma of the apples, onion and thyme that filled the large cavity. An hour into the cooking time I started basting the turkey with the mixture of apple cider, sugar and butter. The glaze turned the skin into a wonderfully golden brown color. At the end of the three hours I took it out of the oven and loosely covered with aluminum foil.
Once the turkey was done I could move on to the rye bread stuffing. I have never cooked stuffing outside the bird, very different. Again, I loved the fragrance of the rye bread, caraway seeds, golden delicious apples, onion, celery, unsalted butter, garlic and chicken stock. My concern was how my guests would receive it. My being from New York, rye bread was a staple not so sure my guests from the southern USA would feel the same way.
The time came for my guests to arrive each bringing one thing to share. Had some idea of what would be coming through my door but was overwhelmed when they finally arrived with their contributions. Our table included turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, broccoli casserole, collard greens, strawberry and spinach salad, baked sweet potatoes and apples, sweet potato crumble, boneless ham, cranberry sauce, biscuits, pumpkin pecan bread, sourdough bread, apple crumb pie and pumpkin pie. And, of course, there were libations, an ample supply of wine and beer depending on your taste.
The turkey was indeed wonderful, beautiful on the outside and moist and tender inside. Everyone at the table enjoyed the entire turkey save a few pieces of white meat that I managed to squirrel away for leftover sandwiches the next day. The rye bread stuffing was also a hit. Now that surprised me but pleasantly so. Everything that was a part of this wonderful dinner was flavorful, tasty, and great. Randy and I have been blessed to move into a neighborhood of really good cooks.
The food was wonderful but the best part of this Thanksgiving was the friendship shared and memories made at this table of great food. I just cannot imagine a holiday table without family or friends because I believe that food always tastes better when shared with loved ones.
Mine was a pretty calm day as I have prepared many a holiday dinner over the years, however, Kristine’s Thanksgiving morning was something altogether different, but that is a story for her to tell. It will be very entertaining I am sure!
*Note-This was first posted on Facebook November 2009–Kristine also posted her Thanksgiving experiences in “Turkey Trauma”. Check it out.