Kachemak Cuisine: Last-minute suggestions for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I’m hoping to pass on some last-minute hints in hopes that your day goes smooth and your feast is delicious. Over the years, I’ve experienced plenty of oops moments and have learned a few hints while preparing and serving this feast of thanks.

The more you can get done before Thursday the less rushed you will be on Thanksgiving. So the night before yet, set your table if you can. Organize your serving pieces, make sure plates, utensils and beverage glasses are clean, and find the tablecloth. Iron it if needed. Chill the white wine, champagne and any other beverages that need to be served cold. Clean the guest bathroom.

Do you plan on making the traditional green bean casserole? You can mix that up too right now and tuck it away in the fridge for tomorrow. Top with more French-fried onion just before baking. What about sweet potatoes or squash? Can you make those now as well?

Any dish you can keep things warm and serve in is a score. Think Crock pot and Insta pot.

Start the day with an empty dishwasher.

I also like to clean up my kitchen as I go. Wash those big bowl and pots.

Take a pound of butter out of the fridge to soften for cooking tomorrow. You will use it for the turkey, mashed potatoes, serving on the table, etc.

I like to have extra turkey stock made up to use for various things, but if you don’t have extra, hopefully you have a container of chicken broth or bouillon to make some. You may need it to moisten your dressing, add to gravy, and moisten the turkey meat prior to serving.

Thursday morning, pour yourself a cup of coffee and make a list of what you are serving and what needs to be prepared yet.

My first task is to take care of the star attraction — the turkey. You’ll want to pull out the bag of goodies stuffed in the cavity of the turkey. It has the neck, gizzard, heart and liver in it. I don’t use the liver, but cook it up for the dog. And yes, I have cooked a turkey with it intact once. No harm done.

You will want to make turkey stock for your gravy with those parts in the bag, so hang on to them.

Depending on what time you plan on eating, figure out cooking time in the oven for the turkey to roast and add at least 30 minutes for it to rest. You don’t want to carve it immediately after it comes out of the oven. You have things to do once the bird is cooked and you’ll have the oven freed up for heating up things. You will want to make the gravy, as you will have those flavorful drippings from the roasted bird. If you keep the turkey in a warm place covered with foil and a towel, it should keep warm at least an hour.

I take my turkey out of the refrigerator at least an hour before I begin roasting it.

Resist the urge to check on the roasting bird too many times. Every time you open the oven door you lose a lot of heat adding to the cooking time.

Roast Turkey

Instructions for a turkey not stuffed with dressing in the cavity. If you do plan on this, roasting time will be longer.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse turkey and pat very dry with paper towels.

Stuff ½ apple, ½ onion and a rib of celery cut into chunks into the cavity of the turkey.

Tie the legs together with butcher’s twine and fold the wings of the turkey under the bird. No twine? Unflavored dental floss works in a pinch.

Next, in a bowl, add a stick of softened butter and add a healthy pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, a pinch of paprika and ½ teaspoon of poultry seasoning to it. Mash together with a fork.

Lift skin at neck and gently use your hand to separate skin from the breast meat.

Rub about half of the compound butter under the skin, covering the breast meat. This allows for moister and more flavorful breast meat.

Rub the rest of the butter over the skin of the turkey and season with a little more salt and pepper.

*If you don’t want to take on the compound butter recipe, just use plain butter and if you don’t want to bother with this step at all, your turkey will still taste delicious.

Do rub the bird with some olive oil, though, and season with salt and pepper.

Pour 2 cups of water into the roasting pan, and carefully slide the pan into a pre-heated oven when it’s time.

While the turkey is roasting you will want to make your dressing and cover it with foil. You can reheat it later moistened with a little turkey stock or chicken stock if needed.

Make your mashed potatoes. You don’t have to peel them, just clean them well. The taste is marvelous and adds more nutrition. You can reheat your mashed potatoes in the microwave, in the back of the oven. If you use a slow cooker on low to keep the potatoes hot until serving, add a dash of melted butter and warm milk to “revive” just before serving.

Check on the turkey midway through cooking time. Baste it if you want, and add some water to the pan if all the liquid has evaporated. Keep an eye on the liquid in the pan as your gravy will not be very flavorful if there aren’t any pan drippings. My goal is to have some liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan, but not too much as to dilute the drippings.

Keep an eye on your bird and if the breast is getting too brown, tent it with foil.

One hour to thirty minutes before roasting time is complete, begin to test for doneness with a digital probe thermometer inserted at the deepest part of the thigh. It is done when the thigh registers 160 degrees. Remove bird from the oven and transfer to a big cutting board to keep warm covered with foil and a folded towel. Carve just prior to serving.

I wish you a blessed, enjoyable day and a delicious dinner.

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