It is October. A radio station was discussing Thanksgiving. Stores are getting ready for the holiday, and you should be too. Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Preparing the feast can be a lot of work and expensive. There is no need to kill yourself and your wallet.
Some people will be preparing their first Thanksgiving dinners. They will face turkey terror, a fear, grounded in reality, that their feast will be a disaster. It does not have to be this way. Remember the military axiom, P*ss poor prior planning leads to p*ss poor performance.
Now is the time to start planning your feast, especially if you are doing it for the first time. Soon, the grocery stores will be setting up displays of non-perishable goods. They will be on sale until the day gets closer. Now is the time to stock up on those goods. This year, due to supply chain issues, those sales may not be as numerous as years past, but products will still be less expensive than waiting for the week or two before the big day.
The best way to plan is to create your menu, find recipes, and list all the ingredients you need. Every time you go to the grocery store, pick up a few non-perishable items and cross those off your list. Put them in a box, bin, or empty shelf, so you will know where they are for the big day.
Decide ahead of time if you are buying a frozen or fresh turkey. A frozen turkey takes a long time to defrost, so buy it ahead of time if that is your choice. Allow 1.5 pounds per person since about 1/3 of a turkey is waste- bones.
Side dishes and dressing can be prepared a day or two ahead and heated while the turkey is resting after you pull it out of the oven. Do not be shy asking people to bring side dishes, desserts, or turning down their offers. It means less work and expense for you. You do not have to prepare everything.
Plan Thanksgiving Day ahead of time. Timing is everything. Figure out the approximate time the turkey will come out of the oven and the resting time. That is the time you will be serving dinner. If you want guests to come earlier, figure in some light appetizers and drinks. I would stick with wine and good beer. Thanksgiving is not supposed to be a drunken booze and puke fest.
If you never roasted a turkey, practice roasting chickens. If you can properly roast a chicken, you can roast a turkey. The turkey is just a bigger fowl and takes longer to cook.
Here are some tips for roasting that BFB- Big F**king Bird. These are just the basics. Do not get fancy schmancy with brining or slathering if this is your first time. Plain salt and pepper and a few other ingredients are acceptable.
- If. using a frozen turkey, allow one day for every 4-5 pounds to thaw in the fridge. Put the turkey in a pan on a rack on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
- The day before, remove the wrapping and giblets package. Blot the turkey with paper towels inside and out. Put it back in the fridge.
- On the day of, remove the turkey an hour before cooking and let it sit on the counter. This will bring the bird close to room temperature.
- Preheat your oven to 450 F.
- Season the turkey liberally inside and out with salt and pepper. You can put some herbs- parsley, sage, rosemary- onion and orange wedges in the cavity, along with a stick or two of butter (this will enhance your sauce/gravy)
- Put the bird in the oven. After 10-15 minutes, lower the oven to 350 F and roast the bird. Figure 13-15 minutes per pound from the time you put the turkey in the oven. Note, if you put the BFB in the oven right out of the fridge, cooking time may be longer.
- Check the temp with an insta-read thermometer in the thick part of the thigh- do not touch bone. It should read 165 F. (The thighs take the longest to cook.)
- Remove the bird, cover loosely with foil, and let it rest 20-40 minutes depending on the size of the bird.
- While that BFB is resting, heat your sides and prepare your sauce/gravy, using the pan drippings. Usually the week of Thanks giving, stores have turkey wings. You can use those to make the stock for your gravy/sauce or buy turkey stock.
Carve, serve, and enjoy. I prefer a buffet-style dinner for Thanksgiving. It is easier on the cook and the guests.