Allow me to be the 57th person to wish you a happy Thanksgiving before it even is Thanksgiving. It’s just the way we are in America. We like to start the holidays way before the holidays. So anyway, allow me to also be the one to tell you it’s too late to get ready for Thanksgiving. If your bird is still frozen, your goose is cooked. Well, not really, but I really wanted to use that line.
You actually have plenty of time to get ready. Just expect utter insanity at the grocery store, and put on a pot of coffee when you get home. Even if you don’t drink coffee. Cuz it’s going to be a long night.
No, not really. Not with this trusty guide, stuffed (see what I did there?) with tips and info and recipes (including the annual running of my favorite Cranberry Chutney). You’ll be just fine, really. Unless you’re hosting, of course, in which case, what are you doing reading this?
I wish you a lovely feast with all of your favorite foods and family and friends. And no matter what happens in the kitchen, remember, the day isn’t about the food. It’s about gratitude — even for Aunt Linda’s pan of green Jell-O with grated carrots on top.
Thawing turkey in the refrigerator takes approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds. In cold water, it takes approximately 30 minutes per pound.
4 to 12 pounds: 1 to 3 days in the fridge; 2 to 6 hours in cold water.
12 to 16 pounds: 3 to 4 days in the fridge; 6 to 8 hours in cold water.
16 to 20 pounds: 4 to 5 days in the fridge; 8 to 10 hours in cold water.
20 to 24 pounds: 5 to 6 days in the fridge; 10 to 12 hours in cold water.
8-12 pounds: 2¾ to 3 hours
12-14 pounds: 3½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds: 4 to 4¼ hours
18-20 pounds: 4¼ to 4¾ hours
20-24 pounds: 4¾ to 5¼ hours
How to know when your turkey is done
According to the Department of Agriculture, a turkey must reach 165 F to be safe, but you can take it out of the oven as low as 160 F because the temperature will rise at it rests.
1. Use a digital, instant-read thermometer.
2. Carefully take the turkey out of the oven and set it on the counter or stovetop, closing the oven door to save the heat.
3. Hold the thermometer perpendicular to the bird and insert it into the crease where the leg and breast meet, deep into the center of the meatiest part of the thigh, making sure it is not touching the bone.
4. Hold the thermometer still until the numbers stop.
For a crisp skin and moist meat
Melt two to three sticks of butter with fresh herbs, such as thyme or sage. Fold a large piece of cheesecloth into quarters, then cut it into a four-layer square that’s big enough to cover the turkey (or about 17 inches). Immerse the cheesecloth in the melted butter until saturated, then drape it over your breast-side-up turkey before placing it in the oven. Roast normally.
The cloth protects the skin from burning but allows it to release enough moisture for crisping. Butter adds both flavor and moisture, while also helping the skin brown.
In a large stockpot, mix 2 gallons cold water and 2 cups coarse kosher salt.
Add turkey; brine should cover the bird. Cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours.
Remove turkey from brine; rinse under cool water, rubbing inside and out to release salt.
Pat dry with paper towels and roast.
Pat turkey dry with paper towels.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt inside the cavity.
Generously salt the outside of the turkey (up to 1 cup).
Transfer to baking sheet and loosely cover with foil. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours, removing foil for last 2 hours. For super-crispy skin, leave uncovered in the fridge for 2 hours to help dry it out before roasting.
¼ cup turkey drippings (fat and juices from roasted turkey)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups liquid (juices from roasted turkey, broth, water)
½ teaspoon salt, or less, if using turkey drippings
½ teaspoon pepper
Pour drippings from roasting pan into a bowl, leaving brown particles in pan. Return ¼ cup drippings to roasting pan. (Measure accurately because too little fat makes gravy lumpy.) Stir in flour. (Measure accurately so gravy is not greasy.)
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Stir in liquid. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in salt and pepper.
— If drippings taste salty, avoid adding more salt until the gravy is finished.
— Use reduced-sodium packaged broth or homemade. You can always add more salt.
— Cook the flour for at least one minute before adding the liquid for the gravy.
— If you need to hold the gravy for longer than 30 minutes, store in a microwaveable container. Then, reheat gravy in the microwave and pour into the boat at the last minute.
— Use a medium-sized wire whisk to stir up the gravy, vigorously mixing in the flour into the pan drippings to create a roux.
— End up with a few lumps? Pour the gravy through a wire mesh sieve.
— A flavorful broth is a traditional liquid, but you could mix things up by using a little wine, milk, or half-and-half with the broth. Take it a step further with a splash of dry sherry and some finely chopped herbs (try sage or rosemary) or green onion.
Jennie Geisler’s Cranberry Chutney
Makes 2½ cups
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup vinegar
½ cup raisins
½ cup peeled, diced apple
¼ teaspoon each allspice, ginger, cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add rest of the ingredients, return to a boil and simmer 15 minutes.
Pour into a medium glass mixing bowl. Place piece of plastic wrap directly on sauce.
Cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend.
Bring to room temperature before serving.
Carrot Tart with Ricotta and Almond Filling
Active time: 1 hour 10 minutes; total time: 1 hour 35 minutes; serves 6 to 8
1½ cups sliced almonds (about 5½ ounces)
2 pounds rainbow or orange carrots, peeled, cut into 3½-inch-by-¼–½-inch sticks; plus 1 cup coarsely chopped tops (or flat-leaf parsley)
½ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, divided
½ teaspoon ground allspice, divided
¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 large eggs
1¼ cups whole-milk ricotta
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 (17-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
All-purpose flour (for dusting)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, cook carrots, orange juice, 4 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vinegar, ¼ teaspoon allspice, and 1½ cups water in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer carrots to a plate, reserving liquid in skillet, and let cool.
Transfer ¼ cup almonds to a small bowl; set aside. Process 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and remaining almonds, 1 tablespoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon allspice in a food processor until finely chopped. Add eggs, ricotta, thyme, orange zest, and remaining 4 tablespoons butter and process until smooth.
Gently roll pastry to an 18-by-13-inch rectangle on a lightly floured sheet of parchment. Transfer with parchment to a rimmed baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, lightly score a ½-inch border around pastry (for a decorative border, make small shallow diagonal cuts within that border).
Spread egg mixture evenly within the border of pastry, then arrange carrots over in a geometric pattern. To create a chevron (zigzag) pattern, form 6 carrots into three even “V” shapes so points are touching the long border of the crust. Fill with additional rows of “V” shapes, cutting carrots to fit as needed.
Bake tart until filling is puffed and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, heat reserved carrot-cooking liquid in a skillet over high; cook, stirring, until reduced to a thick syrup, about 10 minutes. Brush top of tart with syrup while still warm. Cut into 12 to 16 pieces.
Whisk oil and remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add shallot, carrot tops (or parsley), and reserved almonds and toss to combine. Arrange over tart to serve.
Leftover Turkey Shepherd’s Pie
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
1⁄4 teaspoon spice essence or 1⁄4 teaspoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
1⁄4 teaspoon salt, plus
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 ounces mushrooms, stemmed, wiped clean, and sliced
1⁄2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leave
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2-2 1⁄2 cups chopped roasted turkey (white and/or dark meat) or 2-2 1⁄2 cups shredded roasted turkey (white and/or dark meat)
1 1⁄4 cups chicken stock or 1 1⁄4 cups canned chicken broth
1⁄2 cup green peas
4 cups leftover mashed potatoes
3⁄4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese or 3⁄4 cup cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square or 2.2-quart baking dish with the butter and set aside.
In a large saute pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, Essence, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until thick, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the meat and stir well to combine. Gradually add the stock and then the peas, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Carefully transfer to the prepared dish and spoon the potatoes over the meat mixture, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake until the cheese is bubbly and the potatoes are crisp around the edges, 22 to 25 minutes.
Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish and serve.
Bourbon Ginger Cider Cocktails
3 ounces bourbon
6 ounces apple cider
3 ounces ginger beer
1½ ounces fresh squeezed lime juice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Garnish options: thinly sliced apple, an extra sprinkle of ground cinnamon, whole cinnamon sticks
Combine the bourbon, apple cider, ginger beer, lime juice, and ground cinnamon in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds, until combined and the ground cinnamon is evenly mixed. Divide into 2 rocks glasses with ice. Garnish.
Carrot Pigs in a Blanket
40 pieces of carrot (each 2 inches long)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound store-bought pizza dough
Sesame seeds, as needed for garnish
Green goddess dressing, for dipping
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, toss the carrot pieces with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin.
Divide the pizza dough into 40 even pieces. Roll each piece about ¼-inch thick. Place a carrot at one end of the dough and then roll the dough around the carrot.
Repeat with the remaining carrots and dough, and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Brush each piece with olive oil and garnish with sesame seeds.
Bake until the dough is lightly golden and the carrots are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes and then serve warm with green goddess dressing on the side.
1 (12-pound) turkey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Remove the giblets and neck if they are encased within the turkey, then rinse out the cavity and pat the turkey dry. Slice the orange in half and stuff it inside
In a small bowl, combine the oil with the rosemary, thyme, sage, and pepper. Rub the seasoning mixture under the skin and on top of the breast of the turkey. Rub any remaining seasonings over the entire turkey. If the legs are not secured with a wire, tie them together with kitchen string. Place the turkey on a V-rack in a roasting pan, tucking the wings under the bird.
Roast the turkey at 400 F for 30 minutes; reduce the oven temperature to 325 F and continue cooking the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 165, has loose joints and juices run clear.
If turkey begins to turn dark brown before the internal temperature is met, cover the breast with foil and continue to roast until done.
— Jennie Geisler can be reached on Twitter: @ETNGeisler.