Sunday, November 20, 2011

Let's Talk Turkey

How many of you are in charge of Thanksgiving dinner this year?  When our family gets together there are about 18 of us at the table(s), so we have to get an early start.  There are a few things I want to try this year that will be new.  1.) Making the mashed potatoes ahead of time and putting them in a crock-pot, 2.) Cranberry sauce from Trader Joes, 3.) Making the turkey gravy ahead of time, 4.) Making my dinner rolls 2 days in advance, 5.) Smoking a turkey, 6.) Cooking a traditional turkey in a bag, 7) Brining both turkeys for at least 24 hours.

Usually I don't try new things before a big dinner like this, but from past years I've learned how stressful that last fifteen to twenty minutes in the kitchen can be, and I want to avoid it.  As for the turkey in a bag, my friends have done this and they love it.  I don't see how I can go wrong.

1.) Mashed potatoes.  I am the mashed potato queen in our family.  I've been in charge of making them since I was a little girl.  I LOVE mashed potatoes.  But nothing is worse than making them while whisking gravy, while carving the turkey, while checking on all the other dishes, while getting everything to the table.  So, I googled "Making mashed potatoes ahead of time" and read through a zillion suggestions.  I'm opting to make them about an hour ahead and put them in my large crock pot.  Have any of you ever done this? 

2.)  Cranberry Sauce.  Usually I get the cranberry sauce in the can and carve along the lines.  I'm not a big cranberry sauce lover, but one year I tried to skip it and it didn't go over.  It's a tradition.  So, I googled again, and what I came up with is that Trader Joe's makes a wonderful cranberry sauce for about two bucks.  I'm going to give it a try this year.  

3.)  Turkey Gravy.  Same issue as #1, but this year I'm going to bake 8 turkey wings ahead of time and then prepare a gravy from the drippings using a chicken stock.  On the day of Thanksgiving I'm going to pull that out and add my boiled giblets and some of the turkey drippings.  I hope it will make the gravy much easier. 

4.) Dinner Rolls.  My mom gave me one of her first cookbooks from 1968--Blue Ribbon Recipes.  These are recipes compiled from County Fairs that won the blue ribbon.  The bread recipes in it are wonderful--they always turn out.  I'm going to make about 50 rolls, place them in Ziploc bags and reheat them in the microwave before serving.

5.)  Smoked Turkey.  My husband and I practiced smoking a turkey about a month ago and it was delicious.  The smoker is a little tricky on cold days, but they're predicting the temps will be about 40 on Thanksgiving.  Our turkey is 17 pounds, so we'll probably start it at about 5:00 am and if it's done early we'll just set it aside and reheat.  I'm thinking I should start brining it on Monday or Tuesday.  Any suggestions?  The lady at the checkout stand said her husband starts a week in advance. 

6.) Traditional turkey in a bag.  My friends have said that turkey in a bag turns out moist and delicious every time and they'd never do it any other way.  I got a 17 pound Butterball and I'm going to give it a try this year.  Again, any suggestions or advice are always welcome!

7.)  Turkey Brine.  I'm looking for a good recipe for the brine, especially for the smoked turkey.  I'm not sure that brining my traditional turkey is a good idea since I went with frozen this year.  In the past I've ordered fresh turkeys, but I never tasted a difference.  This year I figured I'd just go back to the good ol' frozen variety.  But I have read that you shouldn't brine the frozen ones since they're injected with a sodium solution already.  Any thoughts on this?

As for pies, another family member is bringing those.  Whew! 

I'm setting the table a day ahead of time (Wednesday) so that won't be an issue on T Day. 

Here's my menu: (I'll be preparing it while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!)


Goat cheese rolled in cranberries served with crackers
Stuffed mushrooms
Crab dip

2 turkeys (smoked and traditional)
Giblet gravy
Mashed potatoes (kept warm in crock pot)
Stuffing (I use Stove Top because I grew up with and LOVE it.)
Green Bean Casserole (french cut green beans, mushroom soup, water chestnuts (chopped up small), and French's onions)
Green Salad (thinking about nixing the green salad this year)
Cranberry Sauce
Deviled Eggs
Cherry Salad (whip cream based)

Local wines--Townshend T3, Grande Ronde Cellars, Arbor Crest, and Barrister  (We'll have a couple Rieslings.)

Sparkling cider for the kids

Pumpkin and apple pie with ice cream/whipped cream

What are you doing for Thanksgiving?  How do you handle your menu and the time issues?  Do you watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?  Are you going to get out at 10 pm for the Black Friday sales?

And here's the final picture of the sunroom after we moved the furniture in. 


  1. I love mashed spuds as well...have not heard of the crock-pot trick but I don't see why that wouldn't work!

  2. We have a dish on Thanksgiving called Potato Puff Extraordinaire, have you tried it? It's basically mashed potatoes, but with an egg and cream cheese added in ... Sooo good.

    I'm cooking the turkey this week, and having a small, intimate Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is also my daughter's birthday, so it's a double celebration here :)

    And your porch is just perfect. I wouldn't touch those ebay windows, they have so much character the way they are right now!

  3. Good luck for your Thanksgiving prep! I hope you post the recipe for the buns!We don't do turkey much in South Africa so I have never tasted it.Do share pics of your table on the day..

  4. Sounds like you've got it under control. I have made some sides ahead of time and it works out well. A few years ago I went on Emeril's recipe site and found (and I'm not sure this is the right name) orange sweet potatoes that you make ahead with orange juice/cream/eggs/bourbon? etc. and then mash and stuff them in scooped out oranges. Delicious. Also the peas au gratin are tasty. I've never brined a turkey but my daughter has and it was really juicy. Never make fresh rolls, I buy the Pillsbury ones in the can, just easier for me. Good luck with your Thanksgiving dinner I'm sure everyone will love it.

  5. Your Thanksgiving menu sounds yummy! I'm also a fan of mashed sweet potatoes- I found a recipe a couple years ago for mashed sweet potatoes with chipotle pepper. Just a little bite makes it stand out!

    I do not shop in actual stores on Black Friday, too scary for me. I look for the online deals.

  6. Mmm, I'm coming to your house for leftovers:) I want some smoked turkey! Happy Thanksgiving!


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