Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shapiro family Thanksgiving dinner

So yesterday I got an offer to win a whole set of Le Creuset by entering a family recipe. The only thing I could think of that seemed truly of our family was Thanksgiving turkey, so I wrote that up - I'll let you now if I win!

My family's Thanksgiving turkey recipe is more unique in its technique than its ingredients.

5-6 cups bread cubes, all kinds, raison is especially nice - I save heels of homemade bread in the freezer to use in the stuffing - there's some rosemary focaccia in there now that I think'll be a great addition this year
1 8- or 9-inch pan of cornbread
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, can be salted or un-)
3 - 4 cups chopped onions, or leeks - white & pale green parts only
1 bunch of celery, cleaned, trimmed, and chopped, including some leafy parts
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
fresh herbs - sage, parsley, thyme
3 TBLS juniper berries
1 bottle of white wine
2-4 cups vegetable or chicken or turkey broth
2 12-ounce jars of vacuum packed chestnuts (or about 2 pounds fresh, roasted and peeled)
1 fresh, never been frozen, 12 - 15 pound turkey
Special equipment - 2 roaster racks

On the night before Thanksgiving, spread out the bread cubes on a large cookie sheet, and leave them to dry overnight. Crumble the corn bread onto another sheet, and toast it lightly in a 350 degree oven, then set it out to dry as well.

On Thanksgiving morning, melt the butter in a large skillet, add the onions and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat until softened. Add the herbs and juniper berries. (Alternatively, if someone in your family doesn't like the texture of the juniper berries, place them on a square of cheesecloth, tie it up with string, and steep them in the broth to be added to the stuffing later, after removing the berries.) Add about a cup of wine, and boil it off. Add up to 2 cups of the broth, and boil that down a bit, too. Meanwhile, transfer the bread and cornbread to your largest mixing bowl. Dump in the onion mixture, add the chestnuts, and mix. Add enough additional broth to get a damp consistency - all the pieces of bread should be moistened. Set the stuffing aside.

Rinse the turkey and pat dry. Stuff the cavity with handfuls of stuffing, and work some under the skin of the breast. Tie or skewer the bird closed (I use an old nutpick for this, that I have to dig up from the kitchen drawers every year - sometimes the wire holding the bird together when it comes with work, though often this is plastic now, that can't go in the oven.) Place any leftover stuffing in a covered casserole to bake outside the turkey.

Preheat the oven to 425. Grease one of the roasting racks, and arrange the bird on it, in a large roasting pan (can be foil), with the back up - this is important. Place the bird in the oven and roast until there are some brown spots and maybe even a little smoke going on. Pour the rest of the bottle of wine over the turkey, and cover the whole pan with foil. Reduce the oven heat to 325, and cook until it's within 30 minutes of being done - approximately 20 minutes per pound.

Remove the bird from the oven. Summon the family if you want an audience, by announcing "the great turkey turning" - or just do it all on the Q.T. if you prefer (some family members will likely cruise in looking for fallen and flying bits of stuffing and meat). Take the rack out of the roasting pan. Strain whatever liquid is in the pan into a saucepan for gravy making later. Chill this saucepan in the freezer or outside if it's cold enough, so that you can skim the hardened fat. Place the extra rack on top of the bird, and invert it back into the drained roasting pan, rack on the bottom. Remove the rack that's now on top, and return the turkey to the oven, uncovered, to brown the breast, 20 - 30 minutes. Let the bird rest, and carve.

Meanwhile, remove the fat from the saucepan of pan drippings. In my family we always just boiled the juice down to make gravy (my mother always insisted that there was flour in the juice from all the bread in the stuffing), but you can thicken the liquid with flour for a more traditional gravy if you wish.

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