It is often difficult to take time to relax and enjoy a day with family and friends. Even when we have a big family dinner, I often hear friends complain that by the time they get to sit down, the meal is half over and soon after, everyone scatters to their separate corners — kids in the playroom, teens in another room … you know the drill.
There are some shortcuts to take when cooking a huge meal. First of all, Thanksgiving is a really easy big meal to make as the menu is kind of pre-ordained. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes or yams, cranberry sauce, and whatever other sides you like. Make as many menu items as you can in advance and freeze. By last week, I already had two pecan pies, some veggie stock and homemade cranberry sauce.
My favorite Thanksgiving trick, however, is to spatchcock, or butterfly, the turkey. When I suggested this method of cooking a few years ago, some people were horrified. How could I possibly give up taking an iconic, perfectly roasted turkey, whole and golden, from the oven? Easy. I can cook two 12 to 14 pound turkeys in one oven in under two hours and then I have the oven available for everything else, so my day is actually far more relaxed. With a good pair of kitchen shears, you can butterfly the bird yourself, or have your butcher do it. Here’s another secret: This method provides lots more crispy skin and makes a remarkably juicy bird.
Thanksgiving is not about perfection, or even about the turkey. The best Thanksgiving dinners happen when everyone comes from near and far to be together. It is about family and friends and the special closeness we all feel when we sit down at a too-crowded table. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Herb Infused and Golden Glazed Butterflied Turkey (Meat)
This makes a delicious, deeply golden turkey. Remember to baste several times during the last 40 minutes of roasting.
1 (12 to 15 pounds) turkey, butterflied
2 onions, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 to 3 carrots, diced
10 to 20 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 to 4 cups chicken or turkey stock or water
2 sticks softened trans-fat-free Pareve mar- garine such as Earth Balance, very soft
2 Tbsp. finely minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried rubbed sage
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 to 2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the chopped vegetables in the bottom of a deep roasting pan. Place a rack over the vegetables (I use a cookie cooling rack) Add 1-2 cups of the stock. (Add the rest as needed while the turkey is roasting.)
Place the turkey on the rack and arrange the legs in position. Let rest for 30 minutes to bring to room temperature.
Mix the herbs with the softened margarine and reserve about one-quarter of the mixture for gravy. Using gloved hands, gently loosen the skin from the bird, leaving it in place. Take about 1/3 cup of the herb butter and rub it under the skin onto the meat. Use about 1/3 cup to rub into the skin of the bird.
Place the turkey in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 and cover the turkey with a foil tent. Add more stock if needed. Roast the turkey until the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh registers 150 degrees.
Uncover the turkey and begin basting with the remaining herb margarine. Raise the heat to 425 and roast until the thigh reaches 165 degrees. Let rest 15 minutes before cutting. Serves 6 to 10 with leftovers.
Citrus Herb Spatchcocked Turkey (Meat)
This turkey uses all kinds of herbs and citrus fruits. This flavors the meat as well as the drippings in the pan.
2 oranges, sliced
1 lemon sliced
1 lime sliced
1 stick Pareve, trans-fat free margarine, softened
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 to 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 small sprig, fresh bay leaves (about 4-5 leaves, reserve the rest for another use)
1/2 bunch (small) fresh sage
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 leek, white part only cut into 1/2-inch slices
6-8 cloves garlic, cut in half, more to taste
1 small bunch fresh parsley, 3-4 sprigs
1 (12 to 14 pounds) turkey, spatchcoked or butterflied. Your butcher can do this for you.
Rinse all the herbs and place on paper towels to absorb water.
Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with heavy foil and coat with olive oil. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Grate about 1 tsp. of orange zest from the naval orange. Grate about 1/2 tsp. zest from the lemon and lime. Mix the zests with the margarine. Loosen the skin and rub half under the skin and the rest over the entire turkey.
Place the rest of the fruits, herbs and vegetbles in the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with a baking wire rack or broiler rack that fits properly and firmly. Place the turkey on the rack and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Place in the center of the oven with the legs facing the back of the oven. Roast, rotating pan once or twice, until an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15-20 minutes. Remove to a platter and remove the wire rack from the pan. Deglaze the pan gently with some chicken or turkey stock and a silicon spatula. Remove any sprigs of herbs and the slices of citrus and strain into a gravy boat. You can discard the solids. Alternatively, after removing the herbs and citrus, you can pour into a blender and puree for a natural gravy. Season to taste as deisired. Serves 8-10.
Chili Pepper Butternut Squash with Maple Glaze (pareve)
Every year I try to add one new recipe to the Thanksgiving menu instead of an old favorite that feels too overused. This is the one I will make this year.
1/2 stick pareve, trans-fat-free margarine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp, apple cider or raspberry vinegar
2-3 ancho chili peppers, seeded and chopped (wear gloves!)
4-8 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
4-6 sprigs thyme, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
2 large butternut squashes, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and sliced in half-inch thick slices and slices cut into 2-3 pieces
1/2 cup pure maple syrup, grade B
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil and set aside. Melt the margarine and whisk in the orange juice, sugar and vinegar. Add the chili peppers, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Add the squash pieces. Toss to coat. Pour onto the two pans and place in the oven.
While the squash is roasting, heat the syrup, brown sugar and lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved. When the squash is barely fork tender, remove the pans and quickly brush the glaze over the squash pieces. Place back in the oven and roast until deep golden brown and cooked through. Drizzle any remaining glaze over the squash pieces. Serves 6 to 10.