Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the entire year – so much so that I replicate it for Christmas with a few changes. Maybe you can too. As for me, when the house smells like roasting turkey and bacon, I know it’s a holiday.
My favorite Thanksgiving tradition comes from my childhood table. Just before the meal was served, we would take a moment to relay something for which we were grateful. As have many families, we’ve carried this childhood tradition into our own home. Needless to say, it has yielded some moving and rather telling responses. This year, one family member was thankful for her therapist. Our dog is always forefront in our kid’s thoughts, and I was privately thankful that we had gotten through two hours of a cocktail “hour” without the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Green Party members locking horns. The Catholics (current and former) and Protestants did pretty well too, along with the agnostic and fallen-away Baptists. Did I mention my husband is also the youngest of 9 kids? Big families yield lots of big opinions, but tempering them at the holiday table is indeed something to be grateful for. That and the fully stocked bar that has also become a family tradition.
But at the end of the meal as I was washing dishes, feeling happy that I had worn sensible heels, I had a moment to be alone with my thoughts in a house full of loud, lively family. I’m deeply, deeply grateful for the man I love who I’ve been married to for over 22 years and the darling children he’s given me. To be born to my parents, two of the finest people I’ve ever known. To find humor in those little pie-in-the-face moments that life hands you is something else I’m grateful for. And my health. My inconvenient health. And I remember…I have something for which there is a treatment. And for that I am genuinely grateful.
So Thanksgiving is over now, and I’ve pulled out of my food coma, having handed off the last of my leftovers. The house is quiet and the kids are headed back to school tomorrow. And life goes on. And no matter what, I’m grateful for that, too.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: about 3 1/2 hours (start recipe day before serving)
Yield: A boat load of turkey
Special tools: large roasting pan with rack & kitchen string, plastic bag for brining
For dry brine:
1/3 c. kosher salt
2 T fresh thyme, stripped from branch and finely chopped
2 T fresh lemon zest
2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 turkey bag (Reynold’s makes a good one)
1 16 pound turkey
1 T salt
1 onion, halved
2 lemons, halved
3 carrots, cut into 3 sections
3 celery ribs, cut into 3 sections
2 onions, quartered
10 large crimini mushrooms
3 c. chicken broth
3/4 pound thick sliced bacon
- Remove your turkey from the paper or plastic. Often times the neck is in the cavity of the bird and the innards (heart, liver, kidneys, etc) are wrapped in plastic or parchment and tucked in the neck cavity of the bird. Remove those and set aside.
- Thoroughly rinse turkey inside and out with cool water and place on several paper towels and pat dry inside and out before placing the bird into the Reynolds bag.
- Mix all 4 ingredients of the dry brine together and pat all over the exterior of the bird, top and bottom. Tie the bag tightly with twist tie and marinate for 18-24 hours in the fridge.
- The morning of your holiday, remove turkey at least an hour before you want to put it in the oven to get it closer to room temperature for more even cooking. Discard plastic bag.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees and rinse turkey inside and out, patting dry. Sprinkle 1 T salt into cavity and add 1 onion halved and two halved lemons.
- To bottom of roasting pan, add carrots, celery, mushrooms and remaining onions. Set turkey atop roasting rack in pan and truss (see below). Set turkey breast up. Wrap kitchen string just below neck cavity and over wings. Make sure tips of wings are tied down, then criss-cross string at cavity, tightly tying legs together with a firm knot.
- Set roasting pan into oven adding 3 cups of chicken stock before closing the door.
- I don’t baste my turkey because the drippings from the bacon keep it beautifully moist. And not opening the oven every 30-45 minutes takes about 30 minutes off the cooking time! So at about 2 1/2 hours, use a quick-read thermometer and make sure your bird is 180-170 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh, 170 degrees at the thickest part of the breast.
- Once the bird is done, remove it to a serving dish and tent for 30-45 minutes. In the meantime, pour all the drippings and roasted vegetables into a small stock pot, holding back some of the stock. Puree mixture with an immersion blender and thin as necessary with reserved stock. You shouldn’t have to add any additional seasoning, but check to make sure.
- Once the bird is cool enough to touch, carve and serve with the gravy alongside. Heaven.