Well, you've seen me through plenty of Thanksgivings now, so I should be a pro at this.
So much of a pro that when Dave Cathey said, “We need to get some new shots for our Thanksgiving spread,” I answered with an enthusiastic “piece of cake” response (or in this case, several pies). I can cook up a full spread with multiple dishes in record time and drive it all to Oklahoma City to be photographed.
Oh Diary, what was I thinking? There is a difference in being an experienced cook and a real pro. I assumed the role of pro and did all my baking of pies before leaving my Enid kitchen as our apartment kitchen was not designed for cooking a Thanksgiving feast. I would cook the turkey there, on arrival, though, and it could nestle in my carefully organized brine-filled ice chest while I drove to Oklahoma City.
I got a head start procuring an awesome bird for Turkey Day, and it is what I advise readers to do, if you want a local, organic, sustainable, pasture-raised, perfectly-sized-to-your-Thanksgiving-guest-list turkey. The Oklahoma Food Cooperative had 120 turkeys available starting Friday. Hurry, there may be a few left.
I purchased a 10-pound, 4-ounce turkey for our photo. It is one of the smallest I've cooked in recent years, so I thought “no problem.” With my simple salt-and-sugar brine it should cook super fast in my smallish antique speckle-ware roaster. I made my own self-styled baking rack using long celery and carrot sticks along with onion slices cut about the same thickness.
This method has stood the test of time and imparted flavor to every turkey and turkey breast I've cooked for as long as I can remember. I add a quartered apple, some additional herbs from the garden, such as sage leaves, oregano and thyme, to the mixture. I put some in the cavity of the bird along with more chunks of carrot, celery and onion. I finish by adding some chicken broth and white wine to the pan. Just enough to cover the top of my vegetable cooking rack.
All that stuff to go with the turkey includes my easy, make-ahead sherry-infused gravy, the easiest cranberry sauce and, of course, the dressing my family thinks is the only dressing: Easy Enhanced Stove Top, made better with the addition of homemade cornbread with local cornmeal, flour, eggs and milk.
Including pan juices at the last minute will make that dressing even better. That's right dressing, not stuffing. Dressing is a safer bet because stuffing the inside of a raw turkey cavity with cornbread crumbs is an excellent way to introduce foodborne bacteria into the digestive system of those around your Thanksgiving table.
My plan is to include as many Oklahoma-produced foods in our holidays as possible, starting with sand plum jelly.
It imparts a lovely golden finish to the surface and just enough sweetness to offer complexity to the flavor. This classic method can be used with a lidded roasting pan or heavy-duty roaster with a tent of foil until final basting. Plan about 15 minutes roasting time per pound plus an additional 20 to 30 minutes resting time.
In cold water: Thaw breast-side down, in wrapper, submerged completely in cold water. Make sure water remains cold; add ice if needed. Estimate at least 30 minutes per pound to thaw a whole turkey.
Listed here are approximate thawing times for various weights of turkey, with times for refrigerator thawing and for cold-water thawing: