We’re deep into autumn now, so I’m going to throw out a little-known fact for all you Americans. Up here, in the wilds of Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October, and it’s not because we don’t know how to read a calendar.
Until the late 1800s, Canadian Thanksgiving was a semi-regular occurrence, mostly used to give thanks for a specific event, at any time of year. In 1879 Thanksgiving became an annual event, set for a random Thursday in November. That date changed several times until 1957, a year close to my heart, when Thanksgiving was officially declared to be the second Monday in October.
- Thanksgiving has a harvest theme. What more appropriate time to be thankful than just when the harvest is finishing?
- Most places are beautiful at this time of year and that makes it even easier to feel thankful, not only for the harvest but for the rest of nature’s bounty, and just about everything else.
- It’s a lovely time of year to go outside and walk off a big Thanksgiving meal, and 34,000,000 Canadians, give or take a few, will be doing just that. Eating big delicious meals I mean, not necessarily walking.
- It’s not all that close to Christmas. Hello! A potential 314,000,000 Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving a mere month before pulling themselves up to another table laden with food, probably identical to the Thanksgiving meal they’ve barely had time to digest.
I’m kidding about #4, of course, but only a little.
The very best thing about Thanksgiving in October is that cooks have time to clean their kitchens of the first Turkey Explosion before embarking on another large fowl venture.
Nothing makes me more weary than the thought of getting the bird out of the oven, pulling out the stuffing, cutting the darn thing up (also known as ‘carving’ — that beautiful and immaculate thing they do in movies), making gravy, etc. etc. etc., all while directing the mashing of potatoes, and final preps of other traditional goodies. Well-meaning help in close quarters is enough to cause family rifts, and cleaning up the mess that was once a large bird, roasted to golden perfection, has made grown cooks weep.
That’s where I come in. A number of years ago my sister shared a recipe for turkey that can be made a few days ahead of the actual event. (Don’t roll your eyes at me. It’s delicious!) The only comments I’ve had run along the lines of, “I’ve never tasted turkey this moist before!” and “What do you mean, you made this two days ago?”. Other cooks who have tried the recipe say they’ve never had such a relaxed holiday.
Since I make turkey for over twenty-five people every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’d have to say this recipe has restored my sanity, although some people will be quick to point out that “sanity” is a relative term in my case.
All that said, take a look at the recipe below and give it a try if you dare. It’s hard to let yourself break with the “right way” of making a turkey, and if it turns out you don’t even have to say thanks.
STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY TURKEY
(This is for an approx. 25 lb. turkey. Adjust the amount as needed)
4. c. chicken broth (like Campbells broth in the big tetra-paks)
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/8 c. salt and pepper (mixed)
4 c. water
1 clove garlic, minced (no, you can’t taste the garlic in the finished product!)
1 Tbsp. paprika
1. Put turkey on a rack in large roasting pan.
2. Combine all ingredients and pour over turkey.
3. Bake @ 325 degrees for 4.5 hrs. or until your size of turkey is done, basting several times.
4. Remove from oven, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes.
5. Lift turkey to cutting board.
6. Blend juices using an immersion blender, or do batches in a regular blender. (Let cool first.)
7. Slice turkey and layer in roasting pan.
8. Retain 2 cups of juice, then pour the rest over turkey in the pan.
9. Cover and put into fridge until turkey day.
1. Get retained juices out of fridge and put on counter to warm to room temperature.
2. Put turkey into 325 degree oven for about 1 – 1.5 hrs, until heated through.
3. Put meat on platter and return to oven to keep warm. Pour juices into saucepan.
TO MAKE GRAVY
1. To 2 cups of room temperature broth, add 3/4 c. flour (or more), blending with a wire whisk until it is thick and smooth.
2. Bring broth poured off the turkey to a rolling boil and drizzle in flour/broth mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly to blend.
3. When gravy reaches desired consistency, stop adding flour/broth and reduce heat to med/low, stirring and simmering for another ten minutes.
DRESSING / STUFFING
(This can also be made a day or two before and refrigerated.)
1⁄4 c. butter, melted
1 onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 1⁄2 c. milk
1 tsp. Salt
1⁄4 tsp. Pepper
1⁄2 tsp sage
3/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1 loaf bread, broken in small pieces or cut into cubes
- Melt butter in large pot and sauté onion and celery until soft
- Remove from heat and add milk.
- Whisk eggs into milk/butter mixture
- Whisk in seasonings
- Add bread pieces and stir until the liquid is absorbed into the bread. It should be kind of sticky.
Now you have two choices:
- Put stuffing into a very well-buttered and appropriately-sized baking pan and cover with foil, OR
- Form stuffing into balls the size of large golf balls and place side by side in a very well- buttered baking pan and cover with foil.
• Bake at 325, covered, for about an 60 – 75 minutes. Check to make sure middle of casserole is steaming hot and cooked through.
• Baked at 350, covered, for 30 minutes. Put balls into a bowl and serve.