It’s a Family Tradition
When growing-up, there was nothing quite like the smells in our house on Thanksgiving Day. My mother was not a gourmet cook by any means, but boy could she cook, especially a feast for Thanksgiving! She started about 5am (I know because when old enough, I got up with her). I made sure she woke me early so I could help. I would cut (as I got older) the vegetables, wash scrub the potatoes or any other prep work that needed doing.
My mother took extra special care to prepare our turkey. She found a recipe in an old used and battered French Gourmet cookbook which she had purchased at a “junk store.” This forever changed the way our family made our Thanksgiving turkey and gravy.
I have since used this recipe for every Thanksgiving we have had at our house. I have tweaked it over the years and instead of using white cheesecloth and twine and measuring precisely, I just place the veggies in the pan alongside the bird, for you see I’m definitely not a gourmet cook, either.
My kids, and now my grandkids, love the taste of my turkey and dressing as I loved my mothers. It has a taste like no other I’ve ever eaten. Maybe it’s the herbs and vegetables used or maybe, just maybe, it’s the love that goes into preparing it.
When my daughter asked me to do her a favor, and document the steps that go into making our Thanksgiving dinner, I was honored, as well as, a little scared. You see I am the worst at precise measurements. So was my mother. I do much by memory, as she did. However, I do remember that each Thanksgiving, she would pull out that old cookbook and measure accordingly. I do not have the cookbook, but my sister does and sent me a copy of the recipe (which I have since lost in the many moves). To follow, by memory, is now how I have adapted it to my own taste and I am now passing it down to my daughter. My hope is that she will pass it on to her family. I love you Fleebee.
- Preparing The Turkey: Preheat oven to 475. Remove the Giblets and set aside. Rinse the Turkey under cold water, pat dry, and place in pan. Melt 1 stick of unsalted butter Brush butter on bird. Salt and pepper. Place turkey in oven and bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until slightly brown.
- Meanwhile, Prepare the Vegetables and Seasonings: Coarsely chop 2 bunches of celery, tops and all. Coarsely chop 10 or more medium to large carrots. Coarsely chop 2 large onions. 6 large bay leafs. 2 Tbsp each of Sage, Thyme, Parsley, and 10 Whole Cloves. 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper
- Prepare the Giblets for Simmering: Rinse the giblets in cold water. Place in medium stock pot. Add 3-4 Quarts of water. Add about a quarter of the prepared coarsely chopped vegetables and herbs from above, making sure you have some of the bay leaf and some of the cloves included in the mixture. Place on high heat until the pot reaches a boil, set to simmer for 3 hours or more.
- Remove the Turkey from the oven. Add the remaining vegetables and herbs alongside the turkey. Add 2-3 cups of water. Place strips of bacon, covering the breast of the turkey. Cover, reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes per pound, or until meat thermometer reaches 180 degrees. Baste, every hour.
- Preparing the Cornbread Sausage Dressing: Finely chop ½ bunch of celery with tops. Finely chop ½ a large onion. Melt ½ stick of unsalted butter in a large pan. Add chopped onion and celery to pan. Cook until celery is somewhat soft. Brown 1 lb. of mild breakfast Sausage in a separate skillet. In a large bowl, combine the cornbread mixture, sausage, and vegetables. Add 1 cup of unsalted chicken broth. Season with ¼ teaspoon pepper, 1 Tbsp. sage, 1 tsp. poultry seasoning and toss. Place in a non-stick pan and bake covered on 425 degrees for about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for another 10 minutes.
- Giblet Gravy: Ladle 2 cups of the turkey pan drippings into a large shallow pan. Heat to boiling. In a separate container with a tight lid, add 2 cups of cold water. Add enough all-purpose flour to make a thick but liquidity mixture. Shake vigorously to remove all lumps. Slowly add in the flour mixture to the boiling pan. Whisk as to remove all lumps. As the mixture thickens, add the drippings from the simmering pot of giblets. Continue this process until you have the desired consistency. Add bits of the cooked giblets to the finished gravy. Serve over turkey, and dressing. Season with salt and pepper.