Let’s talk turkey… and while we’re at it, mashed potatoes too! Two staples that grace Thanksgiving tables every November. With so many different “tips and tricks” to the perfect roast turkey or the best mashed potatoes, how do you know where to start this holiday season? We’ve gone back to the basics with some tips to get you started. If you missed us on Facebook Live last week (10/19) you can still access the video with our Culinary Specialist Patty Roche sharing all her best Thanksgiving prep tips (check it out here).
All About the Turkey
- It is recommended that for sufficient servings for Thanksgiving as well as leftovers for those delicious sandwiches the next day, count on 1 to 1¼ lbs of turkey per person.
- We like to stick to birds that are between 12 and 14 lbs. Bigger birds are harder to get the white and dark meat to cook evenly and if you have a smaller oven, it might not fit. If we’re serving more people, we supplement with other turkey parts, such as an extra breast.
- Natural – prebasting. Fresh vs. frozen.
- Allow for enough time to thoroughly thaw your bird if using a frozen turkey as it can take several days. Typically 1 day for every 4 pounds.
- When prepping the turkey, there is no need to rinse. This just leads to contaminated surfaces and the only true way to kill bacteria is by cooking it. You cannot wash it away.
- To brine or not to brine? We like to brine! Soaking a turkey in a brining solution will help ensure moist, juicy cooked meat. The salt-water brine solution increases the juiciness of the meat by breaking down the protein structure.
- Cover your turkey in the solution and refrigerate for at least 10 hours, but no longer than 24 hours. When you’re ready to cook, pour off your brine, rinse the turkey well with cool tap water and pat dry with towels. Be sure to sanitize your sink after rinsing.
- Alternatively, you can use a dry brine method with chopped fresh herbs tucked underneath the skin and by rubbing generously with kosher salt. Brush off an excess before cooking.
- Don’t baste! It doesn’t add moisture to the meat and eliminates crispy skin. Additionally, every time you open the oven, you are lowering the temperature and adding additional cook time.
- To create a rich, golden brown skin, you’ll want to either brush the skin with melted butter or oil prior to cooking. As the turkey roasts, this allow the butter to melt into the meat and it will crisp the skin during cook time. The butter will also enhance the pan drippings and results in an especially rich gravy. A tip from our kitchen, mix 1 teaspoon of our Chicken & Pork Spice Rub with 1 stick of softened butter for a flavorful compound butter.
- Use a roasting rack to help with the circulation of air around the turkey, helping the meat to cook evenly.
- For best results, bring your turkey to room temperature and roast at 400°F, breast side down, for the first 45 minutes of cooking, then turn the bird breast side up and roast at 325°F until done (165°F for breast meat, 175°F for thighs). Allow to rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving.
Mashed Potato Bliss
- The best choices for potatoes are Russet (very starchy and creamy with lower moisture) or Yukon Gold (less starch, higher moisture with more sugar and a great butter flavor).
- Start potatoes with cold water, covering them by at least an inch or two and adding 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt. The salt will help make them more flavorful.
- Cook uncovered until a paring knife slips easily into the potato. Drain your potatoes, then dump them back into the hot pot over low heat for two to three minutes. This will remove any moisture and will allow the potatoes to absorb more flavorful ingredients.
- Once your potatoes are cooked, process them through a potato ricer for silky, creamy mashed potatoes. A potato masher can be used, but will yield slightly chunky potatoes. Add melted, warm butter before adding warm dairy. By adding the melted butter first, the fat coats the starch and results in a more velvety smooth mash. A tip from our kitchen: infuse your warmed milk/cream with whole garlic gloves before adding it to your potatoes for an extra boost of flavor. Be sure to remove the cloves from your dairy before adding to potatoes.
- If you are going to hold your potatoes for an hour or two before serving, place mashed potatoes in a metal bowl over a simmering pot of water and cover (make sure the bowl does not touch the water). The potatoes will remain silky. You may have to add a little additional dairy just before serving.
- For fun add-ins, try our Roasted Garlic Onion Jam or Maple Bacon Onion Jam for a flavorful boost!
Don’t Forget the Veggies!
- To contrast your hearty main dishes of turkey, potatoes and stuffing, add bright vegetable dishes to your table.
- To preserve the beautiful color of your vegetables, blanch them quickly by putting them in a sieve of boiling water and cook until fork tender, but still crisp. Remove sieve and plunge vegetables into an ice bath. Drain and pat dry. This can be done a day ahead – just reheat in a skillet with butter or olive oil just before serving.
- Having trouble cutting your squash in half? Set it on a dish towel and place a sharp carving knife lengthwise on the squash. Give the top of the blade a quick hit with a meat tenderizing mallet and the squash should separate in a flash.
- For a simple, delicious way to serve sliced carrots or beans, steam or boil for a few minutes, then sauté in butter, glaze with your favorite marmalade and garnish with fresh chopped herbs, chopped nuts or a crumbling of blue cheese.
Dress Up Your Stuffing
- Our secret ingredient for flavorful stuffing that has our guests coming back for more? New England Cranberry Relish! We like to dish up the remaining relish and serve alongside our Thanksgiving meal. Chutneys also make a wonderful addition.
- A tip from our kitchen – mix ¼ to ½ cup New England Cranberry Relish to your favorite stuffing recipe while preparing. Or make our New England Cranberry Relish Stuffing! We love the flavorful addition of sausage.
The Rest is Gravy
- We’d be remiss if we didn’t touch upon gravy, too. For the perfect gravy, start by deglazing your pan using a small amount of liquid to loosen the bits of caramelized turkey at the bottom of the pan. This will create a rich flavor.
- Make a roux out of equal parts room temperature butter and flour. It should have a paste-like consistency
- Use a fat separator to remove the fat from the juice that accumulates in the roasting pan.
- If you need to supplement your pan drippings with additional broth, or you don’t have any pan drippings, we like to boost the flavor of canned stock with mirepoix (2 parts onion, 1 part celery and 1 part carrot), as well as fresh thyme, a bay leaf, parsley springs and peppercorns. You won’t believe the difference in taste! Do this ahead of time so you can bring it to a boil and allow it to simmer before straining.
- Add roux to a saucepan over medium heat and melt until bubbly. Slowly pour in the pan drippings and broth, while whisking into the roux until desired consistency is reached. Cook until smooth and thickened and season to taste.
- For perfectly smooth gravy, strain your finished homemade gravy through a sieve. This will get rid of all the lumps and result in a very creamy, smooth gravy.
For more of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes, check out our Thanksgiving Day recipe category on our website! From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!