The only problem with fielding that many hugs was that it didn’t leave us with a lot of time (or desire) to get too clever with our Thanksgiving spread. Not that we’ve ever veered too far from the traditional turkey-potatoes-stuffing-gravy path, but in the past, there have been pretty cranberry jelly molds, cranberry cocktails, savory bread puddings, and just about always some kind of newfangled variation on a pumpkin pie.
But this year we didn’t even make a pie. Instead, I threw together a humble (though still delicious) apple crisp. This year, I mashed a giant pot of Yukon Gold potatoes with butter and cream and then stirred in an entire bunch of fresh chopped parsley. I also made Ina Garten’s gravy and roasted some Brussels sprouts. Unspecial highlights? Our stuffing came from a bag: Whole Food’s Organic Stuffing Mix Traditional Recipe With Chicken Flavor. And our cranberry component came from a jar—Knudsen’s, I believe. Our turkey, however, was special.
Because of work, we haven’t been able to meet up with our east-coast-based family for Thanksgiving for a number of years now. And for all of those years, since it was usually just the two of us, we’ve always just roasted a chicken. But this year, we decided to go big. We ordered a 10-pound Heritage turkey and decided that would be the meal’s highlight. And thanks to Matt (thank you, Matt!) who made it, it definitely was. As was the turkey stock he made, which we’ve already used up in a super delicious risotto (recipe forthcoming next week) as well as a critically-acclaimed turkey noodle soup with carrots, fennel, and parsley.
As I write this, it’s raining here in Los Angeles—the first serious rain we’ve had in what feels like forever; it’s a lovely evening and a perfect end to a quiet but great Thanksgiving weekend.
p.s. I picked up The Best American Essays 2014 a few weeks ago, and the day after Thanksgiving, I happened upon this particular essay, which I decided to read just because of its title (Thanksgiving in Mongolia). It’s one of those pieces of writing so compelling and moving that I can hardly talk about it. Instead, I’m just sending it to everyone I know. Read it when you have a slow moment.
Roasted Heritage Turkey adapted from Martha Stewart
1 whole fresh or thawed frozen heritage turkey (about 10 pounds), neck and giblets included
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
12 thyme sprigs
6 sage sprigs
3 dried bay leaves
2-4 apple cores
2 onions, quartered
2 cups water, plus more if needed
Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a large roasting pan fitted with a roasting rack, and place breast side up. Bring to room temperature, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Tuck wings under turkey. Gently separate skin from breast, and rub butter under the skin on each side. Season outside of turkey generously with salt and pepper. Fill cavity with herb sprigs, bay leaves, apple cores, scored lemon, and onion; tie legs together with kitchen twine.
Scatter apples and onion around rack. Place neck and giblets in pan. Add water to pan.
Roast turkey for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Baste with pan juices, and tent with foil. Roast, rotating pan, adding more water if pan is dry, and basting halfway through, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 150 degrees, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. Let turkey stand for 30 minutes before transferring to a platter and carving. Reserve pan with contents if making gravy.