by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, Lincoln Land Community College
I thought it would be fun to do series on Thanksgiving dinner. So my next few articles will be about traditional dishes with a spin. Hopefully you’ll have some leftovers the Wednesday after Thanksgiving and we can make Monica’s “Moist Maker” leftover sandwich. My apologies to those that do not like the word moist.
The term “Friendsgiving” first appeared around 2007 and is a term for friends getting together around Thanksgiving to celebrate – often with non-traditional Thanksgiving dishes.
I do enjoy the traditional dishes associated with Thanksgiving. I like all the casseroles, dressing (or stuffing if cooked in the bird – which I do not recommend) and especially gravy! My first plate is a little of everything and my second helping is the things I like best all covered in gravy like some leftover open-faced hash. I then go slip into a tryptophan induced coma. One year I recall hearing myself begin to snore before I completely sank into the sofa.
Everything that is needed to make a traditional or non-traditional Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving feast can be sourced locally by retailers and farmers practicing safe food handling and social distancing. I’ll provide the addresses, but I recommend a quick internet search for operation times or for making pre-orders that can be picked up. You can find the very best of everything you need at these local places:
- Old Capitol Farmers’ Market, downtown, open Wednesday and Saturday to Oct. 31, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
- Illinois Products Farmers’ Market, Illinois State Fairgrounds, Thursdays, 4-7 p.m.
- Humphrey’s Market, 1821 South 15th St.
- Magro’s Meat & Produce, 3150 Stanton Ave.
You can find traditional and exotic spices and great prices at these places that are very close to each other. You can shop at each one all within an hour and discover lots of treasures.
- Little World Asian Market, 2936 South MacArthur Blvd.
- Asian Market, 1330 Wabash Ave.
- Food Fantasies, 1512 Wabash Ave.
- Masala Mart, 1650 Wabash Ave.
- Mini Devon, 2700 W. Lawrence Ave. Suite # K
A great gadget in the kitchen is a fat separator. It looks like a measuring cup, but has a spout that comes from the bottom. When you pour in your drippings from the turkey the fat will rise to the top allowing the stock underneath to be poured out separately. Alternately, you can use a baster and suction the fat from the top of the stock. The best tasting gravy is made from the fat and stock collected from the turkey.
1/3 cup turkey fat (or butter)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten free flour), plus extra if needed
2 quarts warm turkey stock (or chicken stock)
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium sauce pan heat the fat or butter for 1 to 2 minutes until hot. Whisk in 1/3 cup flour. This is will form a roux which should be pasty and not too runny. If it looks runny add a little more flour and continue to heat whisking often for 5 minutes. The aroma of flour should fade and begin to smell almost nutty. Add in warm stock about 1 cup at a time. Whisk it in until smooth then add another cup. It will thicken right away the first few times adding stock and then will take more time to thicken as you add the last of the stock. My grandma made the best gravy and I would tease her for whisking it for what seemed like an hour, but whisking is the secret to smooth gravy. The method above should save you some whisking time. Keep your gravy warm in a small crockpot or in a double boiler.
Optional ingredients. Fresh thyme is great in gravy, so is fresh parsley and/or sage. Like giblets? I cook the neck and giblet in the stock below the turkey and add in the liver during the last 30 minutes of cooking. Pick the meat from the neck and mince with the giblet and liver and add them to the gravy once it is mixed. Like spice? Mince a chipotle pepper packed in adobo sauce for a zesty, smoky gravy.
The amount of turkey to get is about 1.5 pounds per person for a whole bird. So if serving 12 use 1.5×12=18, you’ll want an 18 pound bird. Thaw in the refrigerator, do not cook a partially frozen bird. Allow for 4 hours thawing time per pound, so 72 hours for that 18 pound bird. The USDA requires turkey to be brought down to 26°F before selling, so don’t pay extra for a “fresh” turkey.
Forget the rack. I use large diced onion, whole carrots and celery ribs to keep the turkey above the stock – bonus, adds flavor to the stock and makes the house smell amazing.
Forget basting. Opening the door allows heat to escape, slowing cooking. I heavily season the bird with Kosher salt and fresh pepper, then coat with melted butter and olive oil for a golden skin. I also mince parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and garlic and rub that into and under the skin. Save the herb stems and extra garlic cloves! They can go in the cavity with a half an onion and half an orange.
Roast at 350°F for 13 minutes per pound, but start checking internal temperature ¾ of the way into the cooking time and then every 10 minutes after. Use the thickest part of the thigh (not touching bone) and should get a reading of 165°F.
Let rest! Once turkey comes out carefully drain juices from the pan and use for making gravy. Let the turkey rest the whole time you’re making gravy before carving. This allows for the juices to redistribute, and you may find a little extra juice to add to your gravy.
Don’t carve at the table. Carve in the kitchen and bring to the table on a platter. Slice down the center of the turkey breast, alongside the keel bone and remove the “football” shaped breast, then slice across rather than filleting length-wise. Pull some dark meat from the thighs and garnish the platter with drumsticks. Enjoy!
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.