Thanksgiving Dinner Dry-Run

I have been quiet for a little bit. Sorry! Don’t you just hate it when life interferes with your plans? Well, that’s been my past week. Stuff happens…

I started getting stressed out and worried about keeping up with my blog and I just decided that taking care of me was more important. I’m sorry! It’s not that my readers aren’t important, but the reality of living in a life of “too much to do; so little time” is that sometimes my blog suffers. I really do hate that reality… but it’s my life.

I hope things settling down, but who am I kidding… Thanksgiving less than a week away! Oh, my! Which means Christmas is just around the corner! YIKES! I have so many yummy things planned this year for my Christmas baking and if you recall I had the kitchen remodel going on last year and didn’t get anything baked until Christmas Eve. NOT this year! I started trying stuff out a week ago! I don’t want to jump ahead to my Christmas baking… we still have Thanksgiving.

For me Christmastime doesn’t start until after 8:00pm on Thanksgiving night. I grew up in Kansas City, MO and that’s when they turned the Plaza Lights on. It looks like they’ve changed the time, but that’s the start of Christmas. I sure miss seeing those beautiful lights! (I even stopped listening to my favorite radio station because they started playing Christmas music on Nov 11.)

Anyway… onto Thanksgiving…

For the past 20 years we have gone to my in-law’s house for Thanksgiving. Over the past several years dinner has been at the nearby casino buffet. It used to be really good, but the last five or so years it has sucked; even the desserts. Who they heck can screw up desserts?!? We all commented last year how it has gone downhill.

The Offspring is preparing to go to college and since she may not be here next year she asked that we have Thanksgiving at our house this year because she wants to have at least one Thanksgiving at home. I told her sure thing. So when my in-laws were here for The Offspring’s birthday in September, I let them know about her request. So I started planning our menu.

My new oven has a “Perfect Turkey” feature. In theory you stick the probe in the thickest part of the thigh and push the button and it cooks it “perfectly”.

Well, since I have only roasted a turkey once or twice in my life, Hubby and I talked about doing a “dry-run”. I planned the entire meal. Hubby isn’t a huge turkey fan and really only likes it for Thanksgiving, so I didn’t want to have a huge turkey dinner twice so near together. So what do I do?

I stopped into The Offspring’s school and talked with the counselor who works with the low-income and homeless kids. I explained that I was going to have an entire dinner for six that I wanted to donate to a needy family. She was blown away. She went through her records and found a student who lives with his God Parents. The family was excited to have an early Thanksgiving Dinner.

I called the family last weekend and setup delivery. I also asked if they’d like a gallon of milk. She said, “Yes, please.”

Since I wanted to prepare what we were going to have I set the menu was going to be: salads, turkey, stuffing, dinner rolls, 1-2 vegetables, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes/yams and dessert. I ended up not being able to find the “brown and serve” rolls Hubby likes, so I didn’t get the rolls and admittedly totally spaced on the salads (now as I write this I feel terrible!) I added gravy to the list – I’d never made gravy… oh crap!

I wanted to time everything so next week I’d have it all set. So, I didn’t get pictures of everything, but here’s the chronicle.

Thanks to my friend Nicole to turning me on to The Food Network, I am a Food Network Magazine subscriber. Well, in true form the entire November magazine is dedicated to Thanksgiving! They had a “Mix & Match” section on doing the turkey and potatoes. It includes picking your turkey, thawing (in necessary), brining (if necessary), making the flavored butter and roasting the bird. There is also a separate section on making “classic turkey gravy” and potatoes.

I bought my turkey at Trader Joe’s and it was fresh and pre-brined so I could skip the “thaw” and “brine” steps. I picked out leftover feathers and then rinsed it.

After rinsing, pat dry

I chose the Classic Herb Butter recipe:
2 sticks softened butter (I used unsalted)
2 T chopped parsley (I used 2 T dried parsley)
1 T dried sage (I used 1 T dried ground sage)
1 T dried thyme (I used 2.5 T fresh thyme)
1 tsp pepper (I used finely ground)
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Combine all ingredients (I put gloves on and did this by hand). Reserve 4 tablespoons.

Rub remainder of the butter under the skin on turkey breast and thighs. NOTE TO SELF… next time, DON’T do this in a long sleeved nightgown! (Thanks, Offspring, for helping with camera and rolling up my sleeves!!)

Take 2 tablespoons from reserved butter and rub all over skin. Put remaining 2 tablespoons in fridge.

When you’re done, let turkey sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. You’ll notice here I tore the skin a bit and still have the metal tie on the legs. I did remove the tie, but didn’t have any twine. After the fact, Ma told me that she uses dental floss. Good to know for next week. 😉

Put probe/thermometer in thickest part of thigh. As you’ll notice the turkey isn’t covered in foil or in a bag. My oven is a convection so it was supposed to cook the skin to seal the juices in…

Turn on the Perfect Turkey feature…

While the turkey was roasting, I made cranberry sauce…

…and started the broth for the gravy which had to cook for two hours.

Uh oh… I ran into a problem – I didn’t get the probe in the right spot and the oven shut off after an hour. I kept having to move it… so my lesson learned it when rinsing and patting dry look for the best place to stick probe.

After three hours everywhere I stuck the probe I got the correct reading and it was done and ready to rest for 30 minutes before carving…

Even though it looks burned, it wasn’t. It was so moist. I was surprised. Even the part where i tore the skin was moist underneath the crispy top bit. We all three loved it!

I used the drippings to make the classic gravy recipe from the magazine, but I don’t have pictures along the whole way, but you use the remaining 2 tablespoons of herb butter (from fridge). This gives it flavor continuity.

I was soooo impressed… NO LUMPS!

I packaged everything up in recyclable foil containers and The Offspring and I took all the food, a gallon of milk, a bottle of sparkling cider and a special card to the needy family. They were soooo thankful. It was a rewarding day!

I have a few more things I need to prepare this weekend so I can workout my timing for the Big Day. I’m excited. I can’t wait for our feast.

Have you ever done a large dinner “dry-run”? Did it help?