In preparation for Thanksgiving, I’m showcasing some of my favorite holiday recipes this month. Some of them are family recipes while others are my own creations but each of them always has a place on my dining room table. This fall I had the opportunity to be profiled by Albanian Living magazine as a part of their “traditional American Thanksgiving” article. All of the recipes I’m sharing were a part of that Thanksgiving table.
Roast turkey is always the highlight of the Thanksgiving table. The sight of a roasted turkey on the table is both impressive and mouth-watering. Roast turkey is surprisingly easy to make as well. All you need is an oven, a handful of spices, and some patience since cooking a whole turkey does take time. In America, the infamous Butterball turkey is ubiquitous with the holiday. Outside of the country, turkey can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to find but in our house, since it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the giant bird, we make sure we can find one. This recipe assumes you are not using a Butterball or other self-basting turkey.
Second to the turkey is the dressing or stuffing as some people call it. Bread, fruits, nuts, or herbs are stuffed into the turkey cavity and when roasted together the turkey juices seep into the dressing leaving it moist and flavorful. The recipe here is for a simple herb dressing but my other favorite recipe is one for chestnut dressing. Whichever one you choose, add a bit of pan gravy and you are good to go.
- Preheat an oven to 425/218 degrees.
- Thoroughly rinse the turkey both inside and out with cool water. Pat dry.
- Place a roasting rack inside of a large roasting pan and place the turkey on top of the rack.
- Fill the cavity of the bird with the prepared herb dressing.***
- Gently lift the skin of the turkey and place the small pieces of butter between the skin and the meat. Evenly distribute the butter over the top of the entire bird making sure to include the drumsticks. If the skin is not loose you can cut small slits in the skin to insert the butter.
- Sprinkle the entire turkey with the salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Pour the water into the bottom of the roasting pan and put the turkey in the oven.
- Roast for 30 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 325/163.
- Continue cooking until the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 180/82 on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast meat. When cooking a stuffed turkey, you should plan on allowing for 20 minutes of cooking time per pound of turkey.
- When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to sit for 15 minutes before moving it to a serving platter. Allow it to rest for at least an additional 15 minutes before slicing
- Pre-heat the oven to 400/200. Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until crunchy. You may need to do this in two batches. Allow to cool.
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter, onion, celery, and pear and saute until soft, 8-10 minutes.
- Put the dried bread in a large mixing bowl and gently stir it the butter mixture.
- Sprinkle the fresh sage, parsley, dried sage, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
- Add the eggs and gently fold to evenly distribute them throughout the dressing.
- In half cup increments, add the chicken broth to the dressing, stirring well after each addition. You want the dressing to be moist but not soggy so you may not need to use all of the broth.
- If you are going to stuff the turkey with the dressing proceed as directed above. Alternatively, you can place the dressing in a buttered casserole dish and bake, covered with foil, at 350/177 for 30 minutes.
- Place the roasting pan with the turkey drippings on the stove over high heat. (You may need to use two burners in order to evenly distribute the heat). If there aren’t a lot of drippings add some of the water. As the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and using a wire whisk, scrape up any loose pieces from the bottom of the pan.
- In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water. Mix to form a thin paste. Add the cornstarch mixture to the dripping and whisk to combine. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens slightly.
- Add in the sherry and cook for an additional minute.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.