Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Roast Turkey (From the Frozen State)

When we lived in Albania putting together a Thanksgiving meal was always a production. Ironically enough, the hardest part of the the holiday was actually buying the food. Turkeys and to be procured from the commissary in neighboring Kosovo, the highly coveted sweet potatoes were bought in Italy months in advance and stashed in the coolest place in the house and pecans were imported from the United States. Once I had all of my ingredients I had two full kitchens and several refrigerators and freezers in which I could prepare and store the meal. Our dinners were epic in scale as well; one year our guests totaled 26 people around three tables. I prepared all of the food myself and slow roasted my birds in shifts. It worked because I had the space.

Fast forward to Belgium where space–both in the refrigerator and in the oven–are at a premium. As in I have European scaled appliances that don’t allow for any extras. Dishes are selected based on what does or doesn’t need to be cooked in an oven or can be served at room temperature. And defrosting the turkey? Its a nightmare. But last year I took a new approach to cooking my bird and it is one that I’m now adopting as the only way to cook my turkey.

In Albania my friend Anne always insisted on cooking her turkey from the frozen state. Yes that is right. She would plunk her fully frozen turkey in the oven and let it cook. I laughed when I first heard about this method since it flew in the face of everything I had ever heard of. But she sent me articles to attest to its legitimacy and assured me that this was an easier and safer method that allowed you to skip the lengthy defrosting process and resulted in a juicy and flavorful bird. For three years I resisted this method, not only because I was skeptical but because I had plenty of refrigerator space to safely defrost the bird and ovens to cook it in. But times change……..

So with a bit of trepidation and an assurance that I could contact Anne during the cooking process if needed, I attempted to roast my first frozen turkey. Because the bird is completely frozen it does take more time to cook than a defrosted one. There was also the somewhat humorous removing of the partially defrosted bag containing the neck and organ meats from the hot bird and the subsequent stuffing of the carcass. (Honestly, none of which is easy when using oven mitts). But the results? So worth it. The bird was juicy, flavorful and perfectly cooked. And getting to skip the arduous defrosting process? Now that was priceless. So tomorrow I’ll be taking the same approach which will allow me to focus on the other dishes that will complete the meal. It will be stress free……..but that can also be chalked up to hosting a mere 11 guests this year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



ROAST TURKEY (from the frozen state)

1 12-13 pound frozen turkey

  • About 5 to 5 1/2 hours before you plan on serving, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. (This allows your turkey to rest for about 1/2 an hour before carving. Adjust your timing for a smaller or larger bird).
  • Remove the turkey from any wrapping and place it on a rack in a large yet shallow rimmed roasting pan.
  • Place the turkey in the oven and allow it to cook.
  • After about 2 to 2 1/2 hours the legs will be at approximately 100 degrees but the breasts will only be about 25 degrees. Insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the breast to monitor the temperature of the bird.
  • Ater about 3 1/2 hours you should be able very carefully remove the bag containing the neck and internal organs. Use oven mitts and tongs to do this. At this point you may also fill the cavity with your favorite dressing.
  • Continue to monitor the temperature of the breast which must reach an internal temperature of 175 to 185 degrees to be considered done.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven, tent with aluminum foil and several dish towels and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.




Chestnut, Pear, Cherry and Sage Dressing

For some Thanksgiving is all about the turkey; for me, it is all about the side dishes.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a nice juicy slice of turkey but it is everything that gets piled on the plate along with the meat that gets me the most excited.  The hardest part about living in Albania is my inability to access some of my traditional Thanksgiving (and Christmas) standbys- fresh cranberries and sweet potatoes are not available here and due to their perishability, it is not possible to get them shipped in through the pouch.  (I’m sure at some point someone has tried this but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe next year……..).

There are still plenty of delicious side dishes that I can make and this recipe for Chestnut, Pear, and Sage Dressing based on a recipe from Williams-Sonoma is just the first of several that I will highlight over the coming weeks.  Not only does this dish bring together some of the tasty and plentiful ingredients that are found here in Albania but it also makes good use of the roasted chestnuts I prepared earlier this week.  The original recipe calls for the inclusion of breakfast sausage.  I omit this since many of our guests do not eat pork.  I also double the recipe since leftover dressing is a vital part of any post-Thanksgiving Day turkey sandwich.

1-pound loaf of rustic bread, torn into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 small pears, cored and cut int 1/2 inch dice
1 cup peeled and chopped roasted chestnuts
1 cup dried sour cherries, chopped
1/3 cup finely chapped fresh sage
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 cups turkey or chicken stock
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1)  Spread the bread out on a baking sheet and let dry overnight.  Alternatively, toast in a 300 degree F
oven for 30 minutes making sure the cubes do not burn.
2)  Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a large, shallow baking dish.
3)  In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt 1 Tablespoon butter and add the onion, carrot, celery
and pear.
Ready for the pan

4)  Saute, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 8 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Melding flavors
Yummy additions

5)   Add the chestnuts, dried cherries, sage, melted butter, stock and salt and pepper and stir to mix.
Add the bread and stir to combine.

Before the addition of the bread
4)  Transfer the dressing to the prepared baking dish and dot with butter.  Bake until golden and crispy,
about 1 hour.
Into the oven it goes
Serves 10-12 people.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the finished dressing in all of its golden goodness.  Our guests dug into the dish immediately and there weren’t any leftovers. I guess this is a sign of a good dish.  I’ll have to make it again and remember to get a picture next time.

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