Thanksgiving can be a great meal; with just a few prep steps before the big day you can elevate your holiday feast from good to delicious. The nice thing about my turkey day cooking is that the menu is a no-brainer. We don’t vary our menu from year to year — or else! I embrace the traditional Americana flavors with all the traditional trimmings. Over the years I’ve enjoyed honing in on the tricks to make it all taste incredible.
Make your own turkey stock.
Making your own stock is totally work the time and effort (check out the recipe below). Homemade stock single-handedly enhances the whole meal. I know you’re tempted to use those boxes of stock, but trust me, it’s not difficult to make your own. Have you opened up a box of that stock and tasted it? It’s really bland and doesn’t smell so great. Making your own stock offers a depth of flavor that steps up your kitchen game. You’ll have the best stuffing and gravy on the block. Make a batch this week and you will thank yourself (and me!) next Thursday.
Homemade croutons for your stuffing.
More control of your flavors every step of the way equals a better end product. Also, have you ever checked out the insane sodium content in that stuffing mix? This week, gather all the end pieces of your daily bread and toast them in a low oven with a little extra-virgin olive oil, S & P and then prepare to modestly accept all those compliments.
Make your pie crust in advance.
Early in the week, I knock out my pie crusts in one fell swoop. You can store your dough in disks in the fridge until it’s time to make the pies. Elizabeth’s Pie Crust is the best – check out this post where we show you how simple it is to make. Basic tools like a food processor and plastic wrap make this crust a breeze. You can also freeze your disks; just pull them out when you’re ready to make your pie/s.
Dry brine the turkey.
Here’s my go to guide for brining the bird. Brining the bird gives you the best opportunity to serve succulent meat. When selecting a turkey consider an air-chilled bird (thanks for the tip, Peter!). If you can’t find an air-chilled turkey, go for a kosher one – those are pre-brined. Now, that’s killing two birds with one stone (sorry, not sorry). Yes, both of these options are more expensive, but the upgrade in quality makes it worth it on the big day. It’s a special occasion — go for it!
I’ve made Tom Colicchios’ turkey recipe for the last five years. It never fails.
Makes about 4 quarts
This roasted turkey recipe was inspired by my friend Suzanne Goin. I don’t have turkey carcass on hand before the holiday so I just buy the pieces from the market and use those instead. The result is beautiful, aromatic and delicious.
2 neck bones
2 back bones
2 cups white wine
3 onions, cut in half
4 stalks of celery, cut in half
4 large carrots, cut in half
1 head garlic, cut in half
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 herb bundle, parsley and thyme
In a large roasting pan roast the turkey pieces in a 400 degree oven for about an hour, turning half-way through cooking. The turkey pieces should be golden brown – almost a cognac color. Then, transition the roasting pan to the stovetop and deglaze the pan (bones and meat) with the white wine. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom and dump it all into a large stockpot — really the biggest pot you can find. Load in the veggies, seasonings and fill the entire pot with water. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises to the top, and then reduce to simmer. Cook, uncovered for 4-6 hours adding more liquid as needed. Taste the broth and add salt as needed. Strain into airtight containers and refrigerate. The broth will need too cool a little before you refrigerate or else your containers will buckle and the tops will pop-up. Freeze up to six months.