A sequel to the great question about Thanksgiving Dinner that got so many terrific replies; How did yours turn out? What did you learn?

I really enjoyed reading about everyone's Thanksgiving dinners on the thread below. Now that the remnants of the bird are wrapped in foil and the frenzy of the day is over, I wonder if we could share some stories about how things went, any real successes or disasters, and what you learned about cooking from the whole experience.

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33 Comments

TheWimpyVegetarian November 30, 2011
I learned that if I'm going to spatchcock a turkey and grill it, a wet brine is better than a dry brine. I've grilled my turkeys two years in a row and used essentially the same process, except the brining. When I used a dry brine last year, the turkey had the texture of something between fiberboard and jerky (ok,ok, maybe that's an exaggeration, but you get the point); this year we did a wet brine, and the turkey was just fine, had a beautiful crispy skin, and was still full of flavor. I also made a mashed potatoes dish that only used 1 potato, but had 2 heads of cauliflower that worked great, that I'll definitely do again. We didn't miss the extra potatoes at all!
 
pierino November 29, 2011
What I learned was to keep pepper spray handy to dissuade a high strung, meddlesome neighbor from messing around with my turkey. Which she did twice when I wasn't in the room.

Continuing my experiments with internal brines worked out well. I got a nice crispy, golden skin and moist white meat.
 
TheWimpyVegetarian November 30, 2011
I'd love to know more about your internal brines, pierino! What do you do?
 
pierino November 30, 2011
I picked up this technique from the book PRIMAL CUTS by Marissa Guggiana. There it was used for prime rib but I moved on to tri tip with great success and this past week, turkey. The tool you will need is an injector. They are not expensive and I think the best ones are referred to as "spray" injectors because there are perforations at the needle end. This is not something you would want to see sitting out on a tray during your visit to your doctor. It's best to use this the night before or at least a few hours ahead of when you are going to roast whatever you are roasting. But you do want some massive meat parts for best effect.
 
TheWimpyVegetarian November 30, 2011
Thanks!! I'm going to start experimenting with this too!
 
Midge November 29, 2011
It was still delicious, just not very presentable. I'll have to try your method next time AJ!
 
Midge November 28, 2011
Great question! I learned that I need to take measures to prevent the filling in my pecan tart from leaking all over my oven, smoking up my kitchen, and cementing the tart to the pan.
 
AntoniaJames November 28, 2011
For what it's worth, Midge, I made a pecan tart for the first time, simply "re-formatting" my standard pecan pie. I froze the crust, and did not blind bake it. And I put the tart on a large cookie sheet before I filled it. I find that it's easier to handle -- don't have to worry about breaking the edges when you take the tart in and out of the oven -- plus, any drips land on the cookie sheet. I've had those pie spillover incidents, though, so I know all about it. ;o)
 
drbabs November 29, 2011
Ugh, that happened to me when I made Lazy Mary's Lemon Tart for my Food52 launch party.
 
garlic&lemon November 28, 2011
Thanksgiving went off without a hitch, thanks to more advance prep than usual, inspired by the discussion on this site. Soo many requests for the gravy, made as suggested here: made the broth on Sunday, browning necks & wings, adding carrots, celery, onion, garlic, white wine, broth, big springs of rosemary & sage and simmering on low for a couple of hours. Then I fished everything out and reduced the stock to 2 quarts. (The dogs went nuts for the neck and wing meat.) Finished the gravy on Thursday while the bird rested and the guests snacked on a variety of appetizers, by making a roux with the fat from the drippings and then using the rest of the (de-fatted) drippings and pre-made gravy stock. Plus, guests helped with the set-up, clean-up, and break-down while we played a variety of international dance music and my husband roped some of the men into singing and dancing the Pips parts when Gladys Knight came on.

Things I learned: 1. More advance planning makes a wonderful day even better! 2. My guests also like dark meat much more than white. Next year, I will roast a couple of extra thighs. 3. Cranberry sauce is even better made on Monday or Tuesday. 4. Even though I think it is too rich, I will have to triple (instead of double) the praline sweet potatoes if I hope to have any left over. 5. My son decided to make Vietnamese Veggie Spring Rolls at the last minute and they were a huge appetizer hit. Who knew? The early guests decided they had to eat them quickly because they were not traditional and they had to hide the evidence. 6. All the vegan choices were GONE by the time everyone packed their left-overs. 7. Pear cake (from food52) made the German ex-pats VERY happy.
 
Chefbaltz November 28, 2011
everything was great. one mishap...accidentally snipped the cord to the inside-outside thermometer in my bird while cutting away the roasting bag! oooooppps! good thing i had another thermometer!
 
beyondcelery November 28, 2011
I learned that miso soup broth, with ginger, soy sauce, and a little cornstarch, makes an amazing sauce for green beans. It also doubles as a dynamite vegan gravy! That invention's going into the recipe binder for sure, once I write it down.
 
AntoniaJames November 28, 2011
T-Day was even easier than usual this year, thanks to all the great help I got here on the Hotline during my planning and prep for the meal, starting about 10 days before The Big Day. I learned that roasted Brussels sprouts don't maintain over time the texture they have right out of a hot oven -- they get soggy -- so next time, they'll be prepped and roasted while the bird is resting . . . . if I even do a whole bird again, which gets to #2: I learned that what the people at my T-Day table love most are the sides, especially if you put chorizo in the dressing and bacon in with the Brusslies (our name for Brussels sprouts), and buttermilk in the sweet potatoes. I am seriously considering just roasting a couple of turkey thighs and wings on the Monday before, using the roasted bones and pan drippings to make a rich, delicious stock and gravy, and making a turkey + mushroom in wine/cognac sauce, to put in vols-au-vent (all made in advance) instead of roasting a whole turkey. I also kind of like the idea of not having quite so many side dishes. That said, I'll make mashed potatoes if someone really wants them on Thursday. I'm always home on the day after Thanksgiving, and would be happy to make on Friday several of the sides I typically serve on Thursday. So, if my family doesn't have any serious problems with this plan (and I doubt they will), that's what I am considering do next year. ;o)
 
Suzanne D. November 27, 2011
I learned that brining the turkey is a good way to infuse flavor and moisture and to get a good color on the turkey before putting int he oven is put a light coat of mayo over the bird, then foil and cook for the entire like this. When the turkey is done, it has the nice brown color at the end and its soooooooooooooo delicious.
 
wssmom November 26, 2011
Hooray for the vegetarian mushroom-thyme gravy, because it really saved the dry, dry-brined turkey (the Judy Bird) which was nothing special. Next year I am going back to my original wet-brine ....
 
drbabs November 29, 2011
Interesting! The dry brine worked great for us! (But I've never wet-brined a turkey--we used to always get a kosher turkey and I figured it was salty enough.)
 
Taiyyaba November 26, 2011
I'm also really happy with my gravy this year - roasted the neck, wings, spine (butterflied it) and veggies till well-browned, then simmered for about 45 minutes in store-bought low sodium veggie broth till very savory. Strained thickened with a roux.....so delicious. I just poured the pan juices onto the cut up turkey and server the pre-made gravy alongside.
 
luvcookbooks November 26, 2011
Made four kinds of pie: Sweet Potato Pumpkin, Apple Quince, Sour Cherry, and Concord Grape. Took them to the hospital where my daughter was admitted a week and a half ago. Found out other kids couldn't have them b/o liability but fed the staff. They said the Sweet Potato Pumpkin and Apple Quince were the best pies they ever ate. Husband and son were bringing Thanksgiving dinner leftovers from my brother in law and sister in law in Brooklyn but got lost somewhere in Queens. Got to the hospital after visiting hours ended but fortunately we were full of pie. Very thankful my daughter is coming home Monday. Have a nice collection of Thanksgiving recipes from Food52 to try when we're ready to cook our Thanksgiving meal.
 
drbabs November 29, 2011
Oh, wow, i just saw this. I hope your daughter is well soon.
 
luvcookbooks November 29, 2011
Thank you! Emma came home last night. First request: dinner in a restaurant with tablecloths. Took her to Legal Seafoods in White Plains. Great meal!
 

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Panfusine November 25, 2011
vegetarian thanksgiving here..with heavy food52 influences. Mujaddara with spiced yogurt, an Indian style creamy Kale Paneer stuffed into puff pastry & baked. Citrus & cucumber salad with a basil chiffonade, Roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary. Store bought pumpkin pie & a pear & apple pie flavored with chai spice (food52 recipe inspired), caprese salad, peppercorn parmesan bread with Pesto & olive oil.
 
Taiyyaba November 26, 2011
Wow. Just wow.
 
PaulieG November 28, 2011
Panfusine, Rivka's Mujaddara w/ spiced yogurt is my favorite go to for pot lucks, dinner at home and just to make and keep in the house! luv it!
 
Taiyyaba November 25, 2011
Really happy with butterflying my turkey this year - cooked an 11 and a 14 lb turkey in the same oven in under an hour and they were both perfect! (Also felt greatly empowered by waking up and ripping the spine out of two turkeys!)
 
AntoniaJames November 26, 2011
Taiyyaba, at what temperature did you roast those butterflied birds? Just wondering . . . .. . . ;o)
 
Taiyyaba November 26, 2011
425 for 20 (for the smaller) - 30 (for the bigger), then 375 for I think another 30. At this point, I took it out to baste it and realized it was done!
 
creamtea November 26, 2011
I clicked agree because I'd also like to know. And what implements did you use to whack the spine out of the turkey?
 
Taiyyaba November 27, 2011
It was a bit tedious but only took about 15 min per turkey. Placed the turkey breast-down on cutting board (sometimes picking it up to "sit up" straight). Just used a heavy knife (freshly sharpened - meat cleaver would've been best) and started at the neck, cutting down on either side. When couldn't go anymore, moved up from bottom. Had to do a bit of ripping it out when it got close enough. If it was getting hard to cut through the bones, I placed my knife like a long chisel and banged it with a meat tenderizer/flattener. Once the spine was out, I removed the wings and long shoulder bone (find the shoulder joint and wedge your knife in between the ball/socket). All these removed pierces were made into stock for broth. Last step - from the back/inside, score the breastbone/cartilage. Turn bird over, breast side up, and push down to flatten the breast. Thighs will be splayed out, connected to the breast only by skin. I roast chickens this way too (food52's spatchcocked chicken method) if you'd like to try this for the turkey next year, practice on chickens so you can get a handle for the bones and anatomy (especially cutting though spine and shoulder socket). I think there are some thjngs im leaving out that you figure out once you do this with a chicken a few times. A turkey is just a big chicken! Mark Bittman also has a Minimalist video on butterflying turkey.
 
gt9 November 25, 2011
This year we tried roasting the bird on a rack. Next bird....going back to the old way...just sitting in the roaster.
 
Melisa November 25, 2011
We had a fantastic meal. I did all the cooking and friends brought wine. Things mostly went really well except that our free range bird was a bit tough. It wasn't overcooked or dry just a bit chewy. Other than that, the only real problem was a gluten free apple pie. The dough is hard to manage without gluten so instead of doing a top crust I cut leaves from the dough and scattered them attractively over the apples. Unfortunately it wasn't solid enough and the apples really didn't cook down at all. Plus the crust itself wasn't very appealing. But we had so much other good food (not to mention crustless pecan pie and chocolate-hazelnut bark) that no one seemed to mind the mediocre apple pie.
 
sdebrango November 25, 2011
Yes Federico how was your?? Like drbabs mine was not without some mishaps, deflated one tray of dinner rolls because the plastic stuck to the rolls on second rise, I oiled it but not well enough I guess. I have a less than reliable oven and to save time put both sheets with rolls in at the same time, I should never do that they did not cook evenly and one sheet became over done, (luckily it was the deflated ones) so they went into the circular file. Other than not having enough rolls everything else turned out really well.. Hope you had a wonderful holiday.
 
Federico_ November 25, 2011
I'll start the thread myself: Here are some things I learned:
1. best to rinse off a dry brined turkey before roasting, otherwise you have a pretty salty bird.
2. Stuffing is fun to improvise
3. Among my dozen guests, dark meat was more popular than white meat by nearly two to one. This surprised me.
4. When you take the turkey out of the brining bag it's a good idea to let it sit in the fridge uncovered for a day or so. Skin gets tightened and translucent when roasted.
5. Next year I'm buying a real roasting pan with a v-shaped rack. The foil cookers sold in the supermarket can be hazardous for a large bird. Mine was 20 lbs and the foil kept bending and twisting.
6. The only small disaster was that a bread-crumb, parmigiano, butter crumb mix I made ahead to top a mashed potato, sour cream, chive casserole fell out of the fridge and the bowl it was in splintered in many pieces, making it impossible to use. Fortunately, I had more bread crumbs, parmigiano, and butter, so it was easy to just whip up another batch.
 
drbabs November 25, 2011
What about you, Federico--how was yours?

Ours was great but didn't go off without a hitch. Our new place has a very temperamental oven and my apple pie (which I can make in my sleep) slightly burned--still tasted good though--and the crust for the pumpkin pie shrunk a little when I blind baked it. I was really missing my old kitchen--electric stovetop and all! My husband's stuffing was icky (don't tell him I said that) and I'm hoping we can do dressing outside the bird next year.

We tried the Judy bird to great success and also loved the new pumpkin pie recipe. The sweet potatoes were everyone's favorite, I think.

Most important, it was a great day with family whom we don't get to see very often.
 
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