Right about now, cooks around the country are stressed big time over the looming Thanksgiving holiday dinner. Maybe you tried a recipe last year that you didn’t quite like, or you’re searching for something different or perhaps it’s your first time making a turkey. Relax.
I have to say, for some reason, I’ve always found turkeys easy to prepare. In the past, I would baste and baste for hours, but over the years, I’ve created a recipe that seems to work with every turkey I’ve tried, from the least to most expensive. I do it every time I have dinner, and the turkey is moist and tasty. What more could you ask for?
So, here’s my makeshift recipe for an easy Thanksgiving turkey.
First, be sure it’s fully thawed. We usually have around a 20 pound turkey to feed our family with leftovers, so it’s out of the freezer and into the fridge by Sunday.
On Wednesday night, I pull out all the extras – neck, gizzard, heart – and make a broth in a big pot with lots of celery, onion, carrots and parsley. That gets used for the stuffing on Turkey Day.
Now, back to the turkey.
Thanksgiving morning, I slice several onions on the bottom of the roasting pan. If you’re using the disposable aluminum pans from the store, either use two (double the pans) or place a sturdy cookie sheet underneath because the turkey can get a bit unwieldy by the time it’s done and you don’t want to spill juices all over your oven.
Once you’ve sliced the onions, rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out, then pat dry with paper towels. Place it on top of the onions. Coat the turkey with a thin layer of olive oil all over.
Inside the turkey for flavoring, I place a stalk of celery, a sprig or two of parsley, two or three baby carrots, a small peeled onion and a whole lemon. Rinse the lemon skin and poke it several times with a fork before you put it in the turkey.
In the roasting pan, I pour one can of Vernors Ginger Ale. You can use another brand, if you like, or even beer. I happen to like Vernors. Don’t pour it over the turkey, just pour it into the bottom of the roasting pan on top of the onions.
I tent the turkey with aluminum foil and place it in the oven for an hour at 450 degrees. Then I reduce it to 325 degrees until it’s ready. If you buy a turkey with a pop-up thermometer, that’s easy. Otherwise, your meat thermometer should read 165 in the thigh. For a large turkey like this, it usually takes around 4 1/2 – 5 hours, depending on how finicky the turkey is.
Carefully remove the turkey from the oven and let it sit for 15-30 minutes before slicing. Eat!
Wasn’t that easy? No basting, no nothing. It comes out a beautiful golden brown. The oil seals in the juices while the lemon and ginger ale soften the meat. Be very careful removing the pan from the oven as there will be a ton of juices, which can later be used to make gravy.
We got lazy on the mashed potatoes over the years and now buy the Trader Joe’s frozen mashed potatoes. They are perfect and delicious every time! They also have frozen mashed sweet potatoes.
For the stuffing, we use two packages of Pepperidge Farm blue (regular), one red (herb cubed) and one yellow (corn). We cut up the meat and veggies from the Wednesday broth and mix it with the stuffing mix, along with the broth to moisten it. This really has to be done by feel – not too moist but not too dry. Spread it in a couple of 9×13 pans and bake. It usually takes about 20 minutes if I’m not mistaken. I don’t make the stuffing so don’t quote me on that. I just observe.
Anyway, I just wanted to share my turkey recipe with you. I’m always interested in hearing what others are doing, so please share! And, if you do make your turkey like I do, let me know how it turns out. I shared my recipe with a friend and he said he spreads honey all over his bird, then plops some inside. I haven’t tried that yet but it sounds yummy!
In the end, the holiday is not about the food but about the loving company of family and friends, thankful for another year together with great memories to share. I hope you and yours have a happy, safe and blessed Thanksgiving! Gobble Gobble!