Make a goose instead of a turkey? Heavens no. Eliminate the marshmallows from the sweet potatoes? I bet some of your guests will object (most likely the youngest ones). What about adding raisins to the usually plain dressing? Yikes! I wouldn’t want to see that dinner table conversation.
My point is, people like the customary things to stay the same. For Thanksgiving, we all tend to want what we have become accustomed to and most often that is whatever our own family has created as a tradition throughout the years.
If you really want to change something, I suggest offering two choices — the traditional dressing, same as it ever was, and then a second batch with the fancy figs, raisins and walnuts.
How much turkey?
When planning your dinner, and before you buy your turkey, figure out how much you’ll need. Allow one pound of turkey per person. Do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys. If not handled properly, the bacteria can multiply very quickly. When foods reach 40 F and above, surface bacteria can rapidly multiply to dangerous levels. When you mix hot stuffing with a cold turkey, you also are causing the temperature to rise.
Make your stuffing, then stuff the bird loosely (the stuffing will expand as it cooks) and start cooking the turkey immediately. You’ll need about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.
If you want to get everything done ahead of time, prepare the stuffing and then refrigerate it. This is so the stuffing will be cold when you put it into the raw (cold) turkey. This is for safety’s sake.
Basic roast turkey
Serves about 12 people
1 large roaster with lid
12- to 15-pound turkey
3 pounds of prepared stuffing
Thaw the turkey and then rinse, inside and out, with running cold water. Stuff the turkey cavity with dressing, being careful not to overstuff. Stuff the neck cavity loosely and tuck the skin under the bird to hold it in place.
(Cook the rest of the dressing in an oven dish for about an hour at 350 degrees.)
Place the turkey, breast side up, in roaster. Tuck the wings under the bird. Sprinkle turkey with paprika and granulated garlic.
Place the roaster, uncovered, in a preheated 450 degree oven for 30 minutes. Pour 2 cups of water, or other liquid, over the turkey — this is the only basting required. Put the lid on the roaster and reduce oven to 325 degrees. Cook for about three hours or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees.
Remove the roaster, still covered, from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes. Garnish the turkey with fresh sage (it’s still out there in the garden) or parsley or decorate the platter with roast vegetables. Scoop out the dressing before beginning to carve.
Weight: Cooking time
8-12 lbs. 3 to 3.5 hours
12-14 lbs. 3.5 to 4 hours
14-18 lbs. 4 to 4.25 hours
18-20 lbs. 4.25 to 4.75 hours
20-24 lbs. 4.75 to 5.25 hours
24-30 lbs. 5.25 to 6.25 hours
If your family always complains there’s not enough dressing, here’s an option that doesn’t take up room in the oven.
2/3 cup butter
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped parsley
12 cups day old bread cubes, dried overnight
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 Tbsp. dried sage leaves
1 Tbsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. dried savory leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3-1/2 cups chicken or turkey broth
3 eggs, beaten
Cut up dried bread and place in a 5-6 quart Crockpot.
In a heavy skillet, melt butter over low heat. Add onion, celery and parsley; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour over bread cubes, then add all seasonings and toss well. Pour in enough broth to moisten, about 1/3 cup at a time, tossing with fork. Don’t make it too wet. Add eggs and mix well. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours, sprinkling with chicken stock once or twice during the cooking time.
— This is on the order of Jell-O I suppose, being of the 1950s era. My family likes it quite a bit and Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without it. It can be made up to two days ahead. It should be allowed to set at least overnight.
1 pound fresh or frozen cranberries
1 can (19-20 oz. size) crushed pineapple
1/2 pound miniature marshmallows
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups prepared whipped topping
Grind or chop the cranberries coarsely. Let drain in a colander. Open the can of pineapple and add to the cranberries to drain. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, then place in bowl and add marshmallows and sugar.
Add the whipping cream to the cranberry mixture, mix together well and refrigerate overnight.
Cranberry nut bread
— Makes two mini loaves of bread or 8 muffins
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
Zest from one orange
Juice from one orange to equal 2/3 cup (use water to make up difference)
1/3 cup sour cream
2-1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
In mixing bowl, cream together sugar, butter, eggs, orange zest, orange juice and sour cream. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and add as you continue to beat. Remove from mixer and stir in chopped cranberries and chopped nuts.
Pour batter into two greased and floured mini bread pans. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for about 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for about five minutes, then remove bread from pans and let cool on wire rack.
Make this ahead and freeze.