Dear Foodies and Cooks, it’s almost Thanksgiving, so let’s talk turkey. “Gobble, gobble,” loosely translated means “Get out your roasting pans and let the cooking begin.”
Foremost on the holiday menu is the turkey, a native American bird that delights so many on this special day. But why does this festive holiday food source suffer so much indignity and slander? It’s certainly not a compliment to be called a “turkey.” Dictionary definitions suggest that a turkey is someone who lacks good judgment, a booby, a ding-dong, a half-wit, a ninny and the list goes on. To quit a habit “cold turkey” is the most unpleasant way.
Derisory turkey expressions are legion, but the turkey’s feathers aren’t ruffled because he knows that he is the guest of honor on Thanksgiving Day. Indeed, if Ben Franklin had his way, the turkey, not the bald eagle, would be our national bird. Thankfully, eagle enthusiasts won out, and in 1783 the bald eagle became the national emblem for the United States. Can you imagine? Instead of eagles on the back of some of our monies, we’d be looking at turkeys. Would this have changed the name of our hometown football team? Fly Turkeys, Fly!? Some years, though, that chant seemed appropriate.
Oven-roasting, the traditional method of cooking the turkey, almost seems passé. Although I am a die-hard, conventional, oven-roasting turkey cook, many people now fry, grill or even boil the bird. Ben Franklin thought that electrocuting the turkey produced a tastier bird by making it “uncommonly tender.” Please, do not try this method at home.
Turkey gets some people up in the morning (the cook), but it also puts people to sleep after dinner. Tryptophan is found in turkey and makes you want to zzzzzzzzzzzz.
To stuff or not to stuff…. That is the question on the minds of many cooks this Thanksgiving Eve. I think stuffing gives the turkey flavor and viceversa. Some people like to bake stuffing as a side dish in a casserole, or serve individually in muffin tins. Everyone looks forward to his or her special recipe. Regardless of how you make your stuffing, it’s a given that it will show up on the Thanksgiving table.
It’s enough of a job to get the turkey on the table. But can you make gravy, too? Yes, and it’s easy. The following gravy dresses the stuffing at my house.
¼ cup pan drippings
2 cups hot water
5 Tbsp. flour dissolved in ½ cup cold water
1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master
Salt and Pepper to taste
-Remove turkey from pan and pour off excess drippings, leave about ¼ cup in the pan.
-Add 2 cups of water and bring to boil, stirring while scraping turkey bits from bottom of pan.
-Have ready a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
-Add cold water and then flour to the jar and shake vigorously until all lumps are dissolved.
-When drippings and added water are simmering in the pan, slowly add flour and water mixture, whisking constantly.
-Make sure to mix and stir continually at the exact place where flour mixture is poured into pan.
-Continue to whisk a few minutes until gravy thickens evenly.
-Stir in Kitchen Bouquet and adjust seasonings.
Whether you like your stuffing ‘wit or ‘witout the gravy, save any extra pan drippings. Just remove the turkey from the pan, leaving enough drippings to make your gravy. Pour any extra drippings into a bowl. Refrigerate the drippings bowl overnight and you can easily remove the fat that will rise to the top by the next morning. What remains is congealed juices from the turkey – turkey essence. I then cut the gelatin-like remains into ice cube-size pieces and freeze them in a plastic bag for use at another time. These cubes, popped into soups, vegetables, rice, stir-frys, sauces or just about anything that needs added flavor, are at your disposal.
Thanksgiving is a good time of the year to reflect and to be grateful for what we have, or in some cases, for what we don’t have. Thanks for no lumps in the gravy. Amen.
Whatever you’re thankful for, Happy Thanksgiving!
Eat well, live long, enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053)