A uniquely American holiday, Thanksgiving is all about one thing — food. No matter whether you’re an avowed carnivore or a devout vegan, in late November we all give thanks for our blessings by gathering family and friends together and sharing a meal. In that spirit, here are a few practical serving tips, easy-to-follow recipes, some wild turkey trivia — as well as dining alternatives for the kitchen-shy. Happy Turkey Day!
The following recipe is taken from Cooking At Home with the Culinary Institute of America (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., $40). This and the two books mentioned on page 68 are available for purchase at bookstores nationwide or at www.ciachef.edu/enthusiasts/cookbooks_dvds/.
Roast Turkey with Pan Gravy
Makes 10 servings
• 1 turkey (about 15 lbs) • 1 apple, quartered • 1 bay leaf • 1 large sprig fresh thyme
• ½ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley • 1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice • Salt and freshly ground pepper
• ¾ cup diced yellow onion • ½ cup diced carrot • ½ cup diced celery
• 5 cups chicken broth (divided)
• 1/3 cup cornstarch blended with 1/3 cup cold water or chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Set roasting rack in large flameproof roasting pan
- Stuff turkey with apple, bay leaf, thyme, and parsley. Rub lemon juice over entire bird; season with salt and pepper
- Place turkey, breast side up, on rack in roasting pan and transfer to oven; immediately reduce temperature to 350°F. Roast for three hours, basting occasionally with accumulated pan drippings
- Remove from oven. Transfer turkey, on rack, to baking sheet. Degrease pan drippings by skimming away any excess fat from surface
- Return turkey (and any juices that have accumulated on the sheet to roasting pan) to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of turkey’s thigh registers 180°F. Bake 30-60 min. more. Remove turkey and rack from roasting pan; cover bird, and let rest
- While turkey is resting, combine pan drippings, onion, carrot, and celery in saucepan. Add ½ cup of broth to roasting pan; stir to deglaze pan, scraping up any browned bits from bottom. Add to saucepan along with remaining broth. Simmer over medium heat until slightly reduced and flavorful, skimming away any fat that rises to the surface; cook for 20-25 min.
- Gradually add cornstarch slurry to simmering broth, whisking constantly, until gravy has good consistency. Simmer two min. more; strain, taste, and season with salt and pepper
- Remove and discard apple, bay leaf, thyme, and parsley. Carve turkey and serve with gravy
Chef’s note: The rule of thumb for turkey roasting is to allow about 20 minutes per pound; use this to calculate the approximate roasting time for birds larger than the one called for in this recipe.
On November 25, while millions of succulent turkeys are roasting away in ovens across America, equal numbers of home cooks will be nervously pondering how they will carve the traditional Thanksgiving turkey in front of the watchful eyes of their families. Carving a turkey can be simple, and there is no reason for it to induce a panic attack in front of your assembled guests. Chef Paul Sartory, a professor at the Culinary Institute of America, has these simple suggestions to ensure a perfectly carved turkey every time.
First, make sure your knife is very sharp. This makes carving the turkey easier and safer. A sharp knife will glide through the meat, and even cuts through joints with much less pressure than a dull one. If necessary, take the knife to a butcher shop or knife sharpener prior to the holiday so that they can put a good edge on the blade.
Once you remove it from the oven, allow your turkey to rest on the cutting board for approximately 20 minutes prior to carving. This will ensure that you do not lose the majority of the natural juices within the bird that help keep your dinner moist and delicious. Then — after allowing yourself ample elbow room — you’re ready to carve your turkey.
Step 2: Remove leg/thigh section from socket. (You may cut meat around joint.)
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Step 4: Slice meat off drumstick/thigh. Repeat for other leg section.
» To view a video demonstration of CIA Chef Paul Sartory carving a Thanksgiving turkey for his students, visit www.ciachef.edu.
Photographs by Ben Fink, Culinary Institute of America
Admittedly, the star of a traditional Thanksgiving feast is the turkey, but the side dishes — made from seasonal vegetables, grains, potatoes, and other starches — are more than just bit players: they add texture and color (not to mention calories) to the meal. While we all look forward to indulging in a favorite family recipe like candied yams or cranberry sauce, wouldn’t it be fun to add a little variety to your table? The following three recipes — taken from the Culinary Institute of America’s Gourmet Meals in Minutes (Lebhar-Friedman, $40) and Cooking at Home (John Wiley & Sons, $40) — will do just that.
Roasted Carrots & Parsnips with Herbs
Makes 8 servings
• 6 parsnips • 7 carrots • ¼ cup olive oil
• 1½ tsp salt, to taste • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste • 1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped • 1 Tbsp sage, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350ËšF
- Peel parsnips and carrots and cut into chunky pieces roughly two inches long and ¾-inch thick. Pieces should be of uniform size and shape
- Toss parsnips and carrots with oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, and sage in large bowl
- Spread in large shallow baking pan. Roast vegetables in lower third of oven until tender, about 30-35 min.
Nutrition analysis (per four-ounce serving): 130 calories, 1g protein, 16g carbohydrate, 7g fat, 460mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, 3g fiber
Tarragon Green Beans
Makes 8 servings
• 2 lb green beans, trimmed • 1 Tbsp butter
• 1 Tbsp shallots, minced • 1 Tbsp tarragon, roughly chopped • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Parboil beans in salted water until tender to bite, about 5 min. Drain
- Sauté shallots in butter until tender, add beans; sauté for 2-3 minutes, until warm
- Stir in chopped tarragon, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Nutrition analysis (per four-ounce serving): 50 calories, 2g protein, 8g carbohydrate, 1.5g fat, 150mg sodium, 5mg cholesterol, 4g fiber
Makes 8 servings
• 2 poblano chiles, seeded and coarsely chopped
• ½ cup chopped fresh basil • ½ cup chopped fresh mint • ½ cup chopped fresh oregano • 4 tsp vegetable oil • 2 Tbsp minced shallot or yellow onion • 1½ cups long-grain white rice • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350ËšF
- In small bowl, combine chiles, basil, mint, and oregano with three cups water
- Heat oil in ovenproof saucepan over medium heat and sauté shallot until translucent, about 5-6 minutes
- Add rice and sauté until coated with oil and heated through, about one minute — some of the rice may jump or pop. Add herb mixture. Bring to a simmer, stirring rice once or twice to prevent it from clumping together or sticking to bottom of pan
- Add one teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cover pan and place in oven. Cook until grains are tender to the bite, about 12-14 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for five minutes to steam. Uncover and, using a fork, separate grains and release the steam
- Taste pilaf and season with salt and pepper; serve at once
Nutrition analysis (per five-ounce serving): 180 calories, 4g protein, 34g carbohydrate, 3g fat, 150mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, 2g fiber
Doug Little loves wild turkey. Not the bourbon, the bird. Little is a regional wildlife biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation (yes, they have their own federation), based in Cornwallville, near Windham. “As a kid, I saw a video of biologists trapping turkeys, and I knew I wanted to be involved in that,” he says. “I could talk for hours about turkeys.”
We asked him to do just that — well, not for hours, but long enough to learn some interesting things about wild turkeys. For instance:
The birds were almost extirpated from the Northeast. Although the state estimates there are now about a quarter million wild turkeys in New York, they almost disappeared around the turn of the last century. Turkeys like a mix of farmland and woodland, such as what we have here in the Valley, to build nests and find food year-round, Little says. But wide-scale forest clearing for farming in the 1800s, along with natural “harvesting,” (that’s killing and eating to you and me), nearly wiped out the birds.
But thankfully, the bird population bounced back. “After the Civil War, as farmers moved west, the landscape gradually reverted to forest. Over time, we got the mix of cover types that the birds like,” Little says. At the same time, conservationists reintroduced populations from remnant flocks in Pennsylvania. “It’s been a huge success, and the population is pretty level now,” he says.
Yes, turkeys can fly. “People are always surprised to hear that,” says Little. “They are not the most graceful critters, but they can fly pretty fast.” In fact, they can travel in the air for upwards of 25 miles looking for food.
No, turkeys are not stupid. Domesticated turkeys, being used to humans, are docile, which makes them easy prey. But wild turkeys are very adept at finding food and avoiding predators. “Their sight and hearing are phenomenal, and to get within 20 yards of one is incredibly difficult,” he says. “They are not easy to catch.”
They are fairly easy to spot, however. Little says they are most active in early morning and late afternoon during the summer. If it’s raining, they like to be in the fields, because the rain makes it hard to hear predators in the woods. And in winter, look for them on dairy farms, which spread manure on their fields for fertilizer. The turkeys peck at the seeds and grains in the manure. “We call that the hot lunch program for turkeys,” jokes Little.
They taste delicious. It is legal to hunt turkeys in New York. “I am always disappointed when I don’t catch a turkey,” Little says. “They have more flavor than farm-raised turkeys. I think they taste a lot better.”
And now for something completely different
Tired of the typical noisy, chaotic, football-filled Thanksgiving? Looking for a quieter, more introspective holiday? The Holy Cross Monastery, in West Park, Ulster County, is just what the spiritual doctor ordered.
The monastery sits on 20 Hudson River-side acres on which to contemplate nature’s bounty, and some of said bounty can be consumed at CIA-trained Chef Edward Wolf’s Thanksgiving feast following the day’s religious services. Chef Wolf uses local, seasonal produce to complement his Thanksgiving turkey and ham.
About 30 to 40 guests typically visit the monastery over the holiday, says Lori Callaway, guesthouse manager. Some just spend the day, others book a room for a few nights. But these are monastery rooms, remember; expect simple, small, and sharing of bathrooms.
And if you’re looking to catch the Cowboys or Lions game, forget it. There are no televisions here. Offerings for an overnight stay are $70. For information, call 845-384-6660, ext. 3002.
Make it a Mohonk Weekend
Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz is offering families a Thanksgiving weekend package to gather and enjoy time together — without the annoyances of cooking and cleaning.
A grand buffet meal on Thanksgiving Day includes all the traditional comfort foods and other specials. And to work out of your tryptophan coma, you can enjoy an evening of square dancing.
On Friday, continue the healthy fun with ice skating in the open-air pavilion, guided nature walks and mountain bike tours, yoga and fitness classes, or swimming in the indoor heated pool.
Saturday kicks off the Christmas season with the lighting of 1,440 sparkling lights on a 60-foot Austrian Pine, followed by Christmas carols at 5 p.m. After dinner, guests can enjoy a ballroom dance. And you can lose the kids if you want some grown-up time — a Kid’s Club will be held each night of the weekend.
Of course, if all that activity is just too exhausting, you can retreat to the spa, which is offering a special Seasonal Bounty treatment based on pumpkin the entire month of November.
For prices and availability, call 866-666-3146 or visit www.mohonk.com.
Whether this is your first time hosting a Thanksgiving dinner or your 25th, you always fear overcooking the turkey, burning the gravy, and ruining the sweet potato pie. Allay those fears by signing up for Thanksgiving cooking class at the Emerson Resort and Spa in Mt. Tremper.
Chef Kurt Robair will help you craft the perfect bird and all the trimmings in the spa’s Phoenix Restaurant kitchen. The classes will be held Nov. 4 and Nov. 11, from 1-4 p.m. Cost: $125 per person — and you get to eat your creations afterward.
Of course, if even lessons won’t get you into the kitchen, you can attend the Emerson’s annual Thanksgiving buffet in the Catamount Restaurant. Let Chef Robair serve you his butternut squash soup, a selection of salads, herb-roasted turkey with natural gravy, roasted prime rib, pesto-crusted salmon, penne pasta with veggies, and the usual sides — stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes, carrots, and cranberry sauce. Finish your feast with an assortment of seasonal pies and other desserts.
The buffet is $30 per adult, $14.95 for children six-12, and free for children five and under. Call 845-688-2828 for reservations to either the cooking classes or the buffet.
Turkey, or not turkey. That is the question
Your father-in-law demands a big, juicy bird. Your spouse needs to follow a gluten-free diet. Your teenage daughter is suddenly a vegan (this week). How can you possibly satisfy all these differing dietary demands?
Make reservations at Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville. Chef-owner Marcus Guiliano has been offering both traditional and alternative Thanksgiving dinner options for the past eight years.
So Pops can order up a turkey dinner (free-range and hormone-free, but turkey nonetheless) with all the fixin’s: gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, corn, organic Bread Alone stuffing. Your spouse can avoid the gluten dishes. And your daughter can celebrate with a seitan entrée topped with vegetable gravy, roasted butternut squash, green beans, and mashed potatoes made with coconut milk.
“Most of our sides are offered both traditionally and as a vegan option,” says Guiliano. “We have as many vegan-friendly dishes as possible. Everyone who comes in that day is just so happy they don’t have to cook.”
The turkey dinner with all the sides is $30. Other items can be ordered a la carte. About 25 percent of his Turkey Day diners go vegetarian or vegan, Guiliano says. He also serves up all his other dishes as well, in case you’re simply not in the holiday spirit. “We always have two or three tables that want nothing to do with Thanksgiving,” he says.
Aroma Thyme Bistro. 165 Canal St., Ellenville. 845-647-3000
Turkey, or not turkey? Not turkey. No question.
If even being in the same room as a roasted turkey is objectionable to you, make a reservation at the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society’s annual all-vegan Thanksgiving dinner. Held on Thanksgiving day at the Town Hall in Milan, Dutchess County, the pot-luck dinner draws about 100 like-minded celebrants who bring their own meat-, milk-, and egg-free gravy, potatoes, pies, and the like to complement the entrées of seitan or Tofurkey (a meatless turkey substitute). The society supplies stuffing and beverages. There is also a dessert contest each year, at which you can enter your vegan treat, along with the recipe or ingredient list, for judgment. For more information and to make reservations, call 845-876-2626 or go to www.all-creatures.org/mhvs/veg.