Best Thanksgiving meal ever |

Best Thanksgiving meal ever

Special to the Daily The secret to a great Thanksgiving feast is a juicy turkey, a tasty dressing, and a rich, flavorful gravy.

Are you preparing the Thanksgiving feast this year? Your family is so lucky! A house isn’t a home unless there’s a loving person tending the hearth. Whether this is your first Thanksgiving or your 51st, my advice is exactly the same? Relax and don’t try to get too fancy. The secret to a great Thanksgiving feast is a juicy turkey, a tasty dressing, and a rich, flavorful gravy. Everything else pales in comparison.A salute to the family cook: It’s your loving work in the kitchen that brings the family together! – Buon Appetito! Chef Michaelangelo (Mick) Rosacci and family own and operate Tony’s Meats & Specialty Foods and Tony Rosacci’s Fine Catering in Littleton and Centennial. Choosing a turkeyStarting with a great turkey gives you the best chance for success. Here are some facts to help you make a choice.Choose a fresh turkey: Freezing actually damages poultry meat at a cellular level which leads to excessive moisture loss and loss of flavor and juiciness.Choose a natural turkey: Natural turkeys have no added ingredients. The opposite of natural is basted, self-basting, or enhanced – these birds are injected with a solution of water, fats, and chemical flavorings to increase weight, flavor, and juiciness. Hen or Tom turkeys: Hen turkeys are female birds weighing from 8-16 pounds. Tom turkeys are males, usually weighing from 18 to 32 lbs. Both are equal in quality and offer a high ratio of white to dark meat.Free-range turkeys: Regardless of what images slick marketing wizards have conjured, or how many chefs have fallen for them, free-range is a labeling and marketing term that has no bearing on quality or taste. While free-range turkeys can be of excellent quality, I would never pay extra for it. Most producers avoid this gimmick because of the negative effects.Organic turkeys: This labeling/marketing term has nothing to do with quality, taste, tenderness or juiciness. The regulations governing organic labeling are concerned with items such as feed certification, genetic engineering, and the use of ionizing radiation. An “organic” turkey can be of excellent quality, but after visiting many poultry farms, I would never pay more for an organic label. Turkey Day tips 1. One week before: Create your complete menu and a cooking timeline, and then troubleshoot it. Is it realistic? Do you have enough pots, pans and serving vessels? What can you cook ahead? Can you ask one or two of your guests to bring a side or dessert? 2. Test your meat thermometer. Having an accurate meat thermometer is crucial to roasting success. 3. Never ever: Never roast your turkey in a slow oven or overnight. Never stuff your turkey until it is time to cook.

4. Remember? Cooking is simple if you keep three things in mind: Start with great ingredients, prepare them simply and cook them just right. 5. Relax and get over it: While we all want everything to be perfect, things rarely are. Focus on the basics, relax and enjoy your time in the kitchen and with your loved ones. Turkey BrineSeasoning a turkey from the inside out, brining is a great way to increase the flavor and golden brown finish of your turkey. One fresh turkey2 cups Kosher salt114 cups brown sugar4 bay leaves5 cloves garlic, crushed18 peppercorns6 generous sprigs fresh thyme2 thumbs ginger, sliced & crushed The day before cooking your turkey, bring 2 quarts of water to boil, add salt and sugar and spices and stir to dissolve, then allow to cool on stovetop. Pour into a plastic bag-lined 5-gallon bucket, adding 2 gallons of ice water. Place bucket of brine in refrigerator, iced cooler, or in garage below 40 degrees (but not freezing). Submerge turkey into cold brine, adding more cold water as needed. Leave in brine for 24 hours. Rinse, pat dry, season lightly and roast as directed. Thanksgiving Roast TurkeyEstimate your turkey’s roasting time; allow 15 minutes per pound, adding 40 minutes for resting and one hour if you plan to stuff your turkey. One hour before your estimated start time, remove turkey from brine (if using), rinse, drain, and pat dry.

Coarsely chop enough onions, carrots and celery to cover the bottom of your roasting pan. Toss veggies with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Scatter veggies to cover the bottom of your roasting pan – this will help protect pan from scorching and enhance gravy. Place turkey on a roasting rack in your pan. Add one cup of water to pan.For the best results, do not stuff turkey. Stuffed birds just don’t cook as evenly. Dressing baked on the side and then doused with homemade stock can taste even better than that cooked in the bird. If stuffing, do so lightly with hot dressing immediately before roasting.Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rub turkey with oil and season inside and out with salt and pepper or your favorite blend. Note: Be stingy with salt, it tends to collect in the bottom of your roasting pan making your gravy salty. Place turkey in the middle of oven and close door.Roast uncovered, basting regularly with a sauce made of one part butter to three parts stock. This not only enhances color, it protects the pan from scorching – essential for good gravy.If the breast is browning too much, tent loosely with foil. Start taking temperature readings early. Your turkey is fully cooked when the temperature in the thigh is 180 degrees. Remove turkey from oven; draining all drippings to a measuring cup. Transfer bird to a serving platter, cover with parchment paper then a kitchen towel, and rest for 30-40 minutes before carving. While turkey rests, prepare gravy and set the table. Chef’s Note: A perfectly cooked turkey has meat with a slightly pink hue and juices that run clear. – Chef Mick Rosacci, Tony’s Meats & Specialty Foods Mick’s Ultimate Turkey Dressing1 pound loaf rustic bread1 pound pork breakfast sausage2 sticks butter (separated)8 cups chopped medley of celery, carrots and onions4-8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced2 cups roasted pecans, chopped 1 large apple, chopped1 cup dried apricots, chopped1 cup dried cranberries1 tablespoon rubbed sage2 teaspoons dried marjoram

1 teaspoon dry or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme1 teaspoon salt, separated18 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg4 eggs, lightly beaten112 cups turkey (or chicken) broth Cut bread into 12-inch cubes and toast lightly under broiler. Place in a large bowl. Brown sausage in a large skillet, remove with a slotted spoon and add to bread. Melt 1 tablespoon butter into sausage drippings and add 8 cups veggie medley along with 12 teaspoon salt and sauté for 15 minutes. Add to bread along with sliced mushrooms, pecans, fruit and remaining seasonings and toss to combine. Stir eggs in well, and then stir in stock.Place dressing into two large buttered casserole dishes and dot with second stick of butter. Roast along with your turkey during the last 4560 minutes (for a moister dressing, cover pan – for a crispier dressing, cook uncovered). Or stuff gently into turkey and place remaining dressing in a casserole to roast on the side.To get that ‘roasted in the bird flavor,’ douse with homemade turkey stock just before serving. – Chef Mick Rosacci, Tony’s Meats & Specialty Foods Homemade Turkey StockHomemade turkey stock is so simple, and nothing else you can do adds so much magic to your turkey, dressing and gravy!1 stick butterTurkey neck, tail and giblets3-4 cups celery, carrots and onions, rough chop (trimmings are fine)5 each fresh thyme and parsley sprigs2 bay leaves

6 whole cloves12 peppercorns12 teaspoon salt Melt butter in a large stock pot. Add the turkey neck, tail, heart and chopped gizzard (no liver) – cook to brown. Add veggies, stirring and sautéing to loosen brown bits in pan. Add 16 cups water and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil and reduce to medium. Simmer uncovered until the liquid is reduced by about two thirds and the taste is rich, about 3 hours. Do not over salt! Strain into a measuring cup, pressing on the solids to extract all the liquid. Discard solids and skim fats. Yields approximately 4 cups. – Chef Mick Rosacci, Tony’s Meats & Specialty FoodsChef’s Note: Great homemade stock is the key to great gravy and is amazing drizzled over sliced turkey and dressing before serving – you can never have enough! You can increase your stock by seeking out an extra turkey neck, extra giblets, or even raw chicken bones. Classic Turkey GravyWith the turkey resting, it’s time to make the gravy. This is also a good time to invite any volunteers to help put the final touches on your side dishes, put the pies in the oven, set the table and do a little clean up.Pan drippings from roasted turkeyMadeira or dry white winelow sodium turkey or chicken stockMilk and flour slurry Strain pan drippings into a measuring cup or bowl, pressing on veggies to release all of the drippings; when fats rise, remove them with a bulb baster. Place roasting pan directly over two burners with a medium flame. Immediately add a glass of wine, simmer and loosen brown bits from the pan with a spatula. Strain into a saucepan along with defatted drippings and about 2 cups of homemade stock. Bring to a simmer, taste and adjust with seasonings, or reduce further to concentrate flavors.Allow 1 to 112 tablespoons flour for every cup of liquid. Whisk flour into 1 cup of cold milk until smooth. Whisk 12-cup hot stock into milk slurry, and then slowly whisk slurry into simmering stock. Bring to a boil to thicken and reduce to a simmer, stirring regularly. Serve hot. – Chef Mick Rosacci, Tony’s Meats and Specialty Foods

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