A roast turkey is the centerpiece of Thanksgiving and because the meal is built around it, cooks often feel some pressure to get it cooked perfectly. The turkey, usually sold frozen, must be thawed for quite some time before it can be prepped – and for every two chefs out there there are 3 opinions on how the turkey should be cooked. There is one turkey that I know of that promises to make Thanksgiving easier by eliminating all of these variables: the Jennie-O Turkey Store Oven Ready Whole Turkey.
The turkey comes in an oven bag and is baked from frozen. All you really need to do is take the turkey, still in the bag, and place it in a roasting pan in a preheated oven. An 11-13 pound turkey takes about 3 1/2 hours to cook completely. There is an oven thermometer already in the turkey that “pops up” when the turkey is done so you know exactly when to take it out of the oven.
I was skeptical before I tried it. Frozen turkey? No work required? It honestly seemed like it was too simple, but the fact that I didn’t have to handle a huge raw turkey was extremely appealing, as was the idea that the turkey is a huge Thanksgiving time-saver.
A crowd-feeding turkey is the biggest thing that some of us cook during the year, and that often means that we need special cookware to accommodate its size and shape, while most oven-roasted meats and vegetables do just fine in smaller and shallower pans. A roasting pan should be big and fairly deep, about 3-4 inches, to hold all the drippings from your roast and any vegetables you want to cook alongside it. Even though it might not be your most-used kitchen pan, you’ll get much better results and have an easier time cooking if you put a little thought into choosing a roasting pan.
The first step is to measure your oven – and then take the measuring tape with you when you shop. You can’t entirely trust the measurements given by manufacturers, either of ovens or of baking pans. Ovens can have ridges (to hold up oven shelves) that narrow the available space in an oven, and while pans’ interior measurements may measure up as advertised, the thickness and shape of the pan may cause the actual dimensions of the thing to vary. And don’t forget to include the handles when you measure! Handles can extend up to 2-3 inches from the sides of a pan, inches that aren’t always listed with a pan’s standard dimensions.
Does anyone besides me have leftover turkey around the house today?
Thanksgiving is one holiday where people look forward to leftovers just as much as they do to the actual dinner. There is always a ton of food to work with (especially if your family is anything like mine and tends to overcook for the original meal) and there are lots of things you can do with those leftovers for a whole weekend of variety.
My favorite thing to make with leftover turkey, as I’ve mentioned before, is a good sandwich. Sandwiches just seem like so much less effort than anything really cooked, like soup or a similar dish that requires lots of prep, and are incredibly satisfying. This particular sandwich is a good one, too. It’s a combination of turkey, cranberry sauce and brie, toasted until it is a hot and melty panini sandwich. The cranberry sauce (or cranberry jelly) adds tartness and a lot of moisture to the sandwich, while the creamy brie holds it all together. It is absolutely idea for leftover chicken or turkey, but will work just as well with deli-sliced turkey on a non-holiday basis.
If you don’t have a panini maker or are simply want something a tiny bit quicker than a hot sandwich, you can easily use this combination for a regular sandwich. Just soften the brie at room temperature to make it easier to slice and layer everything on your favorite sandwich bread and eat it that way. It won’t have the same meltiness as the panini, but as you can see from the photo below, it still looks plenty tempting.
With several hours between you and a food coma, it’s just about time to start thinking about what to do with all those Thanksgiving leftovers. After all, even if you’re not going to be able to eat more than a mouthful or two of toast until lunchtime (and the overall feeling of fullness finally starts to dissipate), it doesn’t hurt to have a plan in place for that fridge full of food.
- With leftover mashed potatoes, you can make mashed potato pancakes. Essentially, all you have to do with these is shape them and fry them on the stove top or in the oven. Perfect football-watching food.
- With leftover cranberry sauce, you can make something like a cranberry ribbon cake, where a stripe of sauce colors an otherwise plain dessert. Leftover cranberry sauce pie is also an option. Alternatively, you can simply use it to garnish a turkey sandwich.
- With leftover stuffing, you can use it up making more football munchies, such as stuffed mushrooms or bell peppers, or turn it into some stew for a full meal. I often just reheat it for about 20 minutes at 375 to give it a crispy top and eat it on its own.
- With leftover turkey, you can do just about anything. Sandwiches are easily my favorite way to use it up, although soups and salads are good options, too. A handful of suggestions include:
Sick and tired of looking for vegetarian Thanksgiving options to feed your non-meat eating friends and family? I think that I may have the perfect solution.
Just kidding, unless you’re planning on serving dessert as the main course (not necessarily a course of action I would disagree with) at Thanksgiving dinner.
This turkey cake is just that: a vanilla buttermilk sheet cake sculpted into a three dimensional turkey shape and covered with a fudgy chocolate glaze. It is a real departure from more traditional pies and cakes, but you can’t get much more Thanksgiving-y than a cake shaped like a turkey.
For the cake, I opted to use a simple, thin sheet cake recipe. I typically use this recipe or a very similar variation of it for layer cakes because it is light, but fairly sturdy. This texture comes primarily from the number of eggs in the batter and it is a good choice for carving because it won’t crumble under the blade of your knife, nor will it shed an excessive number of crumbs when you try to frost it. The cake is fairly thin for a sheet cake, but I found that this made it very easy to maneuver the individual pieces of my turkey. It also produced an excellent cake-to-frosting ratio in the finished product. Besides, who has room for a massive slice of cake after a huge Thanksgiving meal anyway?
I sculpted the cake freehand, working with the idea that it would look just like this little sketch I made:
As you can see, I am quite the artiste when dealing with inedible materials – though in my defense, I only sketched this for fun while the cake was baking, and did not intend to use it as more than a decoration on my scratch paper. The actual shapes you want to cut out of the sheet are defined below: