I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. We did! I love watching the Macy’s parade, making my stuffing and roasting my turkey, then relaxing until the family arrives and it’s time to coordinate the dinner.
I do get to know turkey hotline reps for at least one phone call every year, but this year my worries were a little over the top. I made three calls to the Butterball Hotline (Even though I bought my turkey at Trader Joes). Three calls to the USDA, two calls to local cooking schools, and several calls to various Trader Joes to reassure me that the fresh turkey my husband bought on November 12 would be okay in the refrigerator (as directed by the Trader Joes manager) until I stuff it and roast on Thanksgiving Day. The fear of food poisoning from old or undercooked poultry is a reality I wanted to prevent, and I usually freeze my turkeys.
I was also concerned because my turkey got done too early. I love that we have so many opportunities to problem solve on Thanksgiving. I make at least one call a year for something about my turkeys. I got to know all the representatives I called and learned a lot, so let me pass it on.
#1 It will be fine. The turkeys ship fresh and are refrigerated at low temps and will stay fresh if the wrapping is intact and it remains in the frig until the expiration date, which in my case was Nov 25. It was fine. “It will be fine” were the magic words I heard over and over. I just needed to trust. It was fine. The turkey smelled fresh and tasted delicious.
#2 Oven Temps-You can start the oven at 400 and reduce to 325, but the best temp is 325 for the duration of cooking. Check for doneness by measuring your turkey in three places. The breast or white meat should be 165 degrees. The thigh or dark meat should be 170 degrees, and the stuffing should read at 165. I do stuff my turkey, so this is an important measure. It was almost 170 all over, but because I baste the turkey, it stayed moist and utterly tasty.
#3 Timing- You can safely plan that it will take about 15-20 minutes per pound, but if you baste like I do every hour, it will take longer.
Nevertheless, my turkey did get done earlier than I planned. If the turkey gets done too soon, cover it and keep in a warm oven that maintains the internal temperature of the turkey at 140 degrees. One of my neighbors puts hers in a 250-degree oven the night before at 11:00 PM, roasts until 8:00 AM and keeps it warm until dinner that evening. That was quite reassuring. My oven’s warm setting is 170 degrees. I put it in the oven for maybe two to three hours and guess what? “it was fine!”
#4 One additional tip: DON’T WASH YOUR TURKEY- Pat it with a wet paper towel to clean, and if you’re like me, you can tweeze the end of the feather tips left in the bird. Be sure to clean all surfaces to prevent cross-contamination.
The day after Thanksgiving we had our annual cookie baking day where I lay out every ingredient you could think of for a cookie. The grandkids come over and choose their recipes and bake. The kitchen was in chaos, but we had fun and then by 3:00 we have all had enough, and it’s time to clean up and transition the kitchen for “leftovers night,” our annual Shabbat dinner after Thanksgiving.
Hanukah came early this year. It was the week after Thanksgiving. This year I made dozens of potato latkes. The kitchen was a mess, but the latkes were delicious. I made homemade applesauce too. It was great. We celebrated a few days here and there with the grandkids and will have a Hanukah party at my daughter’s house. We lit our candles every night and turned on our electric menorahs for the windows.
Now we are looking are forward to celebrating Christmas, when my youngest daughter comes in from Chicago with our granddog. Christmas eve we will have my traditional spinach lasagna and Christmas day will wake up to stockings for all the grandkids thanks to “Santa” and stockings for our grown kids filled with an array of stuffers including gift cards to their favorite restaurants.
Our oldest daughter only has Hanukah in her home so she and my son in law and granddaughter will be with us, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Our son and daughter in law and their children celebrate Hanukah and Christmas and have their tree and family traditions as my daughter in law is not Jewish, and like me, Christmas was always an essential part of her life. They celebrate both holidays. For Christmas dinner, I make another turkey (yes- from Trader Joes but this one I put in the freezer) and stuffing and bring it to my daughter in laws mom’s house where our family gathers with her family and enjoy the spirit of the holidays.
I will share more about my Christmas memories in a future blog.