Thanksgiving is a great time of year. Friends and family, tons of food, libations, and maybe a couple of days off from work. Football, couch time, beach time and just a time to say thanks.
Speaking of relaxing, if you are the head chef, do you ever find yourself thinking, after devouring a meal of turkey and all the fixins’, “I spent all day, maybe even two days, preparing all this food, and it’s over in 30 minutes!” We have, and that’s why we are bringing you some very simple, easy-to-make-ahead recipes that will make your Thanksgiving Day simple and stress-free, giving you more time to chillax with your buds. Here are some of our faves. All recipes assume 8 Thanksgivers. Adjust accordingly, but remember Thanksgiving leftovers are awesome!
Roasted Turkey Breast
Ok, go to Fresh Market or another reputable meat market and get a bone in turkey breast. Since Thanksgiving is busy, it’s best to call ahead and RSVP yours in advance. Plan for at least 1/2-3/4 pound per person, and if you end up with extra you have turkey sandwiches.
- Make a brine (recipe below) and brine the bird the day before. Just before popping into the oven remove from the brine, rinse, pat dry, and rub generously with our Bird Rub.
- Bake at 325 degrees (4-6 lb 2 ¼ hrs., 7-8 lb 3 ¼ hours or until a thermometer reads 170 degrees) on a rack if you have one, with the rack on an oven pan or large casserole dish with water poured half way up the sides of the pan or dish and tent (not wrap) with foil until the last 30 minutes, then remove the foil and and let the bird brown.
- Let the bird rest on a cutting board, tented with foil for 20 minutes before carving. Bird temp will continue to rise while resting. This is the only food item you will need to cook on Thanksgiving Day.
Dressing is one of the staple grubs for Thanksgiving. A nice bite of turkey and gravy with some stuffing on top equals pure awesomeness. Best part, it’s super easy.
- Get 3 bags of Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix, throw it in a large mixing bowl, add sautéed onions, mushrooms, and celery (1/2 large onion, couple handfuls of mushrooms, 3 stalks of celery—all chopped)
- Add salt, pepper, sage, chicken stock (store bought) or water until a dressing-like consistency, spoon into a greased casserole dish.
- Cover with saran wrap or whatever you have and keep in refrigerator.
- Heat in oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through and slightly brown on top. Make a day ahead.
Sweet Potato Casserole
This aint your typical sweet potato casserole, but it’s always a favorite. People typically go back for seconds on these, so don’t be afraid to make extra.
- Peel and quarter 4 large sweet potatoes and boil until just tender. Mash with a fork or mixer, add ½ stick of butter, salt, cinnamon, 2 Tbls sugar or honey, and mix everything together.
- With your hands, wrap the mixture around a marshmallow, about the size of a tennis ball. Then put in greased casserole dish.
- Drizzle pancake syrup over the potatoes or if you want to go to the trouble (worth it), melt ½ stick of butter in saucepan and add 3 Tbls brown or white sugar and cinnamon, stir until headed and drizzle over the potatoes.
- Bake until thoroughly heated, about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Make the day before.
Ok, you can get fresh ones, or just get a couple of cans of beans, drain, add a little water and a chunk of onion to the pot (yes, it gets the “can” taste out) and a little salt and you’re good to go. Pretty simple, so make day of.
- 3 cups chicken stock, add ½ cup of mushrooms, ½ cup chopped onion, a little garlic, and simmer in a stock pot.
- To thicken add Wondra (available at grocery story) a little at a time and whisk until it reaches desired thickness.
- A secret ingredient; it’s called Kitchen Bouquet (photo included) , and it is a flavoring and coloring product found at the grocery store. Add a dash or 2 until you like the color of the gravy. You won’t use this often (unless you eat a lot of gravy) but it keeps in the ‘fridge for a long time.
- Make gravy the day before and keep refrigerated, heat before serving.
A must on T-Day. This is the canned variety. Put can in the ‘fridge about 30 minutes before mealtime, open and spoon into a bowl. Enjoy.
The brine is a key step to a moist and flavorful turkey. Brining is not required, but you’ll be glad you did it.
- Eight cups of water, ½ cup salt, ¼ cup of black peppercorns or ¼ cup of black pepper, ½ cup sugar, bay leaves, garlic cloves.
- Put the bird in a large zip lock bag and pour the brine over and put the bag in a large bowl in the refrigerator in case the bag springs a leak.
- Turn the bag a couple of times during the day. Once you take the bird out the brine, toss the brine.
Like the brine, you don’t want to leave this out. Plus, everybody likes a good rub, right?
- In a bowl, mix equal parts (1/2 Tbls) salt, pepper, garlic, basil, sage, parsley, and actually any other spice you want to include.
- Add enough olive or veggie oil to make a paste.
- Using your hands, rub all over the turkey breast.
Deep Fried Turkey
Hard to find anything better that a deep fried turkey on Thanksgiving Day, or any day for that matter. We have included a tried and true recipe if you don’t want to go the brine and bake route. Our recipe, with the help of a good friend of The Atlantic Current, Johnny “Bubba” Nix is listed below. Follow the directions and you will be amazed at just how great and easy this is.
- Buy Cajun Injector marinade (photo included) and make sure you get the one that includes the injector needle. Inject your totally thawed or fresh bird 12 hours before frying.
- After injecting the bird, rub generously with any Cajun rub, but Bubba Johnny’s favorite is Tony’s Chachere Creole seasoning. (photo included)
- Drop carefully into 375 degree peanut oil and continue to cook at 350 degrees for 3 ½ minutes per pound, exactly.
- Carefully remove bird from oil, turn off the burner, drain on paper towels, and belly up! (photo included)
Avoid this T-Day Disaster!!!
Lots of people use T-Day as the day they will cook up their first fried turkey. All the toys have been bought, big pot, propane tank, propane gas burner, and the bird. Excitement and beer abound. The big moment, as the bird is slowly lowered into the pot of boiling oil, then, everything goes downhill quick, real quick.
Gang, did you know that every Thanksgiving….
- 5 people die from turkey frying accidents
- 60 have injuries, most of which are severe burns
- 900 homes are destroyed with $15,000,000 (yes, that’s million) in property damage. Hard to fathom, but people actually try to fry turkeys inside their home.
Don’t do these things!!!
- Do NOT put a frozen turkey into the oil. Ever hear that oil and water don’t mix? Nothing has changed dudes, it still doesn’t mix. Make sure it is thoroughly thawed, and dried using paper towels. Remember, the spices have been injected in the bird, so wiping some rub off of the outside won’t affect the taste at all. Better yet, get a fresh turkey, not frozen.
- Do NOT put too much oil in the pot. Initially, fill no more than 2/3 of the pot. If you need to add little after the bird goes in, better than oil spilling over the side of the pot. If this happens, prepare for a very bad experience. Make sure that once turkey is in there is 5 inches left between the oil and the top of the pot. If you get a little nervous, the best idea is to turn the burner off just before lowering the bird in, and then turn the burner back on after everything looks good.
- Do NOT heat the oil past 350 degrees. When you buy your “Kit” to fry turkeys, make sure and get a thermometer. If you want to crank it up to 365-375 degrees just before you put the turkey in, that’s ok since the bird will reduce the temp. But once the bird is submerged adjust the heat to keep the temp at 350.
Now that you’ve got the tools to prep your food ahead of time, you can enjoy what Thanksgiving is all about. CHEERS!