Planning my Thanksgiving menu always sows the seed of excitement about the holiday season. I start to reflect back on my favorite dishes from year’s past, and think long and hard about what will make the cut for this year’s autumn feast. This year I was able to pre-test a little Thanksgiving menu alongside Danielle of Secret Supper, as we created this beautiful (and approachable!) Thanksgiving spread. She has some amazing tips for decorating your Thanksgiving table quickly, affordably, and simply, and you can take peek at them here. (Hint, it doesn’t involve buying a whole new set of dishes or fancy copper flatware, and most of the decor is free!)
Out of all the traditional Thanksgiving menu items, I definitely do have a favorite. For me, there’s nothing that signifies the start of the holiday season quite like the smell of stuffing. Mine is based off of my mother’s recipe, and hers has several key elements. Celery (and lots of it), chopped onion, thyme, sage, and old breadcrumbs soaked in whole milk. The milk is key, as it adds a hidden richness to the stuffing that you just can’t get with broth or salty water. My go-to stuffing recipe is included in my recipe for Roast Turkey with Pears and Sage below, but if you want to try something different, like a stuffing with a cornbread base or some sort of meat in it, I have some options for that, too.
I’ve also included some traditional pies, and some pie pops, if you have folks more interested in the crust than the filling. As for sides, I love a good roasted veggie, and also a good mash, and I have options for both of those below. Note, though, that the mash is actually sweet potato and pecan puree. I know the words “pecan puree” sound like they’ve been accidentally paired, but I swear it’s delicious and I need you to trust me on this one. Something special happens to sweet potatoes when they’re roasted—the sugars inside the potato caramelize and release deeper, toasted notes. And when you also toast pecans and then puree them together with those roasted sweet potatoes, and swirl in some caramelized onions, you get an unforgettably flavorful side that’s going to be seared into the memories of all your guests. And with that, I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving, filled with good food, good company, and lots of delicious leftovers.
Roast Turkey with Pears and Sage
- 1 Whole Turkey innards removed
- 1 cup Duck Fat or Butter
- 1 teaspoon Dried Sage
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon Pepper
- 6 Bosc Pears cut in half
- 1 Sweet Onion diced
- 4 cups Turkey or Chicken Broth
- 3/4 cup White Wine
- 3/4 cup Honey
- 3/4 cup Turkey or Chicken Broth
- 1/2 cup Duck Fat or Butter
- 1 Very Ripe Bosc Pear peeled, cored, and finely chopped
PEAR + SAGE STUFFING
- 1 10 Oz Package Herbed Dried Stuffing Cubes
- 1 Yellow Onion diced
- 1 Bosc Pear peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
- 1 Egg whisked
- 2 and 1/2 Cups Milk
- 1/4 cup Duck Fat or Butter
- 2 tablespoons Fresh Parsley finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 3/4 teaspoon Dried Sage
- 1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
- PAN DRIPPING GRAVY
- 3 cups Pan Drippings
- 2 to 4 Tablespoons Corn Starch
- 2 to 4 Tablespoons Flour
- Salt to taste
BRINE THE TURKEY
- If you want to brine the turkey, (I recommend it!), place it in a brining or turkey-sized oven bag or large stockpot and fill the bag/pot with a brining solution that contains 1 cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of dried sage for every gallon of water. Make sure the bird is completely submerged in the brining solution and place it in the refrigerator to soak overnight. I recommend placing the bag in a large pan to make it easier to get it in and out of the refrigerator.
PREPARE THE GLAZE
- The next morning, make the glaze by bringing all the ingredients to a boil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Bring the heat down to medium low and continue to boil for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit, and then puree in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Set aside.
PREPARE THE STUFFING
- Next, make the stuffing. Pour the milk over the dried stuffing cubes in a large bowl and allow them to soak, stirring a couple times to help evenly soak the cubes. Meanwhile, saute the onions in the duck fat or butter over medium-high heat until translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring every couple minutes. Remove the onions from the heat and scrape the onions and duck fat or butter into the bowl with the stuffing. Add the egg, pear, seasonings, and 2 tablespoons of the pear glaze and toss until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.
ROAST THE TURKEY
- Now you can begin preparing the turkey. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it, and pat dry. Mix together the duck fat or butter with the sage, thyme, salt, and pepper until it is fairly soft and spreadable. Rub the mixture all over the outside of the bird, the inside of the bird, and underneath the skin on the entire front (breast) of the bird. I was able to peel the skin up slightly and then push my way under the entire breast skin with my hands, rubbing the fat and spice mixture everywhere.
- Evenly distribute the chopped onion on the bottom of the roasting pan. Once the bird is coated inside and out with the fat mixture, set it in the roasting pan, breast facing up. Stuff the bird until full and set aside whatever stuffing you have left in a separate oven-safe pan. Tie together the turkey’s legs with cooking twine. Whisk together the 4 cups of broth with 1/2 cup of the pear glaze, then pour the mixture into the roasting pan, pouring around, not over, the turkey. Arrange the 6 halved pears around the bird.
- Place the roasting pan in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes per pound of turkey. Baste the bird every 20 minutes with the pan drippings, but every third basting (i.e. once per hour) baste the bird with the pear glaze. Rotate the roasting pan once per hour to help the bird cook evenly (since you will be opening the oven every 20 minutes to baste the bird, the side facing the oven will always loose a bit of heat).
- *If the bird is browning too quickly*, tent tin foil over the roasting pan (do not allow the turkey skin to touch the tin foil otherwise it will cook onto it and the skin will get pulled off when you take off the tin foil, which would make your turkey look sad).
- When it starts to look done, take the temperature of the turkey and once it reaches 165 degrees in the breast, stuffing cavity, and thigh, it is safe to eat. Allow the bird to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
PAN DRIPPING GRAVY
- While the bird is resting, make the gravy. Heat 3 cups of the liquid from the bottom of the roasting pan in a small pot over low heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of corn starch and 2 tablespoons of flour until smooth. If you want your gravy to be thicker, continue adding tablespoons of flour and/or corn starch until your desired consistency is reached. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy and the remaining pear glaze on the side for optional drizzling.