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One of the most memorable presents my parents gave their 6 children did not come in a fancy gift box with glittery wrap and a big red bow. Instead, it happened around our kitchen dinner table every evening around 6 p.m. When our family would sit down to share a delicious home cooked meal, lots of laughter, and simple conversation about the events of the day. Memories of those family dinners are my strongest link with "home." Mom would prepare so many delicious and often-requested dishes from her simple, yet functional, New England kitchen - From lasagna with meat sauce made from scratch to Virginia baked ham with creamy scalloped potatoes. But nothing else, all year long, was ever more greatly looked forward to as her turkey on Thanksgiving Day -- Roasted to Perfection! Throughout the years Dad always took charge of stuffing the turkey with the family's long-time favorite: Apple-Walnut Dressing. This mouth watering recipe has been in Dad's family for generations - Long before his grandparents came to America from Germany. Regardless of all the many other side dishes, the turkey has always been the grand star at our Thanksgiving feast, and with mom's careful preparation and dad's always-delicious turkey stuffing, it is truly grand. On this Thanksgiving Day, may family and friends gather around your table to share in good times and joyous laughter, not to mention tummies stuffed with delicious turkey, dressing, yams, and pumpkin pie, thereafter!
- 1 (15 -20 lb) whole turkey (fresh or frozen)
- vegetable oil
- kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- turkey giblets (neck, heart and livers, reserved from turkey)
- 1 -2 cup stock, from the boiled giblets, neck, heart and livers
- 1 lb roll of pork sausage
- 2 cups yellow onions, chopped
- 1 loaf day old crusty bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, about 10 cups (French or Italian)
- 1⁄2 lb walnuts, shelled, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 green apple, peeled, cored, chopped
- 1⁄4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1 slice white bread
Dried herbs and spices of choice
- sage or thyme or garlic powder or onion powder or lemon pepper
- STEPS TO PREPARE THE TURKEY FOR ROASTING:.
- Arrange the racks in the oven so that the turkey will fit on the middle shelf. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Use a tablespoon of vegetable oil to lightly grease the bottom of the roasting pan, fit a roasting rack inside the pan. DO NOT STUFF THE TURKEY UNTIL JUST BEFORE ROASTING.
- When ready to stuff and roast the turkey, remove the neck, giblets, heart and livers; set aside for the stuffing. Rinse the outside and cavities of the bird under cold, running water. Place the turkey on several layers of paper towels to drain. Using additional paper towels, pat the outside and cavities dry; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- STEPS TO PREPARE THE STUFFING:.
- Carefully wash the giblets, heart, livers and neck previously set aside; drain and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over a medium flame; simmer for about 1 hour - uncovered. Strain the stock into a container for use with the stuffing. Place giblets, heart and livers in a medium bowl (BOWL #1). Remove meat from neck and add to the bowl.
- In a medium saute' pan, brown the sausage roll over a medium flame. Drain the meat and add to BOWL #1. Reserve the sausage drippings.
- Using the same saute' pan to brown the sausage roll, saute' the onion over a medium-high flame with the reserved sausage drippings. Cook until soft (not browned), about 5 to 8 minutes; add to BOWL #1.
- Extract about 1/3 cup of the reserved turkey stock; set aside. In the remaining reserved turkey stock, soak the bread cubes. Squeeze the excess liquid from the bread and put into a large mixing bowl (BOWL #2).
- Toast the walnuts by heating them in a non-stick skillet over a medium-high flame for 2 to 3 minutes; swirling the skillet until they are slightly browned (not burned). Let cool and then coarsely chop. Add walnuts to BOWL #2.
- Beat egg; add to BOWL #2 along with the apple, parsley, and poultry seasoning.
- In a meat grinder or food processor, alternate between BOWL #1 and BOWL #2 to grind up mixtures - START WITH THE SAUSAGE MIXTURE FIRST, BOWL #1. Transfer the ground-up mixture (dressing) to an extra-large mixing bowl (BOWL #3). As desired, moisten the dressing with the turkey stock set aside earlier - Add a tablespoon at a time until you've reached desired moistness. (COOK'S NOTE: The dressing should be moist, not overly dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.) Salt and pepper the dressing, to taste.
- STEPS FOR STUFFING THE TURKEY:.
- First, stand the bird on its tail end in an extra-large mixing bowl. Using a tablespoon, loosely stuff the neck cavity. Put the neck skin over the dressing and fasten it to the body with a poultry pin.
- Next, turn the bird around (neck in the bowl); stuff the body cavity loosely with dressing. When stuffing the bird, press down but be very careful not to over stuff. Press bread slice into the cavity at the wide opening to keep the dressing inside so that it will not fall out while the turkey roasts. If desired, you may also cook the stuffing outside the bird in a casserole dish.
- Finally, place the stuffed bird breast side up on a piece of waxed paper. Pull the legs to its body and tie the ends together with kitchen twine. (COOK'S NOTE: Some frozen turkeys are packed with a metal clamp to secure the legs, in which case it is not necessary to tie the legs with twine.) Now, fold the wings under the bird. YOUR STUFFED TURKEY MUST BE COOKED IMMEDIATELY.
- TO ROAST THE STUFFED TURKEY:.
- Transfer the stuffed bird to the prepared roasting pan, BREAST SIDE UP. Brush it generously with vegetable oil; sprinkle (to taste) with your choices of herbs, spices, salt and pepper.
- Insert a meat thermometer into an inner thigh area near the breast. (THERMOMETER'S TIP SHOULD NOT TOUCH THE BONE.) Cover loosely with heavy aluminum foil, leaving space between the bird and the foil. Place the roasting pan in the preheated oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes per pound, depending on the freshness of the bird. (COOK'S NOTE: Fresh turkeys tend to cook much faster than those that have been frozen.).
- Baste the bird every hour or so with the liquids that have accumulated on the bottom of the roasting pan. About 20 minutes before the cooking time is up,uncover the bird and allow it to brown.
- Once the meat thermometer reaches 180°F, and the juices run clear, remove the bird from the oven and place on a serving platter or a carving board; cover loosely with aluminum foil and let it stand about 10 minutes before carving. Remove the stuffing from the bird and place in a warmed serving bowl.
- Carve your perfectly roasted turkey and serve with all the trimmings!
- COOK'S NOTE: A FROZEN TURKEY must be defrosted in the refrigerator. This can take several days depending on the size of the bird. Also, never try to defrost a turkey directly on the kitchen counter or the kitchen sink, as this can result in the growth of harmful bacteria.
- COOK'S NOTE: TO STORE LEFTOVERS, cut the turkey into small pieces. Refrigerate the turkey and dressing separately in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking. Use the leftover turkey and stuffing within 3 to 4 days or freeze these foods. Reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165°F or until hot and steaming.