Low-Stress Method : Turkey Dinner for 12 with All the Fixings

Low-Stress Method : Turkey Dinner for 12 with All the Fixings
spatchcocked turkey

Do you love to host Thanksgiving for your family and/or friends but find it stressful juggling all the prep work with your already busy life? Are you tired of staying up late the night before, getting up at the crack of dawn on the big day, and never having a chance to just relax with your guests? Here are some recipes and ideas to reduce the stress and increase the enjoyment of the day.

NOTE: This is the “quick and dirty” version of this post.  At some point I’ll add more pictures and fix any typos, but this version should do the trick.
This plan is contingent on spatchcocking/butterflying your turkey. Doing so will ensure that:

  1. the breast meat won’t get overdone because it will take as long or longer than the thigh meat to cook to safe temperature,
  2. the turkey will cook WAY more quickly than a bird left whole, and
  3. it will be easy to carve.

Here is a great link describing how to spatchcock a turkey:

Here are some kitchen shears that enabled me, arthritic thumb joints and all, to cut the backbone out of a 14.5 pound turkey with relative ease:
Kershaw Taskmaster Shears

Okay, here is the plan. (the checklist is at the end of this post)

Do all your major house, bath, and kitchen cleaning the weekend before your gathering.  This is crucial to ensuring less stress!  🙂

Use a locally raised turkey if you can, and in any case, with no brine or other processing. I always get mine from Lilac Hedge Farm. Purchase fresh or give your turkey plenty of time to defrost in the fridge (5 days for a 15 pounder is ample) so that it is ready to prepare two days before your meal date. e.g. Tuesday day or evening for a Thursday  meal.

Two days before the meal, use this recipe:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/recipes/herb-crusted-roast-butterflied-turkey/9646/ and be sure to reserve the backbone, along with the neck, heart, and gizzard, for gravy. 

On the same day or evening, cut two to three butternut squash in half or quarters and roast at 400 degrees until tender and let cool. That night or the next day, peel/scrap/scoop the squash from the peel and mash a bit.  Store in fridge to be reheated with desired seasoning on the feast day. (I find squash to be tasty as is, especially if locally grown, but salt, pepper, butter, nutmeg, brown sugar, etc can all be used to jazz it up.)

If you are making your own cranberry sauce, make it while your squash is cooking.

One day before the feast:

Use this recipe for the gravy. Since you’ll have the neck, too, add an additional cup of water than is called for. No pressure cooker? No worries!  Stove top instructions are included

Use this recipe for potatoes:

Tear/cut up 1.5 to 2 pounds of nice, hearty bread for stuffing and leave it out overnight so it dries a bit.

Prep whatever  other veggies (romanesco, green beans, brussels sprouts) so ready to pop on the stove or in the oven the next day. Also, prep any raw veggies for appetizers, make any dips or desserts (or get your guests to bring those sorts of menu items.  🙂

Feast day morning: Make the stuffing!  This is the BEST stuffing:

Don’t panic at the proportions.  Use these numbers for a 14-15 pound bird:

1.5 pounds shredded cabbage, green and/or red
6-7 oz diced onion
small stalk of celery, diced
12 oz diced apple
1/2 cup butter
1.5 tsp EACH ground sage and poultry season
1/2 tsp each salt and ground black pepper
1.5-2 pounds bread – torn/cubed and dried overnight

Once all veggies are sauteed, put in the roasting pan, mix in seasoning, add the bread cubes, and moisten with about 2 cups broth or water,  but add gradually to make sure you don’t overdo it.

Be sure to start  making the stuffing an hour or so before you plan to put your turkey in the oven. (You could prep the cabbage the night before, if you want.)

1/2 an hour before cooking start time, take the turkey out of the refrigerator and follow turkey recipe instructions, placing the bird over the stuffing right before putting in the oven. Tuck all the stuffing under the bird. Don’t forget to baste with 1/2 the melted butter before putting the turkey in the oven!

[If you have a convection oven with a bake option (versus roast) preheat to 425. Once the bird goes in, turn off then reset the oven to convection bake at 425. Once the oven is back up to temperature, start timing 30 minutes. Then, baste turkey with butter, lower temperature to 375, and start checking the temperature after another 1.5 hours or so. ]

Once the turkey is done and resting, bake the potatoes as directed, heat up the squash in the microwave or oven, and steam, roast, or whatever you are doing with other sides.

Finally get the gravy from the fridge and reheat as directed in recipe.

  • Weekend before – CLEAN, SHOP, pick cooking and serving containers and utensils, etc.
  • 5 days before: take turkey out of freezer if applicable.
  • 3 days before – make your lists, plan any table arrangements, check supplies of dinnerware, serving dishes, etc .
  • 2 days before: prep turkey as per recipe and roast squash
  • 1 day before: make potatoes and gravy as per recipes, prep at least the bread for stuffing and any side veggies, make any dips or desserts, if applicable.
  • THE DAY:
    1st thing: Finish any prepping, and make and cook stuffing and turkey as per recipes.
    While turkey is in oven, take a break, take a shower, or finish any other last minute things.
    Final: While turkey rests, bake potatoes per recipe, reheat squash, cook any other veggies sides, carve turkey, and reheat gravy.
  • SERVE AND EAT.  Enjoy!

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