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call for Thanksgiving debriefing: the good, the bad & the ugly. Please share your greatest successes and also any duds to learn by

biggest hits for our night:
-- wild mushroom, leek, turkey sausage & baguette stuffing adapted from an epi recipe
--very high temp roasted (halved) brussells sprouts w/ rough-chopped garlic & chestnuts, finished with a little lemon juice and parmesan
--my MIL's tsimis, traditionally made for Rosh Hashanah but perfect for thanksgiving (long stewed yams & carrots w/ citrus, prunes, etc.
--the turkey (a combo of about 20 different recipes) also pretty good
--in the desert department, epi's super easy pumpkin tiramisu beat out the traditional pumpkin pie hands down

I'd love to hear how everyone else's hard work paid off

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  1. Interesting post - can't wait to see more responses.

    Biggest hits for me - pumpkin pie, using the all-butter crust from last week's NYT - flaky, easy to work with, fantastic! I thought the back-of-the-Libby's-can filling would be too sweet, but it was actually perfect - guess they know what they're doing after all these years.
    -make-ahead gravy, with the turkey drippings added - stress free and so delicious. I added a dash of dark soy to deepen the color and no one was the wiser.
    -pureed mushroom soup - I used a blend of button, dried porcini and a dried "wild" mixture - fantastic! Added a little cream and sherry.

    Biggest miss - the turkey. I overcooked the darn thing! I shouldn't have pushed it up to 165, but taken it out at 161-162 and allowed it to rest. Still, everyone ate and enjoyed. It was a great Thanksgiving.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Petitpois

      I took my turkey out when it reached 170 and it wasn't done..the
      juices of the resting bird ran not clear enough..wrapped it up and
      tossed it back in a cooler oven for a while. Conclusion..thermometer may well be
      off as yours might be.

      1. re: serious

        My uncle, who cooks the turkey every year for Christmas (for about the past 15 years), told me tonight that he takes the turkey out when the innermost temps measure 160, then tents it until it comes up to 165, which it does once out of the oven.

        His turkeys are always giant birds, and always come out juicy and delicious.

        1. re: serious

          Was your bird stuffed or unstuffed? Where did you stick the thermometer, if I may ask? If it's stuffed, I think you're supposed to check the thigh AND then the stuffing itself. Just wondering how you took the temp.

          1. re: Val

            My turkey was unstuffed, 13 lbs, and at 3 hours @350 it had reached
            170 on thermometer stuck in middle of the breast. For last 10
            minutes I needed a bit more browning so turned temp to 450.
            Looked perfect but..had to put it back in the oven and did this
            wrapped in foil,@ 250 for about 15 minutes.

            1. re: serious

              The breast temperature is almost always 20-30 degrees higher than the thigh, or the innards of the bird. To measure temperature on a turkey, you want to get low-down and inside. The breast, if you've roasted it breast up, is not the best measure of whether the bird is done.

              It's actually a long-standing debate in the turkey cooking community -- cook breast up or breast down? But over all, if you've cooked breast-up (the most common way to cook a turkey), you cannot calculate the temperature of the bird from the breast.

              1. re: DanaB

                for the first hour and half I cooked the turkey, as I
                usually do, upside down (breast down)..and only put thermometer
                in after I turned the bird up - breast up.

          2. re: serious

            Yes, good point. My turkey (unstuffed) got to 165 on the thigh... next time I will take it out at 160-ish and let it rest up to 165.

            1. re: Petitpois

              Cooked mine to 155 in the thickest part of the thigh. Pulled it out and allowed it to stand, un-tented until ready to serve, almost 2 hours. Tenting makes the crisp skin turn soggy IMHO. Turkey was moist, tender and delicious. No basting but I did make a paste of butter, chopped fresh sage, thyme, parsley, sea salt and freshly coarse ground pepper to rub on under the skin.

            2. re: serious

              I always calibrate my thermo before use.

          3. We went to a big Thanksgiving feast with lots of friends who cook. There was waaaaay too much food, all of it rich and decadent. Here's my opinion on the spread:

            Biggest hits:
            -Cornbread Stuffing with bacon and other tasty things. I could have eaten the whole pan! I was promised the recipe.
            -Mom's chocolate cake--won out over three kinds of pie!
            -Brussel Sprouts, blanched, split and roasted, seasoned with salt and pepper, and dressed with a little olive oil.
            -Plenty of "to go" containers to pack up leftovers for guest to take home.
            -An excellent cheese plate, based on "Something old, something new, something goat and something blue." Thanks to the Hound that posted that one once upon a time!

            Biggest misses:
            -Mainly that there was no master menu planner, so there was too much of some things and none of other things. The only pumpkin pie was the store bought one that we bought as back up "just in case." There three kinds of turkey and a pork roast, but no mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or cranberries. There was a whole pan roasted lobe of foie gras, but it was served after the main course, when everyone was full. That was a big bummer.
            -The overseasoned, brined turkey, that tasted of orange, cinnamon, lemon, anise, pepper, thyme, lavendar, and roasted jalepeno. Sometimes its best to just let a turkey be a turkey. Luckily, there were two other turkeys to eat.

            Lesson learned:
            Next year, I'll host Thanksgiving at my house.

            1. the tandoori rubbed rotisserie turkey i had was amazing. so juicy. But the rest was just the same old thanksgiving stuff.

              Ps: just joined chowhound and i can't wait to go to all these great restaurants i'm seeing.

              Mpap

              2 Replies
              1. re: mpap89

                Do you have a recipe for that tandoori turkey?

                1. re: Atomica

                  its my friend's mom's recipe, i'll try to get it for you.

              2. Hoo boy, where to start...the turkey? Dry-salted as per this year's LA Times kitchen rec, a 13-lb freerange Whole Foods-branded hen, plus a whole 'nother set of landing gear, two legs and two thighs, because this is not a white meat sort of family. Turkey took about three hours to come up to 165 in the thigh, and then proved to be still downright raw at the hip socket. Damn. But the extra pieces were very well done, though still very moist and succulent, so the method is a really good one. And the thighs were no longer raw by the time I was packing up the leftovers. I think we won't bother brining any more.

                Scalloped oysters: what the hell happened here? I had exactly as much oyster and cracker crumb and cream and butter as required, and they should've been perfect - but there was a recurring kind of acid, metallic taste that was just wrong. All I can think here is that we need to save up our money for good East Coast oysters, since those are the only real variable.

                Potatoes: saw Shirley Corriher in a program the other night, and she said the smart way to get good hot mashed potatoes is to do them ahead of time and reheat them (with plenty of cream and butter, of course). And if I hadn't been doing eleventy-seven other things when it was time to take the reheating spuds out of the oven, they would've been great instead of kinda scorched and dry...

                But the gravy was good! As were the dressing (cornbread and sausage), succotash, and Ma-in-law's congealed salad. And when the tumult and the shouting died and everything was either packed away or in the dishwasher, I found they'd left me two glasses of Beaujolais, which was EXACTLY enough.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Will Owen

                  I enjoyed your post. My mother was the last person I ever heard say "eleventy- ," and that must have been about 20 years ago!

                  I miss Thanksgiving since I moved out of the States. Couldn't get the day off work, but next time I'm going to do it on a Saturday and invite everyone around--show the Brits what it's all about!

                  1. re: Kagey

                    There is a hilarious SNL Celebrity Jeopardy skit where Toby Maguire playing Keanu Reeves bets "eleventy billion" in final jeopardy infuriating Alex Trebek played by Will Ferrel.

                  2. re: Will Owen

                    Interesting, I too had a 13 lb bird, and the inner thigh came to 165 after 3 hours (I was expecting to leave it in another half hour), and I didn't notice until I was disassembling the leftovers after the meal, but it too was pretty undercooked at the thigh joint. But the breast was just about right, would not have wanted to cook it any longer, as well as most of the dark meat.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      All of these comments about problems with turkeys are cheering me up a lot. We ate at my brother's, but I cooked a bird yesterday so we would have leftovers and a carcass. And I guess I let my hungry family agitate me enough that I took the bird out earlier than I wanted to, although the thermometer said it was ready, I thought it needed a bit more time. But I couldn't take the pressure. So out it came, and yeah, the thigh (my favorite part) was undercooked. We cut off enough for dinner and I covered the bird and threw it back in, and roasted the hell out of it. Dried it to bits.

                      But the stuffing I made was good, and the gravy, and cranberries. And the pies I made to take to my brother's. Although the chocolate mousse had a texture I didn't think was ideal-- a little too egg-whiteish, ie, a little gummy (is that the word I'm looking for) instead of whipped creamish (fluffy).

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        I need to follow up on this, because we went to my niece's place in San Diego the next day for TG2. When we did this last year her new in-laws, both about my age and Peruvian, were there cooking up a storm, Papa Seca and the like, and it was stunning. This year they couldn't come, and her husband had to work all day anyway, so she'd just gotten a Feast-In-A-Box from Marie Callender's. Far from being disappointed, I was looking forward to seeing how one of these things would work out. The turkey, about a 10-pounder, was cooked according to directions in a pan and covered with foil, so it was essentially steam-roasted. The potatoes and other sides were in oven-ready or microwaveable containers. The potatoes, though whipped and therefore a bit gluey, were pretty good, and the dressing I thought maybe better than mine, but the gravy was grossly overseasoned, with chemically-enhanced overtones. The streusel-topped yams were much nicer than I'd expected - I like my sweet potatoes with butter, salt and pepper, thank you very much - and the cornbread of course much too sweet. But at only twice the price of my own feast, and a mere two and a half hours' cooking time, it was a pretty decent feast. The kids certainly liked it. Best of all, Uncle Willy got to take home ANOTHER carcass (it's so nice to have a cooler in the car!), plus a good quart of juice from steam-roasting that turkey, from which I made a quart and a half of very good gravy the next day.

                      2. Everything turned out well this year. First time ever. We usually have one dish that doesn't work out every year. Last year it was the cornbread. The year before it was the gravy (a minor accident switching the white pepper and the gravy mix boxes).

                        Turkey: 30lbs, brined overnight with 2cups salt, 1cup sugar, basil, italian seasoning and 1 orange. Baked to perfection. We went up to 180F which worked for this oversized bird. Plump, moist white meat and perfect dark meat.

                        Hits: seafood rice/risotto, yams, cornbread, Roasted garlic mashed potatoes
                        Good old standbys: spicy eggplant, mushroom soup w/white cabbage, mac&cheese (for the kids), cranberry sauce, stuffing