Recipe Thursday: My Dad’s Turkey and Dressing

Thanksgiving is coming up! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was one of my dad’s favorites too.

Now, on the subject of turkey, in my circles I’ve noticed two main comments around turkey: 

  1. I don’t really care for turkey—it’s too dry.
  2. No, I’ve found the perfect way to make turkey. This is the only way to make it!

Anybody with me on this? But, unless you’ve had my dad’s turkey and your perfect way is his way, then I’m going to have to disagree with you 😉 My dad loved turkey and dressing so much that when he was a bachelor, he used to make the full Thanksgiving meal for himself all throughout the year. He truly mastered it. So many amazing Thanksgiving memories with him and our family every year. 

And, so special, Dad once wrote out in detail the way he made the turkey for our dear friend Kristi. Now we have the recipe just the way he did it, in his own words. I’ve added some of my own notes to the bottom, which I made when my lovely friend Jodie made her turkey this way a few years ago.  

And now, I would have to say, my sister, Nathan and I have also mastered the turkey. Molly can do it all by herself! And she handles the lovely table arrangements.

Also, another note, you must enjoy this recipe with TONS of cranberry sauce!

And we’ve also enjoyed adding the Baker favorites to our traditional Thanksgiving, as we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving together many times since our marriage! Maybe we’ll share those recipes later! 🙂

I hope you enjoy it! We do every year!

From Dad: 

I BUY A 20 POUND FROZEN BUTTER BALL TURKEY. IT TAKES ABOUT 2-3 DAYS TO THAW OUT .

TAKE OUT THE HEART, NECK AND LIVER AND COOK IN A LARGE POT UNTIL SOFT AND PUT THEM IN THE REFRIDGEATOR OVER NIGHT.

I COOK THE BIRD ON 180 DEGREES OVERNIGHT FROM 11 PM TO 7AM.

I PEEL 2 LARGE SWEET ONIONS AND PUT THEM IN THE TURKEY RIB CAGE.

I CUT UP 2 STICKS BUTTER AND STICK THEM IN ALL THE SKIN FLAPS AND UNDER THE WINGS AND LEGS.

I SPRINKLE SALT AND PEPPER, POULTRY SEASONING ALL OVER THE BIRD. THE INGREDIENTS ARE: THYME, SAGE, MARJORAM, ROSEMARY, BLACK PEPPER AND NUTMEG.

NEXT I DOUBLE WRAP THE BIRD IN 2 LAYERS OF HEAVY DUTY FOIL.

I FOLD  2 MORE SHEETS OF FOIL TOGETHER AND PUT IT IN THE BOTTOM OF THE COOKING PAN. 

PLACE THE WRAPED UP TURKEY, BREAST DOWN, ON THE PAN, WRAP THE  2 FOIL SHEETS AROUND THE TURKEY AND PUSH IT DOWN NICE AND TIGHT, ADD 1 MORE SHEET OF FOIL OVER  THE TURKEY THE PUSH DOWN TIGHT.

(YOU PROBOBLY THINK I HAVE A LOT OF REYNOLDS WRAP STOCK IN MY  401K,  BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO SAVE ALL THE  TURKEY BROTH AND MELTED BUTTER AS IT IS USED  IN EVERY PART OF THIS MEAL, FROM GRAVY TO DRESSING.

IF EVERTHING WORKS OUT THE TURKEY WILL BE FULLY COOKED AND SITTING IN 3 TO 5 INCHES OF GOLDEN STOCK BY MORNING.  POUR THE BROTH INTO A  LARGE BOWL AND COVER.

NOW FOR THE DRESSING.

I USE 1 BAG OF SEASONED CROUTONS AND 1 BAG OF CORNBREAD CROUTONS.

4 TO 6 STALKS OF CELERY CHOPPED 1/8” TO 1/4” SATAUED WITH THE COOKED ONION FROM THE BIRD CUT UP

TAKE ALL OF THE MEAT OFF  THE TURKEY NECK, CUT UP THE LIVER AND HEART, PUT ALL OF THIS IN THE BLENDER ALONG WITH SOME BROTH AND PURREE IT. THIS LOOKS AWFUL BUT IT GIVES A GOOD FLAVOR TO THE DRESING.

PUT THE 2 BAGS OF CRUTONS IN A PAN AND ADD SOME BROTH

THE ONIONS AND CELERY AND THE PUREED MIXTURE AND STIR AROUND

AND ADD 2 TO 3 CANS OF CRÈME OF CELERY SOUP.

ADD POULTRY SEASONING AROUND TO TASTE. THE DRESSING SHOULD BE FAIRLY WET.

COOK IN THE OVEN UNTIL THE TOP IS BROWN AND CRUNCHY AND THE BOTTOM IS SOFT BUT NOT WET,

 LET ME KNOW HOW IT ALL TURNS OUT!

From Tessa: 

For the poultry seasoning, I just use poultry seasoning from the store—I think he included the list of ingredients in case poultry seasoning wasn’t available.

The goal is 180 for 8 hrs. You’ll want a poultry thermometer to plunge in in the morning just to be sure it’s done. We have typically pulled it out then, drained out much of the broth (for dressing, gravy, etc.), but left the turkeys wrapped in the foil for most of the day while we do other cooking. Sometimes we’ve put them back in for a warm up later on—right before serving. I think as a family we’re used to eating the turkey at room temp, and we don’t mind that (since it’s cooked), but if you want it hot you’ll want to reserve time at the end for putting them back in—just be aware when you put them back in that that can dry them out.

We don’t put our stuffing in the turkey, so we don’t stuff them and then put them back in—but we need the broth for the stuffing, so we drain it out and then close up the foil. Sometimes if you’ve done the foil well you can poke a small hole near the bottom and pour out a lot of broth without even opening up the turkey, and I usually do the poultry thermometer through the foil, so as to keep the turkey sealed for warmth.

The foil is really important. You’ll want to put two pieces side-by-side and fold them together (connecting them on the long side, sort of like a hem), and lay that in the bottom. Then put the turkey on that (in a casserole dish or on a baker or something). Then, do the same thing again (two pieces, folded with a hem), and lay that over the top, then connect the top section and bottom section with the same kind of hem . . .  does that make sense? The foil is really important for making lots of broth and keeping the meat moist—because turkey has such a tendency to be dry.

Good luck!

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