The Absolutely-Perfect-Every-Time Thanksgiving

It’s hard to predict what shenanigans your relatives might pull at this year’s Thanksgiving feast, but at least you can take solace in knowing the food will be good. These Turkey Day recipes, courtesy of The Art of the Host: Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining by Alex Hitz, are surefire, well, hits.




PERFECT ROAST TURKEY

Yields: 12-15 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, plus 
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 12 lb. turkey, fully thawed and at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
  • 6 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into 8 wedges
  • 2 cups white wine

DIRECTIONS 

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Combine the butter, minced garlic and shallots in a medium bowl. Remove the giblets, kidneys and neck and set them aside in the refrigerator; they will be used for the gravy. Place the turkey in a very large bowl, add the salt, pepper and sage, and turn the turkey in the bowl to ensure it is completely covered with the seasonings. If there are excess seasonings at the bottom of the bowl, rub them on the turkey again to ensure that every morsel of salt, pepper and sage is applied to the turkey. 

Place the turkey in a large, heavy roasting pan and squeeze the lemons over it. Reapply any seasonings that fall off. Smear the butter over the top of the turkey, fully covering the top and wings. Place the squeezed lemons, the onion and the whole garlic cloves inside the cavity, and pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and put it in the oven.

Roast the turkey for 2½ hours, then remove it from the oven. Turn the oven up to 425°F, remove the foil and roast the turkey for 30-45 minutes more, until the skin is golden brown and the turkey reaches 155°F on a meat thermometer. When it has reached 155°F, remove it from the oven and transfer it to a carving board. Let the turkey rest for 25 minutes before carving it. 

"If you want to make the turkey healthier, substitute the butter for olive oil. Olive oil is a monounsaturated (healthy) fat that is high in antioxidants, which may reduce your risk of chronic diseases, and it contains nutrients that fight inflammation, which can lower your risk of heart disease. You can also use a low-sodium chicken stock in the gravy, as too much salt can increase blood pressure and cause water retention." —Stephanie Leonetti, certified sports nutritionist, PlaNutrition, Manalapan 

SHERRY AND GIBLET GRAVY

Yields: 2½ cups (12-15 servings)

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Turkey giblets, kidneys and neck, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ cup dry sherry
  • 1¾ cups chicken stock

DIRECTIONS 

Place the roasting pan and all of its juices on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Once it’s bubbling, add the onion, giblets, kidneys and neck. Sauté them for 8-10 minutes, until everything starts to brown, then add the sherry to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a metal spatula or wooden spoon to capture all the browned bits. Be very thorough. Add the chicken stock and turn the heat to high. Boil the gravy until it reduces by about one-third, 7-9 minutes. 

Strain the sauce through a sieve into a bowl and discard the solids. Skim as much fat as you can from the reserved sauce. Spoon it generously over the carved turkey and transfer the remaining sauce to a gravy boat to serve alongside the turkey.

DOROTHY’S CORNBREAD DRESSING

Yields:12-15 servings

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 lb. bulk pork sausage
  • 6 Tbsp (¾ stick) butter, plus 4 Tbsp butter, melted and butter for the baking dish 
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped to make 1½ cups chopped onions
  • 2 stalks celery to make 1 cup chopped celery
  • 3 carrots, peeled, to make 1½ cups finely diced carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup shallots, minced
  • ½ lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¾ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2½ cups chicken stock
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ tsp. ground sage
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup dry sherry 
  • cornbread of your choice

DIRECTIONS 

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Brown the sausage in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, breaking it up with a spatula. Once it’s fully cooked through, remove the pan from the heat. Pour off the fat if there is any, and reserve the browned sausage. 

Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter in another large, heavy skillet over medium heat. When the foaming has subsided, add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, shallot, mushroom, salt and pepper, and sauté them until they are soft, 10-15 minutes. 

In a large bowl, break the cornbread into small pieces and then add the browned sausage, sautéed vegetables, chicken stock, eggs, sage, thyme, nutmeg, sherry and melted butter. Stir the mixture to combine or, better yet, mix all ingredients with your hands so that everything is fully combined before putting the mixture in the prepared dish. Bake the dressing for 30-40 minutes, until it is golden brown and crusty on top. Let it rest at least 5 minutes before serving, or it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days before reheating it covered, for serving it later.

"Reduce the amount of pork sausage from 1 pound to ¼ or ½ pound, and mix ½ cup chopped mushrooms, ¼ cup grated carrots and ¼ cup mashed cannellini beans into the pork sausage. This will decrease the fat in the recipe and keep the flavor of pork, since mushrooms have a savory umami taste that is similar to meat". —Barbara Baron, registered dietitian nutritionist, Barbara Baron Associates, Matawan 

AUNT BETTY’S ORANGE CRANBERRY RELISH

Yields: 2 cups (12-15 servings)

INGREDIENTS 

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries (approximately one 12-ounce bag)
  • 1 medium navel orange, cut into 8 wedges—use the whole thing
  • 1¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier

DIRECTIONS 

Place the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process them until they are combined but still chunky with a relish consistency.

GEORGIA PECAN TARTS

Yields: 12 servings

INGREDIENTS 

For the crust:

  • 16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) salted butter, cold, plus additional butter for the pan
  • 1½ cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  •  2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the pecan topping:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS 
Preheat the oven to 35°F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch metal baking pan. 

To make the crust: 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until they have lightened in color and texture, about 5 minutes. Turn the speed to low and add the flour and salt, mixing them until you have coarse crumbs. Pour the crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press them down with your fingers to cover the pan evenly. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, until it is just brown, and let it cool completely. Keep the oven on.

To make the pecan topping: 

Add the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla extract and salt to a large mixing bowl and whisk them together until they are just combined. Do not over-whisk them or the tart will be dry. Stir in the chopped pecans. 

To assemble the tart:

Pour the pecan topping over the cooled crust and bake it for 20 minutes until it is just set. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing it. Serve the tart with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

"To reduce the saturated fat content of the pie, use only one stick of butter in the crust instead of two, replacing the second with one cup of olive oil or avocado oil will.  You can also use alternative flours like almond flour or oat flour, which would up the nutritional content of the crust by increasing the fiber, B vitamins and nutrients."  —RoseAnn Dogas, registered dietitian nutritionist, The Well Nourished Life, Red Bank 

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