Make Ahead Roast Turkey

I made my second ever thanksgiving turkey this year. It was a roaring success! Per Ina Garten, I made it ahead! This freed space in the oven for the day of and eliminated a lot of stress. I had my reservations but the turkey was full of flavor, tender and moist. The prep is well worth the work. I was even able to make a workout class the morning of Thanksgiving! All of the holiday preparation paid off.

Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Thanksgiving

Roast Turkey

For the turkey
12-15 pound fresh turkey
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoon fresh thyme
Zest of one lemon
1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and cut into quarters
1 lemon, quartered
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 TB butter
For the gravy
6 TB unsalted butter
1 large onion, halved and sliced
4 large garlic cloves, whole
6 TB flour
4 cups chicken stock
2 TB bourbon
10 large fresh sage leaves
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
1 cup white wine

For Thanksgiving Thursday, I picked up my bird on Monday. Rinse the turkey, inside and out. Dry it well with paper towels and place into the roasting pan. Cover and coat the turkey (including inside the cavity) with salt, pepper, lemon zest and thyme. Cover tightly with Saran Wrap and refrigerate.

On Tuesday, I uncovered the turkey, removing the Saran Wrap. This allows for the skin to become translucent. This is also the day I made the gravy base. In a large sauté pan, heat the butter, onions and garlic cloves. Cook and simmer until the onions brown and caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the flour, cooking about a minute. Stir in stock, bourbon, sage, tarragon and pepper. I leave out salt, considering the stock is already salted. Bring to a boil and simmer 20 minutes.
Let the gravy base sit at room temperature for an hour and then strain out all of the solids.
Refrigerate the base until you’re ready to make the gravy Wednesday.

Preheat the oven to 325°. Wednesday was roasting day! Take out the roaster and be sure to drain any juices in the pan. Cover the bird with butter and salt and pepper. I then made a pouch out of cheesecloth. Fill the satchel with onion, lemon and fresh herbs. Place the bag into the cavity. Tie the legs together and wrap the wings tightly under the back.

Roast for 2-2 1/2 hours until the breast meat registers at 165° with a meat thermometer. Baste the bird throughout cooking time. Carefully carve off both breasts. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Place the rest of the turkey inside the oven to continue cooking. Most likely, another hour (at least that was the case for me) or until the thigh meat registers at 180°.

Carve the carcass and wrap all meat tightly in foil. With the pan drippings, add the gravy base and white wine over medium heat. Bring to a boil, scraping up all the bits inside the pan. Let simmer until smoothed and thickened. I ended up adding an additional 2 cups of stock here. I know gravy is a favorite and wanted to bulk up our inventory for the big day.

In an ovenproof dish, add enough gravy to cover the bottom 1/4 of the dish. Add all of the turkey on top of the gravy and cover tightly. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

On Thanksgiving, remove the turkey and let sit at room temperature an hour before you’re ready to eat. In the oven, heat the meat in its gravy, uncovered for 15-20 minutes.

This technique worked amazingly for me! I think it’s my new standard for the holidays. Thanks Ina!

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Iced Butter Cookies

Make-ahead Thanksgiving starts now. Why? How? The holiday isn’t even a full week away yet? It does when you need custom themed iced cookies as place cards at the table!

This recipe goes back to the early 1900s coming from my Great Grandma Nellie Bower. It is a classic. These cookies hold their shape; the recipe never fails and is a staple for cutout cookies all year round.

The dough yields enough for at least 2 dozen cookies. I tend to roll and cut the whole batch at once and freezing the cutouts. I cut parchment squares and as I cut the cookies, stack them with the layers of paper in between. They freeze well and you can pop them out to bake whenever you need them!

Butter Cookies
1 pound butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
6 cups flour

Set the butter out to bring it to room temperature. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and extract, beating until smooth. Add the flour, one cup at a time.

Chill the dough. Once you’re ready, roll and cut the cookies.
Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. Ice when cool, if desired.

Royal Icing
3 egg whites
Dash of salt
1 tsp cream of tarter
1 pound (3 3/4 cup) confectionary sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whip the egg whites, salt and cream of tarter until stiff peaks form. Slowly add confectionary sugar and vanilla.

This is an excellent icing that hardens on the cookies. It spreads well with a spatula or pipes using a piping bag for design. Add or subtract the sugar depending on the consistency desired.

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The finished place cards!

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