Now that we are almost done with the holiday entertaining, I have found a little time to return to the blog. We’ve been busy with our Christmas cooking, baking and entertaining and haven’t done much of our regular routine of cooking ahead to make the week’s meal preparation easier. But, if you read on, you will hear about one big cook ahead day that always works out great for us.
If you are like me, much of your idea about what Christmas is has been shaped by the many Christmases you enjoyed as a kid and you wanted to replicate that feeling in your own home. My Italian grandmother was a great cook and my Mom learned lots from her and is also an awesome cook. Our Mom’s turkey and all the trimmings was always the best. It was hard to imagine anything better. So, when our Mom announced prior to Christmas one year that she heard that you could make your turkey a day ahead and reheat it, we were all appalled!
We thought it sounded awful. Of course, none of us ever participated in the cooking, so we certainly didn’t have the right to be so offended, but we shared our disapproval anyway! That was about 25 years ago, and it worked out so well that we have been making the turkey the day before ever since. And now, I even make all the side dishes ahead of time. It’s no less work, of course, but it makes Christmas day run much more smoothly and allows the hosts to enjoy more time with their guests. So, that’s mostly what our cook ahead event was for these two weeks…that, and make-ahead appetizers and desserts, so we’d be ready for anything.
If you haven’t heard of making your turkey a day ahead, you should really give it a go the next time you are roasting a turkey. Here’s how you do it:
- Stuff and roast the turkey as you normally would
- Once the turkey is fully cooked, as indicated by the meat thermometer, take it out of the oven and let it rest for about 15 minutes
- Remove the skin from the breasts and underside of the turkey and set aside
- Carve the turkey into slices, remove legs and wings
- Place your turkey slices into an oven safe dish and cover completely with the skin of the turkey. (The skin is what will keep the turkey moist when you reheat it). Place the legs and wings on the sides of the dish.
- Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight
- The next day, bring the dish to room temperature before placing in the oven at 275 degrees for about a half hour. Keep the dish covered. (Time will vary depending on the amount of turkey you have as well as your oven temperature)
Our turkey always comes out moist and tasty when we do it this way. The biggest tip I have for making this a success is to use a meat thermometer. It is virtually foolproof. When I first started cooking in my 20’s, I found it frustrating to not know how long to cook any kind of roast. (Of course, that was before the internet!). My Mom always seemed to know how to do it and it came out great. She never used a meat thermometer, but when I was doing some reading, I thought that it would really help me out, so I decided to try one. I have used that same meat thermometer for almost 30 years now and it works like a charm on roasts of all kinds. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, get one today! It’s a great way to be sure your meat is done properly and an efficient way to monitor the cooking progress.
Now for the gravy! Although I don’t eat much food with gravy these days, turkey with gravy is one of those meals that takes me back to my childhood. My Mom makes the best homemade gravy and I have always struggled to make mine, even though I know and understand the process very well! I find it very stressful to make gravy once the roast is done and you’re trying to get everything to the table while it’s still hot. So, one day a few years ago, I searched the internet to see if there was a way to make gravy without drippings and I found a great recipe that I have been using ever since for any kind of roast. I follow the directions and just add my own drippings at the end. It’s not quite as good as Mom’s, but it is very tasty and cuts down on the last minute stress. Here’s the link:
My hubby and I also like to do all the side dishes ahead of time and reheat them too. I never thought that reheated mashed potatoes would be good, but they have worked for us when we reheated them in the microwave. This year we made Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Pureed Cauliflower with Parmesan cheese, and Steamed Green Beans. Other years we have made traditional Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Green Beans, or Brussel Sprouts with Prosciutto and Pine Nuts. I like to make sure I have vegetables of different colours. It’s tasty, interesting and looks great on the plate. We put all of the side dishes in separate oven-safe dishes and then reheat in the oven along with the turkey, or microwave if we need more space that we have in the oven. Of course, doing it this way means you use most of the oven-safe dishes you own! Doing all of this during the day on the 24th means the cleanup on Christmas day is much easier. It also allowed me the time on the 24th to simmer the turkey carcass and get a fabulous turkey broth to freeze for making delicious, healthy soup for cold January days. Once the holidays are done and we have a little break from turkey, I’ll defrost the broth and other turkey leftovers and create some different turkey dishes! Watch the blog for future turkey posts!
Happy cooking everyone!