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The Year’s Most Important Meal: Your Complete Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner (Part 1/2)

Thanksgiving dinner is a family celebration. No matter how much or how little time you spend in the kitchen during rest of the year, cooking a Thanksgiving meal for your loved ones is a timeless tradition, and a great reason to get the family together. Whether you are planning your first Thanksgiving dinner or you do it every year, we all want our family and friends to leave our Thanksgiving tables happy, stuffed, and bit impressed by our cooking. In my experience, people are always dazzled when you make something extra special for them.

So for this Thanksgiving, I'm putting together a complete guide to the year's most celebrated and important feast. With the help of these simple recipes and tricks, you’ll be able to wow your guests. Consider these building blocks, figure out the menu, and then make the feast of your own choice.

I’ve broken the Thanksgiving dinner down to its most essential elements. The main item (Roasted Turkey, with two alternative ways of cooking), fixings (gravy, stuffing, cranberry chutney), starters (soups and salads), and, of course, Thanksgiving desserts. These traditional items make the table yours; these are the classic essentials that make it Thanksgiving. Part 1 of this blog post will cover the main course and fixings, and part 2 will cover starters and desserts.

Spiced Roasted Turkey

YIELD 10 to 12 servings (depending on the size) TIME 3 1/2 hours, plus 1 to 3 days brining (20 min per lb)

Method: Roasting


1 turkey (10 to 12 pounds)

Coarse kosher salt

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. paprika

1 orange zested and quartered

1 lemon zested and quartered

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 bunch fresh sage

1 bunch cilantro

8 cloves of garlic plus 2 extra

3 bay leaves

2 onions, peeled and quartered

Melted butter plus 2tbsp. extra


BRINING: Remove any giblets from the cavity and reserve for stock or gravy. Pat turkey with paper towel; rub all over with 1/2-teaspoon salt per pound of turkey, the pepper, paprika and the lemon zest. Transfer to a 2-gallon (or larger) resealable plastic bag. Tuck herbs and garlic cloves inside a bag. Add lemon, orange, bunch of cilantro, thyme and sage leaves. Add enough water to cover until the turkey is submerged. Seal and refrigerate on a small rimmed baking sheet for at least 1 day and up to 3 days, turning the bird over every day (or after 12 hours if brining for only 1 day).

Remove turkey from the bag and pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey, uncovered, back on the roasting rack or baking sheet. Return to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours to dry out the skin (this helps crisp it). Rub the skin with melted butter, sprinkle salt, pepper, and paprika. Be generous with the spices.

When you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for one hour.

Heat oven to 450°. In the bottom of a large roasting pan add half the onion, the remaining 2 garlic cloves, and the bay leaves. Stuff remaining onions, lemon quarters and extra 2 tbsp. Butter into the turkey cavity. Brush turkey skin generously with oil or melted butter.

Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set inside the roasting pan. Transfer pan to oven and roast 30 minutes. Cover breast with aluminum foil. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reaches 165°, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. Transfer turkey to a cutting board to rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Stuffed Turkey Roulade

Here’s another alternative if you don’t want to mess with the whole bird. Large turkey breast stuff with your favorite stuffing or the stuffing recipe you’ll find here on the blog will do the trick. All you have to do is pound the meat, stuff and roll, and in the oven. Always check your turkey’s temperature, the instant thermometer should read 165°. I'd rather stop at 162° for it to allow for carryover cooking time. breast stuffed with sweet green chutney with cashew stuffing.

Ingredients: 5 tbsp. unsalted butter 1/2 onion diced ½ cup chopped cashews 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1/2 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. black pepper ½ tsp. chaat masala ½ tsp. paprika ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper ½ cup green mint chutney (recipe follows) 1 1/2 cups chicken stock 1 boneless Turkey Breast, skin removed 1/4 cup canola oil

Green Mint Chutney: 1 bunch cilantro 1 large jalapeno seeded and diced I garlic clove ½ chopped mint ¼ cup water or as needed to thin it out 1 tbsp. sugar ½ tsp. salt

Blend everything in the blender. Add water as needed to make the spreadable consistency.


Preheat oven to 425°.

In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter. Add onions, let sauté, add chopped sage. Sauté until the onions are translucent.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the green chutney mixture with the brown sugar, salt, pepper, cashews, chaat masala, paprika and cayenne pepper.

Using a sharp knife, butterfly the turkey breast open. Lay flat on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap. Pound the breast to 1/2-inch thickness, creating a 10x15-inch rectangle.

Spread the stuffing evenly onto the breast and then roll the breast from one tip of the breast to the other side to form an even roulade. Tie the turkey roulade with 7 pieces of kitchen twine.

Rub with vegetable oil; evenly sprinkle with salt, pepper.

Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350° and bake for another 30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°.

Allow the turkey to rest 10 minutes, remove the twine and gently carve 1/2-inch slices of the roulade.


You need gravy to go along with the roasted bird. It moisten the turkey, potatoes and douse it with the lushness of soft velvety goodness.


4 tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

½ quart chicken or turkey drippings

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken or turkey stock and cook, add any dripping from roasted turkey. Frequently whisking, until the gravy is thickened 7 to 8 minutes. Simmer over moderate heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt, black pepper, and simmer further about 5 minutes. Serve

Crispy Waterchestnut Stuffing

Yields: 6 servings Prep time: 25 min


1 (22-ounce) loaf bread 1/2 cup unsalted butter 2 cloves garlic, finely minced ½ onion thinly sliced 2 tbsp chopped cilantro 1 can water chestnuts drained, chopped 1 carrot diced 1/4 cup pecans, chopped 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and finely chopped 2 cups vegetable broth, (or 2 14-ounce cans) 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 tsp cayenne pepper 1 (3-inch) chunk Parmesan cheese 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

Directions: Cut up a chunk of parmesan and chop the morsels in a mini-food processor until it's a fine powder. Save it for the top. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Slice the loaf of bread 1-inch thick. (No need to remove the crusts.) Cut the slices into about 1-inch cubes. Spread the bread cubes on a non-stick baking sheet. Drizzle with melted butter. Season with salt and one pepper. Bake for 12 minutes, tossing the croutons once half-way through the baking process. All sides should be slightly golden. Remove from the oven. Cool, the croutons for at least 15 minutes.

In a large pot, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onions. When the color is translucent, season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and add the jalapeño pepper. Add the garlic and cayenne pepper. As the garlic becomes slightly colored, Add the cilantro. Season with salt. Add the diced carrots and water chestnuts. Add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth. Stir well until all the liquid is evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. If the mixture starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, add another 1/4 cup of vegetable stock. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a platter. Set aside.

At the last minute combine the croutons and the remaining vegetable stock. Stir well. The entire mixture should be moist, but not mushy. Add the vegetable mixture and the finely chopped pecans. Adjust the seasoning. Add more salt (if necessary) and black pepper. Finish with parsley and the grated parmesan Stir well. Cook for another minute. Serve warm. Add more pecans, chopped parsley or cilantro. I like cilantro.

Cranberry Chutney

Yield: 2 cups Prep Time: 20 min

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups water 1 cup sugar 1 package fresh or frozen cranberries 1/2 cup white vinegar 1/2 cup raisins 1/4 tsp chaat masala 1/4 tsp red chili flakes 1/8 tsp ginger powder 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon cloves

Directions: Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Add cranberries. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

Add remaining ingredients; return to the heat and cook. Reduce heat and simmer for another 15 minutes or until cranberries are tender. Pour into an airtight container. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on a surface. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. Best served at room temperature.

I will continue with starters and desserts in part 2 of this blog post, so stay tuned!

Thank you for visiting my blog, I look forward to your comments or questions!

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