I know, I know. You weren’t even sure if you were having Thanksgiving. Do you travel? Do you stay put? Turkey for 10 or for two? My wife tells me she read in some magazine that more small turkeys have been purchased this year than usual. I chimed in that everyone must be frying! “No, Andy. The gatherings are smaller.” Well … Little Miss Smartypants may be onto something, but I seek the smaller turkeys for the reason I mentioned: frying. I’m on number three for smaller turkey purchases this year. Perhaps I am elevating the numbers.
It’s OK if you waited until the last minute. This is going to be a weird one. You can bend the rules. Or break them if you need to. This could be the Thanksgiving to remember. For all I care, you could roll out the ping pong table and serve popcorn, buttered toast, pretzel sticks and jelly beans from the Banana Blossom playhouse.
Yes, it could be super weird. Some of you, though, are going to want a little more of a traditional meal. Maybe you need something to cling to, a reminder of Thanksgivings that seemed normal. But they’ve all been a little weird, right? It seems we learn something new when one of our guests drops a bomb on us with little expression as she scoops an extra helping of casserole onto her plate.
My brother and I always manage to drink beer, throw a football, fry five turkeys and catch up on all of the hometown gossip. Trust me when I say my little hometown has plenty of gossip juicier than the turkey. It’s always been a weird holiday. This one will be weirder in a different way, but it’ll be fine. Even at the last minute.
I’m thankful for turkey
You can’t cook a frozen turkey. And you cannot thaw it out safely by tomorrow. Find a fresh, unfrozen turkey if you can. If not, a chicken will do fine as a replacement. We brine ours for at least 24 hours. If you don’t have time for that, seek an injector method.
For frying, we use peanut oil at a rock-solid 350 degrees. You’ll need a bird less than 13 pounds. Coat him in all-purpose flour and hit him with a blast of cayenne. Fry him carefully outdoors for 3 minutes per pound. Let him rest a spell before you dig in.
For oven-roasted turkey, you’ll need a cooler 325 degrees at 13 to 15 minutes per pound. Put your seasoning under the skin and in the cavity. Roast with the breast side down. Let all of that backbone juice work its way into the white meat. Check the temp with a meat thermometer. You are looking for 165 degrees at the thigh. It’s going to take you around three hours.
If you want something different for 2020, maybe do turkey wings and legs.
I’m thankful for dressing
If you can make cornbread in 30 minutes, you can make dressing in an hour. Throw it together with some canned stock, lots of sauteed (in butter) onion and celery. Sage is a friend of dressing. So am I. I will admit, it is more important than the turkey, and I’m in charge of the turkey! If you want something different for 2020, don’t even think about it. It’s not Thanksgiving without dressing.
I’m thankful for casseroles
Green bean casserole is the one thing keeping French’s Crispy Fried Onions in business. If you think you’re too upper crust to use canned goods (such as cream of mushroom soup) in casseroles, your life is poorer because of it. Broccoli casserole is a winner. A friend of ours made a really good shrimp and rice casserole the other day. Pineapple casserole. Sweet potato casserole. Possum casserole. Anything! You have to have a casserole on Turkey Day. And it’s tomorrow. Get cracking.
I’m thankful for desserts
Actually, I’m not. Desserts anger me because I’ve already eaten a little more than I should, but they still taunt me, begging me to go over the top. I resist, then I feel bad for whoever went through the effort to put that dessert together, so I eat it. Guilt-induced dessert. It’s rare I get a sweet tooth, but when I do, it’s usually for something chocolate. Thanksgiving doesn’t scream chocolate. Pecan pies, pumpkin pies, pralines — all are worthy of praise. But, hey, it’s 2020. Let’s be bad and have something chocolate.
I’m thankful for leftovers
That turkey gumbo is the best of the year. It’s better than seafood gumbo. Fight me! You’ll need two types of sausage, one of which is andouille, the other a smoked green onion sausage if you can find it. I like to chop the andouille up a little finer than the sliced green onion sausage. This is also the best time to make a darker roux, as the turkey is sturdier and less likely to be overpowered the way delicate seafood can be.
I printed Bubba Watkins’ turkey hash recipe last year. It’s a fantastic way to get rid of the white meat. Check the Lagniappe archives.
Turkey sandwiches are great, but please try a little cranberry sauce on the bread. You don’t want your sugar to get too low. Turkey pot pie is about the only way you can get me to eat an English pea. Turkey tetrazzini is oft forgotten, but a serious contender for best leftover dish.
Don’t be a turkey Scrooge. Find what you need to be thankful for and embrace it with all your might. Whether your holiday is big or small, young or old, wear a mask, wash your hands and don’t kiss anyone unless they are worth it.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear reader.
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