For those of you who have ever hosted a holiday meal, it can be quite a daunting task. Any host worth their (ahem) table salt would agree. Whenever I'm willing to host such an event, I always provide the main course (I consider this to be the turkey and dressing.) and a dessert. Likewise, I ask my guests to contribute side dishes and additional desserts.
Not everyone would agree with this strategy, but most of my friends are interested cooks and are often delighted to share their delicious accomplishments.
There are certainly plenty of recipes out there for anyone who has never tried cooking a holiday meal; however, in the spirit of the season, I thought I would share two of my favorites with you.
Makes 12 to 14 servings
One 14-to 16-pound turkey, preferably free-range
7 sprigs of fresh thyme
7 sprigs of fresh sage
1 bay leaf, crumbled
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
1 large leek, white part only, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Slip your fingers under the turkey skin, and loosen it at the breast area. Slip 6 sprigs each of thyme and sage under the skin.
Coarsely chop the remaining 2 sprigs each of thyme and sage, and toss with the bay leaf, onions, carrots, celery, and leek in a medium bowl. Season the body cavity with salt and pepper to taste, then loosely stuff with some of the vegetable mixture; cover and refrigerate the remaining vegetables. Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan. Rub all over with the oil, then season the skin with salt and pepper. Cover the breast area only (not the wings or legs) with aluminum foil.
Roast the turkey for 1 hour. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees F. and roast for 1 hour more. Remove the foil from the breast, and scatter the remaining vegetables in the pan. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone, reads 180 degrees F. Transfer the turkey to a serving platter and let stand for 20 minutes before carving.
CORNBREAD DRESSING WITH TURKEY SAUSAGE AND APPLES
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound turkey sausage links, casings removed
2 large onions, chopped
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
8 cups pre-baked cornbread (use your favorite brand), crumbled and left out overnight, uncovered to dry
4 cups cubed (1-inch cubes) white sandwich bread, left out overnight, uncovered, to dry
3 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth, heated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F, Lightly oil a 15 x 10-inch baking dish.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet. Add the turkey sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with the side of a spoon, until it loses its pink color, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and heat. In batches, if necessary, add the onions, apples, and celery and cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the poultry seasoning, sage and thyme. Mix with the sausage in the bowl.
Add the cornbread and bread cubes and mix well. Gradually add enough of the broth to moisten the dressing; it should not be soggy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread evenly in the baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. (the dressing can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead and refrigerated.)
Bake until the dressing is heated through, about 30 minutes (about 45 minutes if the dressing has been chilled). If you like a crusty top, remove the foil halfway through baking. Serve hot.