I have been making turkey every year for the past fifteen years. Although we always celebrate Thanksgiving at Aunt Margaret’s or at cousin Marion and Marty’s, my turkey tradition got started after I married Elliott and discovered he received an annual gift of a large turkey. It always seemed to arrive at a time when I was most busy, yet I have never resisted the temptation of stopping whatever I was doing to prepare it together with all the trimmings!
Over the years I have experimented with different roasting techniques and stuffings. One year I read in a magazine that Julia Child liked to remove the breast and cook it separately. She explained that with the traditional method, by the time the rest of the bird was cooked, the breast was overcooked. Since I thoroughly agreed, I tried the technique and loved it. Removing the breast but leaving the skin intact provides lots more room for the stuffing, which I like to bake in the bird for extra flavor. If your family prefers dark meat you can simply slice the breast and freeze it to use in place of veal for scaloppine. But for white meat lovers, my friend Rick Rodgers, author of The Turkey Cookbook (Harper Collins), has created a special recipe that produces a moist flavorful breast that can be baked alongside the turkey.
The stuffing has also evolved over the years. Chestnuts add an earthy spicy and sweet note that I adore. My husband likes the extra crunch and flavor of walnuts. We both like the giblets (though the kids never did and always went hunting through their stuffing to pick them out and fork them over to us). I prefer a somewhat dry stuffing with each component separate as opposed to a moist pasty one. Of course more liquid can be added if you prefer a moister stuffing. I also happen to prefer the texture and flavor of prepared seasoned bread cubes to making my own, though I do add extra fresh thyme and sage. My daughter, Beth, added the technique of shaping the sausage into tiny balls. This somehow adds to the flavor.
The nicest thing I can tell you about this stuffing, however, happened one year when Beth made Thanksgiving. When I tasted her stuffing I proclaimed it the best I had tasted. Her answer was, “It’s your recipe!”