Your Thanksgiving Meal Game Plan

Your Thanksgiving Meal Game Plan

Three options for nailing the most important part of the big day

Thanksgiving turkey meal

Whether you're hosting family or getting together with friends, if you're responsible for the big meal on Thanksgiving, you've got some big decisions to make. And we're not just talking about the mashed potatoes versus sweet potatoes debate. Are you a traditionalist when it comes to turkey? Or would you be so bold as to make a modern interpretation of a beloved Italian culinary tradition to spice things up? Perhaps you're looking for an excuse to get out of all that work and simply make reservations. To help you decide, we consulted some experts for game plans that will make the holiday as tasty and stress-free as possible.

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Roast a Traditional Turkey

Whole turkey from Porter Road

Roast a
Traditional
Turkey

This day of herculean feasting only comes around once a year, and if you want to make the most of it, you probably want to roast the turkey yourself. And even though everyone has their favorite sides (shout out: cornbread stuffing and jellied cranberry sauce), the big bird is the star of the meal. That's why, if you're going to do it ... do it right.

Whole turkey from Porter Road

Spend the money on a quality turkey. Something from a proper butcher if you can—not the lowest priced option in the oversized freezer bin at the supermarket. Those big, watery birds never deliver in terms of taste or texture. If there's not a good meat shop near you, you still have time to order online. Our choice? Porter Road.

Their birds are fully pasture-raised, living outside and roaming free 24/7. They were raised at the Jolly Barnyard farm outside of Nashville. They're never treated with added hormones or antibiotics and are fed a non-GMO diet. The end result is not the bland, flavorless turkey most of us have come to expect. The finished meat here will have a slightly darker hue and noticeably richer flavor.

Whole turkey (serves up to 12),
$120 at Porter Road

How-To:

Chris Carter and James Peisker, the butchers and chefs behind Porter Road, offer up their tips and tricks for roasting the perfect turkey.

Impress Them
With a “Turketta”

Turketta by Roli Roti

Impress Them
With a
“Turketta”

Thomas Odermatt, the Swiss-born chef famous for his hearty and healthy Roli Roti food trucks in San Francisco, isn't a huge fan of turkey, but he's grown to love this holiday. Because turkey is typically known for being dry and unexciting, Odermatt adapted his recipe for porchetta (hand-rolled pork tenderloin, wrapped in crispy pork belly) for something that's not only extremely flavorful, but relatively easy to cook considering it makes for an impressive reveal at the dinner table.

"This recipe calls for a deboned turkey, which is a lot of work," says Odermatt. "To make it easier, order your turkey at your local butcher and ask them to give you a deboned butterflied double breast, as flat and even as possible."

Spice Rub

  • 2 tbs crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 tbs lemon zest
  • 1½ tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp white wine
  • 1 tbs chopped rosemary
  • 1 tbs chopped sage
  • 1½ tsp chopped marjoram
  • 1 tbs chopped thyme
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 tbs kosher salt
  • 1 tbs fresh ground black pepper

Turkey

  • Deboned turkey (approx 10 pounds)
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • 2 sticks, unsalted butter (divided)

The Technique

1

Lay the double breast skin side down and get it as flat as possible (slicing into the thickest part or pounding to an even thickness).

2

Season the inside of the breast meat lightly with salt. Slice a stick of butter thinly and place inside on the center of the breast from top to bottom. Shower liberally with the spice rub to cover the whole area. (If you have dark meat, season with salt on both sides, and then spread the meat over the center of the breast in an even layer, leaving some space at the top and bottom). Finish with the spice rub.

Turketta by Roli Roti

3

To close, roll from one side over the center, tucking and tightening as you go. You want to have a log shape with as much skin as possible exposed. Place seam side down.

4

Truss the turketta by knotting butchers' twine around the roll, every two to three inches until you get to the end. Take the string and tie it once around lengthwise to keep everything in place. Fix and smooth the skin as you go. For even cooking, it's essential that you space the knots evenly down the roast.

5

Place skin side up in a shallow roasting pan. Melt the other stick of butter, and rub all over the skin. Shower liberally with salt and cook at 350 degrees, undisturbed, until the center of the roast reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees. (About 20 minutes per pound.)

6

In the last few minutes of cooking, turn the oven to convection or place under the broiler to get the skin nice and crispy. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Go Out to Dinner

Smith & Wollensky

Go Out
to Dinner

There's a myriad of reasons why you could go out instead of cook on the big day. Maybe you don't want the stress of shopping and chopping and slaving over a stove. Maybe you want to keep the stress-level low and let someone else handle all the details—let alone all the clean up. Ditching the dishes on Thanksgiving is turning into an annual tradition for many us. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, nearly 10% of Americans plan to eat their holiday meal at a restaurant this year.

Eating at a restaurant allows everyone to be present and enjoy each other's company. That is until you've hand enough "family time" and are ready to get out of there. Giving up your table is the perfect excuse to wrap things up (and it's much easier to duck-out after dinner when you're not at someone's house).

In terms of where to go, opt for a classic place that will offer all the trimmings you've come to expect. Old standbys like McCormick and Schmick's, Smith & Wollensky, Fleming's and Daily Grill are all open and offer their standard menus along with specialty holiday spreads. What's more, they're often served family style—which not only makes ordering easier but ensures you'll likely get to take some leftovers home too.

Don't Blame the Tryptophan:

Feeling drowsy after dinner? While it's true that the amino acid tryptophan (which the body uses to make serotonin and melatonin) is present in turkey, the bird doesn't contain enough of it to put you to sleep. The extra stuffing, pumpkin pie and fourth glass of wine are more likely to blame for your post-gorge nap.

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