(Note: This will also work with hams and other cuts of meat as well, but I’m just going to talk about turkeys.)

Using my method, a complete holiday turkey dinner can be cooked in under 3 hours–or less if you have a small bird.

You can use a thermometer to tell when it’s perfectly done, or cook it until it’s falling-off-the-bones done. Either way, it will be tender and juicy!

Since store-bought birds all come with added ingredients, meaning they have been soaked or injected with water/salt/sugar/etc., there’s NO need to brine it prior to roasting. Even freshly butchered birds will steam nicely inside a covered roasting pan and not dry out.

As the cook in your household, I’m sure you’re as ready for a holiday as your family and guests are, but do you get one?

In years past you may have stressed about preparation in the days leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas, and then drug yourself out of bed before everyone else so that you could get that big turkey stuffed and slow roasting for another four or five hours, dutifully basting it every hour or so to keep it from drying out. Well you don’t have to do it that way any more! 

I want to tell you how you can sleep late this holiday morning AND host a traditional dinner—without sacrificing the wonderfulness of fresh home-cooked foods.

Getting plenty of sleep and waking up fully rested is an important key to being able to enjoy the day with your family and guests. And of course you’d like to have time in the living room with those people, instead of being stuck in the kitchen.

Here are three keys to making that happen for you:

  1. Make sure you have the one necessary piece of equipment, in addition to a working oven: a LARGE COVERED ROASTING PAN (or a very large oven-proof pot with oven-proof lid) BIG ENOUGH TO ENCLOSE YOUR TURKEY (or other meat).
  2. Unless you are buying a fresh turkey, make sure your turkey will be thawed in time. Put it to thaw in the fridge a few days ahead (3 days for a 12 pound bird, 5 days for a 20 pounder).
    • Here’s a calculator for determining how large of a turkey to buy for the number of people you are serving, and how long it will take to thaw; just ignore their cooking times, since we are going to use a faster method.
    • There’s no problem if it thaws out two or three days early, but no more than that so you won’t have to worry about spoilage.
    • If your fridge is especially cold, or you can’t start thawing soon enough, you may find it still frosty on baking day; in that case run hot tap water in and out of both ends of the bird. But trying to work with a completely frozen bird will NOT turn out right.
  3. Get your house presentable before going to bed the night before. You may even want to set the table ahead of time, if you don’t have pets which will walk all over the place settings.

If you don’t own a large COVERED roasting pan, they are fairly inexpensive at department stores or even some larger grocery stores; or you might be able to borrow one from an elderly relative who no longer uses theirs. Ideally, you want something like this:

Large Covered Roasting Pan (enameled metal)

Large Cover Roasting Pan (enameled metal)

 

After a lazy morning and a hot cup of tea, you’re ready to start cooking. Here’s what to do:

  1. Peel and chunk a heap of vegetables. Whatever kinds you want, but I recommend a mix of white or russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, and garlic.
    • Large pieces are best, like cutting your potatoes into thirds or quarters, carrots into halves.
    • Rinse your chunks of both varieties of potatoes in a bowl of water as you cut them, because coating the surfaces in water will prevent them from turning black before they start cooking.
    • Use your own judgment as to quantity, depending on number of people being served. Leftover veggies are great in soups or turkey pot pies.
  2. Start your oven heating to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Yup, 500 degrees!
  3. Brush the inside of the bottom half of your roasting pan with oil, so the veggies don’t stick before the turkey juices start flowing. DO NOT put a rack in the pan; you want the veggies down in the turkey juices for best flavor.
  4. Place the potatoes in the roasting pan first, followed by other vegetables (because slender or small items like carrots will disintegrate if on the bottom). Onions and garlic go on top of the other veggies, so their flavors will seep down and make the potatoes yummy.
  5. Now for the turkey. Unwrap it in a clean sink, remove all extras (organs and neck), rinse inside and out, remove the plastic or wire gadget which holds the legs together, and place the bird BREAST SIDE DOWN on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan. The turkey’s juices will run down through the breast, so the driest meat will not be dry at all.
  6. Place the cover on your roasting pan, making sure that it closes all around. If it won’t close, you may need to wiggle the bird a bit, or reach under it and push the vegetables to the corners so the bird will settle lower. The lid MUST close all around, or else steam will escape and your meat will really dry out in the extra hot oven!
  7. Place the closed pan in the oven. It does not matter whether the oven has gotten fully hot yet.
  8. Be sure to thoroughly wash your sink, faucet, and any counter contaminated by raw turkey.
  9. While the bird and veggies start to roast, start the “stuffing.” (This will be made on the stove top so the empty bird can cook faster, but will taste like it came from inside the bird because we’ll use turkey juices.)
    • Chop or crumble some bread.
    • Saute onions and garlic (optionally, add soy sauce), and add them to the bread with your favorite herbs.
  10. Prepare a pie that can go in the oven when everything else comes out. This can bake while you eat, and be eaten hot and fresh or later in the evening when stomachs have more room for it.
  11. Pull the roasting pan out and set it on your stove for a moment. Ladle out as much of the juices as you can, and return the covered roasting pan to the oven for the turkey to finish cooking.
  12. Divide those hot turkey juices. Mix some into your “stuffing” and put the rest into a pan for thickening into gravy.
  13. Lightly fry your stuffing in a skillet, stirring frequently to blend and thoroughly warm the bread. Also finish making your gravy.
  14. When the turkey is fully cooked, put the pie into the oven and serve everything else with a side of cranberry sauce. (You might want to set a timer to remind you to check your pie, so it doesn’t burn while you are engrossed in dinner conversations.)

The key to speed here is the covered roasting pan. It allows for a super hot oven and keeps all that super hot steam inside which causes quick roasting, without allowing the meat to dry out!

So now you know how to cook a complete holiday dinner (turkey, veggies, stuffing, gravy,  cranberry sauce, and pie) with most of your day left over for having fun. Enjoy!

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© 2014 Noname Porter-McShirley

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Holiday gatherings, and the month of dread which comes beforehand, are some of the most frustrating and depressing times for many people. These are supposed to be celebrations and reunions, but one of the biggest contributing factors which makes these events problems, is that so many people are measuring themselves and others with the wrong measuring sticks.

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Tradition is to compare and judge others’ lives against one’s own life, based primarily and superficially on physical accomplishments, because these are the easiest things to put into words and are most similar across humanity in western cultural terms.

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Examples: awards and educational degrees earned; prestige or money from jobs and number of promotions; home size, toys, and cars; money spent on gifts; kids and their growth, involvements or accomplishments; fun activities and places visited; number or class of friends; club memberships; books read or written; childhood dreams realized; etc.

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But you can HAPPILY look like a failure by all of those standards, IF you have gained (or know you are gaining) understanding of humanity and of God, your reason for existing, and what will outlast the fleeting years at hand. For if understanding a good chunk of those things is what you pour your time and resources into, you can feel confident in your abilities to be an honest benefit to fellow humans and to the entire universe.

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Communicating a meaningful measurement of your life is often hard, because there’s so much value in the fleeting moments which are like little pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and just as hard to remember or explain their context.

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Examples: the times you made someone smile, were kind to a clerk, gave a hug, answered someone’s nagging question, realized the answer to your own questions, forgave someone, lovingly sacrificed your own desires for someone else’s good. The times God’s Spirit embodied you and shined through to lighten and enlighten the world with love.

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So gather with grace, confidence, compassion and love for everyone, wherever they measure up at the moment–or think they measure up–on any yardstick. Hope for meaningful progress.

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Happy holidays!

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© NPM