My small soiree for Thanksgiving dinner  turned out to be one of the best I’ve made (modesty aside) because the menu was simple, the ingredients the best available from local sources.  And I didn’t have the stress of serving a  crowd.

The turkey was from Alewive’s Brook Farm. It’s not organic but as close as one can get without the labeling. These are birds that flock and peck in the open, eating whatever is on the ground.    And they’re so fresh: slaughtered on Tuesday, they’re available at the farm or at Wednesday’s Monumemnt Square farmers’ market.

When I picked up the bird at the farm I asked Jodie Jordan, the patriarch of the farm, how long does it need to cook.  Fifteen minutes per pound? I asked.  He shook his head, answering, ” I cook it until it’s done, no hard and fast rule.” Figure on 15  minutes per pound, more or less; just use an instant read thermometer to register about 165 degrees; remove, tent with foil to rest.

Local turkey

I’ve done  turkey the same way for years.  I  brine it in a simple boiled soluton of water, salt, sugar,  lemon and orange peel and aromatics.  It needs at leaste 6 hours to cool down so make it early in the day or the day before. Add ice cubes to quicken the process.   I gave the turkey a full 24-hour brine.  I roasted it at 325 degrees but this 12-pound turkey took longer than I thought it would (debunking the theory that wild birds cook faster); at one point I cranked the heat up to 355 degrees to finish it off.  The white and dark meat always come out moist.  Here’s what I do to insure that.  Pour about a stick of  melted buter over the turkey, rubbing it in well, especially over the breast.  Dip a piece of cheeseclosth in more melted butter and drape it over the breast.  Lay strips of bacon  over the cheesecloth to cover the breast completely.  Remove the cheesecloth about an hour before the turkey is done to brown up the breast.

Servings of white and dark meat with sides

This was a fairly fat turkey with juicy, dense breast meat and succulent thighs.   The bird was done in 3 3/4 hours.  I also put the dressing inside the cavity and used leftovers for the casserole dish to bake.  Dressing stuffed into the bird is always tastier, picking up all the flavors.

I let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carving, scooping out the stuffing immediately after.

As for sides: candied yams. cranberry sauce and brussels sprouts with bacon.  The yams were baked first until just shy of being done so that the flesh is still somewhat firm.  Allow them to cool, then peel and cut into wedges.  Put in a buttered casserole and cover with a syrup of brown sugar, butter, water and lemon juice (or orange) and bake until candied, about 45 minutes.

Stuffing was a mix of corn bread (which I made the day before allowing it to stale slightly ) and leftover focaccia, which I also let dry out for a day.  It’s fortified with aromatics like sauteed celery, onion, garlic and apples and mixed together with extra melted butter, beaten eggs, heavy cream and turkey stock untl it’s nicely moist.

Brussels sprouts, candied yams and pumpkin pie

The giblet gravy was based on a rich turkey stock made with backs,wings and aromatics; it was prepared the day before.  On the day the turkey is roasting, the neck and giblets cook in this until soft enough to shred the meat off the bones. A simple roux of butter and flour and the double turkey stock finished off the gravy, which I let simmer for several hours, adding more stock as necessary, some heavy cream and a few gulps of dry Sherry.

But what I was really looking forward to was the pumpkin pie, an heirloom recipe from the late Patty  Boyle who resided in Rumford Maine.  I got it several years ago from her son Keith, who passed in 2015; he was a fixutre at the Portland farmers’ market associated with Uncles farmmstand. Keith always had recipes from his family.

It’s one of the best versions of pumpkin pie with a rich and custard filling.  I’ve made a few changes, however.  Instead of using  molasses I prefer sorghum, which is lighter and more flavorful.  Not easily found here it can be ordered online.  If not, the molasses works very well.  And instead of evaporated milk oiriginally called for I use equal amounts of fresh milk and heavy cream. And, of course, m ake your own pumpking puree.  The best pumpkin is the variety called long-pie pumpkin.  Gorenson Farm and Rosemont Market had it in good supply this year.

Best Ever Pumpkin Pie

Serving Size: 6 to 8

Best Ever Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 single crust 9-inch pastry dough, unbaked
  • 1 large long pie pumpkin baked and flesh scooped out to yield 16 ounces
  • 1/8 cup sorghum or molasses, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 6 ounces whole milk
  • 6 ounces heavy cream or substitute 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees to bake the pumpkin. This can be done a day in advance.
  2. To make the fresh pumpkin puree, cut the long pie pumpkin in half lengthwise; leave the seeds intact and put on a silpat lined baking sheet, cut side down; bake at 350 gress for about one hour or until soft to the touch. Remove the seeds then scoop out the flesh to yield 16 ounces on a scale; save leftover for pudding or soup.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  4. In a large bowl put the sugar, spices and cornstach, whisking to combine. Alternatively, sift into the bowl.
  5. Put the pumpkin flesh into a medium bowl and mash with a potato masher then beat vigorously with a wooden spoon or hand-held electric mixer until thoroughly smooth.
  6. Add to sugar mixture, mixing well. Add the eggs and the cream and milk or evaporated milk. The fresh milks will make a richer pie.
  7. Pour into the shell and put on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 50 minutes or until filling is nicely set and won't wiggle when you jiggle the pan.
  8. Alllow to cool to room temperature before serving with a dollop of whipped cream.
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