Vegetarian seeking meat.
October 22, 2013 5:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I cook the best turkey (and) and fixings meal for just myself (for a whole weekend)? I'm basically going to put on some Abba, and eat like crazy this weekend. So tell me how I can make the best Thanksgiving turkey and sides! Oh, this is anonymous because I am a vegetarian for moral reasons. Also, I prefer to limit it to just one type of animal, so no bacon wrapped shrimp. Probably no bacon wrapped shrimp. Recipes of good sides preferably not using just turkey.
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of dark meat, and my wife is a vegetarian. When we do Thanksgiving at home I just line a pan with chopped onions, carrot and celery, drop a couple of thigh/leg quarters in there and cook it in the oven. The pan drippings make awesome turkey gravy.
posted by sanka at 5:46 AM on October 22, 2013

Just buy a turkey crown if it's only you. The legs and crown cook at different rates so you'll not only be avoiding that problem but you won't be buying tons and tons of meat.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:47 AM on October 22, 2013

For a one-person weekend turkey feast, I'd go with a whole turkey breast (with bonus gravy recipe!). If you like dark meat, it's really easy to add a leg. The recipe is simple and does NOT involve brining, smoking, BBQ grilling, turkey bags or any of that totally mental turkey craziness stuff.

For sides, it tends to be really, really regional but I like Stove Top stuffing, mash, honey glazed carrots or yams, cranberry sauce, and green beans with sliced almonds. For dessert, I always make Coach House Bread and Butter Pudding. I'd give you instructions for dividing that recipe but honest to God, I would eat just that for an entire weekend (and have done just that...)
posted by DarlingBri at 5:49 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

This sweet potato casserole with pecan topping is my favorite thing about Thanskgiving.
posted by Miko at 6:02 AM on October 22, 2013

If you are only having one meaty meal then for the love of all that's good, do not scrimp on the stuffing.

Sage and Onion is my favourite, and so easy to make that it makes me want to weep when people serve from-the-box versions of it.

You could also try Chestnut or Parsley & Thyme for more autumny goodness. Make it into balls and cook them in the meat juices so they soak some up and stay moist.

If you make a lot, you can put it in soup afterwards like crunchy dumplings. You can have it with roast veg as a nut roast alternative. But do not. scrimp. on the stuffing.
posted by greenish at 6:03 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Rum cranberry sauce:
12 ounces cranberries, whole
Rum (amount varies, but a few cups)
1/2 to 1 cup dark brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 cinamon stick
3 cloves (whole)
three good stips of orange zest

Put 3/4 of the cranberries and spices (but not th eorange peel) in a pot and add rum to just cover, Cook on medium low until the berries start to fall apart. Add the orange peel and the remaining cranberries and half the sugar. Cook a bit, taste, and see if you want more sugar.
posted by Nothing at 6:04 AM on October 22, 2013

First of all, source a humanely raised bird. You may need to order it, but talk to your local Whole Foods or Organic butcher about getting it.

The turkey is easy. Take all the stuff out of the cavity, set aside. Pat the bird with paper towels. Take a stick of softened butter and mix with salt, pepper, garlic powder. Carefully separating the skin from the meat, smear the butter between the meat and the skin. Get it in there good. Then wipe your hands on the skin, and then salt, pepper and garlic powder on top. A sprinkle of paprika on the skin never did anyone any harm.

Put a chunked up lemon, some parsley and some sage in the cavity. It shouldn't be packed in, just loose. If you have a rosemary plant, throw some of the washed sprigs on the bottom of a roasting pan and rest your bird on it. Cover the breast part of the turkey and the tips of the wings with tin foil to keep them from burning and roast in an oven at 350 degrees until the internal temp is 165 degrees. Estimate about Twenty-five minutes per pound for the roasting and 30 minutes to rest. About half-way through the cooking, take the tin foil off of the breast so it can crisp up. Alternately, for the first half of the roasting, roast the bird UPSIDE DOWN, then flip it. This will keep the breast meat juicy and moist.

Take the bird out of the oven, cover with tin foil and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.

People have memories of mom putting the bird in at dawn and cooking it all day. DON'T DO THIS! It over-cooks the bird.

While the bird roasts, take a small sauce pan and throw the neck and giblets into it and cover with good quality turkey stock. Slowly simmer, this will be the base for your gravy. (I don't like giblets, so I buy an extra neck or a chicken neck from the butcher.) Throw a rosemary sprig, a bay leaf and some thyme in there. Don't let the liquid evaporate too much. If it's getting low, top off with more broth.

Make a roux, equal parts flour and butter, get it nice and brown. Add the saucepan of broth to it (hot). Drain the pan drippings into a fat separator, and pour the roasting juices into the gravy. Stir while it thickens. You may need more roux, so have some extra in a separate pan. I make the gravy right before we sit down to eat.

My mom tears up sourdough bread into a big pot and leaves it overnight to dry out for her stuffing. I just buy a bag of Pepperidge Farm Stuffing cubes. If you like buy one of regular bread and one of corn bread.

Using one stick of butter, sautee chopped onion and celery over medium heat until the veggies are soft and translucent. A hack for this would be a bag of frozen mirepoix, fresh is best, but the frozen if FINE and a time and money saver. Chop up some mushrooms, my mom uses plain white ones, I like portobella and/or a melange of different mushrooms. Add them to the butter and veggies and let them release their liquid. Now chop up a bunch of parsley and throw that in. If you like sage, do a chiffonade (or chop) and put that in. Once the mushrooms are cooked, take off the heat. Mix into your bread/stuffing mix. I like to make mine like a bread pudding. My mom just soaks the bread with broth and packs into a loaf pan. I mix broth, evaporated milk and an egg into mine. Pack into loaf pan and bake in oven about 40 minutes.

Buy a bag of fresh cranberries. Wash them and put them in a sauce pan with a cup of OJ and sugar (I think it's a cup, it's basically the recipe on the bag, substituting OJ for the water.) Cook until the berries pop. Be careful, this stuff stains like a mo-fo! Let it cool, then add a handful of pecans. Put in the fridge. People RAVE about this, and it's too easy!

I like the Ore-Ida Steam and Mash-Potatoes. You can peel, cut and cook your own if you prefer. Then I add butter, sour cream and cream cheese. Mash and whip. Add salt, black pepper and white pepper. Nirvana!

Peas and Mushrooms. Sautee sliced mushrooms in butter. Cook some frozen peas. Combine.

French cut green beans and slivered almonds. Green Giant makes a kit. Cook frozen green beans. Sautee slivered almonds in butter. Combine.

You can do a sweet potato cassarole, or open a can of candied yams and cover in marshmallows and bake. It's a regional thing. I'm not a sweet-potato lover.

I buy pre-made pie crust, the kind in the box that Pillsbury makes (your store will have a store brand, it's just as good.) Then I make the pumpkin pie recipe on the back of the Libbys Pumpkin can. Serve cooled pie with whipped cream.

We serve the nouveau beaujolais with dinner.

The typical snacks in our house are Ruffles with homemade california onion dip (liptons onion soup mix in a tub of sour cream) and Gorp,(walnuts and raisins).

Happy Thanksgiving!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:20 AM on October 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

I roasted a turkey breast last weekend for a fancy supper and it's such a stupid easy thing to do, really -- nearly foolproof as long as you don't overthink it. Get a frozen one and read the instructions on the back. Basically, you thaw, rinse, brush with melted butter, add salt and pepper, and pop it in the oven for a few hours. Add a few sprigs of fresh sage if you're feeling fancy.

Equipment you might not have, as a vegetarian: a meat thermometer (a simple pin-style digital one will set you back maybe US$10-$14), a roasting rack (I like the V-shaped ones). The instructions will have a guideline regarding how many minutes per pound. When you pull the roast out, stick the thermometer in and make sure it reads at least 165 for a solid minute.

For sides I went with pre-made mashed potatoes (don't judge me), twice baked butternut squash (in individual ramekins, topped with a pat of butter and a little cinnamon sugar before baking), and rolls with pumpkin butter. A nice green salad with dried cranberries is refreshing and adds some color.

Bon appetite!
posted by trunk muffins at 6:20 AM on October 22, 2013

I've had a couple occasions, say in like mid-March or so, where I feel like having a mini thanksgiving just for me. I like roasting a cornish game hen exactly as if it were a thanksgiving turkey*, so it's just like a tiny little perfect Thanksgiving.

If you decide to do actual turkey, though, I would not do JUST turkey breast. White meat is gross (I mean, it's not really, if you do it right)--dark meat is just so so much better.

*My preferred turkey method:

-chop up a bunch of herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary)
-soften a whole bunch of butter
-mix the herbs thoroughly into the butter so that the butter is all herby and awesome
-spread the butter out onto some waxed paper and put back in fridge to chill
-cut butter into little tablespoon-sized chunks, so you have lovely little blocks of delicious
-make small slices all over the turkey, and feed the butter chunks in between the turkey skin and the meat
-roast, letting the herb butter soak right up into the turkey meat
posted by phunniemee at 6:41 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

If at all possible this late in the game, get a wild turkey. (And this is very late to be ordering a wild or heirloom turkey from a game farm.)

A turkey that will taste good will be a leggy, pointy-breasted bird that looks like the ones in recipe books from the 30s or 40s.

If you manage to find such a bird, do not de-gamey it with coffee. This is a terrible idea that I blame on Ted Nugent types and their Lipton French Onion Soup cookery. Buttermilk, or possibly grapefruit juice depending on your stuffing.

Also, flip the bird. With a small turkey, this is easy. (And I would say the stuffing won't fall out, but food safety people are against stuffing turkey so I won't even mention it.)

I am with a vegetarian and we will be having dinner with folks who will expect me to make gravy and so forth and they are all swell folks and love and thanks and everything, but sweet jeebus do I miss having a real turkey that tastes like meat.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:49 AM on October 22, 2013

Sweet Potatoes

Peel and 2-3 good sized sweet potatoes and slice into 1/4" slices. Boil in salted water for 12-15 minutes or until fork tender. Drain, return to hot pot with 3T butter and 1/2 T salt and mash until smooth. Stir in 2-3T grade B maple syrup.

This can be served as is.

or - put into a small baking dish and top with 1/2 C of pecans briefly warmed in 2T butter and 2T grade B maple syrup. Bake for 30 minutes at 350.

Regular maple syrup will do, but grade B has a much more pronounced flavor.
posted by plinth at 7:13 AM on October 22, 2013

Get this meat thermometer. It's what I had before a Thermapen, and the differences are small. The plastic pop-up ones are garbage, and analog dial ones aren't much better. People will warn you away from white meat only, but if you take it out at the right time (using temp, not cooking duration), it's great, and easier than a whole turkey.

If you want to make a whole turkey, spatchcock it (or get a butcher to do it for you, since you will need some seriously heavy-duty shears, and it's not for the faint of heart). Or get it cut into white and dark so you can cook separately, and it'll be easier to carve.

Don't stuff your turkey. Cook stuffing separately, using turkey drippings if possible. Better yet, make your own turkey stock a few nights before with wings bought separately (or even better, bones and backs from your butcher). And using bread that you've torn/food-processed yourself is a lot better than the stuff from the box.

I love my mom's cranberry relish-- raw cranberries, ginger, orange slices (both unpeeled), all through a Kitchenaid meat grinder, and enough sugar and orange juice to get the taste and texture right. But I think it's an acquired taste, judging by how much other people seem to like it...

If you can make a béchamel (and it's pretty easy), creamed pearl onions are fantastic, and easy if you get the peeled ones from the freezer case.
posted by supercres at 7:15 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

This Bourbon Sweet Potatoes with Buttered Pecans is always a big hit, and more of a rich, savory dish than the typical too-sweet sweet potato dish.
posted by HotToddy at 7:16 AM on October 22, 2013

For turkey leftovers, I love an old James Beard low-fat option: on slices of breast meat sprinkle crumbled goat cheese and chopped fresh parsley. In whatever proportion or amount that looks good to you. That's it. And it's delicious in that way that is more than the sum of its constituent parts.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 9:05 AM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since you're just going all out for one meat-eating meal, don't don't don't just get a turkey breast. The dark meat is so much more flavorful and worthwhile. And I'm speaking as a vegetarian!
posted by kate blank at 9:23 AM on October 22, 2013

If you want to make a whole turkey, spatchcock it

Okay, that is genius. I replace my bird roasting method with this one. OMG, that looks AMAZING!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:29 AM on October 22, 2013

If they're available in your area right now, get some chanterelles to make a gravy with, or in add to the gravy you're already making. It plays very well with turkey.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:44 AM on October 22, 2013

I generally go simple and classic for thanksgiving. This is my father's recipe which was his mother's recipe. My grandmother was a bit of a socialite when she was alive. Think Julia Child in pearls.

2-3 bags unseasoned breadcrumbs cubes
2 sticks of butter
2 large onions
3 cloves garlic
1 head of celery
Fresh Tyme
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Sage

Ok, so small dice both the onion and the celery. You want about 2:1 ratio of uncut onion to celery when finished.

On low heat, toss a stick of butter into a sautusse, let it mel slightly. Dump in onion and stir until evenly coated and butter is fully melted. Wait 3 minutes, add half of the second stick of butter and celery, stir until coated. Sweat the onion and the celery until onion starts to become translucent, add salt and garlic.

Meanwhile wash, pick and chop the thyme, rosemary and sage. Reserve half for the bird. The remaining half gets dumped in once the onion is completely translucent, along with the last of the butter. Turn off the heat and cover.

Pour the breadcrumb cubes into a very large bowl. Pour the celery and onion into the bowl and very carefully fold the ingredients together. You want to avoid two things here: don't overwork the breadcrumbs and turn it into mush. Also, don't have so much liquid such that you could wring out your stuffing.

Now this gets either stuffed into the bird (I wouldn't do this professionally, but for my family - this is how it is done), and the remainder is put into a really big log of extra heavy duty Reynold's Wrap Aluminum Foil. The out-of-bird stuffing will go into the oven for roughly an hour and a half, being rotated and flipped every fifteen minutes - meaning make sure it is wrapped for safety.

As for the bird.
First: thaw, then remove the gibblets. 24 hours before, have a bucket big enough for the bird to go in it. 1/4C salt to 3 Gallons of liquid. I'd also recommend peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, sage, a hint of dry mustard, and cumin in the water. That sits for 18 hours, then you rinse and rack the bird in the fridge for 8 hours with a moist lint-free throw-away towel over the top of it.

At service time, take the herbs from the stuffing, and a third stick of butter. Smash them together and coat the bird. Stuff the bird, seal the cavity, and truss the bird. Now... I know you said - NO BACON WRAPPED SCALLOPS; however, bacon has its place as a basting assistant for your turkey. You may use bacon to help cover the stuffing cavity, as well as place two pieces on the center breastbone, a piece on each leg proper, and possibly wrap the leg bone and wings as if the bacon was protective tinfoil. This does not mean that you shouldn't baste your bird, just that this will help enhance the basting process. Put the bird back on the rack in a roasting pan, put about an 1/8" of water in the bottom of the roasting pan, and roast as you would normally - basting every 20-30 minutes. Remove the bacon after an hour and a half from everywhere except the stuffing cavity, discarding the used bacon.

A few hours later, when the bird is ready your meat should be juicy, slightly smoky and salty, and perfect for everyone's enjoyment.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:10 AM on October 22, 2013

I don't know how long and how strict of a vegetarian you are, but most people who have not eaten meat for a long time will have stomach problems when they try to eat meat. My partner, who has been a strict vegetarian his entire life and not for moral/ethical reasons, tried lamb once. Just one bite gave him a fairly uncomfortable stomachache for the rest of the evening. So I would highly suggest a backup plan in case the turkey doesn't work out.
posted by ethidda at 11:44 AM on October 22, 2013

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