Nothing highlights the importance of getting organized in the kitchen than when planning a big holiday dinner. In her latest cookbook, Gail Monaghan lays out recipes and menus with this starting point in mind: timing.

In “It’s All in the Timing: Plan, Cook, and Serve Great Meals With Confidence,” Monaghan, who has years of experience cooking and teaching, offers tips for preparing as much ahead as possible. Her dishes are organized into menus, much as she might in a cooking class, that actually double as teaching tools in the art of organization.

The menus include plans for more casual occasions, such as an Early Autumn Brunch: Start a day ahead for the Creamy Green Polenta and the cream scones; two hours ahead for the melon, fig, and prosciutto platter; and 45 minutes ahead for the Roast Potato and Feta Frittata.

And then there are more complex menus for busier holidays. The Thanksgiving menu consists of roast turkey, five sides, and two desserts. As with all menus, there is a sort of master countdown, which tells you when and in what order you should prepare everything. For those who already feel the stress of holiday cooking coming on, this book is a real boon.

Roast Turkey With Pan Gravy

Servings

12 to 14 as a main course

Ingredients

  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 bay leaves, crumbled, divided
  • 1 tablespoon granulated or brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground fennel
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • One 18- to 20-pound fresh heritage or free-range turkey, rinsed in cool water and dried well
  • 6 large carrots, trimmed, peeled, and coarsely chopped
  • 6 ribs celery, trimmed, peeled, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 large onions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme, or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley and/or parsley stems
  • 8 to 10 slices white bread (optional)
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup Madeira or port, divided
  • 6 cups chicken or turkey stock, or more as needed, divided
  • 1 recipe Pan Gravy (recipe follows), for serving

Directions

Three Days Before:

1. Mix the minced garlic, kosher salt, coriander seeds, pepper, 4 bay leaves, brown sugar, fennel, and dried thyme together.

2. Rub the mixture all over the outside of the turkey, inside the cavity, and under the skin where possible. Wrap the bird in a large unscented plastic bag, place in a large bowl, and refrigerate.

Two Days Before:

3. Turn the bag over and brine for 24 hours more.

One Day Before:

4. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator, wipe the turkey with a damp cloth, and dry well. Place the turkey on a plate and return to the refrigerator, uncovered. Allow to air dry in the refrigerator.

Ten Hours Before:

5. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator.

Six Hours Before:

6. Preheat the oven to 500 F.

7. While the oven preheats, combine the carrots, celery, onions, chopped garlic, the remaining bay leaf, fresh thyme, and parsley in a large bowl. Strew 3/4 of the vegetable-herb mixture over the bottom of a large roasting pan. Rub the remaining vegetable-herb mixture around inside the turkey.

8. Place a rack in the pan on top of the vegetables and place the turkey, breast-side down, on the rack. To prevent rack marks, you can place the slices of bread on the rack under the turkey.

9. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter with 1/2 cup of the Madeira. When the butter is melted, remove from the heat.

10. Pour 2 cups of the stock and the remaining 1/2 cup of Madeira into the bottom of the roasting pan over the vegetables.

11. Dip a large double thickness of cheesecloth in the melted butter mixture and drape it over the turkey. Reserve the remaining mixture in its pan.

Five and a Half Hours Before:

12. Transfer the turkey to the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 400 F. Roast for 1 1/2 hours, basting every 20 to 25 minutes with pan drippings. As the liquid evaporates, add the remaining stock to the drippings to dilute the fat and keep the vegetables from burning. If you run out of stock, continue with water.

Four Hours Before:

13. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F and roast 30 minutes more.

Three and a Half Hours Before:

14. Discard the cheesecloth. Turn the turkey breast side up, dip a fresh double thickness of cheesecloth in the melted butter mixture (remelt over medium heat, if necessary), and place it over the breast. If there is no butter left, dip the cheesecloth in the pan drippings. Continue to roast and baste for 1 hour more.

Two and a Half Hours Before:

15. Begin to test for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the center of a thigh, making sure not to touch the bone. Continue roasting, basting, adding stock or water, and testing in the same manner until the thermometer registers 160 F. (This could take up to 1 hour more.) When done, transfer the turkey to a large cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

One and a Half Hours Before:

16. While the turkey rests, pour the pan juices into a large Pyrex measuring cup or jar. Freeze or refrigerate. After 30 minutes, remove and discard the fat that has risen to the surface. Reserve the defatted juices for the Pan Gravy recipe.

To Serve:

17. Carve the turkey. Arrange the carved turkey on a large platter and, if desired, drizzle with some of the Pan Gravy. Transfer the rest of the gravy to a gravy boat and place on the buffet along with the turkey.

Tip! To properly roast a turkey, you will need a roasting pan large enough to hold it, cheesecloth, an instant-read thermometer, and a bulb baster.

Tip! Roasting will take approximately 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or about 11 minutes per pound.

Pan Gravy

Amount Makes

3 cups

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter or rendered chicken, duck, or turkey fat
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups reserved defatted turkey drippings mixed with chicken or turkey stock, plus more stock as needed*
  • 2 tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons cognac, port, or Madeira

* If the drippings are extremely salty, use less drippings and more stock.

Directions

Two Days Before:

1. Cook the butter, onion, and garlic in a large saucepan set over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until the onions are light gold.

2. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Add the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Cool, cover the pan, and refrigerate.

Fifty Minutes Before:

3. Remove the vegetable mixture from the refrigerator and reheat over medium-low heat. Whisk in the hot stock mixture, tomato paste, and cognac, and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until thickened. The gravy should be the consistency of heavy cream. Add more stock if it’s too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Set aside.

Ten Minutes Before:

4. Reheat the gravy over low heat, taking care that it does not come above a simmer. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm if not using right away. 

Variations

Mushroom: Add 1 pound of chopped, butter-sautéed mushrooms (white button, portobello, cremini, chanterelle, morel, or a mixture) to the finished gravy.

Truffle: Replace the 1 stick of unsalted butter with 1/4 pound truffle butter. Add 2 extra tablespoons of truffle butter to the finished gravy, if desired.

Cream: Replace the 2 tablespoons of cognac with heavy cream or add the cream in addition to the alcohol.

Giblet: Add 1 cup chopped cooked giblets to the finished gravy.

Fresh Herb: Stir 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh sage, parsley, chives, or a combination into the finished gravy or into any of the variations.

Onion: Add 2 large chopped and caramelized onions to the finished gravy.

Reprinted with permission from “It’s All in the Timing” by Gail Monaghan, Agate Surrey, 2016.

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