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My First Thanksgiving Dinner


You may recall me saying my family is competitive. Not just with outsiders but within the family. For some reason, it was bred into us, and the fire was frequently fanned by the activity of cooking. Even though, cooking was where my mom and I bonded, she always had an underlying need to be better. Which leads me to my first Thanksgiving Dinner. That’s right. The real deal, no holds barred, all the bells and whistles, dinner for the family. I wanted to prove I could do it not because I wanted to show my love but because I wanted to show everyone that I was as good at cooking as Mom or maybe even better! Blasphemy, thy name is Candace! Suffice it to say, Mother had other plans. As is typical of our family dinner, I purchased the largest turkey in the world. Well, not really but it might as well have been. Twenty-two pounds of giant turkey bird. I have since then found religion and understand that it works much better to roast smaller birds to get the juicy, flavorful, and tender result we are all striving for. But the point always must be proved that bigger is better. My mom actually said, “if a little bit will do good, a whole lot will do better.” Such was the beginning of my dinner. I did everything to that bird that I had always watched Mom do. Remember, she was not a teacher. Whatever you gleaned had to be by observation and silence. In any event, the turkey roasted and when it was finished, we gathered around to admire how golden brown and crispy the skin was. The next exercise involved getting the turkey out of the roaster so that the gravy and dressing-making could begin. We get the bird out somehow without incident. My mother then stares down into the turkey juices and says, “it doesn’t look rich enough, did you put a stick of butter in the cavity before you put it in the oven?” Do you have any idea what it feels like to have to answer a question like that with the entire female family population standing around you, looking at you and waiting for the inevitable answer? Somewhere between a full-blown panic attack with the need to run as far away as possible to abject fear of nothingness (it’s existential). Because that’s what I felt. The inevitable answer came. “No, you didn’t tell me to put a stick of butter in the cavity.” “Well, I just thought you would know to do that.”

Which brings me to the next portion of cooking with Mom. She would leave out the tiniest or not so tiniest of details in the cooking process so that it could not possibly turn out as good as hers. This is always funny, in retrospect. The tragedy of the lack of richness in the broth is that it impacts the dressing and the gravy so if you have “thin” broth everything else will pale and it all comes down together. You, of course, cannot re-coup the richness by a later addition of butter because it did not roast in the bird with the bones and other flavor-inducing parts. Needless to say, my first Thanksgiving Dinner did not turn out the way I planned. The Heavens did not open and the best the angels did was to snicker a bit. But you take your lumps. Accept that you will NEVER be as good as your mother and then you create your own Thanksgiving traditions. So, I give you, TA DAH…Turkey Roulade. Turkey roulade is a recipe I created for one of my cooking classes so that we would have enough time to have roast turkey. This roulade has evolved from being stuffed with greens sautéed in Marsala with raisins to this more straightforward roasting. I prefer this version because the flavors blend and better complement other side dishes.

 

Turkey Roulade with Fresh Herbs and Garlic

Serves 4

  • ½ boned, skinned turkey breast, reserve skin

  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary minced

  • 1 tbsp fresh sage leaves minced

  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves minced

  • 2 cloves garlic minced

  • 2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • 4 oz prosciutto

  • Kitchen twine

  • Turkey or chicken broth

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400° Butterfly turkey breast and place between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound turkey breast to ½” thickness and set aside. Combine the herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add enough olive oil to make a loose paste. Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the turkey breast and place turkey on a clean, flat work surface. Measure out approximately 3 feet of kitchen twine and place on the surface next to the turkey. Generously, salt and pepper the inside of the turkey breast. Starting at the edge closest to the bottom of the workspace, spread herb and garlic mixture and cover turkey breast. Roll the breast away from the bottom of the work surface until it is completely rolled up. Tie the roulade with kitchen twine at approximately two-inch intervals just tight enough to hold it all together. Place roulade on a well-greased sheet pan. Oil generously then cover with reserved turkey skin followed by slices of prosciutto. Pour enough broth into the pan to cover the bottom of the pan. Roast for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

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