December 07, 2015

Christmas Around the World

Well, turkeys and leftovers have been consumed, the 'big parade' is over, the man in the Red Suit and his gigantic balloons having traversed the Great White Way in NYC and Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been survived. That means we are now in the full swing of the Christmas Holiday Season. I hope that you and yours are planning something special to celebrate the holidays. With that in mind, and owing to the fact that Kitchen Rap is visited by many visitors from countries around the world, I thought it only appropriate to give you all a taste of the what and how of Christmas as it is celebrated in some places around the globe.

Australia
Starting with Australia, (yes, I'm going alphabetically), Australians truly are a fun group; full of merriment, mirth and always with mischievous twinkle in their eye. They love life, live it with gusto and work hard to enjoy it. Christmas is special to the majority of Australians for it is their Summer Holiday season and students especially, are 'wrapping' up their school year. For the majority of Australian students this means Sun, Surf and Shopping!

Up until about 30 years ago, Australian Christmas celebrations were heavily influenced by their original Anglo-Celtic influences. The English style of Christmas served as the model for celebrating Christmas, right down to the traditional roast turkey and steamed pudding . Today with the huge influx of overseas migrants, Christmas celebrations are heavily influenced by the ethnicity of the families involved. Common sense is prevailing today, in terms of weather and the season. Traditional dinners have been replaced with family gatherings in back yards, (another shrimp on the Barbie?) picnics in parks, gardens and on the beach. For many, it is the occasion to be with friends and relatives, to share love and friendship and last but not least, the exchange of gifts in the traditional manner. It is also, of course, a time to enjoy and consume massive quantities of food. A typical Christmas menu could include seafood, glazed ham, cold chicken, duck or turkey, cold deli meats, pasta, salads galore, desserts of all types, fruit salad, pavlovas, ice-cream plus Christmas edibles of all varieties such as mince pies, fruitcake, shortbread, chocolates, etc.

There has been a suggestion that 'Swag Man' take over Santa's franchise Down Under!!! There is a lot of concern about Santa Claus perhaps suffering heat stroke whilst traversing the Outback. Swag Man, wears a brown Akubra, a blue singlet and long baggy shorts. He spends all winter under Uluru with his merry dingoes and then at Christmas-time, he gets in his huge four-wheel drive and sets off through the red dust to deliver his presents. At least that's how the legend is told. The first official Christmas Down Under was celebrated in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Reverend Johnson. After the service, Governor Arthur Phillips and his officers dined heartily, toasting the King of England and his family. They have yet to follow the American ritual of getting "real" Christmas trees, though some do use gum tree branches. Children are learning Christmas Carols so that they may be sung at festive occasions such as public "Carols by Candlelight" and school concerts. Christmas stockings are being hung in homes, though fireplaces are in short supply. It must also be mentioned that with all the glitter, tinsel and razzamatazz, Australians consider Christmas a time for remembering the true spiritual meaning. For most, Christmas will begin with families attending a midnight mass. After the midnight Mass, a little sleep is attempted. Usually,children in various households, wake up the family at dawn. Gifts are unwrapped and the joy of Christmas begins.

British Isles
Many of our current American ideals about the way Christmas ought to be celebrated derive from the English Victorian Christmas, such as that described in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Caroling, gifts, the feast and the wishing of good cheer to all, these are ingredients that came together to create that special Christmas atmosphere. The custom of gift giving on Christmas dates only to Victorian times. Before then it was more common to exchange gifts on New Year's Day or Twelfth Night. Santa Claus is known by British children as Father Christmas. Father Christmas, these days, is quite similar to the American Santa, but his direct ancestor is a certain pagan spirit who regularly appeared in medieval Mummer's plays. The old-fashioned Father Christmas was depicted wearing long robes with sprigs of holly in his long white hair. Children write letters to Father Christmas detailing their requests, but instead of dropping them in the mailbox, the letters are tossed into the fireplace. The draft carries the letters up the chimney, and theoretically, Father Christmas reads the smoke. Gifts are opened Christmas afternoon.

From the English we get a story to explain the custom of hanging stockings from the mantelpiece; Father Christmas once dropped some gold coins while coming down the chimney. The coins would have fallen through the ash grate and been lost if they hadn't landed in a stocking that had been hung out to dry. Since that time children have continued to hang out stockings in hopes of finding them filled with gifts. The custom of singing carols at Christmas is also of English origin. During the middle ages, groups of serenaders called waits, would travel around from house to house singing ancient carols and spreading the holiday spirit. The word carol means: song of joy. Most of the popular old carols we sing today were written in the nineteenth century. The hanging of greens, such as holly and ivy, is a British winter tradition with origins far before the Christian era. Greenery was probably used to lift sagging winter spirits and remind the people that spring was not far away. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe is descended from ancient Druid rites. The decorating of Christmas trees, though primarily a German custom, has been widely popular in England since 1841 when Prince Albert had a Christmas tree set up in Windsor Castle for his wife, Queen Victoria, and their children.

Canada

In Canada, from 1875 onwards, Christmas lost its essentially religious character, at least for Anglophones and the upper middle class. Little by little it became a community festival which gave rise to much family merry-making. New customs began to take root. Henceforth, the decorated Christmas tree, gifts and the Christmas reveillon (waking up) became part of family tradition.

Canadians decorate a pine tree with ornaments representing Christmas, buy or make each other presents that get wrapped in wrapping paper to be put under the tree so they can be opened on Christmas Day. Santa Claus is the person who brings the presents. On Christmas Eve, December 24th, there is usually a turkey dinner and in the middle of the night, Santa Claus is said to come down the chimney and place the presents under the tree. Then he goes back up the chimney (he is magic after all) and flies to the next house in his sleigh with nine reindeer pulling it through the air. On Christmas Day, all the presents are opened.

Noël à Québec 
Francophones, however, incorporated these new practices into their culture much later. After the First World War, increasing commercial advertising drew Francophones into the festive activities. During the 1930s, the working classes also joined this happy Christmas rush. In Quebec, which is the French-speaking part of Canada, Christmas is celebrated by putting up a big Christmas tree, sometime before Christmas. Many people also put a Christmas tree outside with colored lights. Most people eat turkey for their Christmas dinner, but in the old days, people used to eat Tourtire, a sort of stew made of a layer of meat, a layer of potatoes, a layer of onions, another layer of meat, potatoes, onions and so on. A layer of pastry goes on top to cover and then you cook it for a long time. Christmas dinner is called Reveillon and it is eaten when people come back from midnight mass, maybe at two o'clock in the morning. In Quebec the end of Christmas is called La fete du Roi (on the 6th of January). For this you make a cake which has a bean inside it. The person who gets the bean is the king (or queen).

Denmark
The Christmas feast, in Denmark, is celebrated at midnight Christmas Eve. Everyone looks forward to dessert when a special rice pudding is served in which a single almond is hidden. Whoever finds the almond will have good luck for the coming year.

The jolly bringer of gifts is known as Julemanden and arrives in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, a sack over his back.



He is assisted with his Yuletide chores by elves called Juul Nisse, who are said to live in attics. Children leave out saucers of milk or rice pudding for them and are delighted to find the food gone on Christmas morning.



France
Nearly every French home at Christmas-time displays a Nativity scene or creche, which serves as the focus for the Christmas celebration. The creche is often peopled with little clay figures called santons or 'little saints.' An extensive tradition has evolved around these little figures, which are made by craftsmen in the south of France throughout the year. In addition to the usual Holy Family, Shepherds and Magi, the craftsmen also produce figures in the form of local dignitaries and characters. The craftsmanship involved in creating the gaily colored santons is quite astounding and the molds have been passed from generation to generation since the seventeenth century. Throughout December the figures are sold at annual Christmas fairs in Marseille and Aix.

The Christmas tree has never been particularly popular in France and though the use of the Yule log has faded, the French make a traditional Yule log-shaped cake called the Buche de Noel, which means 'Christmas Log.' The cake, among other food in great abundance, is served at the grand feast of the season, which is called le reveillion. Le reveillon is a very late supper held after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The menu for the meal varies according to regional culinary tradition. In Alsace, goose is the main course, in Burgundy it is turkey with chestnuts, and the Parisians feast upon oysters and pate de foie gras.

French children receive gifts from Pere Noel who travels with his stern disciplinarian companion Pere Fouettard. Pere Fouettard reminds Pere Noel of just how each child has behaved during the past year. In some parts of France Pere Noel brings small gifts on St. Nicholas Eve (December 6) and visits again on Christmas. In other places it is le petit Jesus who brings the gifts. Generally adults wait until New Year's Day to exchange gifts.

India 
Christians in India decorate mango or banana trees at Christmas-time. Sometimes they also decorate their houses with mango leaves. In some parts of India, small clay oil-burning lamps are used as Christmas decorations; they are placed on the edges of flat roofs and on the tops of walls. Churches are decorated with poinsettias and lit with candles for the Christmas evening service.

Ireland

Nollaig Shona Duit ('Happy Christmas' in Gaelic) St. Stephen's Day is celebrated in Ireland in a different way, but is similar to Boxing Day (England) in that it also has to do with the solicitation of money. Young men is extravagant dress, sometimes wearing masks, parade noisily through the streets in the Wren Boys' Procession.
They carry long pole on top of which is attached a holly bush. The bush supposedly contains a captured wren, and for whose sake the young men beg for money. The lighting of candles in Ireland also has a religious significance. Some people would light candles (or one large candle) to signify symbolic hospitality for Mary and Joseph. The candle was a way of saying there was room for Jesus' parents in these homes even if there was none in Bethlehem. Some people even set extra places at their tables as a preparation for unexpected visitors. Irish women bake a seed cake for each person in the house. They also make three puddings, one for each day of the Epiphany such as Christmas, New Year's Day and Twelfth Night.

Italy
The popularity of the Nativity scene, one of the most beloved and enduring symbols of the holiday season, originated in Italy. St. Francis of Assisi asked a man named Giovanni Vellita of the village of Greccio to create a manger scene. St. Francis performed mass in front of this early Nativity scene. The creation of the figures or pastori became an entire genre of folk art.

In Rome, cannons are fired from Castel St. Angelo on Christmas Eve to announce the beginning of the holiday season. A 24-hour fast ends with an elaborate Christmas feast. The main exchange of gifts takes place on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, the celebration in remembrance of the Magi's visit to the Christ Child. Children anxiously await a visit from La Befana who brings gifts for the good and punishment for the bad. According to legend, the three wise men stopped during their journey and asked an old woman for food and shelter. She refused them and they continued on their way. Within a few hours the woman had a change of heart but the Magi were long gone. La Befana, which means Epiphany, still wonders the earth searching for the Christ child. She is depicted in various ways: as a fairy queen, a crone, or a witch. 

Japan
Christmas was introduced in Japan by the Christian missionaries and for many years, the only people who celebrated it were those who had turned to the Christian faith. But now the Christmas season in Japan is full of meaning and is almost universally observed. The idea of exchanging gifts seems to appeal strongly to the Japanese people.The tradesmen have commercialized Christmas just as our western shops have done. For several weeks before the day, the stores shout Christmas. There are decorations and wonderful displays of appropriate gifts for men, women, and children, especially children. Many western customs in observing Christmas have been adopted by the Japanese as well. Besides exchanging gifts, they eat turkey on Christmas Day and in some places, there are even community Christmas trees. They decorate their houses with evergreens and mistletoe and in some homes, Christmas carols are sung. In Japan, there is a god or priest known as Hoteiosho, who closely resembles our Santa Claus. He is always pictured as a kind old man carrying a huge pack. He is thought to have eyes in the back of his head. It is well for the children to be good when this all-seeing gentleman is about.

An editors aside: New Year's Day is the most important day of the whole calendar in Japan. On New Year's Eve the houses are cleaned thoroughly from top to bottom and are decorated for the morrow. When everything has been made clean and neat, the people of the house dress themselves in their finest clothes. Then the father of the household marches through the house, followed by all the family and drives the evil spirits out by throwing dried beans into every corner, bidding the evil spirits to withdraw and good luck to enter.

Norway
Like the other Scandinavian countries, Norway has its gift-bearing little gnome or elf. Known as Julebukk or 'Christmas Buck,' he appears as a goat-like creature. Julebukk harkens back to Viking times when pagans worshiped Thor and his goat. During pagan celebrations, a person dressed in a goatskin, carrying a goat head, would burst in upon the party and during the course of evening would 'die,' then return to life. During the early Christian era, the goat began to take the form of the devil and would appear during times of wild merry-making and jubilation. By the end of the Middle Ages, the game was forbidden by the Church and the state. In more recent times the goat has emerged in the tamer form of Julebukk. In Norway, most everyone has either a spruce or a pine tree in their living room, decorated with white lights, tinsel, Norwegian flags and other ornaments for Christmas. The children make paper baskets of shiny, colored paper and the baskets can be filled with candy or nuts. Chains made of colored paper are also very popular. Colored lighting is becoming popular, but the white lights are still the norm, as they are more like the candles they are supposed to represent. Christmas trees became common in Norway from around 1900. Norwegians are very close to the North Pole, and they strongly hope for the magic of snow for the holidays! Christmas in Norway begins with the Saint Lucia ceremony on December 13th. At the crack of dawn, the youngest daughter from each family puts on a white robe with a sash, a crown with evergreens and tall-lighted candles and accompanied by the other children, the boys dressed as star boys in long white shirts and pointed hats. They wake their parents and serve them coffee and Lucia buns, lussekatter. The custom goes back to a Christian virgin, Lucia, martyred for her beliefs at Syracuse in the fourth century. The Saint Lucia ceremony is fairly recent, but it represents the traditional thanksgiving for the return of the sun.

Russia
St. Nicholas is especially popular in Russia. The legend is that the 11th-century Prince Vladimir traveled to Constantinople to be baptized, and returned with stories of miracles performed by St. Nicholas of Myra. Since then, many Eastern Orthodox Churches have been named for the saint and to this day, Nicholas is one of the most common names for Russian boys. The feast of St. Nicholas,  December 6th was observed for many centuries, but after the Communist Revolution, the celebration of the feast was suppressed. During the communist years, St. Nicholas was transformed into Grandfather Frost. Other religious traditions were suppressed during the communist era as well. Before the revolution, a figure called Babouschka would bring gifts for the children. Like Italy's La Befana, the story is that Babouschka failed to give food and shelter to the three wise men during their journey to visit the Christ Child. According to tradition, she still roams the countryside searching for the Christ Child and visiting the homes of children during the Christmas season. Babouschka never completely disappeared, and now in the post-communist era, has returned openly. Christmas trees were also banned by the Communist regime, but people continued to trim their "New Year's" trees.

Most Christian Russians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, and it is customary to fast until after the first church service on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The most important ingredient is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheat berries or other grains which symbolize hope and immortality, honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest. A ceremony involving the blessing of the home is frequently observed. A priest visits the home accompanied by boys carrying vessels of holy water, and a little water is sprinkled in each room. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity.

Spain
Christmas is a deeply religious holiday in Spain. The country's patron saint is the Virgin Mary and the Christmas season officially begins December 8th, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is celebrated each year in front of the great Gothic cathedral in Seville with a ceremony called los Seises or the 'dance of six.' Oddly, the elaborate ritual dance is now performed by not six, but ten elaborately costumed boys. It is a series of precise movements and gestures and is said to be quite moving and beautiful. Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena or 'the Good Night.' It is a time for family members to gather together to rejoice and feast around the Nativity scenes that are present in nearly every home. A traditional Christmas treat is turron, a kind of almond candy. December 28th is the feast of the Holy Innocents. Young boys of a town or village light bonfires and one of them acts as the mayor who orders townspeople to perform civic chores such as sweeping the streets. Refusal to comply results in fines which are used to pay for the celebration. As in many European countries, the children of Spain receive gifts on the feast of the Epiphany. The Magi are particularly revered in Spain. It is believed that they travel through the countryside reenacting their journey to Bethlehem every year at this time. Children leave their shoes on the windowsills and fill them with straw, carrots and barley for the horses of the Wise Men. Their favorite is Balthazar, who rides a donkey and is the one believed to leave the gifts.

Switzerland
A tinkling of a silver bell heralds the arrival of Christkindli, a white clad angel, with a face veil held in place by a jeweled crown. The tree candles are lit as she enters each house and hands out presents from the basket held by her child helpers. The week before Christmas, children dress up and visit homes with small gifts. Bell ringing has become a tradition, and each village competes with the next when calling people to midnight mass. After the service, families gather to share huge homemade doughnuts called ringli and hot chocolate.

The Chlausjagen Festival or Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated at dusk on December 6th with a procession of 'lifeltrager,' wearing gigantic illuminated lanterns in the shape of a Bishop's mitre on their heads. All throughout the holiday season, the Star Singers or Sternsingers dressed as the Three Kings parade through the streets of cities and towns singingChristmas songs. In Zurich, Santa visits in a special fairytale tram and gives the children a ride through the city, singing songs with them and sharing a basket full of sweets. The Swiss wait for the Christ child called Christkindli, to arrive with gifts for all in his reindeer-drawn sleigh.

While I could not bring you every country around the globe, I hope that you enjoyed this tour of "Christmas Around the World". My wish for you, whatever your specific holiday traditions, or wherever this celebratory time of year may find you, is that you be healthy, happy and surrounded by those you love.

Bon Appetit and Happy Holiday's

Lou

November 23, 2015

Do Your Part...Change A Child's Life...and make it a truly thankful Thanksgiving #TeamNKH



We hear it all the time; "Our children are our future." We look down the road, thinking about what will be. Unfortunately, some children can't see past their next meal, let alone focus on hopes and dreams for their futures. They are part of some 15 million kids across America that sometimes don't know when that next meal will even be, and that is just unacceptable in a country that prides itself on helping the world, being the leader in opportunity and leads the world in wealth.

I'm excited for this wonderful organization and welcome all the new faces and helping hands to #TeamNKH. But I want more. We are a nation of 300 million, 46 million of whom are food deficient, 15 million of those, being children. These families sometimes have to choose paying the phone bill, or putting clothes on their children's backs....or food. To me, no one should have to make that choice. So I'm asking you to put your Holiday Spirit on early this year.

As we enter this Holiday Season, you can be the difference! You can be the change! You can help hungry children get the proper nutrition they deserve by getting involved with events or causes that can help feed our kids.

We all love this season, getting together with family and friends for Thanksgiving. You can help give hungry kids that same experience. With just a $49.00 donation, the price of an average Thanksgiving meal, you can provide up to 490 meals for children that may not otherwise enjoy the abundance that this holiday represents. To donate, just go to www.nokidhungry.org and make your Thanksgiving donation now.

Secondly, school breakfast can change lives. Research shows when a child eats breakfast, they do better in math, attend school more often and are more likely to graduate, powering them for a successful future.
Even though breakfast is free to all kids in New York City public schools, less than one-quarter are actually eating the meal that fuels their day. New York City is the largest school district in the country, yet when measured against the nation's other urban districts, it's in last place for feeding hungry kids breakfast. That's not good enough for my city. Click this link: NYC Breakfast, and send your message to New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña & New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and be a voice for change.

Next, get baking or attend a Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry, presented by my friends at Domino® Sugar and C&H® Sugar. This is a national fundraising initiative that encourages people like you to host bake sales in your communities or attend one to help end childhood hunger.

Every year, the restaurant industry unites in an extraordinary showing of solidarity to prove we can do more than simply feed people for a living; instead we can feed them for life with September's Dine Out For No Kid Hungry. An end to childhood hunger is within our reach and it's the entire foodservice industry that is leading the way. Restaurants, suppliers, media and trade associations all have strengths to share. Since its launch in 2008, this wonderful initiative has brought together thousands of restaurants and millions of consumers to raise more than $18 million. To find participating restaurants near you, click this link:  DOFNKH and let's make 2015 the best year yet.

Have a blog? Then we want you! Join with me and become a No Kid Hungry Blogger and you can help get the word out and use your voice and words to be a beacon in the night. Just click this link; I want to be a Blogger for NKH and register today.

For the rest of you , I am asking you to step up with me, take the No Kid Hungry Pledge, join the fight against childhood hunger and do whatever it is you can to help. Whether you simply donate, or hold a bake sale, or have a barbecue, is no matter. What does matter is that you do something, because together, we can make sure that we leave No Kid Hungry!

Lou

November 15, 2015

"Making The Perfect Holiday Turkey"

Roasting a turkey during the Holidays can either make or break a successful meal. Like many at home cooks, I have a few horror stories of the days before I became the self proclaimed, "Gourmet Guy." I have also heard stories from others, both friends and family, about such things as leaving the plastic 'chitlins' bag' in the bird, raw and underdone turkeys, to piles of charcoal on a plate. In this installment, I am going to give you some fool proof rules-of-thumb and methods to insure that your Thanksgiving meal comes off as a complete success that will wow your guests. From the Menu Planning, to Proper Seasoning , to how to pick the right turkey, we'll take a look at all the basics.

How big of a turkey should I roast? 
Most importantly, we need to count the amount of guests we will be serving. A good rule of thumb to go by would be:
  • One (1) pound of raw turkey per person which includes a moderate amount for leftovers.
  • 1 1/2 pounds per person, if you have hearty eaters or want ample leftovers.
  • 3/4 pound of whole turkey per person for no leftovers.
To properly thaw the turkey (if frozen), I recommend leaving it in a refrigerator for 4-5 days to slow thaw under a cool temperature. If you are pressed for time, you may place it in a sink or a container in the sink and run cold water over it for a few hours. Once the bird is thawed, you are ready to prepare it for cooking.

Brining (optional)
Not every home cook will go the extra mile at home, but I’ve found that brining your turkey can incorporate a great level of flavor and make your turkey extremely moist. I typically brine most poultry and pork before cooking, and have made several different types of flavored brines. A brine by definition is; a strong solution of water and salt used for pickling or preserving foods. A sweetener such as sugar or molasses is sometimes added. I really enjoy molasses and brown sugar and balance it out with some savory herbs, bay leaves, peppercorns and garlic. Depending on the size of the bird, you can brine a turkey for a few hours, or even let it go overnight. But, it is very important to remember that the brining solution is high in salt and you must adjust and lessen the amount of salt you use in your seasoning when you prepare your turkey for roasting.

Seasoning & Prepping the Bird
The next step can be a lot of fun, as you get to be very creative with seasoning and preparing your turkey. Seasonings offer a great deal of flavor and can be as simple as salt and black pepper, or as elaborate as Cajun spice or a rub consisting of garlic, chilies and dried herbs. Be sure to rub the entire cavity with your seasoning blend of choice, and always lubricate the outside of the skin with oil or butter so the seasonings will adhere and cook into the bird.

*Tip For Crispier Skin
Crisp skin and a moist center is what we all desire when roasting the perfect turkey and I have learned a little trick to enhance the outer skin. Carefully lift the skin up around the bird and slide a few pats of softened butter underneath. Generously rub the outer skin with butter and your seasonings, and let them sink in for about an hour before roasting. Many family recipes include stuffing the bird with all kinds of aromatics or even a traditional bread stuffing. It is totally up to you to decide which way you want to go, but stuffing a turkey's cavity can really enhance the flavor of the meat.

Stuffing
There are two schools of thought when it comes to stuffing; In the Bird (stuffing) and & Out of the Bird (dressing). In my house we make both, or sometimes do a cornbread Oyster dressing (recipe below) as well. In some households, the turkey is stuffed with other birds; a boned chicken is stuffed into a boned duck, which is then stuffed into the turkey. Called a Tur-duck-en, this is actually not a new concept. In ancient Rome, as well as in medieval times, cooks stuffed animals with other animals.

Ten Bird Roast, but there's 12?
A 13th century Andalusian cookbook includes a recipe for a ram stuffed with small birds. A similar recipe for a camel stuffed with sheep stuffed with bustards stuffed with carp stuffed with eggs is also mentioned in T.C. Boyle's book Water Music. British celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall makes an incredible ten-bird roast, calling it "one of the most spectacular and delicious roasts you can lay before your loved ones." A large turkey is stuffed with a goose, duck, mallard, guinea fowl, chicken, pheasant, partridge, pigeon and woodcock. The roast feeds around 30 people and also includes stuffing made from two pounds of sausage meat and half a pound of streaky bacon along with sage, port and red wine. Wow, now that truly is a mouthful!

Turkey stuffing usually consists of bread crumbs or cubes, dried bread, with onion, celery, salt, pepper, and other spices and herbs such as sage, or a mixture like poultry seasoning. In some cases, sausage or oysters are added as well. The term stuffing usually applies to the mixture when it is placed into the bird, while dressing is usually used when cooked outside. If you want to add a little sweetness to the turkey, stuff the cavity with some apples and raisins. If you are looking for something more savory and herbaceous, try adding rosemary and thyme with a little garlic and onion. For our purposes here, and since I am the Gourmet Guy, we'll just stick to a traditional Oyster Stuffing.

Recipe 
Makes 14 cups
Ingredients
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup salted butter
5 cups crumbled cornbread
1 pound bulk pork sausage, rendered and drained of fat (optional)
Turkey giblets, cooked and chopped (optional)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 stalks celery, diced (if you do not like cooked celery, as I do not, you can substitute a teaspoon of celery salt, but adjust your salt amount accordingly)
2 eggs
1 pint shucked oysters, drained, or more if desired (reserve the oyster liquor, should be about a 1/4 of a cup)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon paprika
Ground black pepper to taste

Method 
In a skillet, saute the celery & onions in butter until translucent. Remove. In the same pan, saute the sausage until just about done, but don't overcook. Drain.

In a large bowl combine the crumbled cornbread, cooked celery, cooked onions, cooked giblets, cooked sausage, oysters, parsley, salt, pepper, paprika, dried sage. Mix well.
Beat the 2 eggs. Add the eggs and chicken stock and oyster liquor to the stuffing mixture and thoroughly incorporate. 
In the bird:
Stuff the bird's cavity. Remove stuffing promptly once bird is cooked. 
Out of the bird:
Bake the stuffing in a large casserole dish in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. 

Roasting Your Turkey
So, now that we are ready to roast, how do I know how long it should cook for, and how high the temperature should be? USDA says that a turkey should not roast under 325 degrees Fahrenheit, so that’s a fair starting point. Approximate cooking times for an unstuffed turkey are as follows: (it is around 20 to 30 minutes per pound) 
  • 10 - 18 lb bird 3 to 3 ½ hrs
  • 19 – 22 lb bird 3 ½ to 4 hrs
  • 22 – 24 lb bird 4 to 4 ½ hrs
  • 24 – 29 lb bird 4 ½ to 5 hrs
One helpful hint to achieving a nice golden skin, is to start the "searing" process by cooking it in a 400 - 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes (depending on the size) to start the browning process (sugars begin to caramelize), then lower the temperature to 325 degrees and slow roast for the appropriate time. Basting is another way to impart even browning and to distribute some of those great flavorful juices. You may baste with the juices found in the bottom of the pan, or use some type of fat. Also popular, is to baste with another flavorful liquid, for example a brown stock fortified with apple cider vinegar and herbs. If the bird begins to brown too much, you may cover it with aluminum foil until it has reached doneness, and then finish for the last few minutes uncovered. Be careful not to cover the bird entirely, as you don’t want to steam the turkey.

How do I know if my bird is done? The USDA recommends that the turkey be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees as measured in the innermost part of the thigh. If the thigh is 165 degrees, the breast meat is likely to be 10 degrees hotter. Many cooks would tell you that a turkey roasted to those temperatures is overdone and would taste unacceptably dry. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness, try not to rely on those "pop up timers" that come with most turkeys. You can also prick the leg joint with a fork, and if the juices run just slightly pink or clear, the turkey is done.

To test the accuracy of your instant read thermometer, insert the tip about 2 inches deep into boiling water. At sea level it should register 212 degrees F. If it does not, replace it; or if it has a calibration device, reset it for accuracy. Nobody wants an overcooked bird, so start checking your bird about 3/4's of the way through the total recommended cooking time.

Gravy
Time to make the gravy!  On the stove top, use the same pan that you roasted this delicious turkey in. The drippings and leftover fat and liquid are going to make this gravy a very tasty one. I like to use a ratio of 1 Tablespoon of fat to 1 Tablespoon of flour to create a "roux" that will thicken my gravy. You can use chicken or turkey stock, or even just deglaze with sherry or white wine and add water. Just be sure to cook out the flour so it doesn’t leave a raw taste to the gravy. Season with salt pepper to taste.

Lou's Traditional Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients
12 oz Cranberries, Fresh Frozen
1 3/4 Cups Water
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
2 Cup Orange Juice
1 Tbl Orange Zest, Chopped
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 Cinnamon Stick


Method:
Place all ingredients in a sauce-pot, except the cranberries and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, add the cranberries to the liquid. reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until all of the cranberries have "popped". Remove the cinnamon stick, and cool. The liquid will be loose and will thicken once it cools.

Turkey is done, gravy is ready and now it's time to roll out all the fix-ins. Cranberry sauce, sweet potato pie, cornbread stuffing, yams, green beans, creamed onions, apple and pecan pie are just some of my favorites! Try something new this year and let me know how it comes out! We all have a lot to be thankful for and I am very blessed with such wonderful family and friends. God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to save me some leftovers!

Bon Appetit,

Lou
Sources: http://www.originalcookware.co.uk/ mccormick.com, usda.gov