It’s November, and “Turkey Day” is almost here...indeed, that bird has become so linked with the Thanksgiving holiday that their names are almost synonymous. The association goes back to the first Thanksgiving in 1621 when turkeys were prepared as part of the harvest feast of the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors.
As Thanksgiving itself is uniquely American, the turkey is an American native and was one of our earliest exports. The ubiquitous image of King Henry VIII gnawing on a turkey leg is, in fact, plausible because within a generation of Columbus’ “discovery” of America, turkeys were being raised in Europe and becoming a culinary trend for aristocrats and nobles who could afford them.
Benjamin Franklin made a vigorous argument for the turkey as our national bird, ultimately losing out to the Bald Eagle. While flocks of larger domestic turkeys were being developed to satisfy the world’s growing turkey appetite, the American Wild Turkey, like the eagle, once seemed destined to follow the Passenger Pigeon into extinction. Fortunately, conservation efforts in the 20th century, led there by our TWRA., reversed that trend. Ol’ Ben would be happy that the habitat closest to his namesake now claims our state’s largest wild turkey harvests.
Turkey is gaining in popularity as a health food choice, loaded with minerals and lower in calories and fat than its alternatives. “Free-Range” meats are also becoming popular with a more health-conscious America. Williamson County and its immediate neighbors are on the forefront of these trends, with organic turkey farms in the College Grove, Spring Hill, and Eagleville areas. Thus, you won’t have to bring out your musket if you’re in the mood for a free-range turkey, and, as all turkey varieties are much more affordable than they were in Henry VIII’s time, you won’t have to be a titled gentry to enjoy your own feast.
Thyme Roasted Turkey
- Kosher Salt
- 1 tbsp. crushed Rosemary Leaves
- Grated zest of 2 Lemons
- 1 (12-14 lbs turkey)
- 1 large Yellow Onion, quartered
- 2 Lemons, quartered
- 10 Sprigs fresh Thyme
- 6 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted
- A couple of days before you roast Turkey, combine Salt, Rosemary, and Lemon Zest. Rub Turkey inside and out. Sprinkle inside the cavity with some of the mixture and the remainder all over the outside of the turkey. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to roast.
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Place the Onion, Lemon, and Thyme in the cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Brush the turkey with Butter and additional Salt and Pepper.
- Roast Turkey for 45 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325°F and roast for another hour until the breast has an internal temperature of 165°F and 175°F for the legs and thighs.
- Remove from the oven and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Broccoli & Cauliflower Casserole
Yield: 6-8 servings
- 3 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
- 1 cup frozen Vegetable Seasoning Blend (Celery, Bell Pepper and Onion)
- 3 tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
- 2 1/4 cups Whole Milk
- 1 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
- 2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
- 1 lb frozen or fresh Broccoli Florets, thawed and drained
- 1 lb frozen or fresh Cauliflower Florets, thawed and drained
- 1/2 cup Ritz Crackers, crushed
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a medium saucepan, melt Butter over medium-high heat. Add Vegetable blend; cook, occasionally stirring, until softened, approx. 2 minutes, and remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, add Flour and whisk in Milk.
- Stir Milk mixture into the Vegetable mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened and bubbly, approximately 3 minutes, and remove from heat.
- Add half of the Cheddar, Parmesan, Mustard, Salt, Garlic Powder, and Pepper.
- In a greased 2 1/2 quart casserole dish, place Broccoli and Cauliflower and top with Cheese mixture. Sprinkle with remaining Cheddar Cheese and Ritz crackers.
- Bake for 20 minutes until cheese melts and is bubbly.
Sausage & Apple Cornbread Dressing
Yield 8-10 servings
- 1 8 oz. package Mild Pork Sausage
- 5 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
- 2 1/2 cups chopped Onion
- 2 cups chopped Celery
- 2 Apples, diced
- ½ cup chopped Pecans
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh Sage
- ¼ tsp. Black Pepper
- 10 cups, day-old Cornbread, cubed
- 2 large Eggs, slightly beaten
- 3 cups Chicken Broth
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Brown Sausage in a nonstick skillet. Remove Sausage but leave the rendered fat in the pan.
- Add Butter, Onion, and Celery to the same pan, occasionally stirring, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add Apples, Pecans, Sage, and Pepper. Cook another 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, gently combine Cornbread, Sausage, Apple mixture, Eggs, and Broth. Pour into an 11x8 greased baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes or until dressing is firm to touch.
Sinfully Rich Sweet Potatoes
Yield: 6-8 servings
- 3 cups cooked & mashed Sweet Potatoes
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 2 Eggs, beaten
- 1 cup Evaporated Milk
- 1/4 cup Butter
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup Light Brown Sugar
- 1/3 cup Butter, melted
- 1 cup Flaked Coconut
- 1 cup chopped Pecans
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Mix all ingredients and pour into a greased 2-quart casserole dish.
- Cover with topping and bake in for 30-40 minutes.
Daisy King, Executive Chef & Author
Tennessee’s “First Lady of Southern Cooking,” Daisy King, was the founder and chef of the renowned Miss Daisy’s Tearoom, proprietor and executive chef of Miss Daisy’s Kitchen and Author of multiple books. Visit missdaisyking.com to learn more and see the menu for Miss Daisy’s Kitchen located at 1110 Hillsboro Road, Franklin.