Eating turkey on Thanksgiving is as American, if not more, as eating hot dogs on the Fourth of July. But when comparing the practicalities of preparing the two feasts, one can't help but notice a fundamental difference in the ensuing mess.
A turkey feast can destroy the kitchen, while the closest hot dogs usually get to the kitchen on the Fourth is storage in the refrigerator.
That was at least true until this one-pot turkey dinner came along. It includes all the traditional foods, with subtle new twists that work to eliminate much of the troublesome cleanup.
A boned turkey breast is substituted for a whole bird. The breast is lined with a quarter-inch layer of leek-and-pine nut stuffing, then rolled, tied and browned in the roasting pan on top of the stove. The stuffing that doesn't go into the breast is wrapped in foil and put in the oven during the last half-hour of cooking. Pan-roasted potatoes are substituted for the more traditional mashed -- no great loss once everyone discovers the crunchy new texture they lend to the feast. They are browned in the roasting pan on top of the stove along with baby carrots, then put in the oven about an hour before the turkey is due to come out.
A stuffed turkey breast cooks for 18 to 20 minutes a pound, so plan the cooking time accordingly. At 18 minutes a pound the meat will be slightly pink; 20 minutes a pound and the breast will be white throughout, though not as juicy. The 4 1/2-pound breast below cooks for 90 minutes (basted every 20 minutes or so), the carrots are added to the pan 70 minutes before the turkey comes out of the oven; the potatoes 50 minutes; leftover stuffing is added 30 minutes before it is finished. The gravy takes 15 minutes to make -- precisely the amount of time that the breast should sit before being carved. Then, when ready to serve, cut the breast straight down in 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices. Layer the slices on a large platter exposing the colorful stuffing. Surround the meat with carrots, potatoes and a few sprigs of fresh, crisp parsley.
Thanksgiving is usually a day of heavy eating. So dessert pies, though beautiful, rarely are attacked with gusto after the meal. This year, be radical. Put a platter of assorted fresh fruits on the table and call it a meal. A light dessert will leave the cleanup crew with just enough energy for their duties. But that's all they'll need, since the counter will be lined with only one pan, a large mixing bowl, a whisk, a measuring cup and, of course, the plates and glasses from the table. ONE-POT TURKEY DINNER (6 servings)
4 1/2 pound boneless turkey breast
FOR THE STUFFING:
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
8-ounce package dry stuffing mix
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 medium celery stalks, diced
1/4 pound mushrooms, chopped
2 leeks (white part only), rinsed and chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed dried thyme
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, melted
1 cup water
FOR THE VEGETABLES:
18 baby carrots, scrubbed, (with ends left on optional)
12 new potatoes, scrubbed and split in half
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 sprigs fresh parsely
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup homemade chicken stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
Toast pine nuts in a heavy saute' pan over high heat for five minutes or until the nuts become light brown and aromatic. Put the stuffing mix in a large bowl, mix with onion, celery, mushrooms and leeks and season with salt, pepper and thyme. Add melted butter and mix well. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add water a quarter cup at a time just enough to dampen the stuffing mixture so that a handful barely holds together in a ball in your hand.
Rinse the turkey breast and pat it dry. Season with salt and pepper. Coat the inside of the breast with a 1/4-inch layer of stuffing. To tie the roast shut, press the edges together and pull the skin flaps up over the ends. Take a long piece of kitchen twine, wrap it around one short end of the roast and tie a knot. Do not cut the twine. Wrap a second circle around it half an inch further down the length of the roast, only this time instead of tying a knot, hold the piece that moves down the length of the roast out with your thumb and slip the long end of the twine through it. Pull tight. Continue moving down the roast until you reach the other end. Tie in a knot and cut off extra twine. Wrap twine twice around length of roast, tie in a knot and cut off excess twine.
In a roasting pan large enough to hold the turkey and vegetables, melt butter and add oil. Brown carrots and potatoes on all sides. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Brown turkey breast on all sides.
Move pan with breast still in it to a 325-degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then baste with cooking juices. Add the carrots. Baste again 20 minutes later and add the potatoes. Baste again 30 minutes later and put the stuffing in the foil packet in the oven. Baste again 20 minutes later and test for doneness by inserting a two-pronged cooking fork into the meat. The breast is done when the juices run clear.
Remove turkey to a carving board, and wrap potatoes and carrots in aluminum foil. Wrap tightly. Reduce oven to 200 degrees. Return potatoes and carrots to the oven to keep warm.
Skim fat from cooking liquid in roasting pan. Add 1 cup chicken stock and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Whisk flour into 1/2 cup water. Whisk into boiling stock. Return to a boil and cook 2 more minutes, or until gravy thickens. Keep warm until serving time.
Carve breast in 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices and arrange attractively on a large platter. Arrange carrots and potatoes around the turkey. Place sprigs of parsley attractively on platter.
Serve stuffing in a separate bowl.
Strain gravy, if desired, just before serving.