Big Joe’s Big Thanksgiving Dinner — Part Three
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I love Christmas, but Thanksgiving was always very, very special to me and my family. I’ve always had a big table of family and friends and I always cooked.
It was a four day event to prepare for the big day and then it seemed that once the food was on the table it was gone in ten minutes! I hated that part of the day. I always tried to have as much done in advance so that I could be more social and entertaining to my guests. I tried but I never left the kitchen.
Invariably everyone congregated in the kitchen just to watch me do my thing and to talk. My mom would come over early to help and watch the parade, and then get mad with me because I wouldn’t let her do any of the prep work. When I was younger, mom and I spent so many Thanksgivings at friends and relatives and once I had a place of my own, and nieces and nephews to cook for, it was always at my house.
My favorite memories are making Thanksgiving dinner for my mom and my nieces and nephew, my cousins and friends. One Thanksgiving my cousin Chip and I made dinner for 50 of our friends and family. We held the dinner at the Little Silver Fire House and used their big kitchen. We had over 20 different dishes, we hired a karaoke dj and it was a blast, what a party.
One of my favorite traditions that I enjoyed is being up at 6:00am Thanksgiving morning cooking and prepping for the big day, early in the morning a couple of my friends and cousins would show up for a bloody mary. My friend Big Bob who has since passed was the best, he would bring this special bloody mary mix and we would toss a few back to get the heart going. My buddy Jimmy would stop by and have a cold one and a bloody mary. It was terrific, but on one certain Thanksgiving morning there was a string of friends and family who all came over to celebrate the tradition at staggered times, and you have to imbibe when sharing a Thanksgiving moment with those you enjoy. Well by the time noon rolled around I started to feel the effects of my tradition, whew, getting that dinner on the table that year was a chore.
I enjoy the whole day, the morning tradition, the work, the smell and then dinner hits the table and it’s gone in world record time. I would sit at the table in disbelief that all this work is gone in such a short time.
The enjoyment after dinner was watching all my guests go into a tryptophan coma spread out in my living room like mustard gas had seeped through the vents. There I would sit by myself with the last glass of wine overlooking the carnage in my living room from filled content bellies watching them drool in their nap and I would smile and say another great Thanksgiving dinner. This Thanksgiving will be a little different this year but I hope that you spend this holiday with family and friends even if only virtually and that you enjoy the day as much as I do. Happy Thanksgiving!
Big Joe's Big Stuffing
I have a tremendous respect for stuffing. Thanksgiving time is really the only time that most of us make homemade stuffing. I’m real big into having the stuffing taste great with lots of moisture.
Dry stuffing could put a damper on your meal. While you could certainly prepare this dish the morning of Thanksgiving, if you’re under time restraints you could make it the day before and the flavors will really meld well into the stuffing. If you make it the day before, add more chicken stock, because the refrigeration will dry it out more than usual and wrap it very tight before storing the night before.
This recipe is enough stuffing for a large turkey, 16 – 20 pounds, and enough for a pan for the table (about 8 - 10 people). Just a note, remember that when you stuff a turkey your cooking time for the bird is increased and don’t pack it in, the loser the stuffing in the bird, the better the juices. I like to start with Pepperidge Farm Herb "cubed" Stuffing Mix as a base for this tasty stuffing
2 - 3 packages – Pepperidge Farm Herb Flavored Stuffing Mix Cubed
2 tubes – Jimmy Dean sausage (I like one tube spicy and one tube mild and mix)
4 cans – low salt chicken broth
1 package – button mushrooms cleaned sliced
2 medium onions, chopped
4 to 6 stalks celery, chopped
¾ cup – Apple Cider
1 teaspoon each of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, yeah just like the song!
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 ½ sticks of butter
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Aluminum casserole pan
How to put it together:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a big pot over med-high heat start cooking the sausage breaking it up with wooden spoon. Add garlic, butter, spices let cook until sausage is almost completely cooked add celery, onion continue to sauté, and then add mushrooms, sauté for three to four minutes.
Add chicken both, increase heat under pot until mixture has a slow boil, add apple cider. Mix in Pepperidge Farm Stuffing turn off heat under pot. Mix thoroughly and let sit for 1 hour (I like to let it sit longer in covered pot because all the flavors marry well into the stuffing.)
Loosely stuff the bird right before putting it in the oven, bake the remainder of stuffing in an aluminum pan for about 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees and Enjoy!
NOTE: I don't use water to mix the stuffing although the recipe on the Pepperidge Farm stuffing bags call for it. I substitute with chicken broth.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.
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