Rick Rodgers, Author of "The Turkey Cookbook" (Harper-Collins,1990, $10.95) says that while the public image of Thanksgiving is that of an idealized, extended family gathering, in reality many people spend the day in smaller gatherings or even alone.
"There are more twosomes and foursomes, especially in urban situations, with people relocating [away from family]," Rodgers says.
A smaller celebration does not call for a 15-pound turkey and pounds of stuffing, potatoes, side dishes and pies and the accompanying long hours in the kitchen. It means less cooking and more time to enjoy a leisurely dinner.
"Especially if you aren't going to be around your family, don't be sad...treat yourself special," says Rodgers. "It's a holiday, so take some time off for yourself. Don't be afraid to use the services of a great baker to get mini mincemeat tarts or go to a gourmet shop and buy a hand-made chutney, instead of making cranberry sauce or [opening] a can.
"If I had only four people for Thanksgiving, I would get a five-pound turkey breast, and stuff under the skin with a small batch of my favorite stuffing, and surround the roast with baby carrots, baby onions and artichoke hearts and new potatoes during the last hour," Rodgers says.
For a dinner for two, he would roast a three-pound turkey breast and add some luxurious extras to the meal.
"Treat yourself to something very expensive in the seafood department such as the best oysters you can find, or a make a nice shrimp remoulade." Pumpkin custards would make an elegant dessert. "Now is the time to bring out that nice bottle of champagne or a light burgundy," says Rodgers.
And what if he were celebrating Thanksgiving completely alone?
"I would never not want to have turkey for a Thanksgiving, but under the circumstances I would make some kind of necessary changes in plan," says Rodgers. "I would have a quarter pound of caviar, a bottle of champagne, and chocolate truffles."
Rodgers will hold a workshop on how to roast perfect turkeys of all sizes from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Fri. Nov. 16 at Kitchen Bazaar in Towson Town Center. There is a $3 reservation fee that is applicable toward purchase of his book. Make a reservation by calling 337-8900.
Turkey Dinner for Two
Makes two generous servings, including leftovers
4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small celery rib, finely chopped
6 slices of stale white bread, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 1/4 cups Homemade Turkey Stock or canned chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
l 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 small whole turkey breast (3 pounds), bone in, skin on
4 large carrots, cut into 2x 1/2 -inch sticks
12 small white boiling onions, peeled
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon brandy or port wine (optional)
In a large skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter. Add the chopped onion and celery and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until softened, about three minutes. Off heat, add the bread cubes, one-quarter cup of stock, two tablespoons of the parsley, the thyme, sage and marjoram, and one-quarter teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.
Carefully slip your fingers under the skin of the turkey breast and separate it from the meat without tearing the skin. (This is easy to do if you make a small incision in the membrane that binds the skin to the meat at the narrow end of the breast and slip your fingers in at that point.) Spread the stuffing evenly underneath the turkey's skin. Rub two tablespoons of butter over the skin. Season the top of the breast with the remaining salt and pepper. Place in a medium, shallow flameproof baking dish and pour one-half cup of the stock over it.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roast the turkey breast for 30 minutes, basting occasionally with the pan juices. Arrange the carrot sticks and boiling onions around the turkey, season with additional salt and pepper, and continue roasting, basting occasionally, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thick part of the breast, but not touching the bone, registers 165 to 170 degrees, about one hour. Remove the turkey and vegetables to a warmed serving platter. Cover with aluminum foil and let stand ten minutes before carving.
Meanwhile, pour off and discard any fat in the pan, leaving behind the browned bits. Set the roasting pan on top of the stove, add the remaining two teaspoons butter, and melt over moderately low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, for one minute. Whisk in the remaining three-quarters cup of stock and the brandy. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, whisking often for two minutes. Pour the gravy into a warmed sauce boat.
Sprinkle the turkey breast and vegetables with the remaining parsley, carve the turkey breast, and serve immediately with the vegetables and gravy.