Nov-Thanksgiving-01
Peta Cohen, M.S., R.D.

Creative Main Courses for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and, once again, you’re hosting a table of family and friends. Last year, my blog focused on sensational sides. This time around, let’s be healthy, creative, and embrace the main course experience. While most people roast a turkey in the typical, tried-and-true ways, this year, let’s instead choose one of the following 5 healthy and alternative approaches to wowing your guests.

Roasted Turkey

I’ve started with the traditional roasted approach, just so you don’t feel pushed too far to the edge of the cliff with alternative methods. Even the mainstay of roasting can produce a healthy, juicy, perfectly roasted turkey.

Ingredients

  • 1 14-pound free-range turkey
  • Himalayan salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 whole lemon
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, cut into 3-inch sticks
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 3-inch sticks
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • Fresh rosemary and thyme

Process

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Remove giblets and clean turkey thoroughly.

Pat the turkey dry with paper towel.

Rub the inside cavity with half the lemon juice and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt.

Fill the inside cavity with half the onion, some carrot sticks, some celery sticks and some parsley. Block the entrance of the cavity with parchment paper or sew with metal skewers or kitchen string.

Rub the inside of the neck cavity with a little lemon juice, salt for flavor and fill with a little parsley. Cover the opening with the flap of skin and seal with a skewer or kitchen string.

Rub the outside of the turkey with olive oil, sprinkle generously with Himalayan salt and pepper.

Place the turkey breast side down in the roasting pan.

Sprinkle the outside of the turkey with the fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme.

Cook the turkey at 400° F, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325° F and cook for about 2 more hours. Finally, reduce the heat to 225° F and cook until the internal temperature of the dark meat reaches 170° F and the breast reaches about 160° F.

Remove the turkey from the oven. Allow it to sit for about 20 minutes before carving.


Smoked Turkey

Get yourself a smoker. If you’ve passed step one, then congratulations. It’s time to create a juicy, flavorful alternative that your guests will be talking about into the new year.

Ingredients

  • 1 14-pound free-range turkey
  • ½ cup Kerrigold butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • Olive oil
  • Himalayan salt and pepper
  • Butcher twine

Process

Remove giblets and clean turkey thoroughly.

Cut off the wing tips.

Pat the outside of the turkey dry and rub with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and fresh herbs.

Mix the butter with some of the herbs and rub into the inside cavity.

Place orange quarters in the cavity.

Sew the cavity up with metal skewers or kitchen string.

Place turkey in the smoker, and cook on medium low heat (300-350° F)

Cook until internal temperature of the white meat reads 170° F and the dark meat reads 165° F.


Deep Fried Turkey

Who says the folks “down south” have the monopoly on deep-frying? Watch your temperature and don’t over-fry, and you’ll have earned southern-fried bragging rights for this year’s bird.

Ingredients

  • 3 gallons grape seed oil for frying
  • 1 12-pound free-range Turkey
  • ¼ cup Creole seasoning
  • 1 white onion

Process

Heat oil in a large stockpot or turkey fryer at 400° F.

Remove giblets and rinse turkey thoroughly.

Pat dry with paper towel and season with Creole spice inside and out.

Place the onion and turkey in a drain basket, neck end first.

Slowly lower turkey into fryer and cook, maintaining the oil temperature at 350° F.

Cook until internal temperature of the white meat reads 170° F and the dark meat reads 165° F.


Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey

Sign up here to begin a couple days in advance, and you’ll have created one of my favorite approaches to preparing an amazingly flavorful and juicy main course.

Ingredients

Brine

  • 7 quarts spring water
  • 1 quart organic apple cider
  • ¾ cup kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup organic sugar
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half
  • ½ bunch fresh rosemary
  • ½ bunch fresh sage
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 14-pound free-range Turkey

Herb Crust

  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh sage, leaves finely chopped
  • 3 sticks Kerrigold butter, room temperature
  • Kosher salt

Process

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Remove the giblets and rinse turkey thoroughly.

Combine all the brine ingredients in a large container. Add the turkey and leave in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Remove the turkey from the brine.

Melt the butter and combine with rosemary and sage in a small bowl.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Rub the herbed butter mixture all over the skin and inside the cavity.

Tie the legs together with kitchen string.

Put 2 cups free-range organic chicken stock and 1 cup organic apple cider in the bottom of the roasting pan.

Roast the turkey at 450° F for about 40 minutes.

Lower the oven heat to 350° F for the remainder of the cooking time.

Baste the turkey every 30 minutes.

Add more stock to the roasting pan if necessary.

When the outside of the turkey reaches golden brown, cover with parchment paper.

Cook until internal temperature of the white meat reads 170° F and the dark meat reads 165° F.


Slow Roast Overnight

Looking for something a little different, but not ready to purchase more equipment or start days in advance? How about following the “TV-man” mantra and just “set it and forget it” the night before? With this method you can awaken early to a masterpiece.

Ingredients

  • 1 12-pound free-range Turkey
  • ½ stick Kerrigold butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoon Himalayan salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into to 2-inch pieces to fit into turkey cavity
  • 1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, cut in half
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces to fit into turkey cavity
  • 2 cups boiling water

Process

Preheat oven to 500° F.

Remove the giblets and rinse the turkey thoroughly.

Pat the turkey dry with paper towel.

Melt butter and rub all over the outside of the turkey.

Season the skin and inside cavity with salt and pepper.

Place the celery, onion and carrot in the cavity.

Sew the cavity up with metal skewers or kitchen string.

Place the turkey, breast-side up, in a large roasting pan.

Pour the boiling water into the pan.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and put the pan in the oven.

Bake for about 1 hour and turn the oven off.

Do not open the oven door.

Leave the turkey in the oven for about 5 hours.

Remove and serve.

About Peta Cohen, M.S., R.D.:
Our nutrition expert, Peta Cohen, M.S., R.D., has been a clinical nutritionist and metabolic specialist since 1996. Peta specializes in examining the root causes of complex and chronic health issues, and helping clients prevent the diseases caused by lifestyle choices, environmental influences, epigenetics, and aging. With her extensive clinical and research experience, she's been invited to share her knowledge at seminars and conferences worldwide. In Peta's articles for the BoomSpot, the blog of the online store theBoomShop.com, she gives practical tips on how adults 50+ can improve their health right now. Learn more about Peta at PetaCohen.com.
DISCLAIMER: The content of theBoomShop.com and BoomSpot is offered on an informational basis only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to a medication or treatment you are currently using, and/or starting any new medication or treatment. All recommendations are "generally informational" and not specifically applicable to any individual's medical problems, concerns and/or needs.