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Necessary precautions require we break from tradition this holiday season in order to curtail the spread of COVID-19. How does this affect Thanksgiving dinner? Fewer people at the dinner table, which probably means you won’t be dragging out the huge roasting pan reserved only for the annual 20-plus pound turkey.

A sizable, gloriously golden brown turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table; so, how could anything less takes it place? There are ways.

An alternative to a whole turkey is cooking a turkey breast in a crockpot. The slow cooking makes the turkey nice and juicy. No, it won’t come out of the pot golden brown, but that is rectified by running the breast under the broiler for a bit until the skin is nicely browned and crisp.

CROCKPOT TURKEY BREAST

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon each dried thyme and sage

1 large onion sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 stalks celery cut in half

1 head garlic sliced in half horizontally

1 cup chicken stock

1 whole turkey breast

salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Stir together the butter and herbs.

Loosen the skin of the turkey; spread butter mixture under the skin and on top.

Salt and pepper the breast.

Place onions, celery and garlic head in bottom of crock pot. Add chicken stock.

Place turkey, breast side up, on top of vegetables and cook, covered for 3 to 4 hours on high or 7 to 8 hours on low, until an internal temperature of 165 degrees F is reached in the thickest part of the breast.

Remove to an oven safe dish. Preheat broiler to high and place turkey on lower rack of oven. Broil just until turkey is nicely browned about 5 to 8 minutes.

Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Use drippings to make gravy.

Investing in a small turkey might be an opportunity to try something a bit different since there is less to lose if you’re not happy with the outcome. It’s safe to say this recipe is a bit different, but you won’t be unhappy with the results.

BEER BASTED TURKEY

INGREDIENTS:

12 lb turkey, giblets and neck removed

1 12 oz bottle of good beer

1 cup chicken stock

1 large onion cut into wedges

3 carrots, quartered

3 celery stalks, quarters

2 heads of garlic cut in half horizontally

salt and pepper

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon each dried thyme and sage

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Place turkey, neck and giblets in roasting pan. Generously salt and pepper inside and out. Rub butter over bird and under skin. Sprinkle with herbs.

Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under. Scatter vegetables around the turkey. Pour beer and stock over all.

Cover turkey with foil. Roast, covered for 3 hours. Uncover and roast to 165 degrees basting frequently. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Use the roasted garlic pulp and drippings to make a flavorful gravy.

Cornish hens could be the answer to the turkey dilemma. There is nothing that will tickle kids more than having their very own chicken. If you’ve always wanted to deep fry a turkey but were daunted by the process, the small size of Cornish hens takes the fear out of frying. They roast up beautifully on the grill. Present these Cornish hens on a beautiful platter garnished with fresh herbs and cranberries and you might not miss the turkey!

CORNISH GAME HENS WITH WILD RICE STUFFING

INGREDIENTS:

6 tablespoons butter, divided

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice or long grain and wild rice blend

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1/3 cup chopped toasted pecan or walnuts

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup diced apple

salt and pepper

4 Cornish hens

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Saute the onions and celery until softened. Stir in rice, thyme, parsley, nuts, cranberries, and apples. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool.

Salt and pepper outside and inside of hens. Place 1/2 cup of the stuffing into the cavity of each hen. Tie the legs of each bird together with kitchen twine.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Melt the remaining butter with the vinegar. Brush the birds all over with the butter mixture and season with salt and pepper. Put the hens in roasting pan, breast side up and roast until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 170 F — about 80 minutes. Rest 10 minutes before serving.


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