My Low Carb Thanksgiving Table

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Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving in Tennessee has been very different from the Thanksgivings of the past. First of all, there are only the four of us, my husband, Bob, me, and our two sons, Patrick and Robert. We have lived here for almost six years, and except for one year with Bob’s family in Cincinnati, we have stayed home for Thanksgiving.

Still, I plan on cooking a turkey for just the four of us. Unlike previous years, there won’t be all the “trimmings”. No sausage and herb stuffing, no sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, and no homemade apple and cherry pies. What? No apple and cherry pie? I’m sorry boys, of course I will make my apple and cherry pies, just for you!

Okay, so the whole family has not embraced my low carb lifestyle…yet! So, I make compromises. I indulge them in the absolute Thanksgiving necessities, such as turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, and pie for dessert. For me, instead of potatoes, I decided to make some mashed cauliflower with chives and white cheddar cheese, and a sugar-free pumpkin praline cheesecake. Yum, I can’t wait!

This is a work in progress. So far, I have added recipes for my roast turkey and two types of gravy, low carb and traditional flour gravy. As time goes on, I will update this post to include all of the recipes that I prepared for this Thanksgiving. Please check back for updates.

For years, I never seemed to cook my turkey the same way every time. We’ve smoked the turkey, deep fried the turkey, roasted it breast-side down for juiciness, and soaked it in brine for two days. I have had it cooked on the grill, and roasted overnight in a low oven (not recommended).

Ultimately, the best way to roast turkey is to follow the directions on the package…go figure! Add a good turkey rub with lots of butter, baste every 20-30 minutes and you will have the juiciest, most tender, and flavorful turkey, ever.

Let’s face it, anyone can roast a turkey, there’s really not much to it. It may seem intimidating to the beginner, but it’s one of the easiest meals to cook. This year, I’ll roast the turkey exactly the same way as I did last year, and the year before that. Why change perfection? However, this time, I’m going to try a low carb gravy, in addition to my traditional flour gravy for the boys (hubby and two sons).

So, for you low carbers reading this, I guarantee that this turkey will be the best you’ve ever had, but we’ll be experiencing this low carb gravy together. Wish us luck! How can it not be perfect when we have the flavor of the turkey with all the spices going for us. Yum! Just thinking about it makes me drool. I can’t wait!

Homemade Turkey Stock

Assuming you want to make the most delicious homemade gravy, ever, the first thing to do is make the turkey stock. This should be done ahead of time so you can add the stock to the turkey before roasting. This makes for excellent tasting turkey drippings.

It is also assuming you can remove the giblets from the turkey. Otherwise, wait until the turkey is completely thawed to remove the giblets. The giblets are found in a bag inside of the cavity of the turkey.

The giblets consist of the neck, heart, gizzard and liver. The liver can contain toxins, so discard it. It will not be used to make the gravy.

Raw GibletsLooks like this turkey had a very long neck, or there were two necks inside the bag!

  1. Break the neck into 3 or 4 pieces. In my case, I ended up with 6 pieces.
  2. Raw Giblets

  3. In a large pot (big enough for 2 quarts of liquid plus veggies), heat up some bacon grease or butter.
  4. Add the giblets, along with any extra pieces of skin, and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.
  5. In a large pot saute giblets

  6. Chop up the onions and celery, add to the pot and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes until vegetables are translucent.
  7. Add veggies to turkey stock

  8. Add garlic and thyme.
  9. Add veggies to turkey stock

  10. Add water and chicken broth, and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes.
  11. Add water and broth to turkey stock

  12. Strain the mixture and store the turkey broth, covered, in refrigerator until needed. May be frozen for later use.
  13. Save the strained vegetables and giblets for the gravy.

To stuff or not to stuff, that is the question:

I no longer stuff my turkey. This makes for a much juicier turkey, and without the stuffing absorbing all the liquid you end up with more drippings for the gravy. Plus, it takes longer to roast a stuffed bird. When I did make stuffing, I prepared it ahead of time and then placed it in a casserole dish and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes after removing turkey.

Prepping the Turkey:

  1. Pat turkey dry.
  2. Make a simple rub by combining the 7 spices into a small storage container, shaking it up. This rub can be used on just about any kind of roast; beef, chicken, pork, turkey.
  3. Then, in a small bowl take half of the spice mixture and add to the softened butter. Mix it all up.
  4. Separate the skin from the bird, starting at the top of the breast, by finding a small pocket and wiggling your fingers in between, very carefully, moving your fingers back and forth along the top of the breast, under the skin, going back as far as you can, then sides, and into part of the leg. You can use a spoon to do this, but I like using my hands so I can go by touch. You want to be careful not to break the skin.
  5. Once the skin is loose and separated from the turkey, place gobs of the butter and herb mixture between the skin and the meat of the bird. See video below. Again, this can be done with a spoon. This will produce wonderfully tender and juicy turkey, with a crispy and golden skin on top.
  6. Rub inside cavity with course salt; this will help retain moisture.
  7. Place on rack in roasting pan.
  8. Drizzle olive oil on turkey and rub it all over, top and bottom, including wings and legs.
  9. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  10. Sprinkle some of the remaining dry spice rub on the outside of the turkey, a little at a time, rubbing it all over, top and bottom.
  11. Pour 2 cups of chicken broth, or homemade turkey stock, directly into cavity of turkey, and add another 2 cups of chicken broth or turkey stock to the roasting pan.
  12. With string, tie turkey legs together, even if metal clip is attached because the legs usually pop out. You don’t want the legs to spread open and dry out.
  13. Place pieces of foil around tips of wings and legs to keep from being overcooked.
  14. Tie string around turkey to keep wings pressed tightly against bird.
  15. Place pieces of foil around tips of wings and legs to keep from being overcooked.

  16. Roast at 325 degrees for approximately 4 hours (according to package roasting chart).

    If your turkey has a “pop-up” temperature indicator, I suggest that you completely ignore it! The pop-up thingy usually won’t pop up until the turkey reaches 185 degrees, which is too high. It is recommended that you check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a meat thermometer. The minimum internal temperature should reach 165°F for safety. You could probably remove the turkey from the oven when it reads 160 degrees, since it will continue to cook while resting.

  17. Remove turkey from pan and place on large platter, set aside.
  18. Thanksgiving Turkey

  19. Strain all the spices and textures from the liquid through a strainer into a two or four-cup measure, and skim off the fat. I use the OXO Good Grips 2-Cup Fat Separator. Funny, I never knew how to use one of these until I bought one that came with the stopper. The stopper is what keeps the fat from going into the spout! It is a very handy tool.
  20. Oxo Gravy Separator

Is it Gravy, yet?

It’s kind of funny. It took me years to perfect my gravy. I had gone from a lumpy mess to a smoother, tastier gravy. I would always keep a couple of cans of store-bought gravy just in case I messed it up. Finally, my gravy was perfect, if I do say so myself.

However, now that I eat low carb, I had to find another way to make gravy without the flour. There are so many “hidden” carbs in the foods we eat. Many of us don’t think about the dressings and sauces that contain lots of carbohydrates, and they all add up quickly! I’ve been learning how to pick and choose where my carbs come from. I try to get my carbs from healthy green vegetables and some nuts, and avoid most fruit, grains, pasta, rice, sugar and starchy vegetables. Following are two recipes for gravy. One is without flour, the other is the more traditional way with flour.

So, here is a recipe for a low carb gravy.

Low Carb Gravy:

If you made your own turkey stock, as shown above, you will already have the cooked giblets and vegetables that you saved.

  1. Dice up the giblets and vegetables, and remove meat from the neck.
  2. Put the giblets in a pot or skillet and brown them.
  3. Add the vegetables and stir until hot.
  4. This is when you will start to add the liquids.
  5. We will use equal parts cream and turkey drippings from the broth.
  6. Start with one cup of each, turkey drippings and heavy whipping cream. The heavy cream will help with the thickening process.
  7. Whisk or use an immersion blender. This will use the giblets and vegetables as a thickener for the gravy. This particular immersion blender is nice because it has the whisk attachment.
  8. Bring to rolling boil and reduce by 1/4 to 1/2. Reducing the gravy by boiling it will also help thicken it.
  9. Now comes the tricky part. We are going to sprinkle a TINY amount of xanthan gum to the top of the sauce, let it heat up, and then stir it in. I was told to only use 1/8th of a teaspoon because xanthan gum goes a long way, and you don’t want to use too much. Also, use a paper towel to wipe utensils before washing, or you’ll have a sticky mess.

Traditional Flour Gravy:

  1. To make regular gravy, in a large skillet or saute pan on medium heat, start with a roux by melting 2 tablespoons of butter and whisking with 2 tablespoons of flour, browning a little bit to get rid of the floury taste.
  2. Slowly add a cup of the strained turkey drippings to the roux a little bit at a time, whisking continuously.
  3. When blended, add the rest of the liquid from the turkey drippings and stir.
  4. If you like giblet gravy, finely chop giblets (heart, gizzards, and meat from the neck) and add to skillet. Discard bones.

That’s it! Either way, you will have a delicious gravy to serve with your turkey.

The turkey is still frozen? Don’t panic!

*Note: If you purchase a frozen turkey, thaw in refrigerator. You will need one day for every 4-5 pounds, so a 12-pound frozen turkey will require at least three days to thaw in the refrigerator. If you find yourself with a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving Day morning, don’t panic! Allow an extra hour and a half to roast the frozen turkey. The FDA allows this. See http://busycooks.about.com/od/thanksgiving/a/cookfrozenturke.htm. In fact, it is the suggested method, rather than trying to thaw the bird in cold water outside of the refrigerator. Roast frozen turkey at 325 for approximately 3 to 3-1/2 hours, then remove neck and giblets from cavity. You can add your rub, and the turkey can be stuffed at this time. Make sure you heat up the stuffing, first. This results in a tender juicy bird. I’ve also done this with a roast beef and it came out perfectly!

Food Storage:

Refrigerated leftovers should be eaten within four days. I keep out plenty of leftovers for dinner plates and sandwiches, and the rest is stored in the freezer to be consumed within the next four months. Turkey leftovers can be used for casseroles, pot pies, turkey enchiladas, and maybe a nice soup.

Bon appétit!


Printing the Recipes

I have set this up so that you can print each step/procedure separately. There is one for preparing the turkey stock, one for cooking the turkey, and one for each type of gravy, either a traditional flour gravy or a delicious low carb cream gravy.

Printable version without images

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


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