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How To: Turkey Dinner for the Holidays
November 23, 2010 6:00 am | by

As we were discussing what to post on the blog around Thanksgiving, we started laughing in the office about how many of us have completely failed at trying to have a turkey dinner. Most of us have had at least one spectacular failure… many of the others had just never tried.

My assistant, Rita, has previously offered to share her mother’s recipe for a successful Thanksgiving Day with me and I’d foolishly declined… thinking I’d be just fine. Unfortunately, last year’s Thanksgiving was a total train wreck. At 4pm (lunch was supposed to be at 2), I was near tears on the living room couch while my husband and father-in-law sorted out the lumpy, gross gravy disaster.

Rita has graciously shared her mother’s recipe with everyone. I hope that it helps you prepare a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner. I’m certainly going to try it!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Kindest regards,


P.S. If you have ideas for how to make Thanksgiving Day go better, please share your ideas in the comments. If you’re like me and struggle in the kitchen, feel free to tell us your Thanksgiving Day disaster stories. I’ll be watching, reading and hopefully learning something new from every comment!

Turkey Recipe

by Rosalie Bira, courtesy Rita Sciaroni

First defrost your turkey starting two days prior to the Big Day by setting the turkey in your refrigerator. Place the turkey on a dish towel.

The night (or day) before, take it out and remove the gizzard, liver and neck. Place the turkey in cold salt water. (Just pour salt in the water and put the turkey in it.) A good pan to use is your dishpan. This assures you the turkey is thoroughly defrosted and it will be thoroughly clean. While turkey is soaking:

Take the (heart), liver, gizzard and neck; rinse in cold water. Place in saucepan and add boiling water to cover.

1 tsp. salt
2 whole peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1/2 bay leaf
2 thin slices onions
1 stalk celery – cut up
1 carrot – cut up

Cover and cook over moderately low heat for about 15 minutes. Remove liver. Continue to cook until gizzard is tender – about 2 to 3 hours. Strain and reserve. (Remove some of the meat from the neck and put it back in the broth). You can chop up giblets coarsely and return to broth too. You will use this when you make your gravy. You can also add this to your dressing, especially the cut up meat and giblets.

Then make your dressing. NEVER stuff your turkey the day before with dressing. This promotes bacteria. Put dressing in refrigerator and keep it for the time you are ready to stuff your turkey.


This is Grandma Bira’s stuffing. We use it because Dad likes it. Maybe in the years to come you’ll try something else you like better.

2 or 3 packages Croutons (instructions on package will tell you how much you need for the weight of the turkey you have.
2 eggs
1 1/4 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. sage
2 cups onions
2 cups celery
2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 beef bouillon cubes
5 cups water
1 cup butter

Put butter in big skillet and melt slowly. Put onions and celery in butter and cook, stirring till celery and onions are transparent not brown.

Put croutons in big bowl. Pour the onion, celery and butter mixture over croutons and mix thoroughly.

In a saucepan, combine the water and bouillon cubes and cook until cubes dissolve. Put in the seasonings and pour this over your bread crumbs. Slightly beat eggs and put this in mixture — blending thoroughly. At stuffing time you can put the meat from the neck and gizzard in the dressing. Put in refrigerator and cover. DO NOT STUFF TURKEY UNTIL YOU ARE READY TO BAKE IT.

Now your turkey should be clean and thoroughly defrosted and ready to dry it off. Pat it dry with dish towel. Be sure you get the water out of the neck cavity too.

Rub your turkey with some white vinegar, then rub the outside with Crisco (as best as you can – it’s a little difficult with the vinegar on it.)

Then figuring 1/8 teaspoon for each pound, rub the cavities with salt.

Place it back in the refrigerator. I usually cover it with a big dish towel and place it on a large meat platter.

Next day, when you get ready to bake it:

Take the turkey and dressing out of the refrigerator and stuff according to your cookbook. It will also have the time table in it for baking your turkey by weight.

However you cookbook might say “don’t cover and don’t add water.” I have (and my mother too) have always added water (1/4 cup) and a big tablespoon Crisco and I cover the turkey with my roaster top.


After your turkey is done:

Your cookbook will give good hints on this. You should use meat thermometer. (I can usually tell by appearances because the legs pull away and it looks done). Also, it’s best to allow the turkey to stand out (after it’s done) for about 1/2 hour – this is the time you make the gravy in the same pan that the turkey was baked in.

When ready to make gravy, here is a good gravy recipe I found years ago in my Redbook Magazine.


1/2 cup fat from turkey drippings
1/2 cup unsifted all purpose flour
5 cups liquid (including reserved giblet broth)
Salt and pepper to taste
cooked giblets (optional)

After turkey is removed from roasting pan, pour drippings from pan into a bowl (I use a large measuring cup) leave most of the brown particles in the pan. Let the fat rise to the top of the drippings. Skim off 1/2 cup fat and pour into a large skillet. Skim off remaining fat and discard (When I have a very large crowd of people I never throw away the remaining fat just in case I have to make more gravy). Add rest of the drippings to reserve giblet broth, pour into the roasting pan. Place over moderate heat and stir scraping to remove brown particles from the bottom. Measure liquid from roasting pan and add enough water to make 5 cups.

Heat the 1/2 cup turkey fat in the skillet over low heat; gradually blend in flour. Cook until mixture bubbles. Remove skillet from heat and add the 5 cups liquid gradually, stirring constantly.

Cook over moderate heat stirring constantly, until thick and smooth. Add salt and pepper. Add chopped giblets (optional).

Makes 5 cups gravy

Rosalie Bira was mother to three Cotton Babies employees, Rita, Kathy and Jeanne. Cumulatively, these sisters have raised 9 children, 8 grandchildren (with another on the way) and served at Cotton Babies for more than 13 years. We’re thankful that Rosalie raised such amazing women and that they shared their secret family recipe with us.

About the Author

Jenn is the founder of Cotton Babies & creator of bumGenius, Flip, and Econobum, worldwide leading cloth diaper brands. She has four children (Andrew, Oscar, Elsie and Louis) and holds an MBA from Washington University. When she's not working full time, she enjoys teaching business leaders how to implement sustainable economic & social change.



  • Rizwan said...
    November 30, 2010 at 4:29 am

    Some good info has been shared by you i love cooking i haven,t tried Turkish food thanks for recipe
    Pegasos World turkey

  • Anonymous said...
    November 24, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I rub sage butter under the skin and all over the outside of my turkey. It smells wonderful and tastes even better. I cheat and use a turkey size oven bag to roast it. It’s self-basting and I can spend more time with my family instead of constantly checking on the turkey.

    My mom always cooks her turkey the day before Thanksgiving. She transfers the carved meat and juices to a large crockpot for serving. It’s still just as tender and juicy as if it just came out of the oven.

  • Abernathy said...
    November 23, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    I do not have a turkey recipe, but thankfully I do have a large enough family who loves to cook. There are 20 of us now, counting the little ones, and every year, a few weeks before the big day, each of us siblings call dibs on 1-2 side items to prepare for the big meal. There are the usual side dishes that have been perfected over the years, as well as new ones that are made on a whim in attempts to try to impress everyone else: carrot souffle, dried cherry and bleu cheese salad, and creme brulee are dishes that have been introduced in the past few years and have quickly become our favorites.

    My mother brings the turkey(s). This is the 1 day per year that she cooks, and her turkey is AMAZING.

    Having a large family to split up the meal responsibilities makes it easy on everyone and we still enjoy a beautiful, absolutely delicious meal with each other. We love Thanksgiving!

  • Loni said...
    November 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I brine my turkey for a good 8-12 hours before cooking… makes it more flavorful and helps it to maintain it’s juiciness!
    – 1 cup kosher salt
    1/2 cup light brown sugar
    1 gallon vegetable stock
    1 tablespoon black peppercorns
    1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
    1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
    1 gallon heavily iced water

    put the bird in with the inside clean, breast down. flip half way through brine time. REFRIGERATE or keep in a cool place while brining. Take it out, pat it dry and roast it the way you usually would. GOD BLESS, AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING!