Since this is the first (and hopefully last) COVID-19 Thanksgiving, I thought I’d offer a few tips on cooking for a smaller-than-normal Thanksgiving crowd.
This is easy for me, since most years, I’m cooking Thanksgiving for two (three, if you include our late beagle, Dickens Marovich).
The most popular-sized turkey is 12 to 14 pounds, which all of you are probably familiar with. If you’re cooking for a dozen people, that size is fine, but for two to four people, that’s a lot of leftovers.
Look for a 10-pound bird, if you can find one. I order mine, typically Norbest, from Hometown Meats, 4924 60th St., and always ask for a small one.
I also usually ask those same friendly folks to put the turkey on the meat saw and split it down the middle. There’s two good reasons for doing this.
First, you now have a five-pound turkey instead of a 10-pounder, and you can cook a five-pound bird in less than 2 1/2 hours, including resting time. You do let your turkey rest after it comes out the oven, don’t you?
The second advantage of sawing your turkey in half is that now you can have hot Thanksgiving turkey twice. We usually go with Thursday and Sunday.
Looking for a smaller alternative to turkey? How about a duck? I love duck, and my favorite brand is Maple Leaf Farms from Leesburg, Ind.
Maple Leaf Farms ducks are available at most Kenosha groceries for $15 to $20. Ducks average five to seven pounds, and you won’t find one for less than three dollars per pound.
They come frozen, so plan on at least four days to thaw out in the refrigerator. You might be able to feed four people on one duck, but you’ll be sorry you didn’t get a half for yourself.
From my deep background in the restaurant business, here’s the best way to roast a duck.
After it thaws and a day or two before Thanksgiving, hack off the wings and trim off any excess fat. Save the wings and the neck bone and make a quick stock. Strained and reduced duck jus, as the French call it, is great drizzled over the cooked meat when you serve it.
Season the duck lightly, inside and out with kosher salt and black pepper and roast at 350 degrees for 75 to 90 minutes. Like any poultry, the juices should run clear and the leg bones should move easily. Save the duck fat or give it to me.
After the duck cools completely, cut it in half lengthwise and gently remove the rib bones with your fingers. Now, you have a mostly-boneless duck, just like you get in supper clubs.
On Thanksgiving, simply reheat at 350 degrees until it’s hot and the skin sizzles a little bit and gets crisp. I like duck with braised red cabbage/bacon/apples out of “The Joy of Cooking” along with speatzle and several Pilsner Urquels. It reminds me of Czechoslovakia, even though I’ve never been there.
If you really want to simplify things, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a perfectly-roast chicken. There’s an old truism that the only thing that chefs want to eat on their infrequent days off is roast chicken. I’m guilty–I could eat roast chicken every day. Here’s a recipe with three ingredients, including salt and pepper: