It really isn't too hard - low oven, baste with butter every half hour, stuffing is awesome despite what the USDA says, and rely on a meat thermometer instead of instinct to tell you when it is done. I find that my grandmother's stuffing recipe (no, you are not going to see it here) stuffed in both the body and neck cavities helps the meat stay moist, and a bit of butter on the breast under the skin helps too. When the center of the stuffing hits 165, it is done. Start checking every 15 minutes, about 30 minutes before the USDA guidelines say so. I totally flaked on this detail this year, and waited until the minimum time. At that point, the thermometer read 175, and the outer portion of white meat was starting to dry out. However, the rest of the bird was absolutely perfect. What wasn't good was the family thanksgiving turkey, which had been cooked within an inch of it's life, then placed in a shallow dish and shoved into a dry oven to keep it warm... thereby sucking out any remaining moisture. If that was the turkey I had eaten growing up, I'd never make a turkey - because I'd assume that turkey is dry, flavorless, and unchewable. Mine is much better, due to butter, basting, and worrying about the moisture content of the stuffing:
|Mmm... turkey... a little foil protects the wing tips, but they can also be tucked under the bird to prevent burning.|
Turkey, as a meat, is exceptionally cheap and pretty abundant... for two months a year. Even if cooking a 12 to 28 pound bird does not scare you, what do do with an extra 20 pounds of meat that has to be eaten in the next three days can be enough to make you think that this isn't a wise use of resources.
So what do do with the leftovers? Here are my ideas:
Number 1 - Eat Them.
Just eat them. Put some turkey on a plate, ladle some gravy on top (or a splash of chicken broth), grab a spoonful of the extra sides, and microwave. It was awesome when you first had it, why wouldn't it continue to be awesome? Enjoy!
What I wouldn't recommend: Putting all of the dishes in the oven for "everyone to grab a plateful". If you learn anything from the paranoids over at the USDA, it's that you keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. It also keeps the textures from breaking down from repeated reheatings. Load up a plate, nuke for a minute, check the temperature, repeat until hot.