This illustration by William Ladd Taylor is from my treasured November 1896 Ladies' Home Journal. The artist studied in Paris and did illustrations for popular magazines.
The delight on the young woman's face, and her body language, perfectly express her admiration for the hunter returning with the wild turkey for their Thanksgiving meal.
Years ago I read in this old book by George F. Willis called Saints and Strangers that turkey was not served at the 1621 Thanksgiving but that didn't inspire me to serve venison or goose or even duck for Thanksgiving Day Dinner. It is an excellent scholarly book about the Pilgrims and inexpensive copies can be found here.
This year, I am cooking a bone-in turkey breast and there will only be the two of us, maybe a third person if RH's brother decides to eat with us. He and RH have been working outside here all week insulating and paneling the new workshop.
And it won't be nearly as fulfilling an experience as cooking my favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipe from November 1986's Bon Appetit. As Laurie Colwin says in her More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen, "There is a je ne sais quoi about turkey cooking--the air of festivity, the family squabbles, the constant basting--that does not apply to turkey breast, which is really, a convenience food."
But I will do my best with the breast, salt it for 24 hours first and cook it in our large iron skillet in the oven. But in memory of previous decades when it took an 18 pounder to feed our large family, and for the family cookbook that I might someday pull together from blog posts, here is the Bon Appetit recipe I used for nineteen years. The maple glaze gives the turkey a golden color that's hard to improve on. There was a sauce that went with the recipe, but I don't make that. It seems too much like unnecessarily gilding the gobbler. I don't truss my turkey either, simply because I forget to buy the string for it, and God forbid that I ever put my mother's cornbread dressing inside the bird. Pictured below is the last large turkey I cooked before we sold Valley View four years ago.
Bon Appetit's Maple-Glazed Turkey
1 16-pound turkey
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup applejack or Calvados [I use true French Calvados and save the rest for my fruitcakes.]
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 475 F. degrees. Sprinkle inside of turkey with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Truss turkey to hold shape. Rub butter into skin. Arrange breast side up on rack in roasting pan. Cook 45 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees.
Combine maple syrup and Calvados and baste turkey. Continue cooking until thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh registers 170 degrees, basting frequently.
A very blessed Thanksgiving Day to my U.S. family and friends. Please stay safe to celebrate many more!