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First Time Cooking a Turkey: A Local Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I did something that about five years ago, I would have sworn I’d never do. I cooked a turkey.

It was around that time that I gave up meat altogether and wasn’t sure if I’d ever go back. This was (and is) for many reasons, some involving health, many involving cold hard facts about factory farming and animal welfare. I will save all that for another post. But know that this was a huge deal for me, as my mother noted when she gasped and said, “You mean you’re going to desecrate your kitchen with a turkey??” I resolved that yes, I was. And if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right.

I picked up the turkey from Harvest Moon Grille here in Uptown Charlotte, a great restaurant that uses only fresh and local ingredients in all of their dishes and partners with several farms in North Carolina. This particular turkey came from the local Grateful Growers Farm. This was the ONLY way I could cook a turkey: local, farm raised, free-range, well cared for. Not pumped with antibiotics, not over-fed with fattening grains to the point that it cannot walk, not shipped across the country, not the kind that is raised in a space the size of a book that does not allow the animal to turn around. That is something I decided to never support. You can call me a turkey snot. I have my reasons. But there will be no butterballs in my oven.

So it was, a turkey on my own terms. I began preparing it the night before and, on the day of Thanksgiving, served a nice, juicy turkey with Rosemary, Butter and Lemon alongside gravy made from pan drippings. I even tried some myself. Here’s my story, and my how-to, with recipes included at the bottom. Warning – gag reflex alert:

The turkey was cleaned, thankfully, and they do give you the other parts to make the gravy with, such as the heart, liver, neck, and gizzard:

Oh, don’t you start squirming on me. This is life, and every Thanksgiving turkey was a real live animal with these parts included at one time. Whether you see it or not, they came out of your bird.

The night before, I rinsed the turkey and seasoned it in and out with salt and pepper:

I left it in the refrigerator, uncovered. The next day, about a half hour before the cooking would begin, I set it out on the counter to bring it to room temperature and preheated the oven to 400 degrees. I then rubbed the turkey down with butter and herbs (rosemary and sage) on the inside and outside, and even tucked some under the skin. We then transferred it to the roasting pan, and tied the legs.

After this point I followed a Martha Stewart recipe for Roast Turkey with Rosemary and lemon, and made stuffing and gravy from pan drippings via a Martha recipe as well. All three links are below if you would like to give them a shot (I highly recommend all of them.) My modifications were that I rubbed the turkey first with butter and herbs, for the stuffing, I used a gluten-free sage stuffing from Whole Foods, and for the flour needed in the gravy, I used gluten free flour as well. (One of our guests has a gluten allergy):

Roast Turkey with Rosemary and Lemon
Mushroom and Walnut Stuffing
White Wine Gravy

Some more pictures:

We went light on the appetizers, above, since we knew we had our work cut out for us with the turkey soon after.

So, this Thanksgiving, as many of you ran turkey trots, I became a turkey snot. And If I decide to do this again next year, I will be just as snotty. The End.


Alessandra Macaluso is the author of What a Good Eater! , Lucy the Bee and the Healing Honey, and The Real-Deal Bridal Bible. She’s also a Qigong and Tai Chi instructor, and overall wellness advocate. Her work has been featured in several anthologies which can all be found on her Amazon author page, and she has contributed to The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, TODAY Parents, and many other online publications.

Alessandra is a northerner-turned-southerner, enjoying the south with her children, Penelope and Ciro, and her husband, Greg.

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