Charlie Abowd: Turkey dish a recipe for a fantastic Thanksgiving

It is hard to believe it has been a year since we last gave our Thanksgiving dinner recipe.

This year’s Thanksgiving will be especially important with all we have experienced as a nation and as a community this past year. Karen and I and our family have a lot to be thankful for, but many families are not as lucky.

This time of year, it is important to reach out to the less fortunate. The needs at agencies that help those in need are larger than ever. Agencies such as Friends in Service Helping, Advocates to End Domestic Violence and Ron Wood Family Resource Center and others can use every bit of help any of us can find in our hearts to give.

Many local agencies will collect turkeys for distribution to families in need. Ron Wood Family Resource Center, Nov. 22; Mike’s Pharmacy, in conjunction with Salvation Army, conducts its annual Turkey Round-up from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and F.I.S.H. takes donations through Christmas at the food bank, 138 E. Long St. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is closed from noon to 1 p.m. daily. Additionally, donations can be made at any time to FISH at the above location or to Salvation Army at 661 Colorado St.

I extend an invitation to anyone who would like to join Karen and me and The Loving Hearts club in feeding the homeless at 5 p.m. Dec. 1 at Record Street in Reno.

Each of us doing a little can help make this Thanksgiving and the Christmas season brighter and warmer for others.

Now let’s get cooking.

Our turkey this year will be a locally grown Heritage turkey (20 to 25 pounds) from Nancy’s Green Barn Farm in Dayton. The recipe I am giving you is for a 16-pound turkey. I like to give 15 to 20 minutes per pound roasting time, making sure the bird’s internal temperature is between 165 and 170 degrees.

These are my traditional Thanksgiving Day menu recipes. Follow the directions, use your eyes and nose to gauge how your cooking is coming along, and pay attention to the instructions from various health agencies I am giving you.

It has been deemed by the various agencies that stuffing the turkey is of great concern due to bacteria that can form in the cavity, the result of incorrect temperature application. The school of thought is to fill the turkey cavity with herbs and vegetables, and cook the stuffing in a casserole dish. That is what I do.

Turkey brine

¾ cup kosher salt

¾ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons dry sage

12 fresh sage leaves, whole

1 tablespoon cinnamon

12 whole cloves

3 oranges, quartered

4 cups maple syrup

4 cups apple juice

Add enough cold water to cover turkey in a large stock pot.

When you make the brine, I recommend you dissolve the salt and brown sugar in the apple juice on the stove over medium heat. Heat just until the ingredients are dissolved, then add a little ice to bring the temperature back to cold.

When brining the turkey, it is important that it is rinsed thoroughly after you remove it from the packaging. The neck, gizzard and liver must be removed, rinsed and set aside for making the turkey stock, which will be needed for the stuffing and gravy.

You can brine the turkey one to two days in advance. Leave it in the brine at least 24 hours. When ready to remove, rinse, pat dry and put it in the refrigerator, covered until you are ready to roast the bird.


16-pound turkey

1 cup rough-chopped carrots

1 cup rough-chopped celery

1 cup rough-chopped onion

1 cup chopped apples, peeled and cored

6 sprigs fresh thyme

5 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to cover bird

½ pound salted butter, soft

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cup white wine (Riesling is my preference for this recipe)

Put half the vegetables, apple and thyme sprigs in the turkey cavity. Put the rest in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the brined turkey on top, after it has been patted dry. Pat the turkey with the soft butter and add the salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top.

Place the turkey in an oven preheated to 425 degrees and cook for 30 minutes. Turn down the heat to 350 degrees. Add the wine to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 1/2 hours. Check the temperature of the bird, with either a turkey or meat thermometer. It should register 165 to 170 degrees. The cooking time might vary. All ovens are different, so please use your thermometer. Baste your turkey about every 45 minutes. Also, when you remove the turkey from the oven, remove it from the pan and let it sit for approximately 20 minutes before carving. This lets the meat absorb all the juices.

Sourdough stuffing

1 large sourdough round loaf, cut into ¾-inch squares (lightly cut off hard crust)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound kielbasa sausage, ¾-inch slices or half-rounds

2 cup Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped

¾ cup walnuts, halved (I like to roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes)

When you open the package, make sure the nuts have not gone rancid.

½ cup dried cranberries

2 cup yellow onion, chopped

1 cup carrots, chopped

2 cup celery, chopped

1 tablespoon dried sage

2 cup turkey stock

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the stuffing, buy a large round sourdough loaf. They are 1½ to 1¾ pounds. Remove the crust and cut it into squares. Place the bread in a baking pan and then, in a 325-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, dry the bread. Do not dry it so much that it resembles a crouton. You don’t want it that hard. When the bread is done, place it in a large mixing bowl.

In a sauté pan, heat the oil and add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute eight to 10 minutes or until slightly translucent. Add the sausage and cook five to 10 minutes, and then add the apples and cranberries. Cook five more minutes, stirring constantly. Add the stock and pour the mixture over the bread. Add the dry sage and walnuts. Mix well and be sure the stuffing is not dry. If it is too dry, add some more stock. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Do not cook the walnuts in the sauté mixture; roast them if you prefer. Cooking them will take the crunch out of them. Also, if you prefer, chop the nuts. I simply prefer the texture of halved ones.

Also, even though it is not on the ingredients list, some of the old-timers like to add a couple of raw eggs to the stuffing. If you do this, mix very well.

Place the stuffing in a lightly buttered 12 x 16-inch or two 8 x 12-inch casserole dishes. Bake for one hour.


The making of the gravy is done at the very last minute. You will use the remainder of the turkey stock, drippings from the roasting pan, ½ to 1 cup of all-purpose flour, whipping cream, salt and white pepper. You will also need a 6-quart or larger saucepan and a 1-quart measuring cup or large bowl.

Now we will make the roux for the gravy. Pour all the juices and drippings into a measuring cup or bowl. Set aside away from the heat, so the solids from the drippings settle to the bottom and the oil remains on top. Carefully pour only the oil into the saucepan and save the solids for the final stages of making the gravy. I usually pour the oil through a fine-mesh strainer. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add a half-cup of flour, whisking constantly to avoid burning. Continue to add flour a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the consistency of thick, creamy pudding. You may not need to use all the flour.

Add the turkey stock (about 4 cups) slowly, whisking constantly. Add ½ cup of whipping cream and the reserved drippings. Continue to whisk and add salt and white pepper to taste. Bring the gravy to a slow boil to thicken. If your gravy is too thick, add more cream or stock. If it is too thin, make a roux of butter and flour in a separate pan, and slowly add to the gravy in small amounts, whisking vigorously until you achieve the desired consistency. Cook about five to 10 minutes. As always, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Chef Charlie Abowd co-owns Café at Adele’s with his wife, Karen. Adele’s is at 1112 N. Carson St. and is open daily at 8 a.m. for breakfast. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., followed by dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. The restaurant is closed Thanksgiving Day. For more information or to make reservations, call 775-882-3353 or go to


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