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A New Orleans Thanksgiving, A Fantastic Turkey, An Amazing Gumbo

I always try to do something a little different each year for Thanksgiving and this year I  focused on elegance and flavor. We had 25 people, all family, at our table. Actually it was three tables. We had to set up two extra tables as extensions to our normal dining table.

A New Orleans Thanksgiving, A Fantastic Turkey, An Amazing Gumbo

thanksgiving dining room tables

Yep 25 folks young and old. Three tables. Note the kids’ table at the very end.

I wanted to make the table more elegant. Each year we always put out the nice china, crystal water glasses and nice silverware. We usually have these sloppy hand written place-cards, sloppy because they are done in my hand, and if you’ve ever seen my penmanship you’ll know why they’re sloppy.

So, I ordered some nice silver-bordered cards off Amazon and used Edwardian script on the Word template and voila! Beautiful cards that got all kinds of compliments, people were amazed that they were done on a computer because the letters looked so clean and perfect.

thanksgiving place card

Even the kids’ table got the elegant treatment.

The next thing I did differently was the turkey. I’ve cooked the turkey every Thanksgiving for the past 10 years or so. I get the bird from Whole Foods, you know one of those supposedly special free-range jobbies. I get up early to get it prepared to go into the oven and I’ve tried all kinds of things over the years.

But this year I went way out on a limb. I saw something in a recent magazine about making turkey bone gumbo and the key ingredient in it is the gravy that you make on Thanksgiving from the stuff in the roasting pan. Nothing unusual about that except… the main ingredient in that roasting pan is what you baste the turkey with.

Are you ready for this? I used root beer. Of course, not just any root beer but a good Louisiana root beer.

(Did you know that Barq’s root beer originated in New Orleans? Yep. And before Coke bought it it was just called Barq’s. Nowhere on the label did it say root beer. In fact, one of their ads would say “It’s Barq’s. But is it root beer?” Of course you see Barq’s is another way of spelling “bark” and root beer supposedly comes from the bark of a sasparilla tree… but I didn’t use Barq’s over my turkey.)

The recipe called for Swamp Pop, but Robert’s Supermarket didn’t any so I got me a six pack of Abita Root Beer.

abita root beer louisiana

Abita Root beer is what I used to baste the turkey.

Another “outlier” in my turkey roasting was something I never heard about but saw it mentioned in the article where I got the turkey gumbo recipe. Bacon. Oh yeah. Bacon. It was recommended that I blanket the turkey in bacon.

So I got some of the good hand made bacon from Whole Foods, the applewood-smoked style and put it over the bird before it went in into the oven. Then a couple hours into the cooking of this 20 pounder I open a bottle of Abita Root Beer and just poured it all of the turkey.

new orleans thanksgiving turkey

Notice the bacon on top and the rich brown color from the Abita Root Beer.

And immediately the skin took on this wonderful dark brown hue. I basted it a couple more times before it was done. And when I pulled it out the bacon was dark as well and nicely, nicely cooked. The aroma in the kitchen was wonderful.

So after taking the bird out of the roasting pan I made the gravy in the pan. The gravy was so dark and rich looking. When we carved the turkey, actually my nephew carved it and, being a restauranteur, did a job of it, too. The meat was tender and juicy and cooked just right.

What happens if you let a turkey dry out too much... he he... or just a decoration on the sideboard

What happens if you let a turkey dry out too much… he he… or maybe it’s just a decoration on the sideboard

At the table I got many compliments on the gravy. You could not tell that there was root beer in it. It just had this rich, smoky, deep flavor. Wow!

So when I made the gumbo a couple days later I added about two cups of the gravy to it. You know, it had all that bacon fat and pan drippings and veggies and root beer in it. Oh my gosh. It was incredibly delicious. Mm, mm, mm.

So draping the bird in bacon, basting it with root beer, that’s how I’m cooking turkey from now on. Hm, I was just thinking I could roast a chicken the same way.

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Posted in New Orleans Food, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Recipes.

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