Popular Holiday Main Courses With Recipes

Holiday main course meals, recipes, and traditions may vary from family to family but even so, for the most part, any household that is not vegan will have roasted fowl (turkey), or glazed ham on their table this holiday season. For a large gathering, it wouldn’t be unusual to see both of those entrees on the same table. If your household is going to be enjoying either dish in the coming months knowing some of the histories behind them makes interesting table talk. 

For instance, did you know that according to culinary historian Kathleen Wall, it’s more likely the bird served on that first Thanksgiving meal was goose, duck, or possibly pigeon because of their great numbers in the Plymouth area? Regardless of the true nature of the menu on that day so many centuries ago the fact is millions of turkeys are going to market this holiday season where they will end up as main courses one day and turkey sandwiches the next. 

Long before turkeys became such a holiday staple they were already known as the most economical way to feed the largest number of people. They are less expensive than duck or geese, easy to raise, and very tasty when properly prepared. If you’ve never cooked a turkey on your own before don’t worry, there are several ways to go about it, including the easy classic recipe featured in this article. One of the easiest ways to cook anything, including turkey is to gather up necessary equipment, and have pre-measured ingredients ready to go. The rest is easy, follow directions carefully and take your time. 

Crowd-Pleasing Turkey 

Turkey should be fully unthawed before cooking. For health and safety reasons, place the frozen bird in a refrigerator and allow 2 to 3 days for complete unthawing. Never leave it on a counter or in the sink to speed the process as this can allow bacteria to form. 

Inside the cavity of every turkey, there should be a packet of giblets and the neck bone. Remove this and either set it aside for other dishes like stuffing and gravy or throw them away. Rinse well with cold water, tie the legs together, and pat dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. 

Make sure turkey goes into the roasting pan breast side up then brush with the stock of your choice. This is usually a mixture of butter, your favorite spices, and juice from simmered giblets and neck bone. Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest portion of the breast (make sure it’s not touching bone). 

Place in preheated oven at 325 degrees for approximately 3 to 3 ½ hours or until the thermometer reaches 165 F. Cooking time actually depends on the size of the bird so all you really need to remember here is for a fully cooked turkey 13 minutes of roasting is required for every pound. Example, If you have a 20 lb turkey it will need at least 4 hours to cook thoroughly. At this point, drumsticks should move easily and look as if they are starting to fall away from the bird. Remove from oven, let stand for 10 minutes, pour off and save any excess liquid then it’s ready to slice. 

Delicious Turkey Gravy 

The best gravy is made from the stock you poured out of the roasting pan. Combine stock and flour in a small pan and stir briskly until smooth. While continuing to stir, cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. It will already have seasonings that were basted onto the turkey as well as juice that cooked out of the bird so be sure to taste before you add any more flavorings, it may already be perfect. 

Savory Stuffing 

The beauty of recipes for stuffing is they can be adjusted to suit individual tastes and still turn out 5 star perfect. Anytime a holiday main course includes turkey you can be sure everyone present at a large gathering will be looking for the stuffing that goes so well with it. Consisting mainly of bread cubes (or maybe cornbread if you prefer), diced vegetables such as carrots, onion, and celery as well as juices from simmered neck bone and giblets, stuffing is a big part of the perfect holiday meal. 

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and slowly add stock (juices) until moist. If stuffing appears too dry after cooking try adding a little extra juice or a few pats of butter to liven it up. Stuffing can be prepared the night before and cooked either in the turkey cavity or separately in a shallow dish. When cooked in the bird stuffing adds extra flavor as well as helping to keep the meat moist as it cooks. 

Sweet Potatoes or Yams 

This is another dish that many people will include in a second plate if they have the chance, and it’s so easy to prepare. If you choose to use the canned variety make sure they are well drained before you place them in a shallow baking dish. Dribble melted butter laced with brown sugar evenly over the top, and if you like a little extra sweetness scatter a cup or so of small marshmallows before sliding it into a hot oven (about 325 degrees.) 

Canned sweet potatoes or yams are already cooked, they just need to be warmed so keep an eye on the oven and consider them done as soon as juices begin to boil slightly. For uncooked or “raw” sweet potatoes and yams, the process is basically the same except you will need to allow at least as much time for them to cook as a regular baking potato. 

Green Bean Casserole 

This is another crowd pleaser that takes very little time or effort to prepare. All you need is two cans of green beans, one of cream of mushroom soup (or any cream soup you prefer that goes with green beans), and a few handfuls of crispy, dried onion. Drain, then rinse green beans with cool water. Place in a shallow baking dish and then pour cream soup over the beans. Just before you slide them in the oven (325 degrees) sprinkle dried onions over the top. The beans and soup are already cooked, all you need is enough time to cook them to a slow simmer just before serving. 

And there you have it, five dishes that will be on millions of tables this holiday season as well as any other day of the year. Keep in mind that whatever you decide to serve at your holiday gatherings, with a little patience and attention to detail even brand-new cooks can turn out a meal worthy of praise and have their dinner guests going back for a second plate.

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