A Smoked Turkey Menu for a Crowd

smoked turkey
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I had occasion to host several families for dinner recently; the age range spanned 11-55, and there were a few notable food restrictions — no red meat, no sesame products, no weird or obscure veggies or salads (or, at least, not if I wanted most of the picky kids to eat them). We numbered 12, so I wanted a “fix it and forget it” menu.

Smoked turkey breast presented an ideal main course — it is flavorful, fully cooked (I heated it before serving, but it could be sliced and served cold) and did not violate any of the restrictions of my guests.

I knew macaroni salad could be sold to the peanut gallery as noodles if it didn’t contain too many herbs and veggies, so I went super mainstream with this preparation.

Although the cole slaw was likely to be rejected by half of the guests, it complemented the smoked turkey beautifully and it keeps well so I wasn’t too fussed about having it leftover.

The subsequent night’s supper — turkey “special” sandwiches on rye bread with slaw and Russian dressing — was delicious and no work for the cook. The peanut butter bars were a hit (shockingly, there were no nut allergies in the crowd) and, in the end, a good time was had by all.

Here’s what I did:

Smoked Turkey Breast

Serves up to 12

I purchased a six-pound bone-in smoked turkey breast, figuring that leftovers would be welcome (they were) and that I would freeze the bones to make bean soup this fall (I did). If you don’t want to bother with a bone, you can source boneless breasts, which are a breeze to heat and slice; just make sure you keep them covered with foil and pour plenty of liquid into the bottom of the pan to prevent them from drying out.

Because turkey is so lean, this is always a concern but easily avoided with the right amount of broth, a cooking rack and a cover or some foil. (If you don’t have a cooking rack, don’t fret; it’s just an extra way to keep the heat circulating evenly through the meat.)

We served this with an assortment of barbecue sauces, mustards and other condiments, but it was just fine on its own.

  • 1 6-pound smoked turkey breast
  • ½ cup bourbon or other whiskey
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup honey

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place the bourbon, water and honey in the bottom of a deep roasting pan or other pan with a lid. Place the cooking rack in the pan and place the turkey on top of the rack. As an alternative, use a broiler pan — put the liquid in the bottom pan, lay the grate on top and set the bird on the grate. Or simply place the turkey in the liquid mixture.

Cover tightly and heat for about 1 hour until warmed through. Remove from the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes and carve.

macaroni salad
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Classic Macaroni Salad

Serves 8

This is super basic: Feel free to add chopped fresh herbs, cooked peas, chopped bell peppers, chopped hard boiled eggs, prepared mustard, jalapeños, etc. Make sure the macaroni is cooled to below room temperature before proceeding with the recipe or it will “melt” the mayo and cook the veggies.

1 pound elbow macaroni cooked just short of al dente, (1 minute less than the package recommends) and cooled

  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup chopped celery
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients; chill for several hours and serve.

cole slaw
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Cole Slaw

Serves 8 generously

This is a classic version of the traditional American side. If you want to kick it up, be creative: add Tabasco, jalapeños or even lots of finely ground black pepper. The yogurt lightens this up a bit and adds a welcome tang.

  • 1 half head of cabbage, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • ¼ of a large red onion, finely chopped (or white or yellow — just not a sweet one)
  • ½ bunch dill, chopped
  • ½ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pickle juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients and toss well to distribute evenly.

Cover and chill for at least 3 hours to allow the flavors to distribute and meld.

Peanut Butter Bars

Makes 16 bars

These are pareve, but can be made with butter if desired.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons margarine, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a square baking pan (8-inches-by-8-inches).

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and soda.

Add the melted margarine, brown sugar, eggs, peanut butter and vanilla. Mix well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes until the edges are beginning to brown and the bars are just set in the center.

Cool completely, cut into squares and serve.


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