Turkey time, a visit to a butcher shop and Italian Sausage Mac-n-cheese

Thanksgiving is a couple of weeks away and I love to cook for the holidays! I do not love spending more time in the kitchen than with my family (my kitchen right now is too small to have anyone but me and sometimes my 4 year old in it!), so I try to keep it simple. The one area that I do complicate the dinner a little bit is that after listening to many episodes of TheSplendid Table , I have heard chefs say over and over that they do not cook the turkey whole (except for one for show that is not eaten at the restaurant). So a couple of years ago I decided to breakdown and butcher a turkey myself. It was a satisfying experience that took me an hour and a half! Last year it took me only 45 minutes and a few cuts and scrapes on my hands J I put all the dark meat and giblets in a large pan and braise it for a couple of hours on the stove. The white meat is roasted in the oven. That way everything cooks evenly. I then use the braising liquid to make amazing gravy.  
I do not want to butcher the turkey this year. I just don’t have the time or energy, so I’m trying to find a place where I can have someone do it for me. I started calling around the grocery stores and most of them responded something like, “Um, you want to do what? Why? I guess we could figure out how to do that for you.” Not a satisfactory answer. You can buy separate turkey breasts and wings and thighs in most grocery stores, but it doesn’t give you the giblets, which I have no desire to eat, but really do help make the dark meat and gravy taste better. 
Yesterday I went into a butcher shop nearby and asked the woman behind the counter. She was very friendly (but did kind of seem confused as to why I would want that done) and went to the back to ask the butcher if that was something he could do. She came back and told me that the butcher’s father could probably do it. Their price per pound is also the same as the supermarket, so I will probably go through them, but I’m going to do a little more searching to see if I can find a butcher who sees eye to eye with me J I’m prepared that that may not happen this year, but then I have a whole other year to keep looking! 
While I was in the butcher shop yesterday, I figured I should try out some of their meat. I knew I was planning on making mac-n-cheese last night and I saw their homemade sausages, so decided to get a long link of their sweet Italian sausage. It was delicious! 
Mac-n-cheese with Sweet Italian sausage
Serves 6-8
1 box of pasta (I used whole wheat rotini)
1 stick of butter (sliced)
1 sweet Italian sausage
½ cup of flour
About 1 ½ to 2 cups of milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp ground coriander
½ Tbsp lemon pepper
1 tsp salt (add more if you like. I’m notorious for under salting things)
4 oz of cream cheese
1 jar of puréed carrot babyfood (can use any pureed veggie you like, butternut squash would be good too)
8 oz of shredded cheddar (use 10 oz of cheese, whatever combo or single cheese you like)
2 oz of shredded mozzarella
Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make pasta according to package instructions. In a large sauce pan, throw in a couple pats of butter. Take the sausage out of its casing and cook in the butter. Remove the sausage when done and try to keep as much of the drippings in the pan. Put the heat on medium high and add the remainder of the butter and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes or so to get rid of the flour taste. Then slowly add the milk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add mustard, coriander, pepper and salt and mix together. If sauce starts to get too thick, add a little more milk. Add cream cheese and puréed carrots. Whisk together. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings as you like. Take pan off the heat and add shredded cheese, mix together with a spoon and then add the cooked pasta and sausage (use a sauce pan that is large enough to accommodate all the pasta – one less dish to wash!).  Mix together, flatten top and sprinkle lightly with panko bread crumbs. Put in the oven for 25 minutes or until edges start to brown.
I completely forgot to take a picture! Oh well. It was a big hit with the kids and my father in law. Tim and I got to go out on a date, so I’ll have some leftovers for lunch today!
Since I can’t lift anything over 5-10lbs right now, I had my father in law help me put the water on the stove to boil, put the pan in the oven and take it out. So thank you to him for his help. Also, thank you to Adriane for giving me the idea to make a “fancy” homemade hamburger helper type meal.  Her version sounds really good and super easy too! “Macaroni, ground beef (browned while pasta cooked), a little milk, Tillamook cheddar, Beechers cheddar, and South African smoke added for the adult portions. Mmmmm.”
Send me any of your easy and go to fall meals! We all can take inspiration from each other to spice up our menus!
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