November 19, 2014
I always tell myself in August that it will be Christmas before you know it. Kids go back to school, Labor Day comes, Halloween comes, Veterans Day comes and boom, Thanksgiving is here. So Thanksgiving is next week and you are worried about not being ready. I have a few tips to help make your life easier, get you prepared for Turkey Day, and make you look like a rock star in the kitchen. As always, good cooking.
Tip 1: Plan your menu, know what you are going to serve, and by all means do not wait until the last minute to gather your ingredients. You want to make sure you have enough turkey, butter, cream, vegetables, etc., before they are all gone from store shelves.
Tip 2: When purchasing your turkey do not be afraid to buy a frozen one. Most turkeys on the market are frozen or have been frozen, even if only for a week or two. As long as you prepare your turkey correctly, you have nothing to worry about. If using a frozen turkey, let it thaw in the refrigerator for at least three days before brining.
Tip 3: I strongly suggest you brine your turkey for 24 hours. This will help your turkey stay moist, have better flavor, and also get better color while cooking (see brine recipe below). Once you have eaten a brined turkey, you will never go back. I rub my brined turkey with butter and herbs and I also stuff the butter and herb mixture under the skin.
Tip 4: Do Not Overcook Your Turkey. Please, do not wait for the pop up button to come out. By the time this happens, your turkey is already “dead.” I like to cook my turkey to between 150 to 155 degrees in the breast. Remove the turkey from the oven at 155 degrees, the breast should carry over to 160. Remove the legs, which will still be a little on the rare side, and put them back in the oven for an additional 20 to 30 minutes while the carcass and breast are resting.
Tip 5: Canned cranberry; you either love it or you hate it. Why not try to make it fresh yourself? It is very simple and easy to do, and as my friend Amy says, “nutritious and delicious” (see recipe below).
Tip 6: Butter — make sure you use enough of it! After all, butter “makes everything taste better.” The corn, the beans, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, and who can forget the rolls? They all need lots and lots of butter “love!”
Turkey and Brine Ingredients:
2 gallons of water 1 pound butter 2 cups salt 1 bunch fresh rosemary 1 cup brown sugar 1 bunch fresh sage 3 bay leaves 1 bulb garlic 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns 2 onions 1 Tbsp. mustard seeds 4 carrots 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds 1 bunch celery 1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to use. Chef Tip: Remove innards from the turkey (save for making gravy), rinse your turkey well, especially in the cavity, and place in brine and refrigerate for 24 hours. The brine itself can be made up to one week in advance.
Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse again. Pat dry with paper towels. Soften one pound of butter and mix with ¼ cup of freshly chopped rosemary. Generously rub your bird. Chef tip: If your turkey is not dry, the butter will not stick. Gently separate the skin from the breast and stuff the butter/herb mixture under the skin. All leftover butter put into the cavity. Also in the cavity, one bulb garlic (cut in half), all the sage, and the remaining rosemary (with stem). Peel and cut onions and carrots into one inch cubes. Wash the celery, removing the leaves, and cut into one inch cubes. These vegetables, also known as mirepoix, will be the bed for your turkey in the roasting pan. They make a fabulous side dish and keep your turkey from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Chef Tip: This step can be done the day before, so that on Thanksgiving morning all you have to do heat your oven and put the bird in. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and place your turkey in the oven for 30 minutes and do not touch. After 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 325 degrees and gently baste your turkey. Starting the turkey at a higher temperature gives the bird color and helps the herbs stay in place during later basting. Baste every 20 minutes until your turkey is finished.
1 bag fresh cranberries (normally comes in a 12 oz. bag) 2 cups red port wine ½ cup sugar Zest and juice of one orange 1 cinnamon stick
In a medium sized pot, over medium heat, combine port wine, sugar, orange zest and juice, and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Reduce by half, add cranberries, and simmer until thick. Cranberries should have “popped.” The mixture should be a thick ragout. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Chef Tip: This can also be made a day or two in advance.