Raise your hand if your favorite part of Thanksgiving eats is the leftovers. That's what I thought. There are a lot of us out there. Those who aren't going to be eating Thanksgiving dinner at our own homes but cook a turkey anyway. For the leftovers. Yes, for those scrumptious sandwiches with turkey, jellied cranberry sauce, mayo and lettuce. For turkey tettrazini overflowing with mushrooms and pimento in a savory sherry cream sauce. Yes, for leftovers.
Somehow, I couldn't just cook a turkey and turn it into leftovers. We had to have our own Thanksgiving dinner - albeit a bit early. Connie remembered boiled turnips from his kidhood. He's from 100% Irish stock and assures me that boiled vegetables were the norm for most of his grandparents. I asked if he'd be ok with root vegetables roasted instead of boiled. Sure, he said. So, I tossed a rutabaga, a couple of parsnips, a turnip and a handful of baby carrots with some olive oil, cranberry vinegar and shagbark hickory syrup and roasted them at 500 for 20 minutes. They were yummy!
And, since Connie's not particularly fond of cornbread, I made dressing with enriched white bread, celery, onion, butter, sage, rosemary, thyme and lots of parsley. Mom'll bring her dressing to my brother John's today and I'll be a happy camper.
Last but not least, I made his favorite cranberry compote. You'll have to wait til tomorrow for that recipe :-)
Back to the star of the show. If your goal is leftovers, you want the turkey to be extra juicy. It's usually nice and juicy when you carve the bird. But, for leftovers it's mucho critical. Therefore, I tried brining the bird. I clipped Alton Brown's recipe from the Food Network Magazine and another recipe from the Indianapolis Star. Then, yup, I did it my way.
Food Network says that Alton Brown's recipe has been their most popular Thanksgiving recipe on the website for the past six years and has gotten more comments than any other recipe. I can see why. If you want to go see Alton's original recipe, it's on the Food Network site. If you want to see the original recipe from the Indianapolis Star, hopefully they'll have it posted soon. I tried to find the link but it's not there yet. Or, I can scan the recipe in and e it to you if you'd like.
Here's how I combined the two:
1 12-14 pound frozen turkey
for the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
8 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
1 T black peppercorns
1 T allspice berries
1 T chopped candied ginger
1 lemon, thinly sliced
cold water to cover
for the aromatics:
1 red apple, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
to coat the turkey:
to baste the turkey:
1/2 c butter
1 c red wine
1 can jellied cranberry sauce
1 small frozen orange juice concentrate
Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator for 2-3 days prior to brining it. You need to make the brine a day before you're going to use it.
To make the brine, combine everything but the water in a large saucepan. (Nota bene: I was at the office and only had a microwave oven.)
Pour in water to cover plus a little and bring to a boil. Stir well. You want the salt to dissolve totally. Refrigerate the slurry until you're ready to use it. A day before you're going to roast the turkey, take it out of it's packaging and remove the giblets. Rinse the turkey well - inside and out. Put it in a large stockpot. Add the brine slurry
then add cold water to cover. Refrigerate overnight.
To roast the turkey, you start by preheating the oven to 500. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it well - again inside and out. Place the turkey on a roasting rack inside a pan. Steep the apple,onion and cinnamon stick by adding them to a cup of water and microwaving on high for five minutes. Add them to the cavity with the sage and rosemary. Tuck the wings under the turkey. Coat the turkey with canola oil. Roast the turkey on your lowest shelf setting for 30 minutes. If you have a probe thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the breast. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake until the internal temperature reaches 161. When I reduce the heat, I start basting. To make the basting sauce melt the butter and the jellied cranberry sauce. Add the wine and orange juice concentrate. This baste makes a very rich gravy. It doesn't taste anything like your normal turkey gravy.
Here's Connie carving the bird:
With a quick funny story about the compost bowl that on the counter next to the turkey. During youngest stepson Matt's first visit to our home, he was asked to empty the compost bowl into the compost bin in the back yard. He breezed back into the house tossing the bowl up and down. I enlightened him to the fact that the bowl is an antique. It was my grandmother's. He says, "You put trash in an antique?" I said, "It's out on my counter and I want the trash bowl to look as little like trash as possible."
Last but not least, here's our dinner: