Tag Archives: holidays

Turkey 2011

28 Dec

Another Christmas dinner has come and gone and the troops have been well fed. Seven of us arrived at my folks’ place Christmas evening and tucked right in to a cheese and pate plate while glasses of red and white wine were poured.

But before the feast could be devoured, that turkey had to get prepped & cooked!  I posted earlier my general plan for the turkey and I stuck pretty close to what I had planned out. For this recipe, you’ll need either a large cooler or a non-reactive container (a large bucket and garbage bags work, I promise) and you’ll want to start at least 24 hours ahead. I actually brined my turkey for 36.

Here’s what I got up to…

Serves 10.


1 11lb fresh, organic turkey
2 c hot water
2 c brown sugar
2 c kosher salt
1.5 c molasses
1 head garlic, halved
4 sprigs rosemary
2 lemons, quartered
2 onions, halved
2 oranges, quartered
1/2 c black peppercorns
enough cold water to cover the turkey

2 leeks, halved
4-5 carrots, rough chop
4-5 stalks of celery, rough chop
1 head garlic
1 orange, halved
2 sprigs rosemary
2 tb ground black pepper
2 tb butter, room temperature
4 c chicken stock



1. Take the turkey out of the fridge. Remove the neck and giblets, then rinse with cold water.
2. In a large pot, combine the hot water, salt and brown sugar. Stir until salt and sugar have dissolved and cool the mixture. (You don’t want hot water in with your turkey.)
3. When the mixture has cooled, place it in the cooler/container. Add enough cold water to cover the turkey. Then add in the molasses and stir.
4.  Toss the oranges, lemons, rosemary, peppercorns and garlic halves into the mixture.
5. Place the turkey in the brine and store in a cold place.


1. Preheat your oven to 400F.
1. Remove the turkey from the brining solution. Rinse and pat dry.
2. In a roasting pan, place the leeks, carrots, celery and 3/4 of the garlic.
3. Place the turkey breast-side up on the bed of vegetables and smother completely with the butter. Season thoroughly with the black pepper, including in the cavity. (You won’t need salt.)
4. Place the rest of the garlic, orange halves and rosemary in the cavity of the turkey.
5. Pour 3 cups of the chicken stock into the pan, reserving the last cup for gravy  or if you need extra liquid during the cooking process.
6. Wrap a little bit of foil on the tips of the wings so they don’t burn.
7. Put the turkey in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 325F. Cook the turkey for 20 minutes per pound, basting every 30 minutes, until the turkey’s internal temperature reaches about 160-165. Let it rest for 20-30  minutes and enjoy!


Cornbread Dressing

31 Dec

J made this both at Thanksgiving and at Christmas and it was gobbled up quickly on both holidays.  It makes a nice alternative to the traditional dressing – just something a little different! This recipe is from the Joy of Cooking, a book that gets a fair bit of use in our house. This is a two-step process so first I’ll lay out the recipe for the cornbread, then on to the dressing it is.

Serves 8.

Southern Cornbread


1 tb butter/bacon fat
1 3/4 c  cornmeal
1 tb sugar
1 ts baking powder
1 ts baking soda
1 ts salt
2 eggs
2 c buttermilk


1. Preheat your oven to 450F and coat a 9″ cast iron pan or 8″ glass baking dish with the butter/bacon fat. Place the pan or dish in the oven until the fat smokes. The hotter the better as that’s what gives you a great crust.
2. Whisk together the cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until they are foamy. Whisk in the buttermilk.
4.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until just blended.  Remove your pan from the oven and add all the batter at once.
5. Bake until top has browned and the centre feels firm when pressed, roughly 20 – 25 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Cornbread Dressing


1/3 c butter, unsalted
2 c onions, chopped
1 c celery, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c parsley, minced
1 ts dried sage OR 1 tb fresh sage, minced
3/4 ts salt
1/2 ts black pepper
1/2 – 1 c chicken stock
2 eggs*


1. Crumble the cornbread into bite-sized cubes with your hands.
2. Heat a large skillet to medium high heat and add butter.
3. Throw in onions, celery, peppers, garlic and cook til softened – roughly 5 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley, sage, salt and pepper.
5. Add the bread cubes and toss til well combined.
6. Stir in the stock until the dressing is moist, but not packed together.
7. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
*8. (Only do this step if you are NOT stuffing the bird.) Beat the two eggs and add to the mixture.
9.  Preheat your oven to 350F. Spoon the dressing into the bird OR moisten with additional stock and bake separately until the internal temperature reaches 165F, approx. 30 minutes.

Brined Citrus Turkey

31 Dec

This was my second shot at brining a turkey and I think this second one was even better than the first! It’s easy, it’s something you can do the day before you eat and it’s not complicated in the least.

But why should you, you might ask? Salt is the key here as it breaks down the proteins and traps water molecules, which results in less moisture loss in the cooking process. Also, the salt seasons the bird inside and out which is always a good thing.

So how do you brine a turkey? (Or a chicken, for that matter?) For every gallon of cold water, you need:

1 1/4 c Kosher salt
1 c brown sugar/honey

You’ll likely need at least 1 gallon to cover the turkey if not 2 gallons.

You can also use any herb or…well, anything you can imagine to flavour that bird! I used lemon & orange wedges this time around.

Dissolve the salt and sugar/honey in the water. You can use a large bag (garbage bags work, believe it or not) or a thoroughly cleaned cooler. Add in the turkey and keep the whole concoction stored somewhere cool for anywhere from 4 – 24 hours. If you’re using a cooler and keeping it inside, throw in a couple of ice packs to ensure that the bird stays nice and cold.

Once you’re ready to cook the turkey, take it out of the brine and rinse it thoroughly. Pat it dry so you get a nice, crispy skin and place it on a cooking rack in your roasting pan. (Or use veggies as a rack if you don’t have one. Those veg will be delicious at dinner!)

Set your oven to 400F.

Grate 1-2 tb orange and lemon zest into 2 tb butter at room temperature. Smear that birdie with your citrus butter. Season with 2tb black pepper but NOT salt. The brine took care of that already. Quarter the lemon and orange you zested and put them in the cavity of the turkey. Next, take a small piece of foil and wrap it around the tips of the wings so they don’t burn.

Toss the bird in the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes. Once that goes off,  turn the oven down to 325F.  Baste turkey every half hour. You can add water or stock to the bottom of the pan if you need to.

The general rule is that you need to cook turkey 20 minutes per pound but every oven is different. The last hour you anticipate cooking the turkey, check the temp every 15 minutes by sticking a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast or the thigh. You’re aiming for 170F or until the juices run clear. Once you’ve reached that optimal temperature, take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes. Then slice that sucker up and enjoy!!

Isn't she gorgeous?

Bring it on, Christmas.

20 Dec

J and I are hosting Christmas for the families this year. We are super excited (okay…I am especially excited) and are feeling marginally more grown up. I really do enjoy cooking at Thanksgiving and am looking forward to the challenge that will be Christmas dinner. I have the utmost confidence that we can pull it off, but it’s gonna be in one hella tight space. Our kitchen is teeny so counter space is at a premium. I feel like we’re going to need to diagram it out before we start…

Anyway, I will be brining the turkey the night before in a mixture of kosher salt, brown sugar, citrus and maybe some rosemary. I tried brining for the first time a couple of weeks ago and, according to my guinea turkeys, it worked well! I wanted to try it once before the big day so I wouldn’t stress about it on The Day. I only brined the 9lb bird for about 4.5 hours that time an will be doing it overnight for Christmas. I’m expecting that the bird’ll be even better this time! We’ll be grabbing my in-laws’ cooler this afternoon and using that as the garbage-bag-and-bucket method was a bit awkward. For the size of bird we had that night it worked well…aside from the fact that I did all the work in the morning before my coffee injection and spilled a not-small amount of brine on my kitchen floor. The lesson? Caffeine first, everything else after.

The menu we’re putting together for the evening will look something like:
Brined citrus-herb turkey & roasted vegetables
Cornbread stuffing
Roasted potatoes
Sauteed asparagus with orange zest

The in-laws are bringing the always-scrumptious rice & beans; my parents are bringing the cranberries and the trifle; the Hot Biscuit will be bringing the salad; my brother will be bringing..something! Hors d’oeuvres, maybe? We’re planning on taking a break between dinner and dessert as it will give us a chance to not only do some dishes (sadly, we are dishwasher deficient) but to bust out the Wii to burn off some of the gigantic dinner.

In all honesty, I am genuinely thrilled to be hosting Christmas dinner this year. Family and friends  gathered around the table (and a very excited dog under the table)  is one of my favourite things in the world.  I anticipate a night of love and laughter – and, of course, the roast beast. Once it has all gone down, I will post recipes and pictures and share the adventures in foodNURDland!

Foolproof Turkey

13 Oct

(Because no one wants to rendered foolish by a fowl!)

As I talked about in an older post, I am now in charge of the bulk of Thanksgiving dinner in our family. I am completely okay with this: it’s fun for me and usually turns out really well. I am bound and determined to ensure that I don’t dry out the turkey breast as no one wants to eat sawdust. On the other hand, I don’t want to undercook the bird and possibly give people food poisoning. (I know, I know. I’m too kind.)

So what follows below is how I made the Main Event this year. It came out tasty, moist and with lots of flavour and I threw it together in about 20 minutes. My rule for turkey is 20 minutes per pound, assuming the bird is unstuffed.

Serves 5.

10lb fresh turkey
5 celery stalks, roughly chopped
5 carrots, peeled & chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 lemon, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, whole
1/4 parsley stalks
3tb butter at room temp
1 tb each salt & pepper
1 ts cumin
1 ts paprika


1. Preheat the oven to 425.
2. Arrange the celery, carrots, onions, lemon and 2 cloves of garlic in the bottom of a roasting pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt & pepper.
3. Wash and dry the turkey, removing the neck & giblets.*
4.  Place the turkey on top of the veggies in the roasting pan.  Smear with the butter and season with salt, pepper, cumin & paprika.
5. Stuff the turkey with the other half of the lemon, parsley stalks & garlic cloves. Wrap the ends of the wings in tin foil as they may burn.
6. Place in the oven, uncovered. After 15 minutes, lower the temp to 325. Baste every 30 minutes until the bird is done, roughly 3.5 hours, or when the internal temperature reaches 175-180 degrees.
7. Remove from the oven and let sit for 25-30 minutes.

*7a . If you’re making gravy, drain the juices from the bottom of the pan into a sauce pan. Heat and add a little bit of flour at a time til you reach the desired consistency. You can also add the giblets to the gravy if you wish.

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