I'm happy to report that we had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My family, good friends, and good food. There was a lot of laughing and good times, I am so thankful that my family and my best friends could be here. I love cooking, but more than that, I love sharing what I make with the people I love, so thank you Mom, Dad, Maxx, Jake, Donald, Nic, Carrie, Alec, Taylor, and Chris! And a BIG thank you to Poppop, who sent down pumpkin pie, cookies, and banana bread so my life would be a little easier.
I am thankful that we were blessed and able to enjoy this holiday during these tough economic times, because as Mom said last night, "By next year we might all be eating pigeon."
Even if we are, I will still be thankful for the family and friends. Besides, they make delicious pigeon in Egypt, I bet I can find a recipe for it...
Where to start with the food? I guess the logical place to start would be the turkey. I made a 13 lb. cider-brined turkey and two 4lb. turkey roulades. An unscientific poll came up 50-50 over the favorite. As final judge and arbiter, I'm giving the first-place, blue ribbon turkey prize to the cider-brined whole turkey (which I don't have a picture of yet, but I will get one up as soon as I get reports from my unofficial photogs for the evening). It was very moist and flavorful because of the brine, and it was considerably easier--just plop it in the bag with the brine for 24 hours, take it out, stick some oranges and herbs in the cavity, and roast.
The turkey roulade, on the other hand, required de-boning (ok, the butcher actually did that part for me, but I had to ask, twice!), pounding flat with a rolling pin, filling with stuffing and rolling up and tying with little pieces of string. In fairness though, the turkey roulade was delicious also, and it was quite a few peoples favorite, including Nic's. So it will be awarded a second-place ribbon and a permanent page protector in my recipe binder. (Where do recipes who do not earn a page protector go, you might ask. They get stuffed in the side pockets, become splattered with food, crumbled, and sometimes lost or forgotten. A sad fate.)
I know no one even wants to think about making turkey the Friday after Thanksgiving, but for the sake of preserving history, and my recipes in case I ever lose that binder, I'm going to post both recipes today. Feel free to ignore for the next 364 days, unless you are a turkey for Christmas person. In which case, this might be useful sooner.
9 cups cider (You can use water if you don't have cider.)
1 cup kosher salt
1 tbs. black peppercorns
1 tbs. all spice
2 bay leaves
7 cups of ice
1 orange, quartered
1 onion, quartered
bunch of sage
bunch of rosemary
-Boil cider and the rest of the brine ingredients, except ice, for 5 minutes.
-Remove from heat and add ice.
-Remove neck and other innards, rinse turkey, and place turkey, breast side down, in large plastic bag (a trash bag works, but double bag to be safe).
-The brine should be cool from the ice. Pour brine over turkey. Cinch bag with rubber band and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
24 hours later...
-Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
-Remove turkey from brine and rinse. Place on a roasting rack, tuck the wings underneath the body. Stuff herbs in the bottom of the cavity, then fill with oranges and onion.
-Run your hand between the skin and the breast meat of the turkey. Stuff two small pads of butter between the skin and breast on each side. Now tie together the turkey legs with kitchen twine.
-Brush the outside of the turkey with olive oil and sprinkle with salt (just a little!) and pepper.
-Roast for 20-30 minutes in 500 degree oven, until the turkey is nicely browned. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165-170 degrees. Don't wait for the little pop-up to pop if you have one. The turkey will already be a little overcooked usually if you wait for that.
-Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and tent with foil. Let rest at least 30 minutes so the juices redistribute before you carve it.
-In the meantime, tip the roasting pan and skim some of the fat off the pan drippings. Stradle the roasting pan over two burners on medium heat. Add about 1 cup dry red wine (or white wine, or turkey stock, or vermouth...) to the pan drippings and reduce by half. Strain the pan drippings and reserve juices to serve with turkey or to add to gravy base.
-The turkey has to be defrosted before you brine it, or the brine won't really have the same effect.
-After you put the brine in the bag, try to pull the bag snug around the bird so that the brine is in contact with at least most of the bird. This is why you put it in breast side down, so you are at least sure the white meat, which tends to be what gets dry, is totally covered by the brine. (Credit where credit is due, the upside-down brining technique was Nic's idea.)
Turkey Roulade w/ Cranberry Stuffing
Adapted (i.e. simplified) from Gourmet
2 cups diced baguette
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 tsp. salt (I didn't measure this)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper (I didn't measure this either)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/4 cup whole milk
Turkey and Sauce
1 (4 1/2- to 5-lb) boneless turkey breast half with skin
1/2 cup medium-dry Sherry
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 cup apple cider
-Preheat oven to 350°F.
-Toast bread cubes on a baking sheet until dry and just beginning to brown around edges, 12 to 15 minutes.
-Put cranberries and water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat and simmer uncovered until cranberries are rehydrated and all the water is absorbed, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. (Drain any water that doesn't absorb.)
-Cook celery, onion, garlic, and sage, in 2 tbs. butter in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat to let cool.
-Whisk together egg and milk in a large bowl, then add bread cubes, cranberries, and onion mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Let the bread absorb all of the liquid and let stuffing cool.
-Arrange turkey, skin side up, on a work surface with narrower, pointed end nearest you. Determine which long side of the breast is thickest, then, starting from that side and holding knife parallel to work surface, cut breast horizontally almost in half, stopping 1 inch from other side. Open breast like a book and put between 2 sheets of plastic wrap
-Pound turkey to 1-inch thickness with flat side of a meat pounder or with a rolling pin.
-Spread stuffing evenly over turkey, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Start rolling the turkey from the skin-less half toward the half with the skin, so that the skin ends up on the outside of the roll.
-In a heavy skillet, sear the roulade, seam side down first. Brown all sides of the roulade. If your skillet is oven safe and has high sides you can put it directly into the oven. Otherwise transfer the roulade to a roasting pan.
-Combine sherry, soy sauce, cloves, bay leaf and apple cider.
-Pour this over the roulade, then cover the roulade with foil.
-Roast in 350 degree oven until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, about one hour.
-When the turkey is cooked, remove from roasting pan and tent with foil. Let the meat rest at least 20 minutes so the juices redistribute.
-In the meantime, stradle the roasting pan over two burners and reduce by half. Pour through a strainer and reserve the juices to serve with the roulade.
-You could brine the turkey breasts, using the cider-brine from the whole turkey, before assembling the roulade. This is what I will do next time to get the best of both. Although, as Mom said, this might make this recipe dangerously good.
-You can toast the bread cubes and flatten out the turkey breasts the night before.
-I did 1.5X the stuffing recipe for two turkey breasts that totaled about 6.5 lbs. This was the perfect amount for that much turkey. Then I made an additional 6X the recipe for a side, but I reduced the cranberries, using only 2 cups for the total 12 cups of bread cubes. That was plenty of cranberries in a side-dish stuffing.