Monday, November 21, 2011

Pre-Thanksgiving Turkey

As I am sure you can imagine, Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday, second only to the 4th of July, but for all the same reasons!  I love families and friends getting together without the stress of presents that can sometimes come about at Christmastime (though don't get me wrong, Christmas is a close third).  I absolutely LOVE all the cooking that occurs at Thanksgiving as it usually means I am holed up at my parents house cooking for days on end (Mom and Dad will now insert snide remarks about the time I tried to burn down their house or the time I almost blew off the oven door....ignore them please).  This year though we have an added bonus...we are having a Pre-Thanksgiving meal!  Every other year I get a little sad (albeit selfishly I understand) when my brother and sister-in-law go to Atlanta for the holiday.  Not because I don't want them to spend the holidays with her incredible family or even that I will miss them over the weekend but more because I wish Atlanta wasn't 4 hours away so we could ALL be together as I am most thankful for Maggie's family in my life as well as my own.  Alas, I realize that my dreams of this utopia may not be reality, but a girl can dream can't she.

Well this year we began a new tradition and one that makes their heading south a little easier for me to swallow....we are going to have a "Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner" for Sunday dinner the Sunday before they leave town. The best part is our little as not to have all the same dishes just a few days later, this is our chance to try all of those great Thanksgiving recipes that are in abundance this time of year without sacrificing our timeless favorites! We will of course have a turkey, which I am doing a little different too as I will be using The Pioneer Woman's Brine Recipe, and we will have gravy but all of our sides, our appetizers, and our desserts will be new to us all! Stay tuned for all of the dishes we will be trying!

As previously stated, I have decided to try The Pioneer Woman's Brine Recipe for our Pre-Thanksgiving bird....Here it is...

The Pioneer Woman's Turkey Brine 
3 cups Apple Juice Or Apple Cider
2 gallons Cold Water
4 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary Leaves
5 cloves Garlic, Minced
1-1/2 cup Kosher Salt
2 cups Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Peppercorns
5 whole Bay Leaves
Peel Of Three Large Oranges
Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover.
Note: A quick trick to remove the skin from garlic cloves, pop them in the microwave to 10 to 15 seconds and the peel will pop right off!
Allow to cool completely, then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place uncooked turkey in brine solution, then refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.
When ready to roast turkey, remove turkey from brine. Submerge turkey in a pot or sink of fresh, cold water. Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt from the outside.

Discard brine. Remove turkey from clean water, pat dry, and cook according to your normal roasting method.
Note: If you don't want to make your own brine feel free to use the William-Sonoma turkey brine as it is just as wonderful!
To Roast the Turkey I combined some recipes....The Pioneer Woman's (of course), my grandmother, Nannie's, because what are the holidays without a little family influence, and then any other recipe I like or have read in the past 2 weeks (I tend to get a little panicky as the time to roast the big bird gets near as I feel like the pressure is really on)
3 onions, quartered
1 bunch celery
1 bag carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 bay leaf 
1 bunch of thyme
UNSALTED Butter, go ahead and get a whole's the holidays, stop counting calories!
1 bottle dry white wine (ask the people working at your favorite liquor store what is best....if you don't havea  favorite liquor store, well there is just nothing I can do about that except suggest Bud's in Green Hills)
LOW SODIUM Chicken broth
After the turkey been in the brine for 16-24 hours remove it from the brining bag and rinse the turkey thoroughly again inside and out with cold water.
Stuff the bird with carrots, onion, the leafy part of the bunch of celery, thyme and a bay leaf.
Don't forget that there are two cavities that need to be filled....we all took anatomy, figure it out if you can't think of the other one!
Place the bird on the rack of a roasting pan. In the bottom of the pan, add the remaining herbs and vegetables along with the entire bottle of white wine.
They say you should cook with the same wine you would drink....well my friends, we are a Two Buck Chuck kinda family so that is what I used and it was DELICIOUS! 

Cover the turkey tightly with heavy-duty foil. Make sure it is entirely covered (cover over the bottom edges of the pan).

Place in a pre-heated 275 degree oven and walk away. The rule of thumb now is to roast the turkey at 275 degrees for about 10 minutes per pound. So for a 20-pound turkey, roast it at 275 degrees for about 3 ½ hours. (For a 15-pound turkey, roast it for 2 ½ hours.) Note: there’ll still be more cooking time after this, but it’ll be at a different temperature).

When it’s time to remove the turkey from the oven, melt one stick of butter in a bowl. Remove the turkey from the oven and increase the temperature to 375 degrees. Remove the aluminum foil and set aside. Brush 1/3 of the butter all over the skin of the turkey. 
At this point I add the giblets and the neck to the bottom of the roasting pan.  This gives the broth you will later use for gravy all the more flavorful! 
Insert a meat thermometer into the thigh, near the hip joint. 
Place the turkey uncovered back into the oven. Continue roasting the turkey, basting with butter every 30 minutes until the thermometer registers 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh and until the juices are no longer pink.
Remove from oven, cover with foil until you are ready to serve it.  The bird needs to rest for at least an hour before you start carving.  
I usually loosely cover it in aluminum foil to keep it warm, but not too tight so that it keeps cooking the bird more than I want!
Since my mother is one of the greatest mom's in all the world, she pulls apart the turkey for me as I don't really enjoy this job.  We carve the breast portion of the bird, but pull the dark meat from the bones.  
As you can tell she has mad skills and leaves very little on the bones!  This may have something to do with the mimosa in the back ground....I'm just saying!
A peek into our amazing meal!
I didn't realize it at the time but this photo is so 1950's as both the moms have on aprons, the couples are lovingly seated beside them and the little kids are up front...hysterical!  I don't care, we love each other a ton and that is all that matters!
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