Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stuffing Your Face Early

Dry brine prep or aka Joe feels up a turkey 
How are you cooking your thanksgiving turkey? Maybe you're going with a tofurkey or maybe a ham just to mix it up. Maybe you've decided that deep frying is the way to go. I hear it is the most delicious way to serve turkey. But if you haven't yet bought the deep fried turkey equipment or maybe your co-workers forced you to watch the horrifying videos of idiots cooking frozen birds in overfull pots of oil and then setting their decks on fire instilling in you a new deep-seated fear of setting your house or self on fire while 25 of your closest family members watch, might I suggest dry brining? 

There's some scientific mumbo-jumbo explaining why dry or wet brining works and makes for a super juicy super flavorful turkey, something about opening the pores or saline transfer, I don't know, I'm not Alton Brown, so I can't explain it, but he does, here. I just know that based on entirely anecdotal evidence, it's totally true and absolutely the best turkey I've ever had. Here's the recipe Joe used and the flavored salt recipe as well. It's easy as long as you start early enough and it doesn't need to involve an enormous bucket of water taking up all of the space in your fridge like wet brining does. And Joe got to use the mortar and pestle, he was very excited about this. And he will give me a resentful, "why did you say that? I wasn't that excited." look, and we will all know that I'm right.

Mmm, pie

No faux Thanksgiving is complete without some kind of pumpkin based dessert. I like traditional pumpkin pie. I just know that I'll be having some scrumptious pumpkin pie in a few short days. I went with a lighter, double layer treat instead. One layer Cool Whip, cream cheese and sugar, then topped with pumpkin, vanilla pudding and more sugar, all poured over graham cracker crust. No baking, no oven, just two bowls, two layers, and two spoons to lick when you are done. Pop those pies in the fridge and four hours later you have yum. Here's the recipe. My co-workers gave their stamp of approval to this pie at our potluck on Monday. So you don't just have to trust me. More Cool Whip on top if you like a little excess, and isn't that the name of the game this time of year?

Apple Sausage Cornbread Stuffing
Somehow I managed to marry a man who doesn't like stuffing. Or as he would call it "soggy, mushy bread." Why waste your time on that when there's mashed potatoes or green bean casserole? But this stuffing recipe was so good, he had leftovers and actually complimented my soggy, mushy bread. I borrowed this recipe from Pioneer Woman's site and then modified the heck out of it. No mushrooms, swap french bread for some whole grain bread, add a little apple cider for the wine, since I forgot to buy wine at the store and I'm too lazy to go buy it just for "soggy bread," and slightly spicy pork sausage instead of italian sausage, because the same person who doesn't like mushrooms or soggy bread also hates fennel in his sausage. This stuffing was fantastic. Sweet and savory, crunchy bits on top and moist and herby on the inside. Plus it has this warm golden color from the turmeric. But then again, I love some soggy, mushy bread as long as it's got a little sage and some apples. (Side note: after making cornbread in a cast iron skillet for the first time I will never make it any other way, it was perfect. Plus I felt like someone's tough, no-nonsense grandmother cooking on the farm with these ridiculously strong forearms acquired from lifting cast iron skillets at every meal.)

Roasted brussels sprouts with shallots and balsamic vinegar

If you'd told me five years ago that I would willingly and joyfully be making brussels sprouts as a side dish for our mini-thanksgiving, I would have laughed in your face and told you that they taste like tiny cabbage scented sweat socks. But I was wrong. I had only ever eaten steamed brussels sprouts and I still hold the opinion that they are heinous and sour. But roasted with shallots and olive oil and doused liberally with balsamic vinegar, they are tangy and slightly sweet and bitter and earthy and perfect little morsels of veggie goodness. Try them please. They will surprise you. Here's the recipe we used, but if you add some butter and some bacon, they are even better.

Roasted 14 pound turkey baby

See how beautifully browned and crispy Joe's turkey turned out? He patted and seasoned and bagged and dried and coddled that baby off and on for two days, and we were rewarded mightily. It was juicy and perfectly salty and now I'm scouring the internet for recipes worthy of it's leftovers. We whipped up a quick gravy to go with the mashed potatoes that my parents brought, and basically to drizzle over anything that made it onto our plates. It is accurately called The Best Gravy Recipe Ever by Alton Brown and it is heavy with red wine, herbs and turkey drippings and those dark crispy fatty bits on the bottom of the pan, they have a fancy name that Joe could tell you but I've forgotten, I'll just call them crispy bits.

Happy early turkey day
We had a feast. We had wine. We had a pretty table. I got out cloth napkins and these things called napkin rings. Joe moved his laptop and I dusted our kitchen table which we hadn't actually eaten at in weeks. Then the clean up, wow we had dishes, sweet lord, did we have dishes. Again, the sign of a good dinner party, three loads of dishes in the dishwasher. That was our feast. Try some of the recipes we used, they were all pretty easy and definitely crowd pleasing. Ok, four person pleasing, but still, we have good taste.

Now on to the real holiday! So what are your big holiday plans? I plan to be as helpful as possible, with minimal sarcasm on Thanksgiving, as my sister-in-law and brother-in-law take on the mighty task of hosting 25 family members for dinner. I've been told that holding my baby niece may be on my lists of helpful tasks. I hope I can handle it. That and some sweet potatoes sound like a pretty perfect way to spend the day.


Snowfairy said...

Ok now you have me wishing we did thanksgiving, that looks blooming amazing. That pumpkin pie has me drooling.
My brother will be celebrating his first thanksgiving in Connecticut with his girlfriend's family so perhaps he'll bring back ideas for our Christmas turkey dinner.
Enjoy your day!

bethany actually said...

Dry brining, eh? If I wasn't already excited about attempting braised turkey for the first time I would want to try that. And hey, I'm making roasted brussels sprouts too! I don't hate them steamed like you do, but I am utterly sure that I will looooove them roasted, based on my passion for roasted broccoli.

For actual Thanksgiving we're probably going to be cleaning and doing laundry, because on Friday my mom arrives! She's coming for Elliora's 1st birthday, which is Tuesday (I KNOW!), and we're waiting to do Thanksgiving meal with her on Friday.

Safe travels up north, and happy Thanksgiving to you! You'll have a slightly late photocard from us when you get home. :-)