Brined Turkey

Brining makes turkey so juicy and flavorful you'll never roast a turkey without it again! Keep in mind you'll probably have to rearrange your refrigerator racks to accommodate the brining bucket. I suggest ding this before putting the turkey in the brine, with an empty bucket, just to confirm that it will fit in your fridge. (I speak from experience.)

I like to decorate the turkey platter with bunches of Roasted Grapes. They are beautiful and pretty yummy, too!

Brined Turkey
1 (14- to 16-pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon juniper berries
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 gallons water
4 cups ice cubes

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, cut into 6 wedges
1/2 onion, cut in to 6 wedges
1 head garlic, cut in half on its "equator"
1 cup water
1 sprig rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.

Combine the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, juniper berries, bay leaves, and water in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the pot from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

The night before: Combine the brine, water and ice in a 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Arrange the oven racks to accommodate the turkey. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add the aromatics and herbs to the turkey's cavity. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 15 minutes before carving.

Sage and Celery Dressing

I grew up eating "dressing," not "stuffing;" It was always cooked outside the turkey, and it was always made from cornbread. I am not a big fan of cornbread, so when I started making my own, I switched to regular bread instead. But i still cook it by itself, because I like the crunchy bits on the edges that only happen when it's cooked on its own. You can adjust the proportions of white and wheat bread and the ratio of celery to onions--I LOVE celery so tend ot go a little overboard with it.

1 pound white bread -- sliced and cut into rough chunks (don't worry about being exact)
1 pound wheat or multigrain bread -- sliced
1 pound unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups celery -- chopped
1/2 cup celery leaves, chopped
2 cups chicken or turkey stock
6 sprigs' worth thyme leaves
20 leaves sage -- stems removed, cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

The night before cooking, spread all the bread out in a single layer on sheet pans or towels and allow to dry out. (or toast in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes until light golden.) Transfer bread to a large mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the sage leaves into thin strips

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat, making sure not to burn it. Add the celery, celery leaves, and onions and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the stock. Increase the heat to moderate and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 3 minutes.

Pour the mixture over the bread. Add the thyme and sage to the bread mixture. Add the salt and pepper and mix well.

Cover the pan with foil and bake the stuffing for 30 minutes. Remove foil, bake for another 30 min. (Can be done 1 day ahead. Reheat, uncovered, and serve alongside roast turkey.

Burnt Caramel Pumpkin Pie

This is my favorite pumpkin pie recipe ever. The first time I made it,
I accidentally baked my cell phone when I blind-baked the crust--
that's how excited I was about it. it was totally worth it. Use the
leftover pumpkin to make Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies!

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated peeled ginger
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs

1 Awesome Pie Crust, partially baked and cooled, still on its baking

Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the sugar evenly over the bottom of a nonstick
skillet. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the
sugar starts to color. Swirl the skillet--do not stir--so the sugar
colors evenly. Continue heating the sugar until is a very deep golden-
red color. (It will just start to smoke and the bubbles in the sugar
will be large-ish.)

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stand back and add the cream. (it was
steam and bubble and hiss and generally look terribly, terribly
wrong.) Whisk the mixture until it's smooth again, then whisk in the
rum and butter. Pour the caramel into a heatproof bowl and let cool 15

In another bowl, whisk the pumpkin until smooth, then whisk in the
remaining sugar, then the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt, then the
vanilla and eggs. Mix until blended. Whisk in the caramel.

Pour the filling into the crust, then lift the pie pan about a half
inch from the baking sheet and drop it to remove any air bubbles (do
this a couple of times).

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until filling is set (tap the pan gently; the
center of the pie should not jiggle).

Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool completely. Serve with lightly
sweetened whipped cream.

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Before I tried these, I was very suspicious. Pumpkin and chocolate? Not so much. But then I tasted them, and I was converted. If you're still not sure, use white chocolate chips in place of the semisweet ones.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cayenne
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or non-stick foil.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and cayenne. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg and whisk until blended. Whisk in the baking soda mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients, then stir in the vanilla and chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoons on the prepared baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until firm and the edges are lightly brown.

Roasted Grapes

    • 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
    • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
    1 pound red or purple seedless grapes, separated into small clusters

Heat the oven to 500°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and salt and pepper. Add the grapes and toss very gently to coat with mixture, being careful not to break the clusters too much.

Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until the grapes are lightly browned and the skins are slightly crisp, about 12 minutes.

(I roast then during the first half hour of my turkey, then take them out and let them stand until the turkey is finished. They are tasty at room temperature!)

Cranberry Relish

The serrano chile in this relish is a nod to my southwest roots. If you can't find serranos, use 1 jalapeno in its place.

2 cups cranberries, washed and picked over for stems
1 cup sugar, or to taste
Juice and zest from 2 oranges
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, tirring occasionally, just until the cranberries start to burst. Remove from the heat and season with salt. Refrigerate until serving.
hey everyone!

I hope fall has been treating you well.

I've been a little (well a LOT) flaky about my newsletters, but I have a very good reason. (I'm not going to share that just yet. Oooh, cryptic.) But I couldn't let November go by without sharing a few of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes with you guys. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday by far--I love a day completely centered around food! (I mean, most of my days are completely food-centric, but this one is sanctioned, so it's exciting for me.)

So here are a few standards; as usual, there are bonus recipes linked from the blog, so check it out for more of my Thanksgiving table favorites.

And now, to the important stuff. The recipes!

Brined Turkey If you don't like turkey, try brining it. See if that changes your mind like it did mine.

Sage and Celery Dressing I adapted this recipe from the Dean and Deluca cookbook. Their version uses apples and raisins; I don't believe in sweet dressings just on principle. You can add them if you like, but I think my version is The Best Dressing in the World.

Cranberry Relish I didn't understand the draw of cranberry sauce until I had one made from fresh cranberries. I make this one even when there's not turkey to go with it!

Burnt Caramel Pumpkin Pie Full disclosure: I would eat caramel on just about anything. Here it adds depth and velvety texture to what is otherwise a pretty traditional pie.

Hope you all have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday!

Lightbulb Oven