Burning the Turkey with Cigarettes

Having people over for dinner, or hosting the more formal “dinner party” used to freak me out. So I hit the problem head on and decided to have a lot of dinner parties. It worked and I can now have people over with pleasure. Then I decided to tackle Thanksgiving. How hard can it be? I don’t know if any of you have memories of your mothers being totally frazzled and blown out by the time the actual Thanksgiving or Holiday feast was on the table. My mother’s exhaustion and anger were as much a part of Thanksgiving as the turkey, but didn’t digest as well. After trying to cook the traditional feast myself, I totally understood where my mother was coming from. I was so stressed, burdened and cranky I wanted to burn the turkey with cigarettes.

So it is with gratitude and admiration that I have watched two of my sister’s create and orchestrate a loving family Thanksgiving feast. They have been cooking it for twelve years and have it down to a science, with graphs, timelines, schedules, count downs, beepers, plate warmers and a large china Turkey as a centerpiece. But here is the miraculous part; they do it with joy and with generous hearts.

Since I am not working this year I get to hang out in the kitchen with them, chopping, tasting, drinking, and standing back in wonder.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite dishes from my sister’s feast. We’ll start with turkey, and keep an eye out for my all-time favorite, Grace’s sweet potato recipe, coming tomorrow. I hope you all have a joyous and gratitude filled Thanksgiving. To all those effected by the hurricane, who have no home to cook or gather in, everyone here at WTF sends you their prayers.



My Sister Grace’s Brined Turkey

Grace found this brine recipe in the New York Times and added it to her turkey roasting strategy. It is kind of a hassle but worth every ounce of effort. The turkey is moist and delicious, the best I have ever had. I now do this recipe for chicken throughout the year. The hard part is finding a bucket or deep pan big enough to brine the turkey in!

Brine Ingredients:
1 ¼ cup Kosher Salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups honey
1 big bunch of parsley
6 or more sprigs each of thyme, tarragon, sage (if you don’t have fresh, I just use up my old dried herbs).
3 lemons halved
1 can concentrated apple juice
1 gallon (16 cups) boiling water
1 gallon cold water
You can also throw in an orange of whatever else that is hanging around and seems good.

Combine all ingredients except water in a large stock type pot.
Boil 1 gallon of water and pour over the brine ingredients.
Simmer on the stovetop for 5 minutes.
Add one gallon of cold water
Bring mixture to room temperature.
Submerge turkey (after washing and getting all the gross stuff out of the inside) in this fantastic brine and refrigerate overnight 12-24 hours (my sister has discovered that 18 hours in optimal).
*If you have to use more water to submerge the turkey, just add some more salt.


You’ll need:
Reynolds Turkey Roasting Bags (18-24 pounds)
3-4 packets of the fresh peeled garlic
1 onion
3-4 stalks of celery
2 carrots (too many carrots can make it too sweet).
Big bunch of parsley
4 big Tbsps. of flour

Open the roasting bag, dump the flour inside, then roughly chop all the vegetables and throw them in the bag and shake it. They become covered in flour.

Take the turkey out of the brine, dry it well, inside and out, and butter the outside. Salt and pepper the turkey generously. Stuff all the garlic inside the bird (really as much as you can fit), then slide the turkey into the roasting bag and it will sit on the bed of your floured veggies. Tie it up, poke 3 holes in the top of the bag, and cook 20 minutes per pound.

You are going to love this.

Happy Turkey Day!



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