Friday, December 31, 2010

Perfect Brined Turkey

I brined our fresh turkey that we had for Thanksgiving this year and it turned out to be the BEST whole turkey that I had ever prepared for my family. So...I decided that I would brine our CHRISTmas turkey, too...only instead of letting it brine for 24 hours, I let it stay in the brine solution for 48 hours. Oh.My.Goodness! It was so incredibly moist you can not believe it!

It takes a little more planning to get the bird brining 2 days before you are going to roast it, but trust me, it is WELL worth the extra prior planning! I will never again cook a whole turkey any other way!

BRINE for turkey:

1 (16 lb.) fresh turkey
1 cup kosher salt
3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
4 cups hot water
4 cups cold water
1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
1 (1 oz.) package of fresh thyme

Mix sugar and salt together with 4 cups hot water in a food-safe container large enough for your turkey.  Stir until sugar and salt are completely dissolved.   (I used a 12 quart stockpot.. Just make sure that your container is large enough for your bird to fit in and still be able to cover it with the lid.)

Add 4 cups cold water and mix well.

Add 1/4 cup peppercorns and the bunch of fresh thyme.

Place turkey in the container. Add enough cold water to completely cover the turkey.  Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours.

Preparing Turkey for roasting:

Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch of thyme
1 large bunch fresh rosemary
3 medium size onions
1 whole head garlic, cut in half crosswise
1 lemon, halved
1/2 stick of butter, melted
8-10 red potatoes, halved
2-3 heads of fennel, cut into wedges
8-10 carrots, cut into 2" pieces
Approximately 1/2 cup of olive oil

After turkey has been in the brine solution for 48 hours, remove and drain well.  Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Place the turkey in a roasting pan and liberally salt and pepper the INSIDE of the turkey cavity. Be generous!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stuff the inside cavity of the bird with one onion that has been quartered, the halved lemon and the head of garlic that has been sliced crosswise.

Brush the outside of the turkey with the melted butter and liberally salt and pepper the outside of the turkey. Don't be afraid to be very generous with the salt and pepper!

Secure the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings up underneath the body of the turkey.

Peel and slice the remaining onions, toss them with about 1/4 cup olive oil and spread them all around the turkey in the roasting pan. *

Roast the turkey for 1 hour.  While the turkey is roasting, cut up the carrots, potatoes and fennel and toss in a zip-loc bag with 1/4 cup olive oil. 
After the turkey has been roasting for one hour, scatter the carrots, potatoes and fennel all around the turkey in the roasting pan and continue cooking for an additional 2-2 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you stick a knife between the thigh and the leg. *

Remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover it with a tent of aluminum foil for 20-30 minutes.

Give the vegetables a good stir and return the roasting pan with the vegetables to the oven and continue cooking while the turkey is resting.

Slice the turkey and serve on a platter with the roasted vegetables.  If desired, thicken the pan drippings with cornstarch and add about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar for some delicious gravy!

* Tip: I cut up my 2 onions ahead of time and place them in a zip-loc back with olive oil.  I do the same thing with my carrots, fennel and potatoes and then all you have to do is pull them out of fridge and scatter them around the turkey when it is time to add them to the turkey.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Crock-pot Cornbread Dressing

After several attempts at making dressing in my crock-pot, I have finally "tweaked" my recipe enough that I am satisfied with it.  I tried it for Thanksgiving this year and it was a "hit", and after just a few minor changes, I made it again for our family's CHRISTmas dinner.  It is SO nice to have one more dish that can be prepared outside of the oven...freeing up that valuable oven space that we all so desperately need during holiday meal preparation.

It also solved another dilemma in  our household....some of my family requests traditional cornbread "dressing" like all of us Southerners grew up having, but one of my children actually prefers "Stovet@p Stuffing" (what?) over dressing.  Guess what?  They ALL like this dish!!

**  Prior to preparing this dish, cook cornbread according to this recipe  or by using packaged mixes.  
(I have used 2 (16 oz.) packages of Martha White Buttermilk Cornbread Mix prepared with milk and had equally good results.)

1 (14 oz.) pkg. Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned stuffing mix
5-6 cups of previously prepared cornbread
28-32 oz. chicken broth **
2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans of Cream of Chicken soup
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 (4 oz.) can chopped mushrooms
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 Tablespoon ground sage
2 Tablespoons butter, cut up

Chop onion and celery and set aside.

Crumble previously baked and cooled cornbread.

Combine all ingredients except for the butter in a large mixing bowl.

Mix well until thoroughly combined.

Spoon cornbread mixture into a well-greased 6  quart crock-pot.

Dot the top surface of cornbread mixture with pats of butter.

Cook on Low for 4-6 hours, or until set and thoroughly cooked. 

(I cook mine for right at 5 hours, but adjust time as needed since some crock-pots cook "hotter" than others.)

** Our family likes our dressing very moist, but if you prefer a "drier" dressing, you may lessen the amount of chicken broth added.