thanksgiving dinner


jane asked how i cook my thanksgiving turkey…   my recipe is a hybrid of the high-heat recipe that was in the new york times a few years ago and more standard recipes where you baste the turkey.   i brine my bird (i also brine the chickens i roast) b/c i think it gives you the most flavorful and moist flesh and beautifully-browned skin.   patty unterman hates brined turkeys – thinks they taste like ham – but i think she’s only had over-brined birds.    while i’m at it, you’re going to get my dried fruit stuffing recipe too (it’s actually more like a savory bread pudding)…

two days ahead, clean and rinse the turkey (free-range and organic).   remove the wings — they’d just burn off.    save them with the neck for stock.   then soak in a solution of 3/4 cup salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, some choped fresh rosemary, a fresh bay leaf and the juice of a meyer lemon — in enough water to completely cover the bird (a gallon?).   refrigerate.

as a general rule, you’re going to cook 8 minutes per pound.

your oven should be clean b4 you start (if it’s not, you’re going to have a smoky mess) and you should be using a heavy roasting pan (an aluminum foil pan will incinerate).

rinse the turkey and allow to warm to room temperature, breast-side-up with at tea towel covering.   put the oven rack on lowest level and pre-heat to 500 degrees .

put the turkey on a rack in the pan, breast-up.    cover the breast with cheesecloth (at least 4-layers thick) soaked in white wine and melted butter.    add water to the bottom of the pan (any time the oven gets smoky – add more water to the pan).

cook undisturbed for 45 minutes, then turn the turkey, add more water to the pan, brush more of butter/wine mixture onto the cheese cloth and turn the oven down to 475.

30 minutes later, remove the cheesecloth (you may have to dampen it with butter/wine if it’s sticking to the skin).   baste again in 15 minutes.  and 15 minutes later use an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh —  the turkey is done at 170 degrees.    keep basting and checking every 15 minutes or so.

allow to rest for at least 20 minutes b4 carving.
i never actually stuff my turkey.    it goes back to my grandmother, helen, hating anything soggy.    stuffing cooked in a bird is soggy by definition.   the purpose of stuffing in the bird is to keep the flesh moist.    then you’re left with wet bread.    yuck.   by brining, cooking with high heat, using the butter/wine soaked cheesecloth and not over-cooking, your bird won’t be dry.

sauté three cups of chopped celery and four cups of onions in one stick of butter for about five minutes.    add three cups of dry sherry, 1 3/4 cups chopped (and de-stemmed) dried mission figs, 1 3/4 cups chopped dried sour cherries, 1 3/4 cups dried apricots, two tablespoons chopped sage and two tablespoons chopped rosemary.    cook until fruit is tender.   toss with nine cups of cubed hearty bread (i use a good ciabatta), crust removed.    if you like, mix in 3/4 cup of pine nuts.   at this point you can stop and refrigerate (covered) up to one day ahead, or, keep on…

beat three large eggs and mix with 1 1/2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock.    stir this into the bread/fruit mixture.   bake in buttered glass pie plates (maximizes the delicious crispy, crusty-stuff) for about 20 minutes covered, then another 15 minutes (depending upon how crispy and brown you want it) uncovered.

this savory bread pudding is also fantastic with roasted or grilled pork tenderloin, roasted chicken or grilled portobellos.

the spread: