Monday, December 01, 2008

Written a few days ago while riding in the car...

Well, as I write this we are on our way to our third Thanksgiving. So far, we had an early one at our house on Sunday and one at my Dad and Linda's farm in Ohio. We are now headed to Bryan's Grandmother's home in Tennessee. It's always a whirlwind tour but also a lot of fun. I'm glad we can spread it out over the week and don't have to be rushed everywhere.

Not that I'm bragging or anything, but the turkey Bryan and I made this year was SO good. Really, I'm sharing this information because I want to direct you to the recipe that I used. Every year I brine the turkey but this year I decided to do a little research to find out if brining even really makes a difference. I went to the Cook's Illustrated website because they usually are a great reference for scientific testing of things like this. Sure enough, they had a whole article describing the testing of roasting a brined turkey, a turkey soaked in plain water, and a turkey straight out of the package. The turkey that was brined lost the least amount of weight during cooking, thus making it the juiciest. I wholeheartedly agree. To read the article, you have to be a member of their website, sadly (and it's not free). I also recommend the use of a digital thermometer for your turkey. I bought mine at Target and it has worked awesome, three years in a row. There's no doubt about when the turkey is done and will ensure that you don't dry it out. Gross. Dry turkey. Anyway...maybe I should start a cooking blog...jeez. Here's the cooking directions I used (my brine is a little different but I don't think it matters):

Serves 10 to 22, depending on turkey size.   Published November 1, 2004. Cook's Illustrated 
We offer two brine formulas: one for a 4- to 6-hour brine and another for a 12- to 14-hour brine. The amount of salt used in each brine does not change with turkey size. If you’re roasting a kosher or self-basting turkey, do not brine it; it already contains a good amount of sodium. Rotating the bird from a breast-side down position to a breast-side up position midway through cooking helps to produce evenly cooked dark and white meat. If you’re roasting a large (18- to 22-pound) bird and are reluctant to rotate it, skip the step of lining the V-rack with foil and roast the bird breast-side up for the full time. If making gravy, scatter 1 cup each of coarsely chopped onion, celery, and carrot as well as several fresh thyme sprigs in the roasting pan at the outset; add 1 cup water to keep the vegetables from burning.

Table salt
turkey (12 to 22 pounds gross weight), rinsed thoroughly, giblets and neck reserved for gravy, if making
tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
. 1. Dissolve 1 cup salt per gallon cold water for 4- to 6-hour brine or 1/2 cup salt per gallon cold water for 12- to 14-hour brine in large stockpot or clean bucket. Two gallons of water will be sufficient for most birds; larger birds may require three gallons. Add turkey and refrigerate for predetermined amount of time.
. 2. Before removing turkey from brine, adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 400 degrees for 12- to 18-pound bird or 425 degrees for 18- to 22-pound bird. Line large V-rack with heavy-duty foil and use paring knife or skewer to poke 20 to 30 holes in foil; set V-rack in large roasting pan.
. 3. Remove turkey from brine and rinse well under cool running water. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Tuck tips of drumsticks into skin at tail to secure, and tuck wing tips behind back. Brush turkey breast with 2 tablespoons butter. Set turkey breast-side down on prepared V-rack; brush back with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Roast 45 minutes for 12- to 18-pound bird or 1 hour for 18- to 22-pound bird.
. 4. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven (close oven door to retain oven heat); reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees if roasting 18- to 22-pound bird. Using clean potholders or kitchen towels, rotate turkey breast-side up; continue to roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees and thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes longer for 12- to 15-pound bird, about 1 1/4 hours for 15- to 18-pound bird, or about 2 hours longer for 18- to 22-pound bird. 

Transfer turkey to carving board; let rest 30 minutes (or up to 40 minutes for 18- to 22-pound bird). Carve and serve.

I do think it is important to start the bird breast side down. I think it made ours much juicier.

The Thanksgiving at our house was totally fun and was just one of those days where everyone was so relaxed and in a great mood. We made food, we chatted, we drank wine, we played with the babes, we crafted turkey pins, we ate ourselves silly. It was a great day. Hope yours was as happy!

Yesterday we had another good one at Dad and Linda's. We did much of the same (a little less wine drinking- y'all know Daddy D isn't down with the fermented grapes!) and got to see Grandma (91), my Aunt, and my cousins. It was so great to catch up and relax on the farm. We took a photo with all of the cousins and babies but I haven't uploaded them yet- you'll have to wait. It was really neat to all be together. Cooper was in his usual cheery mood while we were in Ohio and it's such a joy to have everyone say how smiley and happy he is. It's true- he's a people person and will do pretty much anything to get someone to smile at him. So cute. We are so lucky.

I guess I'm just in a general mood of thankfulness and feeling content for all the people and love that we have in our life. It's not something I ever want to take for granted and I know it's not something everyone has. So, to all of you out there reading this, I'm thankful for you. You are what makes a life special.

Now, on with Christmas!

Pictures of the holiday to come...


  1. So, if you do start a cooking blog, can you start with something a little easier? Like, um, "how to cook a chicken breast in a pan?"

  2. I'm a big proponent of brining too. I've never cooked a turkey, but I've brined pork roasts that have turned out just wonderful (I did one for our Thanksgiving pot luck 5 years ago or so when we were in Lilburn. You guys were there. I'm sure you still think about how delicious the pork roast was).

  3. I'm with jade. Start out with something easier. Brine? Really? That's how we Kentucky folk say your husband's name! I had no clue it was a cooking term!

    It was DElightful to see you all last week. Why oh why can't we live closer together?
    Upload pics! And please--you haven't even shown pics of the master suite yet!