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Archive for the ‘Poultry’ Category


November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner – Roast Turkey


turkey Thanksgiving Dinner   Roast Turkey

Brined Oven Roasted Turkey

I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts. – Arnold Schwarzenegger

The most anticipated part of Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey. Your turkey will sum up all your preparation for this dinner. Is it moist or dry? Is it bland or flavorful?

No pressure. As my father likes to say, “Don’t worry.” Over the last several years I have kitchen tested many different turkey recipes. I’ve made some great tasting birds and some rather large burnt paperweights. I have learned certain techniques and tools that will help make an easy and tasty turkey.

Did you know?

The original Thanksgiving in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11. According to the Thanksgiving feast lasted three days. The event was based on the English harvest festivals that traditionally occurred around September 29.

During the American Revolution the Continental Congress suggested a yearly day of national thanksgiving. In 1817 New York State adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual custom. In 1863 President Lincoln appointed a day of thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November, which he may have correlated it with the landing of the Mayflower at Cape Cod on November 21, 1621. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939.


Before you start cooking you should have a well-organized plan, everything from jotting down a shopping list of ingredients, tableware to cooking equipment. Other than your basic equipment for this feast there are three tools you must have.

First and foremost are an oven thermometer and a digital meat/roast thermometer with a probe insert. I do not trust any oven temperature readout. They are rarely accurate. If you plan to base your entire Thanksgiving dinner on a plastic pop-out timer that is inserted into the turkey you are taking a risk. These things are worthless. Do not remove this pop up timer until you are about to carve the turkey. Otherwise precious juices will come out of the turkey. Invest in a good digital meat/roast thermometer with a long wired probe insert. This will prevent opening and closing of the oven, which will shorten your valuable cooking time. It will also eliminate all the guesswork.

Don’t forget a 5-gallon bucket with a lid. Yep, a bucket. To make a moist and flavorful turkey you will want to brine your turkey. Brining a turkey ensures a moist bird. More about this later. Do not forget to clean the bucket before you use it. I label mine so I used it again next year.

Did you know?

To make the skin on the turkey brown evenly and crispy loosen the skin from the meat and rub in a butter mixture. Try not to tear the skin. Then gently massage the skin to evenly distribute the butter. Yeah you are massaging your bird? LOL!


Brining? What is brining? Is it going to make my turkey too salty?

Brining will help make a juicy and flavorful turkey. Brining tenderizes the meat while adding a subtle flavor. The salt changes the protein structure in the meat and helps retain moisture. Brining does not make the turkey salty.  Do not brine a self-basted turkey. It is already in a salt-water solution.

Brine can be used for many large roasts from chicken and turkey to pork loins. Don’t forget that 5-gallon bucket. You can usually fit an 18-20lb turkey in the bucket.

If you have family or friends with a dietary salt restrictions with you can use a cooking bag instead of a brine. The bag will collect all the juices and cook the turkey in moist heat.


I’ve used both fresh and frozen and I prefer fresh when I plan to use a brine. Otherwise a self-basted turkey will do well. According to Cooks Illustrated magazine fresh turkeys, without using a brine, tend to be tougher and drier than a frozen one. Just don’t forget to figure out the amount of time you need to thaw a frozen bird.


It depends where the meat/roast thermometer probe is inserted. If you insert the probe in the breast, the turkey will be done at 165 degrees and 175 degrees in the thigh. Once this temperature is achieved remove the turkey from the oven and cover lightly with tin foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. The residual internal heat will finish cooking the turkey. Make sure you do not insert the thermometer probe into a bone. This will cause the thermometer to give a false reading. Please do not go by the pop-up timer. They are inaccurate. Remove the pop-up timer just before carving the turkey.

Did you know?

If you are using a convection oven, you need to adjust the recipe cooking times and temperature.  Convection ovens are more efficient to cook in. It distributes the heat more evenly. According to the Staten Island Advance Food Editor, lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees and reducing the cooking time by one-third.


Serves 10-12


1 fresh or frozen, not a self basted turkey, 14 to 16 lbs


1-cup kosher salt

½ cup light brown sugar

1-gallon (4 quarts) vegetable sugar

1 Tbsp. black peppercorns

½ Tbsp. allspice berries

½ Tbsp. candied (crystallized) ginger

1-gallon water


1 red apple, sliced

½ onion, sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1-cup water

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

6 leaves fresh sage

Canola oil

Combine all the above brine ingredients, except the water, in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature. Once the brine is at room temperature refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Early on the day of cooking or the night before combine the brine and water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey breast side down in the brine, cover and refrigerate for 6 hours. Turn the turkey over once half way through the brining. Don’t forget to discard the neck and giblets inside the turkey.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Combine the aromatics, apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and nuke on high for 5 minutes.

Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine. Be careful removing the turkey from the brine. I once lifted the turkey from the plastic clip holding the legs together and it snapped. The turkey fell back into the 5-gallon bucket with the brine. I was covered in brine. So was my kitchen. UGH!

Place the turkey on a roasting rack inside a wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels.  Add the steeped aromatics inside the cavity along with the rosemary and sage.  Tuck back wings and coat the whole bird liberally with canola oil.

Roast on the lowest level in your oven. Cook at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Remove from the oven and cover the breast with a double layer of tin foil, insert the meat/roast thermometer probe into the thickest part of the breast (don’t hit any bones) and return to the oven.  No basting is needed because you brined your turkey. Cook the turkey until it hits an internal temp. of 165 degrees.  A 14-16lbs turkey should take about 2 to 21/2 hours of roasting.  Remove the turkey and let it rest loosely cover in tin foil for about 10-15 minutes before carving.

Click below to read my earlier post about stuffing and gravy.

Don’t forget to save any turkey scraps and bones to make turkey stock.

Good job! I told you it was easy. Now enjoy and let me know how you did or if you have any suggestions.


 Thanksgiving Dinner   Roast Turkey


November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner – Stuffing and Gravy


Turkey Stuffing  Thanksgiving Dinner   Stuffing and Gravy

Coexistence: what the farmer does with the turkey – until Thanksgiving. – Mike Connolly

Stuffing (or dressing) and gravy is one part of the quintessential Thanksgiving dinner. They are the supporting cast for a fabulous event. There are many variations and they do their jobs well. Other than make our mouths water in anticipation, they bring Thanksgiving dinner to an eventual apex. As Gene Amole of the Rocky Mountain News said, “… a marvelous mosaic of taste and texture.”

Did You Know?

Stuffing goes back as far as the Roman Empire. Recipes found in the De re Coquinaria, a collection found within a cookbook anthology called Apicius that chronicles thousands of Roman recipes.

In England, prior to the 16th century, stuffing was called “farce(sound familiar…FORCE). “Farce” is based on the French word “farcir” which references the method by which stuffing is inserted into the animal. This is what you are basically doing when you stuff a turkey or if you’re a proctologist (ugh!). I have to give credit when credit is due but the French made the most prolific use of stuffing throughout history. Also Kraft Foods brand, Stove Top, introduced boxed stuffing in 1972 and sells over 60 million boxes every Thanksgiving. That helped a lot too.

Yeah, you can buy the Stove Top or Pepperidge Farms stuffing, the can of Swanson turkey gravy and take the easy way out. They would be acceptable. But then what would I write about?

You can make a fantastic stuffing and gravy.

It’s not as hard as you think and it is well worth your efforts. You can become the family superstar cook! I’ll show you how.

I was e-mailed a very delicious traditional stuffing recipe from Lisa from Richmond Town.  It’s a sausage, apple and chestnut stuffing. I had to make it. Yes, I just made the stuffing. My wife thought that I was crazy.  I wanted to taste every nuance of the stuffing without the turkey. I do not cook my stuffing in the turkey (especially after what I wrote above!). It is risky, takes longer to cook and I am not a proctologist nor do I play one on TV. I prefer to cook stuffing in a baking dish.

I also have included my favorite gravy recipe. This is a recipe that is handed down from my mother and I modified it…a little.  The gravy is made from the remaining juices of the turkey. The gravy is made in the roasting pan of the turkey. This is done when I set the turkey out on the carving board to rest.  Please have everything you need for the gravy within arms reach and ready to go.  It will be a lot easier.


Traditional Turkey Stuffing by Lisa from Richmond Town

Makes about 12 cups, serves 8 – 10, good for about a 16 lb. turkey


1 lb. sourdough bread or country – style white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/2″ cubes

3/4 lb. sweet sausage, remove meat from casings

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 large celery stalks, diced

2 large tart apples, Granny Smith, peeled, cored, sliced and chopped

3 Tbsp. fresh thyme chopped or 1Tbsp. of dried thyme

3/4 cup chicken stock (not broth, there is a difference)

1 lb. fresh chestnuts, baked, peeled and coarsely chopped (see below on how to bake and peel)

1/2 fresh parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

2 large eggs, beaten until blended, hold off to the side until needed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the bread cubes in a large baking pan and bake until lightly golden. Stir once and a while. About 12 minutes. Once the bread is done place in a bowl and set aside. In a large frying pan over medium – high heat cook the sausage until brown, about 10 minutes. Remove sausage and place in the bowl with the bread. Stir.

Add the butter to the sausage dripping in the frying pan, reduce the heat to medium. Once the butter is melted add the onion and celery and saute until tender, about 5 – 8 minutes. add the apple and thyme and saute for another minute. Remove the onion, celery, apple, and thyme to the bowl with the bread.

add the stock to the frying pan and bring to a boil (this called deglazing) scraping up any brown bits. Once again add the stock to the bread in that very large bowl. Mix in the chestnuts and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Mix in the beaten egg.

Bake the Stuffing in the Oven.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter, or spray with Pam, a 13 ” by 9″ by 2″ baking dish and spoon the stuffing into it.  Cover lightly with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes. Now uncover the stuffing and bake an additional 30 minutes to crisp the top. Remove and serve!

To bake chestnuts…

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Score an X on the flat side of each chestnut with a sharp knife. BE CAREFUL! Place chestnuts in a large pan. Set them in a single layer and add 1/2 cup of water and bake about 20 minutes. Watch your nuts! LOL! You don’t want to burn them. You know I can gone forever with this childish humor. Remove your nuts from the oven (ouch!) and let them cool slightly.

While the chestnuts are still warm, peel off the shell and the furry skin directly beneath them. If they cool too much the will be difficult to peel.

Baking chestnuts can be done a day or two before the stuffing and stored in the refrigerator.

My Mom’s revised Turkey Gravy

Makes about 3 cups


4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 shallot, minced

4 garlic cloves, smashed

1 sprig of fresh rosemary, diced to make 1 Tbsp.

1 sprig of fresh thyme, diced to make 1 tsp.

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. Wondra flour (or all-purpose flour)

Mix the butter and Wondra flour in a bowl to make a paste. Set aside.

Once the turkey is roasted, removed it from the pan to rest (cover lightly with tin foil). Pour any remaining dripping into a bowl. Let the juices rest a minute to separate. Set aside 2 Tbsp. of the fat (the top layer), discarding the remaining fat only. To do this easily, take a paper towel an lay it down gently on the top of the juices. This will absorb the top layer of fat. Discard the wet fat ridden paper towel. Add the remaining juices back into the roasting pan and the remaining 2 Tbsp. of fat. Set the pan over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a spoon. Cook until the shallot is tender, about 3 minutes. Do not burn.

Now add the chicken broth and bring it to a boil. Now carefully whisk in the butter/flour mixture. Boil until the gravy thickens, about 4 minutes. Season to taste. Discard the garlic and bay leaf. Serve and watch your family and friends enjoy your efforts.

Thanks for reading. Please send me any of your recipes or suggestions.

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 Thanksgiving Dinner   Stuffing and Gravy


November 12, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner – Cranberry Sauce


Canned Cranberry Sauce 300x225 Thanksgiving Dinner   Cranberry Sauce

Does this look appetizing?

It has been an unchallengeable American doctrine that cranberry sauce, a pink goo with overtones of sugared tomatoes, is a delectable necessity of the Thanksgiving board and that turkey is uneatable without it. – Alistair Cooke

My least favorite food at Thanksgiving dinner is cranberry sauce. This sweet gelatinous goop is not appetizing to me. My dislike of this sauce is because it comes from a can and is too sweet. My friends and family swear by it and without cranberry sauce it isn’t Thanksgiving dinner. But does it have to come from a can? Is this it? Is this the standard in which cranberry sauce is judged?

What is cranberry sauce? It isn’t just cranberries smart_ss!

Lets set the record straight. There was no cranberry sauce at the first Thanksgiving dinner. Yes the Pilgrims and Indians had cranberries but sugar was a rare luxury. Try eating a cranberry and find out why you need sugar. I triple dog dare you!

Cranberry sauce became popular when General Ulysses S. Grant ordered it served to the troops during the siege of Petersburg in 1864. In 1912, Ocean Spray Cape Cod Cranberry Company started caning cranberry sauce commercially. The rest is history.

Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle…. What! This isn’t Cranberry sauce!

Okay, you already know I dislike cranberry sauce but I tested many for this post for journalistic integrity. Sounds good right? I tried the store bought cranberry sauces and also made a few from scratch. I was surprised by my findings.

Oh the humanity! Try to avoid the canned cranberry sauces. Compared to any of the homemade sauces they are visually unappealing to outright disgustingly sweet gelatin. The amount of effort involved to make cranberry sauce is minimal. It is worth the effort. I actually liked how it tasted.

I made a few of cranberry sauce recipes and there were two that stood out. The first recipe was submitted by Joanne from Willowbrook. Joanne’s cranberry sauce recipe is a citric wonder. Its main ingredients are grapefruit, honey and crystallized ginger. It is very good. I highly recommend it.

The second is my favorite recipe and comes from the zany Alton Brown of Food Network fame. Alton’s tart cranberry dipping sauce is out of this world. Its main ingredients are orange juice, ginger ale, real maple syrup and light brown sugar. A little of this sauce goes a long way. It’s can be overpowering.

Below you will find both recipes. Serve both this Thanksgiving and judge for yourself. PLEASE DO NOT BUY THE CANNED STUFF.

Cranberry Sauce by Joanne of Willowbrook

Makes about 3 cups


1 bag of cranberries (12 oz.)

1 Tbsp. grated grapefruit zest

1 cup fresh grapefruit juice

¾ cup honey

1/3 cup minced/crushed crystallized (candied) ginger

Over medium high heat combine the cranberries, grapefruit zest, juice and honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir constantly. Boil for about 5 minutes until the cranberries pop. Remove from the heat an cool to room temperature. Stirring will speed the cooling. Once at room temperature stir in the crystallized ginger. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until serving.

Tart Cranberry Dipping Sauce by Alton Brown

Makes about 12 serving


1 lb. frozen cranberries

2 cups orange juice

3 cups ginger ale

2 Tbsp. real maple syrup

2 Tbsp. light brown sugar

½ tsp. kosher salt

1 orange, zested

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan (stainless steel) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half.

Carefully puree in a blender until smooth. Serve in small bowls or ramekins.


Thanks for reading. Please drop me a comment on any of my posts.

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 Thanksgiving Dinner   Cranberry Sauce