Cider Brined and Grill Roasted Turkey

Do brine or not to brine?
In my opinion, brining is worth it – all you need is time. Follow these steps, and you will have an unfailingly moist and flavorful turkey with a crisp and crackly skin.

Brined, Air-Dried, and Grill-Roasted Turkey

My favorite way to make a turkey is to brine it – not dry brine, but in a liquid, for 24 hours. Then I remove it from the brine and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator overnight to dry out. This ensures that the skin will not be soggy, but sufficiently dry of moisture so that it will roast, or in this case grill, to crispy perfection. Before roasting, I allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour, to ensure even cooking, and then I roast it on the grill. The grill? Yep. Not only am I partial to my gas grill for all sorts of cooking, I only have one oven. So when the holidays roll around and the kitchen and its appliances kick into overtime, I rely on my handy outdoor grill to step in for roasting. It’s simple to do over indirect heat, much like the indirect heat of your oven. Just pay attention to the temperature, and rotate the turkey for even cooking. The added bonus is that the grill will burnish your turkey a gorgeous mahogany color, a hue I have never achieved in my kitchen oven. So there you have it.

The turkey pictured is a 20 pounder, but generally, I roast a 16 to 18 pound bird. My family and I don’t like stuffings, so I fill the cavity of the turkey with handfuls of herbs, a quartered onion, and a quartered lemon, while taking care not to pack in too much. Once the turkey has finished cooking and while it’s resting (for at least 30 minutes) I remove the herbs and wedges and replace with a fresh bunch of herbs for decoration before carving. This step is necessary in order to show off the gorgeous results – and, boy, are they gorgeous.

So, go ahead and work these simple steps into your pre-Thanksgiving plan. You can do one step a day: Begin on Monday with the brine and finish with grilling on Thursday for a spectacular Thanksgiving turkey. It’s worth it.

Cider Brine:
3 quarts water, divided
1 quart apple cider
1 cup kosher salt
1 medium onion, quartered
1 small bunch fresh sage and/or rosemary sprigs
3 garlic cloves, smashed but intact
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
Peeled zest of one orange

To brine the turkey, you will need enough space in your refrigerator for a container large enough to hold your turkey submerged in the brine. This can be cumbersome, but it’s worth it, in my book.  I have used a plastic storage box in the past, but now rely on a cooler, in which I pour the brine directly to cover the turkey. I then leave the cooler outside overnight (note: this is only practical if the outside temperature is as cold as your refrigerator).

1. Make the brine: Combine 1 to 2 quarts water, the salt, onion, sage or rosemary, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and the orange zest in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and add the remaining water and the cider; cool thoroughly (or chill overnight).

2. Brine the turkey: Place the turkey in the brine. If not fully submerged, then add more water to cover. Refrigerate overnight.

3. Air-dry the turkey: Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry inside the cavity and outside. Place on a rack in a large roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

4. Grill the turkey: Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting or grilling. To grill: Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat (325°F). Grill until thoroughly cooked, rotating the turkey every hour and basting every 30 minutes or so with pan juices. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

Cranberry Sauce 2.0
Add a little zing to your sauce

Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without cranberry sauce. And while I have nothing against the traditional sugary cranberry combination, I find I crave an extra depth of flavor in the standard sauce – and so I devised this chutney. What I like about chutney is it’s a combination of fruit and savory ingredients, and not timid about incorporating herbs, spices, and even a kick of heat. In other words, it nails many of the flavor senses (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, heat) that, to me, yield a more satisfying mouthful.

In this chutney, dried figs add a mellow, nutty sweetness, and fresh ginger and orange add perfume and zing, all of which balance out the cranberries’ natural astringency, while allowing them to remain the star of the show – after all we’re talking Thanksgiving here.

The good news is that this chutney is not exclusively for the Thanksgiving table. It also makes a great condiment for other fruit-loving proteins such as pork, duck, and lamb. I like to serve it as an accompaniment on a cheese platter as well, or dabbed on goat cheese-smeared crostini.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Makes about 2 cups

18 dried black mission figs, quartered
1/2 cup Port wine
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
Juice and zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

1. Place the figs in a small bowl and pour the Port wine over the figs. Set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Combine the cranberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Add the figs and Port wine, the ginger, orange juice and zest, pepper, salt, and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney has thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the rosemary sprig. (The chutney may be made up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature).

 

Thanksgiving Sides: Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Walnuts and Farro

If one vegetable symbolizes Fall and Thanksgiving, it’s the Brussels sprout. When these little crucifers appear in the market, it means it’s time to pull on our sweaters and plan our holiday menus. Yet, if one vegetable symbolizes dinner challenges, it’s also the Brussels sprout, because when these mini-cabbages appear on the table you can be sure they will elicit strong reactions from those who love them – and those who hate them. Hence the eternal question: in the spirit of holiday togetherness, how can we serve these hardy sprouts for everyone to enjoy?

This recipe might be the answer. Like all traditions that bear repeating, it’s worth sharing once again. It has a few simple techniques that may, just may, win over any steadfast sprout-hater. The trick is to roast the Brussels sprouts, which softens their assertive and firm cabbagey properties and accentuates their natural sweetness. Grapes are roasted along with the sprouts, so they coat the sprouts with their winey juices and lend more sweetness. A good shellacking of pomegranate balsamic vinegar towards the end of the roasting provides a lip smacking caramelized finish. Finally, the sprouts, grapes, and juices are tossed with farro and toasted walnuts, creating a rustic and satisfying dish, which is nutty, sweet, and not too dense with sprouts – but with just enough to satisfy the lovers and appease the haters at your dinner table. So give it a try and let me know.

Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Farro

Pomegranate balsamic vinegar is available in specialty stores and well-stocked supermarkets. You can make your own by whisking together 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses.

Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved (or quartered if large)
3/4 pound seedless red grapes
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 cup cooked farro, warm or at room temperature
1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Toss the Brussels sprouts, grapes, thyme sprigs, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle the pomegranate balsamic vinegar over and stir to coat. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast until the sprouts are tender and the grapes have begun to shrivel, about 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven, discard the thyme sprigs, and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the farro and walnuts and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Warm Wild Rice Salad with Dried Fruit and Nuts

Rice Stuffing

I am just going to come out and say it: I am not a fan of turkey stuffing (or dressing), and neither is my family. Whenever I make stuffing, it sits uneaten at the Thanksgiving table, before banishment to the refrigerator, labeled “leftover,” where it continues to sit for days, forlorn, neglected, and, frankly, wasteful. So, now I don’t make a stuffing for our turkey. Instead, I jam bunches of fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, and sage, as well as wedges of lemon or orange in the cavity to provide aroma and moisture while the turkey roasts. For serving, I provide potatoes and a grain dish to balance and fill out the feast. This rice salad is always a hit. It’s a great gluten-free starch substitute for stuffing, and the dried fruit and nuts stud the rice like festive jewelry, providing a pretty addition to the holiday table. Feel free to mix up the fruit and nuts, substituting raisins, chopped prunes, dried figs, walnuts or hazelnuts. For a vegetarian option, substitute vegetable stock or water for the chicken stock.

Wild Rice with Dried Fruit and Pecans

Serves 6.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 ½ cups wild rice or wild rice blend
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts
½ cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and saute until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the rice is tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the  dried fruit and pecans while fluffing the rice with a fork. Let stand, partially covered,  for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Farro and Walnuts

brussels-sprouts-grapes-farro-tastefood

This brussels sprouts recipe is perfect for the holiday table. Roasted grapes and a shellacking of caramelized pomegranate balsamic vinegar tame and complement the earthy crucifers. Farro and toasted walnuts add heft and heartiness to this side dish, while nicely providing a satisfying vegetarian option on a meat laden table. If you can’t find pomegranate balsamic vinegar, you can make your own by whisking together 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses.

Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Farro

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.

1 pound brussels sprouts, halved (or quartered if large)
12 ounces seedless red grapes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 cup cooked farro
1/4 cup toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the brussels sprouts, grapes, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle the pomegranate balsamic vinegar over, stirring to coat. Return to the oven and roast until the sprouts are tender and the grapes have begun to shrivel, about 15 minutes more, stirring once or twice. Transfer to a serving bowl. Add the farro and walnuts and toss to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cranberry Pear Galette


cranberry galette tastefood

I am not a patient baker. My desserts tend to be “rustic” which, in my case, is a polite way of saying messy and imprecise. Fortunately for me there is a place in the dessert world for my rustic desserts. I call it my sweet spot (pun intended) which includes crisps, crumbles, cobblers, galettes, and crostatas. These desserts show off the season’s best fruit, in the company of some sort of pastry dough or streusel and are assembled in a delightfully unfussy way. This Cranberry Pear Galette is a perfect example – it’s a free-form tart, which is also known as a crostata. Unlike a traditional tart or pie, a baking dish is not required. The spiced fruit filling is simply mounded into the center of the pastry dough, then the pastry edges are gathered and folded around the filling leaving the top exposed. The result is a golden free-form crust cocooning a bubbling center of oozing fresh fruit. Now, that’s my kind of dessert. Try this one on for your Thanksgiving holiday.

Cranberry Pear Galette

Serves 6

Pastry dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, but into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water

Filling:
4 ripe but not too soft pears (bosc or anjou), peeled and cored, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons almond meal, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly whisked

1. Make the pastry dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse once or twice to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is pea-sized. Add the water and pulse until the dough just comes together. Transfer the dough to a work surface and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
2. Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper into a circle approximately 12-inches in diameter. (It does not have to be perfect!) Slide the dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the pears, cranberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons almond meal, the lemon juice, orange zest, cardamom, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir to combine.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon almond flour over dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Mound the fruit over the almond flour. Fold the borders up and around the fruit. Lightly brush the dough with the egg and sprinkle the galette with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Transfer the galette to the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla a ice cream.

Smashing Roots

smashed roots tastefoodMashed Sweet Potato, Rutabaga, Celery Root

Root vegetables are sadly underrated. The lowly unsung root is, in fact, a storehouse of nutrients, natural sugars, and starch, and a very healthy and flavorful substitute for the ubiquitous russet potato. It’s also a delicious and simple way to get your daily dose of vitamins during the cold weather season. A peel of the skin reveals a rainbow of anti-oxidant-rich colors ranging from magenta to ochre to buttery yellow, guaranteed to brighten a gray day – and your holiday table. I used sweet potato, celery root and rutabaga for this mash. You can add other roots, such as parsnip, carrot, and the handy russet potato to the mix as well. Be sure to choose a variety for a balance of  sweetness and nutty creamy flavor.

Smashed Roots

I use a combo of sour cream and Greek yogurt in this mash, which creates a little naughty richness and a little tangy lightness. So long as you use a combined amount of 1 cup, you can opt for all of one or the other.

3 pounds mixed roots (such as 1 pound each of sweet potato, celery root, and rutabaga)
Salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel the root vegetables and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place the vegetables in a large pot with 2 teaspoons salt and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender. Drain the vegetables and return them to the pot; cool 5 minutes. Add the garlic, butter, sour cream, and yogurt. Smash with a potato masher until the ingredients are blended and the the mash is your desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky). Add salt to your taste and a generous amount of pepper. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve warm.

Prepare ahead:
The mash may be prepared up to 1 day in advance of serving. Cool completely and transfer to a buttered, deep gratin dish. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from them refrigerator 1 hour before serving. To reheat, heat the oven to 325°F. Dot the top of the mash with about 1 tablespoon of diced butter and cover with foil. Bake in the oven until heated through, 30 to 40 minutes.