Getting Bird Ready
I’ve been waiting to post this one for so long! And by far it’s one of those moments in the kitchen I will never forget. One because my mom was in town to spend some quality time with me. Being the oldest of five kids alone time with mom is always special, and this trip especially so. So I wanted everything to be just perfect. Additionally (and also very importantly) the man in my life and his mom were coming to dinner too! And finally, I’d never done anything like this on my own before. Nor am I usually particularly interested in turkey preparation. I hosted a gourmet Thanksgiving at my SF home for 15 way back in 2003, but that was different, there was lots of teaming up and help with my sister and my friend. This turkey, I wanted to see, could I do it on my own? And of course, it all had to be from scratch. Planning and preparation required!
No Salt Alternative- Soda Water for Brine?
We had sodium restrictions, so I was very thoughtful about all my dish preparations (something I just completely don’t event think of as sea salt varietals are my mainstay for most of what I cook). I started with the best turkey I could find (believe me I researched) and ordered organic- another thing I’m not always sold on to having big value, but I thought for this, I will try it. And I definitely would order that bird again (thank you Diestel Heidi Hen), next year. I ordered from Whole Foods, but you can order many places. The website sold me. And a tip from a work colleague inspired me to think, I could in fact still brine the turkey. But would it succeed in taste- oh yeah baby. Alert, you don’t need salt to brine, you can achieve great (maybe better?) results using – soda water and your spices. For my brine, I chose rosemary and herbs de provence. Into the bag and fridge you go Heidi, till we see you later tomorrow afternoon… By the way, not only was this a co-workers idea, I also obsessively googled it, was it even possible because I knew the brining was important, and that I figure that out for the turkey to have nice flavor. I didn’t find out a lot about it online to give me true confidence, but I figured, what harm could it do? Be brave, try something new. My usual way I roll is I try everything new and don’t think about the crazy that could happen, I think about the opportunity to see if different can work.
Roasting Pan a Must
Oh I must digress for a moment on my newest Le Creuset purchase (because for me it has to be Le Creuset brand- even though honestly I did struggle a bit with this not coming from France). I definitely hit my wallet hard, but I was so excite about it, and it turned out I really needed it, because not only did I cook the turkey in it, but it went right from over to stove top for my gravy. And yes, I bought it at the factory outlet, not online. I think it was a sale, so it was a value-based purchase. With what I was able to do with it during Thanksgiving, I never valued a pan like that more.
Cooking the Bird to Perfection
Another tip I learned and decided to try from a co-worker was around the biggest challenge- the dry bird. Most of the time it’s because you overcook the bird (gasp, I did not want that to happen!). To avoid overcooking the bird, take it out a certain amount of time (1/2 hour) before the total cook time and let it sit out. So as he suggested bird cooked 2 hours covered at 325- last hour uncovered – cooked only to 157 degrees and set out covered on a platter for 1/2 hour. Memo to self- this applies to a lot of food when you take it out of the oven and keep it in the cooking pan/dish- likely it’s still cooking. I got so excited about the bird that I almost forgot to use the roasting pan rack!
My bird marinade was another first to try and for this the recipe came from Le Crueset (when I was researching roasting pans) – sage and citrus glazed turkey. What the what? Who does that to “try” cooking their first turkey? Eeks I did and my results were beyond belief and also delivered the “base” for a fabulous turkey soup the next day! For the baste (my man and I were singing, “it’s all about that baste, bout that baste, bout that baste” haha)- orange marmalade, orange juice, dijon mustard were key. Needless to say for this one, I folllowed the recipe. You don’t mess with your turkey. Next year I’ll figure out my own.
Finalizing the Bird to Gravy
With the turkey in the oven, I was a bit obsessive about the basting, so I did so more often keeping my eye on the temperature of the bird. I had some good help in the kitchen to keep things on track while the moms chatted away and relished in the first Thanksgiving they actually didn’t cook for. The glaze continued to settle on the bird and while it did magic happened at the bottom of the pan. Once the bird cooked I decided to take all the bottoms veges out and put them aside while I started to work on the gravy. Bird out the roasting pan went right to the stovetop where the gravy was made without using a lot of chicken stock, it didn’t need it- another sodium saver. Since it was naturally sweet I just needed to add only a little flour, pepper and 2 small packs of chicken stock. It cooked up quickly and resulted also in no lumps. I swear by that roasting pan. After the turkey was out for 1/2 hour, upon first slice, it absolutely oozed juices. Cut to perfection, it was a turkey I will soon never forget, and hopefully with what I learned in this experience, one I can replicate. I’m sure you have loads of Thanksgiving tips to share, I’d love to hear them! What’s your, ahem, “feather in the cap” tip?
PS I”ll do another post that focuses on the side dishes featured in the photo above. I’m still in catch up mode, this one was my most important one to recap before I forget most of the details I captured on my Facebook page you can also
Yeah my first solo turkey… And all the fixings. But the bigger challenge, could I do it all with low or no salt watching the sodium? You sure can! And have a ton of flavor…