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Cooking Thanksgiving: The Turkey!

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Hi everyone!

We had such a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend full of family, fun, and lots of good food! Traditionally my sister, my Mom and I have all lent helping hands in cooking the turkey. My Dad has always been the designated carver! :)  We usually spend most of the morning and afternoon cooking up a storm before sitting down to a tasty family feast. As our families have grown, we’ve enjoyed incorporating new traditions here and there.  Tri-tip on the grill has been added to the list of feast foods. The in-law’s Chocolate chip bundt cake is my new favorite go-to dessert. Game night has become a new family tradition. The turkey, however, has stayed, and always will stay, our own.

Since I have a few family recipes to share, I’ll be splitting our Thanksgiving feast into several posts. I’ll do the most time-consuming, most fun, and most crucial recipe first: the turkey!

Ingredients:

  • 1 (18 lbs) turkey
  • 5 lemons
  • 5 oranges
  • 3 onions
  • 1 tablespoon all-spice
  • 1 tablespoon cloves
  • 4 cups turkey broth
  • 1.5 cups Kosher salt
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons poultry spice
  • 1 poultry mix herb bouquet (sage, rosemary, and thyme)
  • Several “glugs” of apricot brandy

To get things started, you want to make sure to brine your thawed (or mostly thawed, anyway) turkey in a solution of water, kosher salt, citrus fruits (we used 3 oranges and 3 lemons), onions, all-spice, poultry herbs, turkey broth and cloves. Over a medium flame, bring a small turkey broth to a soft boil. Add a generous amount of kosher salt, several shakes of all-spice, and about a tablespoon of cloves to the liquid. Let the liquid cool.

Cut the citrus fruits and onions into quarters. Fill a large plastic bucket almost half-way with water before adding the spiced liquid, the onions, the herbs, and the juice of the citrus and its remaining flesh. Add your turkey to the brine, cover, and allow the turkey to sit overnight.

In the morning, dump the brine down the sink and pat your turkey dry. In a small bowl mix together 1 cup of mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of poultry spice, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Mix thoroughly until you achieve a nice, seasoned color. You can taste it if you’d like, but it probably won’t taste so great. This little “glaze” makes the turkey so tasty and tender. I’m not even a huge mayonnaise fan, so you’ve got to trust me on this one!

Slice up your remaining citrus fruits (2 lemons and 2 oranges) and onion into halves. Dump the turkey brine down the sink, place the package of inner organs in a plastic bag (you’ll be using those later!), and pat the turkey dry.

Once the turkey is resting comfortably on a rack you can get started with your mayonnaise rub. Cover the entire turkey with a coating of the seasoned mayonnaise mixture, making sure to get under the skin and inside the turkey as well.

Squeeze the lemons and oranges inside of the turkey cavity before leaving the whole fruit inside. Add the rest of the onions. Stuff the herbs inside as well. Our family has never made stuffing inside of the turkey. We always bake it separately in the oven and use this aromatic combination of spices, citrus, onions, and herbs to flavor the turkey.

Now your turkey is ready to go in the oven! Preheat the oven to a whopping 450 F (230 C). You’re going to brown your turkey at a high temperature for about 15 minutes or until the skin starts to turn just the right shade of bubbly brown.

After 15 minutes, bring the temperature down to 325 F (165 C) for the remainder of the cooking time. General rule states that the turkey needs about 20 minutes of cooking time per pound. Pour a few “glugs” of apricot brandy over the turkey to provide another dimension of flavor. Don’t worry about any DUIs, the alcohol will burn off while cooking.

If the tips of your wings are looking a little brown, go ahead and wrap them with some aluminum foil. After about an hour in the oven, your turkey is ready for some basting! Use your baster to grab some of the flavorful droppings that have gathered in your pan. Use these droppings to moisten the top of your turkey. You can repeat this process as often as desired, but we generally baste every 30-45 minutes.

Once the turkey is nicely browned (after about an hour), you can cover the fleshy chest area with aluminum foil. This will allow the thicker red meat sections to cook at a faster pace than the white meat, compensating for the natural difference in cooking time. The result will be a more evenly-cooked, better-tasting turkey.

Our turkey was ready to come out of the oven after cooking for about 5 hours (we relied on our handy-dandy meat thermometer to let us know). Whatever you do, don’t get rid of the droppings that have gathered at the bottom of your pan. You’re going to use those later too! :)

We let the turkey stand for an hour before getting started with the careful business of carving it up!

The result was delicious: tender, moist and oh-so-flavorful :)

I hope you and your loved ones can enjoy our family recipe too. This is also a great main course to incorporate into your Christmas menus!

The rest of the recipes will be coming up, so stay tuned…

Have a wonderful day, and I’ll see you all tomorrow!

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