Well Chickens, its almost that time. Your Polymath is in full pre-Thanksgiving prep mode and loving every minute of it! In spite of my passion for the holiday, circumstances the past few years have prevented me from hosting, and as a result it has been 3 years since I got my Thanksgiving On!
For starters, as always, I want to tell you early and often how thankful I am for you. I so appreciate that you are here, reading, commenting, and supporting me and my work. And I hope that you will continue to hang out with me here, and at all the other relevant social media spots... in case you aren't already, here is where to follow me on Twitter , Facebook , Pinterest , Google+ and my official website for upcoming events and information.
I also want to remind you that I'm enormously thankful for your pre-ordering my new book!
It will be released December 3, and is a lovely gift for the holidays. There are over 40 pages of amazing recipes in the back, so even when the story is done, the delicious can last forever.
The other good news is that I'm back on Turkey Day duty, and it is much like riding a bike. I realized that in the past, I've focused on sharing with you the things I make in a manner geared very much towards Thanksgiving newbies. And if you want to read about that, or snag any of my classic recipes for the basics, you can check it out here.
There are some changes I've planned for this year, and the biggest one is that I'm going to Dry Brine our turkey. In years past I've been a big proponent of a wet brine, and it took many experiments to get the brine liquid just right, but while it made for a moist bird with good flavor, the flavor wasn't predominantly turkey. The turkey was more a texture, a delivery device for gravy and cranberry sauce and a sidekick to the side dishes. But since I last hosted, a few things have changed. One, I was diagnosed diabetic, so my carb overload Thanksgivings are a thing of the past. I still make everything I used to, but I have to limit myself to small rational portions of the carbs, and go heavy on the protein and veggies. This means that the turkey is suddenly much more important than ever before. So this year I made a commitment in an effort to make the bird the star of the show.
For starters, I ordered a fresh heritage turkey. It's expensive, especially since it has to be shipped to me, but I think it will be worth it. If you have the means, do it. If not, I hope you will ask your butcher to find you a fresh bird from a local producer. Second I'm losing the wet brine in favor of a dry brine. The reason is simple. While I want moist turkey, I want the moistness to be natural. When you wet brine the salt in the brine draws the juices out of the turkey and then the turkey sucks back in the brine. But now the juices have been significantly diluted by the water in the brine. Moist, yes. Flavorful, yes. Turkey flavored? Not so much. Plus you have to manage a large bucket of raw poultry juice sloshing around, not ideal. With a dry brine you need longer, three days instead of 16 hours. But it is easier, and results in a bird that is moist and tastes like turkey. The science is the same. By salting the outside and inside of the bird heavily, it draws the moisture out of the bird. Except then the turkey juices mix with the salt and get sucked back into the meat, without any extra water, just natural turkey juices that are now seasoned. The salt that is now inside the meat helps the bird retain its natural moisture while it cooks. And instead of a huge bucket of potential food poisoning liquid hanging about that you have to deal with, all you need is a large ziploc or brining bag, readily available at your grocery store or Amazon.
On Monday or Tuesday, take your turkey, remove the giblets bag, and generously salt with kosher salt, 1 Tablespoon for every 5 pounds of turkey, mixed with some dried herbs if you like. Plunk your well salted bird in the big ziploc bag, press as much of the air out as you can, and pop it in the fridge. Once a day or so if you remember, massage the bird around in the bag and flip it about. The night before Thanksgiving, right before you go to bed, take it out of the bag, DON'T RINSE IT OFF, and put it in the fridge uncovered. Be sure to give it plenty of room so that the raw turkey doesn't touch any other ingredients or things in your fridge. I put a protective layer of saran wrap over the inside of the fridge door to cover all the condiments etc. just in case. The next day, cook the turkey with your favorite recipe.
This year I'm also scaling things down a bit, for a more streamlined meal. The only pre-dinner nibbles are going to be herbed popcorn, fresh snap peas, and almonds, and then little espresso cups of pumpkin soup. I'm skipping the Jell-o mold this year, since all of us want to save our sugar rations for desserts, and doing steamed green beans with a lemon chive oil instead of the casserole.
But I'm adding in my mother-in-law's Pe-Hick Pie, a pretty simple pecan pie but with half pecans and half hickory nuts, which is a real upgrade and will be a lovely counterpoint to the classic deep dish apple pie.
The other thing I'm doing is some early mise-en place. I compulsively save those round plastic deli containers that everything seems to come in these days. So for each recipe I'm making, I'm making little tubs of the dry ingredients, pre-measured and labeled, so that when I'm cooking I don't have to measure things out one at a time. It's a trick stolen from some chef pals, who use masking tape and a sharpie on the deli lids to keep stuff organized, and I think it will make a huge difference.
I'd love to hear from you what your plans are, and any changes or improvements you're excited to make for your celebrations!
Yours in Good Taste,
A Very Thankful Polymath