Brine that bird Baby!

Brine

(the above picture was from my #summerofsalads post on Chicken salad but it’s a good representation of what your Brine will look like once you’ve placed in the bird)

Hey there!  It’s the week before the big feast and I am sure alot of you are starting to think about how you’ll prepare your bird this year.  I say Brine it first baby! 🙂

I started along the Brining path, this past year, in an effort to tenderize the little hens we were getting from our friends who’ve been raising chickens the past couple of years.  This summer, we still had a HUGE Turkey in the freezer from last Thanksgiving and I decided I wanted to try and Brine it before I Smoked it.  People, let me tell you….it was SO juicy and delicious!  And typically, I don’t really like Turkey!  Now, if you can Brine it and then Smoke it, great, but if not, it’s still going to be amazing!

Smoking...

(the above picture was also from my #summerofsalads post on Chicken salad)

I was at the grocery store over the weekend and saw a woman and her husband talking about Brining their Turkey.  The husband didn’t want to deal with it, but she had always wanted to.  I saw her in the next aisle and told her to do it!  I haven’t ever used a bag to do so (which is what they were looking at) and wouldn’t trust it not to break open, so I say, grab the biggest container you have and get at it!  If the temperatures are right, you can carefully leave the container (covered) in the garage for the Brining process.  Disclaimer:  just be sure the liquid stays cold enough the whole time, 38 degrees or less.  You don’t want to make everyone sick on Thanksgiving.

I did a little research for you; I use a big pickle bucket my hubby brought home from work and then place the whole thing in my garage fridge.  (do you have a neighbor with a garage fridge you could borrow a bit of space from?) You can purchase the same type of container, from Home Depot for less than $3.00!  Then you’ll have it for years to come, you can call it “Homers Brining Bucket” because trust me, once you Brine that bird, you’ll never go back! 🙂

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So, you’ll first need to thaw out your bird like you normally do….I like to Brine for at least 24 hours, so plan one extra day in the process.  Grab your big container and add the following to it:

Brine:

(Makes one gallon of brine; you’ll probably need two at least…)

3 lemons, cut in half

1 cup kosher salt  (I used pickling salt the last time!)

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

3 (I used roasted) Jalapeños seeds removed

fresh herbs…sage, thyme, oregano, chives etc.

(if fresh is not available, use at least 1 tablespoon of dried basil, oregano & thyme)

1 gallon cold water

Mix everything up together, careful to dissolve the salt & sugar before adding your bird.  Remove your bird from the wrapper and take out the giblets.  (you can save them in a bowl in the fridge to add back into the bird if you want when you bake it)  Rinse the Turkey, inside & out.  Then carefully submerge the bird in the Brining liquid.  It may try to float back up on you, and if so, you can place a heavy sauce pan on top of it to keep it down under the water.  About halfways through the Brining period, grab a long utensil and stir the liquid around the bird.

Over the weekend, I saw a local news channel posted the process of Brining a bird and used a bit different ingredients in their Brine.  As of this blog post, they still haven’t posted the recipe, but you can watch the video here.

Snoopy Thanksgiving

Now we are at T-day; carefully remove the bird from it’s bath, and place inside a clean sink.  Rinse the entire thing with cold water to remove the salt water and excess herbs etc.  I’ve even seen suggestions to soak the bird in cold water for a half hour or so, to help remove some of the salt.  That way your gravy won’t be too salty.  Place into your roasting pan, and bake at 350 degrees, for approximately 3 hours.  Follow this process for a bird weighing 16-22 pounds.  After the first hour, baste regularly (every half hour or so) and once the breast meat has reached a temp of 165 degrees, take it out.  Be sure to let it rest before slicing into it.  If you feel, during the process, your skin is getting too dark, cover it with a bit of aluminum foil.  You can also start with it covered, say for the first hour, then remove it for the remaining time.  I didn’t talk about seasoning the bird, hoping that you’ll have that covered okay…but definitely reach out if you need some suggestions.

Braised Potatoes

Looking for a few different ideas of sides etc. to have with your feast?  Check out my post from last year; it contains some great ideas on twists & new classics.  Also, I recently became obsessed with braising Potatoes….what?!?! Yep, they totally rock!  If you want to divert from the traditional mashed potato action, try these.  I got the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and you can find it here.  (you’ll have to register to gain access to the recipe, but it’s worth it, trust me!)

Wine Thanksgiving 2012

Please share this post with family & friends…I would be so “thankful” if you would!

I am hoping that you enjoy a delicious, relaxing holiday with those you love.  If you are headed out on Black Friday, be careful. 🙂

Cheers,  Shawn

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Last minute Thanksgiving favorites…

Well, I don’t know about you, but good ol’ Turkey day sure snuck up on me!  It’s not a stressful holiday for me, but it’s more of a final breathing point.  I try to remember to relax…breathe…enjoy.  After that, it’s all baskets & shred & bubble wrap…oh my!  I am hoping this year’s holiday orders are off the hook!  If you are interested, check out my Holiday Gift collection & let me know if I can help you this holiday season!

Okay, enough self promotion!  We typically spend the day at my brother & sister-in-law’s house, and I am usually charged with bringing one of my delicious Cheesecakes!  But that does leave me missing some of my favorites side dishes…and this year’s Thanksgiving recipe suggestions from friends & favorite sites, has left me drooling and thinking that for Christmas, I just might make a bunch of sides and skip the big main course!

So, if you haven’t made your final dish list yet, and are looking for a few suggestions, here you go!  Some of these, tried & true, are my favorite sides that would be great for Thanksgiving.  Others look amazing and will hopefully grace my Christmas table!

Potato Fennel Gratin~  probably my all-time favorite potato dish!  An Ina Garten recipe…aka The Barefoot Contessa.  Every time I make this, we clean the dish…no leftovers, so if that’s what you want for Turkey Day, don’t make this 🙂  She has lots of other great ideas on her website, so be sure to click on the link and check them out!

Zucchini Fritters~  another favorite recipe, this would be a great appetizer to tide everyone over while you finish off the big feast.  I originally found this recipe in a copy of my favorite food magazine, Saveur.  Taking a quick peek at their website I see lots of other delicious recipes for the big day!  Sauce isn’t needed for these, but if you wanted, you could whip up a quick Horseradish sauce or even a tomato Tarter sauce.  The picture above was a recipe I found on the Home to Homestead blog, written by the gorgeous Elizabeth Ries of Twin Cities Live, and has the added deliciousness of corn & fresh herbs!  She made a quick sour cream sauce that looks delish!

Baked Risotto with Grilled Asparagus~  wait, what?  Baked Risotto?  Yes, I know, it doesn’t make sense.  But I’ve tried it!  It’s very good, not as creamy as the traditional method of making Risotto (and great biceps at the same time!) but good nonetheless.  I found this recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website.  They have great recipes there!  Have you ever been to a store?  I LOVE that place!!  And now the hubby has a Professional Chef discount, so I can spend more!  Sorry, focus Shawn…. So if you are looking for an easy & delicious rice side dish that doesn’t involve alot of hassle or time, this is the dish for you!  And Asparagus, while know to grace the Easter or Spring table, can be just as good in the late fall!

Apple-Raisin Stuffing with Sausage~  my co-worker, Nikki, brought some of this in as her lunch one day after Thanksgiving last year.  It smelled so good I begged for a bite.  Her brilliant husband added Sausage (he used Jimmy Dean, but use whatever you like) which made this sweet, salty, savory & perfect!!!  Sometimes that Turkey table can get too full of salty side dishes, so adding this mixes it up a bit!  YUM!

Braised Kale & Chickpeas in Coconut Milk~  My sweet fellow food blogger friend Kate posted this dish on her website last December.  I was just falling in love with Coconut Milk at the time and also beginning my love affair with greens…KaleSwiss ChardCollards.  People, if you haven’t discovered these, you MUST!  They are SO good for you!  We grew Rainbow Chard this summer & along with how beautiful they were, they grew like crazy!!  When I made this dish the first time, I added Bacon (uh duh) but it’s not required, as without it, it’s just as good!  And I would encourage you to use curry paste.  You can get small jars of it in the ethnic section of most grocery stores.  I love Thai Kitchens- Green Curry Paste.  Give it a try!  Oh yeah, and while you are there, check out her recipe for Boursin Spinach Gratin – I’ve wanted to make that for a long time now & might make another great side dish!

Red Cabbage Braised in Cider & Beer~  I recently made this dish in one of my Beer for a Year posts and man, it’s amazing!  It will bring a gorgeous color to your table!  When I made it, I included the beer & bacon, but if you want, you can omit both and use apple cider, which I have done.  Either way, it will become a new favorite in your house and not just on Thanksgiving!

Deviled Mushrooms~  so I am not totally sure where I came across this recipe.  As a mushroom lover, it appealed to me for a few reasons; first, it seemed really easy!  It also looks delicious, with those plump mustard seeds and the silky sauce coating each mushroom.  I think this would be great on your table, at Thanksgiving and anytime!  I am linking you to the Amazon page where the cookbook this recipe is in, can be purchased.  But I did make a copy of the recipe and am attaching that as a PDF File for you to print off yourself!

So, that’s my list!  Of course I could go on & on…..and there’s always desserts I could share…maybe next year!  I do plan on doing a holiday baking list of some of my favorites, so stay tuned for that!

And as we join together this coming Thursday, I want you to know that I am truly thankful for you!  It’s been an amazing year and I feel so honored you have taken the time from your busy lives to read my blog posts!

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours!  ox Shawn