Guide to a perfect Thanksgiving

I know this is out of order, but a lot of people wanted to know what we were making for Thanksgiving.  So even though it is already past, I wanted to include a post with pictures and recipes I used.

I always brine our Thanksgiving turkey.  Always.  Brine.  I have been doing Thanksgiving on my own (aka without family) for five years now and have brined it from the beginning.  It all started with a trip to Williams-Sonoma and I am sure you can guess the rest from there… My turkey has always turned out fantastically juicy and tasty and I highly recommend brining a turkey to anyone, but especially if you are a little gun-shy.  It is a crowd favorite and a sure fire win.

Like I said, I have used the Williams-Sonoma Apple and Spices Turkey Brine almost every year.  Last year I had to follow another recipe because I wasn’t close enough to a store and didn’t want to order it.  This year, I used Pioneer Woman’s My Favorite Turkey Brine and it was divine.  Next year I might not add the oranges because it gave it a little bit of a citrus taste to the skin of the turkey.  Either way, they are both wonderful.  I am sure you can find lots more recipes online.  The key really is the salt and brown sugar, which locks in the moisture and flavor of the turkey.  Also, you really need heavy duty bags to hold all the liquid and the turkey.  You can buy brining bags from Williams-Sonoma but I opted to try different (cheaper) bags this year and went with the Ziploc Heavy Duty XL bags.  These bags are designed to hold 10 gallons of “stuff” and worked perfectly for our 22 lb turkey and 2.5 gallons of brine.

The only downside to brining a turkey is the process.  You can’t really start it on Thanksgiving day.  I usually start planning my Thanksgiving menu at least a week in advance.

My calendar goes like this:

Monday – Grocery shopping
Tuesday- Boil the brine and cool it overnight
Wednesday – Put thawed turkey and cooled brine into bag and into fridge to soak overnight
(picture from last year)
Thursday – Dump out turkey and brine, rinse off turkey and put it in the oven
Roasted at 350 degrees covered with foil for three hours, basted with butter every hour and last hour uncovered

Maybe it seems like a lot of extra work, but I feel like it is totally worth it.  The turkey always turned out perfectly and that really makes up for the process.

Super deliciousness

Williams-Sonoma doesn’t recommend using the drippings from the turkey in the gravy because of the concentrated salt content, but I have used it before and just diluted it with milk to balance the salt from the brine.

For the sides, I used mostly the basic recipes off the cans – Campbell’s green bean casserole, Stove Top stuffing, mashed potatoes with butter and milk, mashed sweet potatoes with butter and my canned bread and butter pickles.

After the dust settled and the counters were cleaned off, everyone made room for the pies and cookies.  Desserts were made in multiples and all four pies and three dozen cookies didn’t make it past the second day.

Paula Deen’s Apple Pie
Bobby Flay’s Throwdown Pumpkin Pie
Nigella Lawson’s Maple Pecan cookies

All in all, it was a delicious and exhausting day.  It was full of family on both sides, full of love and laughter and memories made.  Thanks to everyone that came and mostly those that helped prepare, clean and entertain the kids!

Lastly, I forgot to add that as our Thanksgiving miracle, Calla took seven steps by herself!  Ever since Thanksgiving, she has slowly gotten more comfortable walking unaided, but hasn’t repeated that many steps in a row since.

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