I can’t believe I didn’t take photos of the pumpkin pie or brussels sprouts on Thanksgiving (both from Foolproof), but I did manage to snap this of the “accidental” turkey. (No really, that’s what she calls it in Foolproof!) The recipe was a bastardization of the new recipe in Foolproof and this recipe from a Cooking Light magazine several years ago. The Foolproof recipe calls for starting the turkey in a 450 degree oven, and the Cooking Light recipe says 500 degrees (!!). I used the 450 degree instruction, and turned it down after 30 minutes. Despite the charred appearance, it was juicy and tender, and everyone raved about the results. The cider brine makes the most delicious gravy I’ve ever made.
Another tradition of ours is to make the turkey a little bit in advance of dinner, and slice it up with some stock and kept warm in a counter-top oven/roaster. The pressure is off for carving at the table, and you can start the stock while dinner is served. Or, as has been the case for us, you can transport the turkey to another host’s home.
A word about organic, free-range turkeys: I prefer them for a long list of reasons, but you should be aware that they are not bred for the same qualities that Americans love, namely a large amount of breast meat. (Keep your jokes to yourselves, please, my mom is reading!) If you have a crowd that prefers white meat, or you want leftovers for sandwiches, you may consider adding an additional turkey breast on the side. (If you’re not going to make Ina’s, I love the turkey breast recipe from Cook’s Illustrated’s Slow Cooker Revolution, and it doesn’t require any oven space!) In exchange for a little less meat on your bird, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting a local farmer, turning away from unnecessary antibiotics and hormones, and that the animal that provided your holiday life led a little bit more of an enjoyable and natural existence. For more reading/watching on what has informed my views on turkey and other food decisions, I would highly recommend Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (she even talks about turkey reproduction!), Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, and the movie Food, Inc. Be warned that they will make you want to cook dinner for your family!
I’m afraid I’ve given the brussels sprouts with pancetta and balsamic the short shrift. Don’t brussels sprouts often get overlooked? These were not your mother’s frozen, gloppy, boiled sprouts. They were crunchy and salty and tangy, and just wonderful. I even caught some of the self-professed sprouts haters taking seconds.