Turkey Recipe and Cooking Methods

If you are still undecided about how you plan to cook your Thanksgiving turkey, consider that there are countless methods for cooking your turkey. Choose from one of the favorites, invent your own method, or just use Ample Bites’ recipe.

Some people, like my mother, have cooked them in the oven overnight at a lower temperature. Others roast their turkey in a large paper bag. A recent craze has been to deep-fry the turkey in boiling oil, while trying not to burn the garage down. A tried and true method used by many is to smoke the turkey using a smoker or either a gas or charcoal grill.

Ample Bites is a traditionalist and I prefer the oven-roasting method that starts with a brined fresh turkey. The initial roasting takes place at high-temperature (450F). The heat is then reduced to 325F for the balance of the cooking time. This method is pretty foolproof but it does take some attention on the part of the cook to make sure the skin browns but does not burn and the turkey reaches 165F.

Brined and Roasted Fresh Turkey
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 8 – 10

1 12 – 14 pound fresh turkey

For Brine
2 quarts of cold apple juice
1 cup Kosher salt
2 Tbsp dried sage
2 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper

For Roasting
1 ½ Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 medium onion, quartered
1 orange, quartered
1 lemon, quartered

Thaw turkey, if frozen, and remove neck and giblets. Mix brine by pouring salt and spices into the apple juice until salt is completely dissolved. Place turkey in plastic brining bag and pour brine in. Pull the bag tight and tie it closed. Place the turkey in a cooler with a bag or two of ice for 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine after 24 hours and rinse it with cold water. Pat the turkey dry, inside and out, and leave uncovered at room temperature for about one hour before seasoning.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Rub the turkey inside and out with black pepper. Place the turkey in a rack in a roasting pan. Mix butter, lemon zest, rosemary, sage and thyme in a small bowl. Rub herb butter over the top of the turkey and inside cavity.

Place onion, orange, and lemon inside turkey cavity. Foil the tips of the wings to keep them from burning. Pour 4 cups water into pan. Roast turkey, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325F. Baste turkey with pan juices; add more water, if needed, to maintain at least ¼-inch of liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan. Continue roasting turkey, basting every 30 minutes and tenting with foil if skin is turning too dark, until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165F (juices should run clear when thermometer is removed), about 2 ¾ hours total.

Transfer turkey to a platter. Tent with foil and let rest for 1 hour before carving.

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More Alternative Thanksgiving Sides

Ample Bites has recipes for Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette and Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower that are easily scalable to the size of your Thanksgiving party.

Simple preparation with robust flavorful outcomes make these side dishes perfect for pairing with your roasted turkey. In fact with a watchful eye these two dishes can be roasted simultaneously in the same oven at the lower of the two oven settings of 425F.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Epicurious, 2012)

Serves 4 – 6

2 (1 ½ pound) acorn squash
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 ½ Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 – 2 tsp finely chopped or ground dried hot red chile, including seeds
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Put the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 450F.

Halve the squash lengthwise, then cut off and discard the stem ends. Scoop out the seeds and cut the squash lengthwise into ¾-in-wide wedges. Toss with the pepper, salt and 2 tablespoons of oil in a bowl. Arrange cut side down in 2 large shallow baking pans.

Roast the squash, switching position of the pans halfway through roasting, until tender and undersides of wedges are golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.

While squash roasts, mince the garlic and mash to a paste with ¼ teaspoon salt. Transfer the paste to a small bowl and whisk in the lime juice, chile to taste, cilantro and ¼ cup oil until combined.

Transfer the squash, browned sides up, to a platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

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Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of bonappetit.com, February 2013)

Makes 4 Servings

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium onion, sliced
4 thyme sprigs
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425F.

Toss cauliflower with onion, thyme, garlic and oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast, tossing occasionally, until almost tender, 35 – 40 minutes. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, toss to combine and roast until cauliflower is tender, 10 – 12 minutes longer.

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Alternative Thanksgiving Side Dishes: Part One – Two Gratins

Depending on upon where you live or where you were raised you have staple side dishes for your Thanksgiving meal. Green bean casserole, varieties of sweet potato dishes, and stuffings or dressings are among the most popular. If you want to mix things up a little bit this year, try one of these gratins.

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Fennel Gratin with Pecorino and Lemon features a mild anise flavor with a crunchy breadcrumb topping.

Leek and Mushroom Gratin is a bit creamier with the same topping.

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Fennel Gratin with Pecorino and Lemon
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 10

Gratin
5 Tbsp EVOO
1 large onion, halved, cut into ¼ inch thick slices
3 large garlic cloves, minced
5 large fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored, cut into ¼ inch thick slices
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 ½ tsp coarse kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper

Crumb Topping
3 Tbsp butter
¾ cup panko
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 ½ tsp finely grated lemon peel

Gratin – Lightly oil shallow 2-quart glass or ceramic dish. Heat 5 tablespoons oil in large wide pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic.; sauté until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add fennel; increase heat to medium-high and sauté until fennel is slightly softened and beginning to brown, stirring frequently, about 18 minutes. Stir in broth and next 4 ingredients. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until most of broth is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Transfer to dish.

Crumb Topping – Melt butter in large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add panko; sauté until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Stir Pecorino, parsley, and peel into panko.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sprinkle panko mixture over fennel. Bake until gratin is heated through and topping is deep golden, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Leek and Mushroom Gratin
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Gourmet, October 2012)

Serves 6

¾ stick unsalted butter, divided
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
¼ pound Gruyere, finely grated – about 2 cups
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 Tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3 pounds leeks, root ends trimmed
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken stock
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then cool.

Toss melted butter with breadcrumbs, cheeses, garlic, parsley, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a bowl until combined.

Trim each leek to an 8-inch length. Halve leeks lengthwise, then cut crosswise into roughly 1-inch pieces. Wash leeks and drain well.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 1 to 1 ½-qt heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook roux, whisking, 1 minute. Add stock in a slow stream, whisking, then bring to a boil, whisking. Add nutmeg and zest and boil, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter baking dish.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then cover leeks directly with a round piece of parchment paper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and leeks are tender and just beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and mushrooms are just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Remove parchment from leeks and stir in mushrooms. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading it evenly. Pour sauce over vegetables and top with crumb mixture. Bake until gratin is babbling and topping is golden, about 15 minutes.

Note: Gratin can be assembled, without breadcrumbs, 8 hours ahead and chilled (covered once cooled). Bring to room temperature, stir, and top with breadcrumbs before baking.

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Brine for Fresh Turkey

With less than two weeks until Thanksgiving you should be making a decision about what brining method you will use for your fresh turkey. There are many recipes available in cookbooks and on the Internet. Ample Bites suggests that you need look no further. This simple brine produces a very juicy, flavorful roasted turkey.

You probably have the Kosher salt and the required spices so all you really need from the store will be the brining bag and the apple juice.

Now that the brine decision has been made you can start planning your appetizers and side dishes.

Brining a Fresh Turkey
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

1 12 – 14 pound FRESH turkey
1 brining bag

For Brine
2 quarts of cold apple juice
1 cup Kosher salt
2 Tbsp dried sage
2 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper

Thaw turkey, if frozen, and remove neck and giblets. Mix brine by pouring salt and spices into the apple juice until salt is completely dissolved. Place turkey in brining bag and pour the brine in. Squeeze most of the air from the bag and seal it tightly. Place the turkey in a cooler with a bag or two of ice for 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine after 24 hours and rinse it with cold water. Pat the turkey dry, inside and out, and leave uncovered at room temperature for about one hour before seasoning.

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The Most Valuable Tips for Planning a Big Holiday Meal

Plan ahead and get organized.

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If you have every held a large holiday meal you will likely remember the last minute dashes to the grocery store for crucial ingredients or, worse, to the department store for a critical piece of cooking equipment. Even if you are extremely well-organized the trip to the grocery is probably unavoidable, almost everything else can be managed if you think it through ahead of time and have a plan.

If you are hosting Thanksgiving, now – 2 weeks ahead of Thanksgiving Eve – is the perfect time to start planning and organizing. You are probably thinking … “Why 2 weeks ahead of Thanksgiving Eve?” The answer is that you need to be well into your meal preparation by the time Thanksgiving Eve rolls around.

These two weeks will give you time to shop for and stock up on ingredients without battling the last-minute crowds. To do this you need to set your menu including exact decisions about brining and seasoning your turkey; any specialty items required for side dish recipes; and any themed cocktail or beverage you might be serving.

Getting organized starts with building menu lists, ingredient lists and a plan for how these items will be prepared and served in a 36-hour window. I know … 36-hours seems like an enormous amount of time to prepare a meal. Is it? Really? Experienced hosts and hostesses will tell you otherwise.

For the tech savvy cook, pick up the Thanksgiving: A Bon Appetit Manual for the iPad and iPhone.

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Spicy Turkey-Tortilla Soup

Ample Bites froze some of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey to use in a soup. Spicy Turkey-Tortilla Soup uses Mexican flavors to produce a light soup that goes beyond the normal Turkey Noodle variations.

This soup incorporates a dash of unsweetened cocoa powder to impart a slight mole flavor. The soup is finished with baked tortilla strips and scallions, jalapenos, avocado and lime wedges.

Spicy Turkey-Tortilla Soup
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 6

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro stems, plus ½ cup cilantro leaves for garnish
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 1/4 tsp ground coriander, divided
2 1/4 tsp ground cumin, divided
2 1/4 tsp dried oregano, divided
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ¼ tsp kosher salt, divided
10 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 6-inch corn tortillas
Non-stick cooking spray
3 cups cooked, shredded turkey breast
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced into rings
½ avocado, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 lime, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large pot over medium heat add oil and heat 1 minute. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro stems, garlic, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute, then pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Re-season with 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder.

While the soup is simmering, make tortilla strips. In a small bowl, combine the remaining coriander, cumin, oregano, ¼ teaspoon salt and cayenne pepper. Place the tortilla on a cutting board and lightly coat each side with cooking spray. Sprinkle both sides of the tortillas with the spice mixture, then slice into 1/8-to1/4-inch-thick strips. Place the strips on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the oven until crisp, stirring midway through, for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Strain the broth into a bowl, discard the solids and return the broth to the pot. Add the shredded turkey and cook over medium heat until the turkey is warmed through, 5 to 8 minutes. Divide the soup between bowls and add some scallion, jalapeno, avocado, cilantro leaves and tortilla strips to each bowl. Serve with a lime wedge.

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Brined and Roasted Fresh Turkey

Ample Bites has no new recipe for tonight so I am posting my Brined and Roasted Fresh Turkey recipe for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. And, sorry, no picture, but I am quite sure you have seen a roasted turkey before.

Brined and Roasted Fresh Turkey
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 8 – 10

1 12 – 14 pound fresh turkey

For Brine
2 quarts of cold apple juice
1 cup Kosher salt
2 Tbsp dried sage
2 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper

For Roasting
1 ½ Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 medium onion, quartered
1 orange, quartered
1 lemon, quartered

Thaw turkey, if frozen, and remove neck and giblets. Mix brine by pouring salt and spices into the apple juice until salt is completely dissolved. Place turkey in plastic brining bag and pour brine in. Pull the bag tight and tie it closed. Place the turkey in a cooler with a bag or two of ice for 24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine after 24 hours and rinse it with cold water. Pat the turkey dry, inside and out, and leave uncovered at room temperature for about one hour before seasoning.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Rub the turkey inside and out with black pepper. Place the turkey in a rack in a roasting pan. Mix butter, lemon zest, rosemary, sage and thyme in a small bowl. Rub herb butter over the top of the turkey and inside cavity.

Place onion, orange, and lemon inside turkey cavity. Foil the tips of the wings to keep them from burning. Pour 4 cups water into pan. Roast turkey, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325F. Baste turkey with pan juices; add more water, if needed, to maintain at least ¼-inch of liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan. Continue roasting turkey, basting every 30 minutes and tenting with foil if skin is turning too dark, until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165F (juices should run clear when thermometer is removed), about 2 ¾ hours total.

Transfer turkey to a platter. Tent with foil and let rest for 1 hour before carving.

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Roasted Pepper and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese

Roasted Pepper and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese is a nice salad to serve with winter meals, especially as a side for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The juices created during the roasting of the vegetables becomes a warm, unique dressing for the salad. The salad can be served without the blue cheese but Ample Bites recommends including the sharp but velvety texture of the blue cheese because of how it compliments the vegetables and the acidity of the sherry vinegar.

Roasted Pepper and Onion Salad with Blue Cheese
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2012)

Serves 4 – 6

2 medium red onions, quartered through stem end
4 roasted red peppers, quartered lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
8 cups (loosely packed) frisee
1/3 cup thinly sliced blue cheese

Preheat oven to 450F. Combine first four ingredients in a shallow 2-quart baking dish; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast vegetables, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and softened, about 40 minutes. Stir in vinegar. Season to taste with salt, pepper and more vinegar, if desired.

Arrange frisee on plates, divided evenly. Spoon vegetables over frisee. Drizzle juices in baking dish over top. Top with blue cheese.

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Tomato-Garlic Soup with Fennel

After all of the rich and heavy food of the Thanksgiving weekend Ample Bites went in search of a light, winter soup and found a version of tomato soup that incorporates lots of garlic and a favorite Ample Bites vegetable, fennel. Try this savory Tomato-Garlic Soup with Fennel along with a toasty grilled cheese sandwich for a hearty lunch or dinner.

Tomato-Garlic Soup with Fennel
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

1 medium fennel bulb with tops
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 14.5-ounce can low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup hot-style tomato juice
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Reserve some of the feathery fennel tops to garnish the soup. Remove any tough or bruised outer leaves from the fennel bulb. Trim off and discard the root end and stems. Quarter the bulb lengthwise; remove and discard core. Chop fennel.

In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add chopped fennel, onion, and garlic. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, about 25 minutes until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until onion is golden, stirring frequently.

Add tomatoes, broth, tomato sauce, vegetable juice and basil. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer covered, for 15 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender to break down some of the larger vegetable pieces.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with reserved fennel tops.

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Smoked Salmon and Chive Pizza

Not only is Friday Pizza Night but the Wednesday before Thanksgiving can be, too. Ample Bites made Smoked Salmon and Chive Pizza while preparing for the biggest dining holiday of the year.

Smoked Salmon and Chive Pizza
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

1 pizza dough, divided into equal crusts
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
½ cup chives, chopped
½ cup smoked salmon, diced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded

Prepare pasta dough and divide the dough into four equal crusts. Preheat oven to 425F. Preheat pizza stone for about 20 minutes.

Saute onions in one tablespoon of oil until soft, stirring occasionally, until soft and just beginning to color. Set aside to cool.

Spread onions over pizza crust. Sprinkle the cheese, chives and salmon over the onions.

Bake each pizza for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and crust is golden. Before serving, drizzle with oil and cut into wedges.

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