Happy Thanksgiving 2012

I have decided that this will be a yearly post since I have been commissioned to take over our Thanksgiving dinner for a lifetime maybe. Not whining here. I really enjoy it but more so if only I have more time for preparation. I just can't seem to have enough of it.

I planned a simple repertoire of roasted turkey with gravy and mashed potatoes; cornbread stuffing; baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows; some still undecided soup and veggies for sides and a cheesecake for dessert.

Well not only is time such an expensive commodity- I went home from work last Wednesday with a big headache so I went to bed early but awoke past midnight to do my citrus brine for the turkey. This is a must to ensure the bird will turn out on par with the ones I made in the past. The brine is made with water, brown sugar, kosher salt, apple cider, orange juice, orange peels, fresh rosemary, black peppercorns, garlic and lots of ice and the turkey needs to hang out there overnight and until roasting time.

Edit: Iced Citrus Brine Recipe
         for 16-20 lb turkey

Just mix together apple cider vinegar, water, kosher salt, brown sugar, orange peel, orange juice, crushed garlic, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme; bring to a boil and then cool completely before submerging the turkey in it; top with lots of ice and just let it chill overnight or up to 16 hours. For the ingredients and exact measurements of the brine, I used the following:

3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 gallons cold water
5 cloves crushed garlic
1-1/2 cup kosher salt
2 cups light brown Sugar
3 tbsp black peppercorns
5 whole bay leaves
orange peel (from 3 large oranges) + the juice
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp fresh thyme 
4 tbsp fresh rosemary 

The next step is washing off the brine in preparation for roasting. I just put it in a colander, turned on the tap and just let the bird bathe in clean water. I made sure I rinsed the cavity as well.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Chop an apple and onion and microwave for five minutes with quarter of a cup of water, cinnamon stick, rosemary and thyme. The mixture is then stuffed into the cavity after the turkey is patted dry.
Then canola oil is rubbed generously over the whole turkey before it goes on to the roasting pan into the oven.  The 500 degrees F temperature is only for the first 30 minutes and then it is lowered to 350 until it's done which should be an additional two hours.  I use a meat thermometer which should register 170 degrees F for the thighs and legs and 160 for the breast.  Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil and rest for 15 minutes before carving.
The cornbread stuffing was scrapped from the menu and was replaced with macaroni salad which is basically elbow macaroni with celery, purple onion, chopped ham and crushed pineapple. The dressing is mayo, apple cider vinegar, sweet pickle relish, celery seeds, Dijon mustard, fresh cracked black pepper and a little sugar.
The matter of the soup came down to a request for French onion soup which I haven't done in the past but the ingredients are ready and I am not one to shirk away from my cooking duty (more like a challenge). But I was already overwhelmed as I think about getting all the soup bowls in the broiler to melt the cheese croutons. I had to think of a way out of that daunting task. I felt that with the number of people coming for dinner, it is better to serve the soup in a big serving bowl with the Gruyere cheese croutons on the side and just let them help themselves and make their own cups. It worked! The Gruyere cheese atop the baguette slices are already semi-melted so ladling the hot onion soup over will finish the melting process and it did.
Thanks to my homeboy Tyler Florence for a wonderful recipe! It was a hit! This has more soup and I caramelized the onions nicely before adding the red wine and the beef broth. I think I will make my own stock/broth next time.
I kind of did a little twist on the mashed potatoes. The potatoes are baked for an hour then sliced lengthwise to scoop the meat/insides which is then mashed and mixed with the works- butter, sour cream, milk, salt, pepper and scallions. Then each shell is filled with the mashed goodness, topped with grated cheddar cheese and popped again in the oven until the potato is warmed through and the cheese starts to melt.
Our Thanksgiving dinner will not be complete without baked sweet potatoes topped with toasted marshmallows. The sweet potatoes are baked then mashed with unsalted butter, maple syrup and a dash of cayenne pepper; placed in ramekins and topped with mini marshies and bruleed in the oven broiler.
Finally- the desserts! I made Maple Cheesecake with Roasted Pears. I will do a separate and more detailed post on this --- a repeat maybe. I used Graham crackers and unsalted butter for the crust. The filling is cream cheese, maple syrup, heavy cream whipped with powdered sugar. The topping is D'Anjou pears sliced thinly and oven roasted till golden and chewy soft; served with additional maple syrup.
More delicious with extra pears on top ...
I said desserts so it means there's more! I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie but I still gave pumpkin a little tribute and made cake bars with cream cheese frosting and topped with trail mix (soybeans, almonds, pumpkin seeds and cranberries).
We finally started eating at a little past ten o'clock. Whoa, they didn't even set the table properly but it was good food; a real labor of love to celebrate; give thanks and appreciate all our blessings.  I hope everyone enjoyed as much as we did!


  1. Faye, I will be the IT for Christmas and I am very interested in your citrus brine (just to have a twist in our turkey flavor). Our Christmas fare has traditionally been the same as the Thanksgiving one, with differences only on the dessert. I have also been considering french onion soup (instead of the usual boiled onions that my MIL preps), so thank you for this "review" of that recipe. I will use that recipe but will have to forego the crouton part at the risk of being labeled as too fancy in this simple rural town in Maine :). Will serve that directly from the crock pot. (My MIL already says my cakes look too good and taste great, and I am not even that fancy with them!)

  2. Good morning from my LA side Manang! I've been using this citrus brine for my turkey for three consecutive years and with yummy results. In fact, I don't really cook turkey as I mentioned in my earlier posts but now turkey is a must in our table every Thanksgiving. The citrus brine really made me a turkey fan. I think the French Onion Soup will have an encore too. The key is to caramelize the onions beautifully. Hats off to my homeboy TF- all I had to do is adjust the quantities as I served a big crowd. Thanks for visiting Manang <3<3<3

  3. So do you have a post where you have the exact recipe for the citrus brine you use?

    BTW, thanks for your compassionate comment on marrow butters...I just can't imagine how some people forget to be respectful even in expressing their disagreement. Oh well...

    Do you have a fb account? I hope you create a page I can follow on fb.

    1. I updated my post with the recipe. Sorry for the inconvenience- I should have done this earlier.

  4. Yes Manang, if you could just click on Thanksgiving under Labels, it was just last year. I adapted the ice factor from 2010 post but the ingredients and the measurements are from last year. I made sure the brine is iced the whole time.

    About that anonymous comment- no problem. I just can't help it. I have to say something although I know we cannot please everybody. About FB, I will maybe in the future, thank you!

  5. Faye, thanks for updating. I will get my ingredients ready this week and will start thawing my turkey on Friday. :) Merry Christmas!

  6. You're very welcome, Manang! I'm sure it's going to be most delicious! Merry Christmas to you too and your family as well.

  7. Faye, just wanted to let you know that this citrus brine is a keeper...we had an absolutely and amazingly delicious Christmas Turkey Dinner because of it! And the drippings also turned out dark golden brown, more so when I added broth from slow cooked turkey giblets and neck (with a little of the liver blended in using a stick blender), such that it was the best gravy I ever made! Those who originally like boiled onions also liked the French onion soup (we have family members who never liked boiled onions and as expected, either they did not even try this soup or just tried a bit). But my sons liked it!

    Funny how hubby had a turkey sandwich for a late supper (almost midnight). Usually he does not have any turkey follow up until the next day for lunch. :)

  8. Yay... so glad you liked it! And I love that your sons liked the French Onion Soup too. I just prefer caramelized onions over boiled and I was not a fan of turkey but became a convert since I started using this citrus brine. I'm sure you served your family's best ever Christmas turkey dinner <3<3

    1. I have used plain kosher salt brine before, coupled with my usual herbs and spices for turkey, then I would use garlic paste with rosemary to place under the breast skin. That was good, too. Last year, someone gave me a brine mixture with instructions to add vinegar to the water, and it was too herb-y for me, although quite good too. This time I wanted something different, and this did not disappoint. As a matter of fact, it was indeed the best tasting turkey I have ever had. I placed cubes of butter under the skin and sprigs of rosemary (no garlic paste this time), and I placed lemongrass, 5 cloves garlic and a whole onion in the cavity before adding the stuffing in. It's definitely a keeper. Since I only cook turkey once a year (either TD or CD), I think I will stick to this brine recipe. Thank you so very much! I am now going to make empanadas using the leftovers :). The bones are still simmering...we also like the soup.

  9. I'm sure the turkey's even more flavorful with butter and rosemary. Why does everything taste like heaven with butter lol? I love using the bones and the left over meat for congee which I serve with Chinese sausage:-)


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