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I am known for my cooking skills. So when an eating holiday like Thanksgiving comes along, it brings out my best.

My best turkey approach (also used for chicken, capon and other poultry):

First off don't mess a lot with the meat. What I do is marinate a LOT to add flavor but I don't get fancy with the meat itself. Let it absorb, don't force anything.

STEP 1: "Brine" AT LEAST 24 hours in VERY strong Wisotsky brand Cherry/Black tea (I have found no other tea that works as well). This adds moisture and gives it a VERY subtle, almost "smoked" flavor. The overall flavor difference seems very subtle, but the difference in overall effect is actually surprisingly important. This is my "secret" that made my turkey taste good even to people who don't like turkey. But it HAS to be done with the next step. BOTH are necessary, not just one.

STEP 2: Then "brine" the bird in a mushroom/herb soup mix for another (AT LEAST) 24 hours. The more intense the mushroom flavor, the better. You can add any herbs (or even spices) you like. This again adds moisture and really boosts flavor. It is one case where I tend to mainly go for herbs, though for most of my cooking I emphasize spices. If you want to emphasize the cherry tea you can also use it as a base for the mushroom/herb broth. But the key is at least 48 hours of marinating using some combination of cherry tea, mushroom, and herb flavors. Butter comes in the next step. which also adds a lot. The combination of all these flavors, plus the moisture of 48 or more hours marinating does wonders. Note that garlic both inside and out the bird is good, but not necessary.

Note for both brining steps: I do add salt to the second but not the first step. Salt is traditional for brining, but my main focus is not salt like traditional brining, but first the cherry tea then the broth flavors. That is why both have to be very intense. This works amazingly well both to make the meat moist and give lots of good flavor. Salt is according to your taste.

Cover turkey (particularly the breast) with lots of butter (as well as other flavors like nutmeg, poultry seasoning, etc...) and several layers of foil (a few extra layers on the breast) for early stages of cooking. This allows the turkey to marinate as it slowly cooks. Uncover (take off foil) when ready to brown the meat. This is the last phase and depends on the size of the turkey. Save the foil because you should also cover it completely when you take it out of the oven at the end and let it rest at least 30 minutes before cutting. This preserves the moisture. Take it out at least 5 minutes before recommended by any recipe, wrap up with the foil from earlier stages, and let sit at least 30 minutes (resting) before cutting. This should give very moist meat. If the meat is dry, next time do the following: use more butter, baste more with the tea and/or broth, cover with more layers of foil, take out 10 rather than 5 minutes earlier than recommended, and let sit wrapped in foil for 40 rather than 30 minutes.

While cooking the turkey, marinate from time to time with one or both of the "brines" previously used (tea and/or mushroom soup) and also occasionally coat with butter. The more you do each of these treatments the more flavor you will get. If you are adding garlic you can do so during this basting phase as well, but focus on the tea and/or mushroom and the butter for the basting, not so much something really strong like garlic.

Don't over cook, but I find the use of tea followed by broth followed by butter tends to produce a VERY moist turkey even if you over cook a bit. But don't push it. Keep adding these as you cook and you reduce any chance of dryness.

For my grandmother's stuffing, see below...

STUFFING: Works for chicken, turkey, even layered with flank steak...Wherever you decide to put it, my grandmother had it right...Good bread, nuts, and lots of butter.

Slice and toast a really good Challah. No other bread wii do. Get your challah where the local Hassids get their challah. It really makes a difference. Toasting it is also critical. It adds both texture and flavor.

Mix torn up, toasted Challah with crushed walnuts (pecans also work quite well) and a lot of butter and poultry seasoning. Mushroom gravy also works well though this isn't what my grandmother used. Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. If you add celery or onions my grandmother with come back from the grave and slap you really hard so don't do it. I love celery and onion but in this case I defer to my grandmother. Stuff bird with this mix or add lots of extra butter and chicken or mushroom gravy and wrap in foil if it isn't going into a bird. Bake inside or outside of the bird. If outside make sure you add butter and gravy while cooking to keep it moist.

My Mushroom gravy:

Chop up lots (LOTS!) of mushrooms. Heat up lots of butter. Saute some garlic, onion and particularly shallots in the butter. Shallots work particularly well. I like garlic. Onion is the most optional. Add the chopped mushrooms once the garlic/onion/shallot starts browning. Add nutmeg, wine, sherry, etc. to taste. Saute until the smell is overwhelming and amazing. Add flour to thicken if desired. If you do add flour brown to make a roux with extra butter. If not the sauce will be thiner but still tasty.

Cook down to a thick but still pourable consistency.

I should note I once cooked a vegan substitute for turkey with a vegan version of this mushroom gravy (margarine not butter) for someone and not only did THEY like it, but my meat loving step-daughter loved it. SO the mushroom flavor works well with real turkey and with fake turkey. The key is concentrating the mushroom flavor.


I cook all of this with VERY simple sliced potatoes and sliced sweet potatoes (cooked with the turkey or fake turkey so they both brown crisply and absorb the flavors you add to the turkey or fake turkey), and I make green beans (with butter or margarine and sage, for example). Cranberry sauce (from REAL cranberries, VERY easy to do though you have to add sweet stuff) tops it off. Shallots can go really well with the potatoes. If you are so inclined strong ginger and/or candied pecans can go really well with either the potatoes/sweet potatoes or the cranberry sauce.

This year adds Chanukah to Thanksgiving. We aren;t sure how we will handle that. Latkes are a must for Chanukah. Latkes and turkey...maybe. It would work but my gut suggests we should try and keep the holidays apart. But we are still debating.

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Comment Preferences

  •  How I've been doing it. (5+ / 0-)

    My method is to use fresh 12-14lb organic turkeys. Pull them out of the fridge, wait an hour, and while preparing the stuffing put them breast down in ice water until the breast is 20 degrees F lower than the thigh.

    Stuff, roast, and enjoy.

  •  One alternative - roast your turkey upside down (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, mole333, jennyp, fisher1028, polecat

    The diary author provides some wonderful information and tips. However if it isn't practical for you to brine, or even marinate your bird, just cook it upside down. This doesn't work if you present your turkey at the table for your guest to admire (the skin over the breast won't be brown) but if you serve the turkey sliced on a platter this is a can't miss way to cook turkey with breast meat you can cut with a fork. No basting, no turning, no covering. Just roast the turkey at 325 until the breast meat is 165, take it out to rest, then carve it. Your family and  guests will love it.  

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 12:22:25 PM PST

  •  Heres how it's done in the Mandalay household (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jennyp, polecat

    We don't even bother with a turkey - we buy one of those Rotisserie chickens from the supermarket, which are always perfectly cooked and moist. Slice it up and serve it as 'turkey', with gourmet bottled gravy and all the regular side dishes, and it's wonderful. And if I don't tell anyone it's chicken, they never know its not turkey, and always compliment how delicious the 'turkey' is!

    "Purple Haze, all in my brain...lately things, they don't seem the same...actin' funny, and I don't know why....'SCUSE ME, WHILE I KISS THIS GUY!!" - Jimi Hendrix

    by Fordmandalay on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 12:24:18 PM PST

  •  We're Doing a Duck. It'th De-THPICKable! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    puzzled, jennyp, mole333

    I cooked one this way a couple years ago. The recipe calls for carefully pricking the skin all over without puncturing the meat, because there's so much fat that needs to drain away. Slow cook at 250° for an hour; prick again and flip.

    Repeat totalling 4 hours, then you can sprint at 350 for half an hour or so if you want to really encrispen the skin.

    BTW with your turkey, that foiling of the breast you're doing also slows down its cooking speed and is probably part of the reason the breast isn't overdone when the dark meat is ready.

    Other approaches involve chilling the breast area before starting. Cooking it upside down the whole time will also leave the breast a bit cooler than the dark meat.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 12:48:35 PM PST

    •  Duck is tough... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It can come out greasy. My sense is your recipe takes that into account. I find duck takes a lot of skill to get just right.

      And yeah...every step of my turkey recipe adds to its yumminess. I have had several people who do not like turkey eat mine and say it works for them. It is all about flavor and moisture..

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Find me on Linkedin.

      by mole333 on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 12:53:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I do a Muscovy duck for Christmas. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's a different breed, and has about the same amount of fat as chickens do.

        Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

        by loggersbrat on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 01:22:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Muscovy??? (0+ / 0-)

          Damned commie. Why not a damned AMERICAN Duck???

          ; -) (snark and all that)

          Never tried cooking a Muscovy duck. In fact never seen one in a store.

          FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Find me on Linkedin.

          by mole333 on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 10:46:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  They're a bit on the expensive side. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I had a fine time the year Trader Joe's carried them for several months at about 2/3 the normal price.  I like duck, especially when it isn't excessively greasy.

            Usually I find them at either New Seasons (I do live in Portland, Oregon) or Whole Foods.  Check the high end groceries where you live.

            Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

            by loggersbrat on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 01:20:04 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  One year (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, vtgal

    I was so sick that there was a good chance the holiday would be tukeyless. We went to a farm store at the last minute and got a turkey crown and wrapped it around a haggis. Pure heaven, and it took about three hours to prepare and cook including deboning the crown and tying up the roast in cotton twine to hold it together.
    Nonetheless, if you've got the time and the energy to do it up right, and you have a big group showing up, the diarist's method seems an interesting way to go.

    "The 'Middle' is a crowded place - that is where the effective power is - the extreme right and left might annoy governments, but the middle terrifies them." Johnny Linehan

    by northsylvania on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 12:58:41 PM PST

    •  Heh... (0+ / 0-)

      You assume I have people showing up ; -)

      I just like to cook as perfectly as I can...let's talk about my chile is about as elaborate!

      One year my wife talked me into buying a turducken. It was one of our most expensive and lest enjoyable Thanksgivings. Not that it was bad, it was just so-so compared to the approach I outline here and far, far more expensive.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Find me on Linkedin.

      by mole333 on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 01:02:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Your turkey sounds delicious, and I hope you (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        viral, mole333, blueoasis

        Might be kind enough to share your chili recipe with us also.

        I wish you and everyone who reads this a very happy Thanksgiving full of good feelings and good food and smiles.

        •  Hmmm... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Chile recipe...

          NEVER the same time twice. I use either a pressure cooker or slow cooker with good dried beans (usually kidney beans but other beans like black or pinto beans can work well too...or a mixture!). I always add vegetables of some sort. Onions, garlic, carrots in particular work. I almost always add a large amount of sweet corn at the very end (Trader Joe's has a great canned sweet corn they offer seasonally I recommend...I also have done the large kernel corn (Posole), which is amazing but very different from the sweet corn we normally use.

          My chile involves Ancho and/or Chipotle chiles (a smokier flavor). It involves all sorts of other chiles as well depending what is available. Achiote (color and flavor). Cumin (a sharpness to the overall flavor). Tomato sauce. I even sometimes use Italian seasoning...a slight touch of Italian pasta sauce flavor (not too much!) helps increase the depth of flavors. I think oregano and tomato are the keys to that but some of the other herbs help.

          Critical to my chile is cocoa...a deep undertow to the flavors of he chile as a whole. I found a great fancy Fair Trade cayenne/cocoa hot chocolate blend that worked amazingly well. But you can use other cocoa mixes as long as you make sure you balance the bitter (cocoa), spicy (chiles), and sweet (sugar). This is the key...chocolate, chiles and sugar balanced however you want it to work with the particular beans and veggies (and meat) you include. Shift one part and you need to experiment with the rest. For example, pork and chicken work really, really well with a deeper/darker chocolate, smokier chiles, and less sweetness.

          I usually make my chile vegan (but it certainly would work with ANY meat), but we usually eat it with tortillas and cheese. I like corn tortillas, but I have to say that my family consensus has been Hormel flour tortillas (just the right texture) and a good cheddar or pepper jack or queso fresco cheese works best. I am not a fan of Hormel, but those flour tortillas work well with my chile and any of these cheeses.

          As you can gather I cook a little different each time. But there are themes. I always start with the best dried beans and cook them slowly while I consider the other ingredients. Then I saute first the spices, then the veggies and chiles together, then add the cocoa. Meat if used would be added at this point. Then I add this melange to the beans and simmer until everything is soft and blended.

          It is always tasty and has considerable depth. And usually is vegan except for the cheese we add, but can also easily accommodate meat.

          FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Find me on Linkedin.

          by mole333 on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 11:08:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Happy Thanksgiving Mole (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Me, I got an order in with Fairway. And hoping my college kid isn't delayed by the weather.  

  •  My late Jewish mother in law (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    pronounced me an "Honorary Jew" some years ago.
     I made fruit compote as a Chanukuh feature with my turkey/stuffing/veggies, and I am going to light my late wife's menorah through the holiday.

    My veggies this year are blackeye peas and collards... :)

    Anger management class really pissed me off.

    by old mark on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 01:34:32 PM PST

  •  Wondering if you missed a step in brining (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have been brining the bird for about 15 years. I was wondering if you missed a step.  The recipe I use says that it was very important to rest the brined bird in the frig for a minimum of six hours.  I think that resting was to get brine evenly distributed in the bird (?).  I rest my bird for 12 - 24 hours.

    IMO brining is the way to go.  Alton Brown (Good Eats on Food Network) had a Thanksgiving Show and he brined the bird.

    •  Alton Brown's brine recipe is the best. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      My Spin

      He suggests (and I use) a cooler with ice. It keeps the mess elsewhere (I use the garage) out of the refrigerator and away from produce and other food that can be ruined (or worse) by inadvertent contact with turkey juices. Then I drain and as you say, rest the bird -- again in the cooler.

      So darn simple. So darn yummy.  The recipe is at Food Channel's website.

      © grover

      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 02:38:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Resting helps dry out the skin (0+ / 0-)

      so it can cook up crisp and not rubbery.

    •  Well (0+ / 0-)

      I do each soaking step for at least 24 hours. Resting usually refers to after cooking, letting the bird cool without cutting into it so all the juices soak in. That usually is for about 15-30 min. at room temp.

      I think we are on the same page, just not using the same words.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Find me on Linkedin.

      by mole333 on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 03:31:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Just to be clear... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      My Spin

      I think I tend to do two separate soaking steps (Tea then Broth) each for at least 24 hours. This probably makes the resting (this version rather than the post-cooking version) redundant. Not sure.

      My take is that the longer you let it interact with any flavorful liquid, the better. If you took 7 days soaking it in a series of very flavorful concoctions, there would be nothing bad there. And the longer it sits with each layer of flavorful liquid, the better.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Find me on Linkedin.

      by mole333 on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 11:18:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My layman's opinion about the process (0+ / 0-)

        If you brine for 24 hours I would think that you wouldn't need to rest because the whole solution and the brined item has reached the same consistency.  For a short brine time, the solution/brined item has not reached the same consistency and a rest is desired.

        I really don't know that much about the brining process.  My only thing is that long ago I tried pickling cucumbers.  In my pickling process, I knew of osmosis and its affect on the pickling process.  (1) I would start with a very high salt concentration solution to "cure" the cucumbers.  (2) Place the cucumber in a water (with lots of water) to remove the salt from the cucumbers.  (3) Soak the cucumbers in the desired final vinegar/stuff solution.  No. (2) would remove all the salt from the cucumbers because the osmosis process is equalizing the whole water solution/cucumbers.

        I question your need for different soakings because the last solution plus the left over flavorings from the previous soaking will be last taste when equilibrium is reached.  That is, I don't think you add taste with different soakings except for the leftover flavorings from the previous soakings which will be diluted by the latest soaking solution.  IMO one soaking with all of the flavoring components should do the job.  

        Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving.

        Ref link:

        •  My original view (0+ / 0-)

          I admit I haven't tried mixing them all together. The reason is, the way I do it gives what everyone describes as "Layers of flavor" where they first taste the slightly smoky tea and cherry flavor, THEN taste the meaty/mushroom flavor. People have experienced it as a two toned flavor. Also people experience it as more moist that most turkeys. That could simply be double the immersion time, so could work with your approach. But I really don't think it would give the layers of flavor where you taste one then the other.

          This year I have to say we didn't have the right tea so I did twice the time with the other marinade. I bet it works just well. The great thing about Thanksgiving is that there are hundreds of ways to make it work.

          FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes! Find me on Linkedin.

          by mole333 on Fri Nov 29, 2013 at 09:30:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I got my turkey-cooking craving out of the way (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    last Thursday evening.  Regular Kroger turkey, thawed, then brined over the course of Thursday with a mixture of salt water, maple syrup, bourbon (Wild Turkey, of course) and some spices.  Then around 7PM I put some fresh sage, rosemary and thyme, orange peel, garlic and onions in the cavity, put it onto my wood pellet smoker set for 325 degrees (basically roasting in a wood fired oven) and the thigh temperature was 160 after about 90 minutes.  I took it off, let it rest a few minutes, and then carved it up for the company pot luck Friday.  Yum.

    I've been reading about salting vs. brining but I've never had problems with brining so I'm going to keep doing it.  I haven't fried a turkey in a few years, though I have really enjoyed those.  Tasty and quick, though it's a lot of oil to waste since I rarely deep fry anything else.  My wife insists on those cooking bags for the turkey, which I disparage as boiling in the bag.  Often she'll cook hers and I'll cook mine and we'll just agree to disagree.  The meat isn't inedible her way, but the skin isn't crispy and delicious.

    I think my sister is doing the free-range turkey this year, though I'll be happy to help.  Because we have to travel to get there, however, it can't be cooked over the wood flame.  I'll focus on making the brandied cranberry sauce and we have pre-prepared pies, my other specialty, since my Dad doesn't cook and so flour, sugar and spices aren't to be found at his house anymore.

    The important part is the company anyway.

  •  I braise mine. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Throw The Bums Out

    According to the method discussed here.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 04:42:05 PM PST

    •  I don't think you are braising (0+ / 0-)

      My understanding of braising was what Wiki-Wikipedia says:

      .... Classically a braise is done with a relatively whole cut of meat, and the braising liquid will cover 2/3 of the product. Then, the dish is covered and cooked at a very low simmer until the meat is fork tender. ......
          bolding mine

      And in your linked comment:

      .... and roast using standard times for body weight. ....
      Which I assume to be standard temperatures also.  I watched a cooking show on braising fish and the temperature of the liquid was controlled to be about 150+ degrees and I've always thought that was the braising technique.

      ref link:
  •  My recipe for turkey (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is to light up the Weber with a nice big bed of mesquite coals banked either side of a narrow but deep pan of water. Put a bit of foil along either underside of the legs of the turkey and place on the grill? Put the lid on and check periodically. You might have to add more coals later in the cooking; so make sure the little grill flaps are arranged so you can do this. A 12-lb unstuffed bird should take about 2.5 hours, but check with a meat thermometer. Anything over 160 has always been fine for me. What comes out is a crisp-skinned, moist, smokey turkey that is so good, people cry with joy. Of course, it really helps to be in California when you do this.

    Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

    by Anne Elk on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 08:43:45 PM PST

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